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10 January, 2003

Lightning strikes twice...

Today we had three things on which to focus : 1. Finish meteorite searching, 2. Pack up camp, 3. Get re-supply from twin otter. None went according to plan.

We woke to a windy morning with below zero temperatures. My muscles were not too excited to go right to meteorite hunting after our long day yesterday, but I was willing, knowing how little time we have left. Jamie started calling in weather reports to McMurdo for the flight, but it didn't matter, they had already cancelled the flight. They thought our weather was worse than it was. It wasn't very comfortable outside, so when Jamie and Nancy decided to delay searching an hour and a half, I wasn't about to complain.

We went out under gray, overcast skies and strong, steady winds. Instead of going right back to the place we left off yesterday, we decided that we would do a big sweep, very close to the hill where we had tipped our sleds on the way in. Almost immediately, large meteorites were being found. Danny Glavin observed that the first five meteorites recovered today probably exceeded the mass of all the meteorites found yesterday, not including the large one Scott found. Then a couple were found in a moraine, near our search area. Pretty soon today started to look like yesterday.

At one point, small ones started turning up. I'd lean down to plant a flag at one, and see three more. The meteorite kits started running out of supplies again, so we started taping up the bags with duct tape. You know what they say about duct tape...

Although yesterday was cool, today was miserable. Our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear kept us relatively comfortable, but you knew right away if you had any exposed skin, because the wind would chill it instantly. It was hard to handle the bags, tags, and even the snowmobiles in the wind. After about 2 1/2 hours of searching, Jamie announced we were going home. Some people in our group protested in that there are more meteorites to be found, but he explained that if we should have an injury or a snowmobile breaks down, it could put several people in jeopardy, mainly from frostbite. Jamie explained how frostbite goes to work after the skin is numb. I know my nose felt numb, and several people had numbness in their fingers and toes. Jamie jokes that he doesn't get paid if any one of us gets frostbite. I think it's great that he looks at a bigger picture and puts safety first, even when there are more meteorites to recover. In a short time searching, we still recovered 29 meteorites, putting our total at 602 (Dante was happy).

When we got back to camp, we decided to postpone much of what we planned today for tomorrow. Jamie called McMurdo on the HF radio and the woman on the other end asked, "Is this the Beardmore team...great...you have a plane on the way." About two hours later, a twin otter set down and delivered mail, a data cable, and spare bogey wheels for the ski-doos. Mail is something special. It's often our only source of world news and gives us something tangible to connect us with our friends and families back home. Much of what we received was marked, "Merry Christmas," and it was a treat to receive gifts and cards two weeks after the holiday.

We won't be traversing tomorrow as originally planned. Instead we're going to mark areas searched on the Mouthy Ice so that future ANSMET teams will have the opportunity to search some more. We had originally hoped to finish this area, but the concentration of meteorites warrants at least another week's work. We are entering our sixth week in the field and are ready to start breaking down camp. Tomorrow afternoon will be spent doing just that. Weather permitting, we will traverse Sunday, and, with a little luck, we will be pulled out early next week. If there's anything I've seen this season is that this team has a lot of heart. To see us battling the wind and cold today to recover a few more meteorites is just one example of this. I have a feeling that it's going to take a blizzard to keep us from traversing on Sunday.

A great example of an oriented meteorite. This was one of many that have drawn ooohh's and aaahhh's the last couple of days. (Photo by Jamie Pierce).

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