4 January, 2003
Day's like this I find reassuring having the comfort and reassurance of tent's, stoves and a safe place to call home, well sort of ...Katabatic winds started to swirl on the not so distant horizon, pinning us in for the day. Waking up at 6:30 making a decision on what is going to happen in the course of 3 hours until our official start time, and then gauging what the rest of the day may have in store is well part of my job. I'm Jamie Pierce, one of 2 mountaineers hired by Case Western Reserve University too look over individual and group safety at all times of this expedition. My job is part guide; radio operator, weatherman, mechanic, medic, and meteorite hunter. I'm a full-time mountaineering guide that owns and operates Summit Expeditions International, a guide service based out of Colorado Springs, CO. I guide climbing expeditions all over the world for usually 10 months out of the year, the rest of the time I spend here with ANSMET.
Typically days begin for me early, I check in with McMurdo before anyone else has even opened their eyes, at times this is as painful as it sounds, this AM it was 20 degrees in the tent. MacOps is the communications hub for all field parties doing science, and non-science support work within the USAP program. In a way they're one of our greatest assets, they give us any messages, news, flight info, weather, and Christmas Carols during the holidays. After our check-in stoves are lit and the day begins. I work alongside Nancy Chabot the science lead, and together we determine given the present conditions what were doing that day, usually it comes down too comfort. I've been working in the Antarctic for 9 seasons now, mainly as a mountaineer, and noticed weather patterns this season have been really hit or miss. It's been great for us though; the weather hasn't prevented us from getting out and doing any searching. I lead our group out anytime we leave camp, since we are surrounded by glaciers, looking for stress fractures that occur due to various speed differences in movement, creating we call "crevasses". It's my job to keep us out of these nasty "slots" as I refer to them. I look for any major changes in the surface of the snow, where we are in the glacier and try to gauge where they might be, it's part detective work, and so I'm on the look out all the time. I also look out for the team as well, our team is easy as everyone is very adept at this point in the trip too the signs of frostbite etc. In any given day I fill many shoes though, mainly this time of year the snowmobiles get tired, and there in a state that requires constant care, and I'm the one that gets that privilege. If you can imagine working on a snowmobile in 0 degree temps (F'), I try to get it done a.s.a.p.... everyone helps out quite a bit. As far as looking for meteorites, I have a pair of eyes that are trained on the ground as much as anyone, and finding them is as exciting for me as it is for the rest of the team. In fact being around everyone gives me a better understanding everyday, for all the science that does go on around the world. Its fascinating stuff what our team does. I really do absorb it all in, and having Andy as a tent-mate is like being in school all the time, although he can't send me too detention, although I know at times he wants too...
It's getting to be that time of year were my mind starts to think about our exit out of here, and ultimately traversing onto the Beardmore Glacier. Only difference is we have the added luxury of having aircraft too assist us. In about 6 day's we will get our first Twin-Otter to start taking out Retro, (fancy word for garbage), and other non-essential items needed. In fact we'll be sending out around 1000 lbs of gear, ultimately reducing our loads we have to pull to hopefully half of what we brought in. I think the group will be happier pulling one sled versus the 2 when we came in. I've decided given the terrain we cover and the conditions, we'll do it in one day back to Beardmore. I'm planning on pulling out on the 12-13th of Jan, for our planned pick up around the 15th of Jan. For me personally, besides the traverse this is one of the most important in the season, certainly the most stressful. It's similar too car camping but you have an LC-130 waiting with engines running and the tail ramp extended, meanwhile were pulling all our packed gear onto the snow right behind this ramp for the, (air-crew) too winch up and onto the plane. Our planes are really not going out of their way since most LC-130's are being flown back and forth to the Pole bringing them fuel for the winter. This pull-out similar too our put-in will take two flights, and given the altitude, require JATO take-off's, (Jet Assisted Take-off) in which once the plane has reached a parcticular ground roll (speed) they fire external rockets that are mounted on the mid-portion of the aircraft, giving it that final nudge into the air given the weight. I've had this ride a few times and it's an accelerated boost into the sky, a true thrill.
I can relax once that happens because it's out of my hands, at least until we get back to McMurdo where all that retro anxiously awaits sorting. At least we'll have long anticipated showers and beds. On a personal note about the team, I've had the privilege of leading and guiding groups on over 140 separate climbing expeditions, and have too say that this team is one of the strongest, capable, selfless and caring I've encountered. All the family and friends reading this should know and be proud of all of them. Any of Mr. Caldwell's students reading this, badger him too have me come in and talk to you if you want the real story....
On a personal note I'd like to say hello to my sweetheart Dustin whom I miss and love very much. As well hello to my friend's and family back home.
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