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11 December, 2002

Calm after the storm

Today, we were rewarded with clear skies, calm winds, and mild temperatures (5-20F) from the last couple of days of high winds and chilly nights. Although the wind was relatively calm at camp, it looked like it was still blowing pretty well up at Goodwin Nunatak where we were planning our systematic searching. Instead, we went back to Scoraine Moraine.

This morning was warmer than the last couple with the low in the positive single digits with a light breeze. We picked up three meteorites on the way to Scoraine Moraine and used this as an opportunity to bring Carl up to speed on the collection procedure. We were all excited to get to Scoraine Moraine because of our earlier success, but for the first hour, we found nothing.

So we went back to the area where we had searched before and Dante brought out his metal detector. We were all skeptical about how well it would work with the low metallic content of most meteorites. But when it found a meteorite buried in the snow and another under a rock, we were all converted. There was a tie today for meteorites found by the metal detector and those found by people.

Before joining ANSMET, I was under the impression that any rock found on the ice in Antarctica must be a meteorite. Only up on the plateau is that true. We parcticipated in a study today to gather all the rocks in a given square area of ice. This area was picked clean five years ago. When we return, we will see how many other types of rock accumulate in the areas that we find meteorites. Often, we have sifted through numerous other stones to find the meteorites hiding among them. The metal detector helped, but it was easy to become complacent and just follow it around. In fact, our most exciting meteorite find of the day came at the end on our way back to camp. We think it might be an achondrite, a rare type of meteorite that is thought to come from the asteroid 4 Vesta. We tried the metal detector on it and it gave no signal.

I'm hoping this nice weather lasts for a while. It makes tent life much easier. A twin otter made a couple of stops at our camp today to drop off replacement stoves and brought in an expert on solar power to check out our solar array. Jamie already had it working fine, but the technician brought us a new wind generator that should be more productive than the last. The twin otter was already in the area looking for a balloon payload from another experiment. Balloons are launched periodically from McMurdo with payloads that carry everything from telescopes to meteorological equipment. The winds simply swirl around the Antarctic Continent, which usually means the balloons come back somewhere close to where they were launched a few days later. This one got a little off track, so the twin otter was sent to retrieve it.

If the weather is as nice tomorrow as it was today, we'll have a full day at Goodwin Nunatak doing our first systematic searching.

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