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31 December, 2002

Progress Report from the Recon Group

Lapaz Ice Fields ROCK!!!!!

(Translated: We're finding lots of meteorites!)

The Rekke Group Story actually begins almost 2 weeks ago on December 10th, when we traveled from McMurdo Station to the South Pole with 16,000 pounds of gear in a LC-130. After spending about 3 hours at the Pole, we loaded our immediate camping gear into the twin otter and took off for the Lapaz Icefields. (A more accurate statement would be that Dean, Diane and Cady took tourist pictures and explored South Pole Station, while Johnny and the pilots loaded our gear!) After an hour and a half flight, we were dropped off on a small oasis of snow in the middle of a sea of blue ice. We were in the middle of nowhere!!! Dr. Harvey had promised us that we would see amazing sights during our explorations - but he did not mention that they would all look the same!!! Blue ice everywhere, and no land in sight unless you want to dig a hole a few hundred meters deep!

This is "Big country" said our mountaineer, and it was a little daunting to see the twin otter fly away. We'd like to say that we felt dwarfed by the surrounding hills - but the land here is almost completely flat, with some rolling hills that somehow look bigger to us every day!

In no time however, we had tents set up and it started to feel like home, despite the fact that our small yellow pyramids look like tiny dots on this enormous landscape. Five twin otter flights later, we had all our gear and we had created a fuel supply for the twin otter for future camp moves.

It is humbling to be in such a big place, and to be searching for meteorites in places that no person has ever been. We set off on our snowmobiles each morning to cover a different slice of this 35-mile expanse. We know we can't cover every inch of ground, but our job is to figure out if this place has enough meteorites to send a systematic search team sometime in the future. Typically we spread out in a line, with Johnny and Diane, our experienced people, on each edge, and Cady and Dean filling in the middle. As a veteran of more than 20 ANSMET seasons, Johnny picks the route as we go along, following the edges of the icefields and looping back to camp after 6 to 8 hours of searching.

After going out a few days in a row, we've started to identify familiar landmarks in what used to look like an endless sea of ice and snow. There is the Pinnacle Forest - a rounded hill dotted with bumps of ice and snow the size of cars. Then there is the Great Sastrugi Wasteland (snovw dunes) that must be crossed in order to return to camp from 3 out of 4 directions. In one direction you'll find Pebble Beach - littered with lots of small meteorites until we picked it clean, and then there's "Di-Gone Alley" - the place where Diane kept finding meteorites in her lane when the rest of us just wanted to be gone - home to our tents. Last - but certainly not least - there is the place that we visit each and every day at Johnny's request - and that is "The Blue Ice Field Just Over the Hill..." It's our favorite place.... At the end of a long day, we'd rather be there than in our nice warm tents.....NOT!!!!!

In fact, the daily pattern for the Rekke Team seems to be a morning of sporadic meteorite finds, followed by a late afternoon explosion of meteorites at every turn. This always seems to happen after we've turned toward home and we are cold, hungry and exhausted. We keep accusing Johnny of planning it that way, just to test us, but he claims that he only takes us where the Ouji Board tells him!

We're writing this entry on Christmas Day, 2002 and as of today, we have 234 meteorites! We started to worry that we would run out of bags, (especially ones for larger specimens), but we realized that the Beardmore Team could always send us some of theirs on the next twin otter shipment.

We're scheduled to move on to the Pecora Icefields at the end of the week, to do some reconnaissance there as well. So far, all is well for the rekke team.


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