30 November, 2002
My body is sore. We have spent the last couple of days loading gear and food for our six-week expedition to the ice. Scott Messenger cracked me up when he asked if I wanted to go and lift some more sleds, just for the fun of it. So when the opportunity to go on a 6-hour ride to a cold, windy point came up, my gut reaction was to decline.
Cady Coleman, an astronaut on our reconnaissance team started twisting my arm. And pretty soon the big picture came into my head; "An astronaut is convincing me to go have fun!"
We left at 6:30PM in a couple of large transports called "Deltas." They are designed to travel over the sea ice, but they don't go faster than 25 MPH, and don't really have any suspension or heat. We got to Cape Evans in about 1 1/2 hours after a short stop to see a Weddell seal up close.
Cape Evans is where Capt. Robert F. Scott launched is final run at the pole in 1913. The hut he built there has been perfectly frozen in time, and we were allowed to walk around inside. The table was still set, beds made, and a stack of seal blubber still smelled in the stables off to the side. All the shelves were stocked with cans of cocoa and oatmeal and one couldn't help but feel the ghosts present in the building. Scott never made it back to Cape Evans, but there is a memorial commemorating his sacrifice and others in the quest to reach the pole.
Right outside the door was a Weddell Seal and her pup. They didn't seem to mind all the visitors and alternated playing and nursing while everyone snapped pictures. I was a little overwhelmed by their cuteness and only took about 30-40 pictures.
Fairly close to Cape Evans was a glacier coming off of Mt. Erebus that is in contact with the sea ice. It forms a sheer wall of blue ice that stands over 500 ft. tall. It was awesome in the true sense of the word.
Despite this grandeur, the wind was howling and we were able to put our cold weather gear to the test. Dante, Scott, and I all commented how well it worked. However, we were still ready for the trip back to McMurdo.
We had just left and Cady was well into a story about her launch on the Space Shuttle, when I saw a small black figure moving quickly across the ice. I yelled, "Penguin," cutting off Cady in mid-sentence. We piled out the back, and a small Adele penguin made his way right in front of us. He seemed to be in a great hurry because he kept slipping on the ice, his flippers and feet moving wildly. This penguin really made my day in that I know that when we get back, we will all be asked if we saw penguins, and now most of us can see we did. Plus, he reminded me of my clumsy pet cockatiel at home. He was quite a character. Today we are celebrating Thanksgiving and McMurdo is unusually quiet. It's good to get a little free time to get ready for our expedition which leaves Monday.
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