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11 January, 2003

Last day at MacAlpine

There is no picture with today's entry. The solar power has been disassembled in anticipation of tomorrow's traverse to Beardmore South Camp. It takes about 30 seconds to upload a text entry using the Iridium phone, but can take as long as 5-10 minutes for the images. We need to save as much power as possible. Our last day at MacAlpine will certainly be memorable.

The tent was much warmer than usual this morning when we woke up (about 30F). The last few days the temperatures have been in the teens when we awoke. I thought it was just warm from the calm winds last night, but when I headed out this morning, I was greeted by overcast skies and lightly falling snow. Back home, we would only call this a dusting, but for Antarctica, it's significant precipitation. It's certainly the most we've seen. Antarctica is a desert. On average, the continent receives less than 10 inches of precipitation annually, and that amount diminishes inland. Jamie explained that right now, the annual sea ice is retreating, and low pressure systems can bring in marine moisture this far into the continent. But Antarctica is changing too. Temperatures on the coast have been rising over the last few decades, increasing precipitation over the continent. This worries us concerning blue ice fields that could have meteorites. If precipitation continues to rise, the meteorites will be buried under snow for future teams.

Today's snow actually made it easier for us to finish up our meteorite hunting. The snow buried or partially buried most of the little meteorites we've been finding. We did find some large ones so that our final total is 606 for the season. Most of the morning was spent collecting flags from the Mouthy Ice and marking where we searched so that future ANSMET teams can go to the areas that we didn't get a chance to cover.

This afternoon was spent doing inventory on the meteorites (they're all here...whew!) and getting them ready to ship to the United States and eventually the Johnson Space Center. We then started to break down camp and got as much packed up and lashed to the sleds as possible. Only the bare necessities are left for camping tonight.

Tomorrow, we will get an early start and it hopefully won't take long to break down camp and load the last minute items on the sleds. We have the longest traverse of the trip ahead, about 75 miles. The ski-doo's only go at most about 10 mph when towing sleds, so this could take a while. We also usually stop once an hour for snacks and to readjust our gear to accommodate for the temperatures. All of us are excited about getting to Beardmore. It's about 1000 ft. lower than we are here, and generally has better weather. When Scott and Jamie took the retro over there the other day, they couldn't believe the difference. We will also have the wind at our backs for most of the traverse, which really improves the comfort level. Showers and a warm bed are becoming a powerful motivating force in getting everything done before leaving.

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