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24 December, 2002

Christmas Eve

This morning we were greeted by light northerly winds that brought in mild temperatures (+15F), but also overcast skies and very light snow. When the skies are gray, it's impossible to tell where the horizon ends and the sky begins. The flat light also makes it hard to see any definition in the snow. When we drive our ski-doo's over the snow in these conditions, we can't see the sastrugi. Suddenly, the ski-doo is lurching this way and that and we never saw it coming.

However, this light makes it easier to spot rocks on the ice. When the sun is out, it's easy to lose meteorites in the shadows of the ripples of ice or snowdrifts. Unfortunately, this light also makes the meteorites look like all the other little black rocks out on the ice.

We headed over to Jacob's Nunatak today, just to do a little reconnaissance. We thought we would just explore to get a feel for where meteorites exist and where systematic searching had to be done. Jamie led us to a spot where we parked on the west side of a yet unnamed moraine. It turned out he parked us in a field of large meteorites. We found six just sitting near our ski-doos and one more on the other side. I believe that brings our total to 260.

After a little more random foot searching, we headed up to Jacob's Nunatak. It sits about 700 ft. above the ice below. We decided to hike to the top. Much of it is bare rock, sculpted by the wind. It felt weird to walk on a surface that is not snow or ice. It's been a while. Scott made it to the top first, and even though it's probably been climbed before, it's entirely possible Scott was the first to summit it. That's one of the things that is great here is that we are going places few have seen before.

The view from the top was breathtaking. Despite the clouds, we could still see for miles in every direction and got a good idea of where we would be searching the next few weeks. In the distance, we could make out the ice of the polar ice cap that is coming in contact with the mountains. We hiked down and ended the day a little early. We joked that we needed time to go to the malls and do our last minute shopping and needed time to wrap presents. I actually had not wrapped my presents yet, so this helped me out quite a bit. Many of us took advantage of the break to change our clothes, clean our tents, and take care of basic chores.

McMurdo is basically shut down today and tomorrow. They have only the essential departments open; Mac-Ops (to whom we call-in every morning), the hospital, fire department, galley, etc. The chaplains from the McMurdo Chapel (world's southernmost) plan to sing Christmas carols over the HF Radio to all the field camps in Antarctica. We plan to meet tonight as a group and call the Rekki team. Tomorrow, we'll do a gift exchange, and if the weather improves, a hike. Jamie has a special brunch and dinner in mind. We are looking forward to Christmas and calling our loved ones tomorrow.

The Beardmore team on Jacob's Nunatak. Pictured left to right: Jamie Pierce, Scott Messenger, Andy Caldwell, Nancy Chabot, Dante Lauretta, Linda Welzenbach, Carlton Allen, Daniel Glavin. Notice the hat and ribbons (and bells) in Nancy's hair. Our camp is about a mile in the background, closer to the mountains.

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