14 January, 2003
Responses to E-Mails
Today only part of the team was needed out on the ice, so I was given the day to continue catching up with my journal entries and to try to get through some e-mails. I don't have time to respond to the overwhelming number I have been sent, but I am so pleased to see that so many people have taken an interest in this adventure and research. I hope you are all finding my journal entries enjoyable, and that I am being descriptive enough to paint a picture of life here.
I would like to devote today's journal to answering some of the questions I have received in my e-mails. Please forgive me, but to be efficient with my limited computer time, my responses to your questions will be in no parcticular order... just sort of a potpourri of Antarctic information.
JOURNAL DELAYS: First I'd like to explain why there are long gaps between journal entries. I am in a remote campsite and do not always have access to the Internet. When I was at Lake Fryxell, it was a 40-minute walk to the Lake Fryxell F6 Camp where they had a hook up, but I was not always free to travel there. This week we are at Lake Bonney and we were lucky enough to set up camp near the established Bonney Camp where again I have access to the Internet. This week may end up as my last week to do my journal entries on my own. After that, I will be relying on helicopter pilots to deliver my journal entries on a disk to someone back at McMurdo Station who will then post them for me. I appreciate your patience in waiting for these postings and I will do my best to make them "worth the wait".
FIRES: I've had questions from a few people, including Don from the RFD, regarding fires in Antarctica. McMurdo does have their own fire department and they are not volunteer firefighters. I think they work on two shifts, but I am not sure yet. I did meet some fire fighters at dinner one night and told them I would like to go to the station for a photo with the RFD patch. They were more than willing to accommodate me, so that is on my "to do list" for when I return to McMurdo. I do know that fire is of great concern here because it is so dry, our shelters are so critical to survival, and because water (in liquid form) is not easily accessible. In one of our briefings, the importance of reporting even the smallest fire or potential fire was stressed and reinforced at various times.
We do not have campfires around our tents at night. There are no trees, so there is nothing to burn here. Plus again, it would be too dangerous. We use camp stoves and are very careful when lighting them and monitor them. We have fire extinguishers in our cook tent ready for an emergency.
SUNBURNS: The sun is very bright here and you need your sunglasses even on cloudy days. We all apply sun block several times a day to protect our skin. I am lucky in that I personally do not tend to burn easily, but some members of my group, despite the sun block, have burned a bit. We are all starting to look like raccoons as our sunglasses maintain white circles around our eyes, while our cheeks turn bronze.
ANIMALS: I have not seen any live animals here. The animals are all near the open water where they can get food from the ocean. Sometimes, seals and penguins become disoriented and will wonder far inland (over 15 miles). Sadly, these animals usually die because there isn't food available for them. There are not any land animals in Antarctica (except a wingless fly that lives near the coast) unlike the Arctic, which has bears, hares, foxes, musk oxen and much more. Many people think polar bears live here in Antarctica having been misled by cartoons and movies, but polar bears are only in the Northern Hemisphere, just as penguins are only in the Southern Hemisphere. I have come across some remains from seals, which can be as old as 4000 years, and have posted some photos in my journals.
STAYING ORIENTED: Is it easy to get lost? Walking from place to place could get confusing if you do not orient yourself when you arrive. During snow school the instructors stressed to us that when you arrive in a location, become familiar with the area. Take a good look at the mountains, glaciers, etc. Identify certain geological features that you can use to orient yourself. I have not been traveling great distances. Even a four hour walk in one direction here doesn't change your perspective of the mountains and such very much because everything is so incredibly big. A glacier may look like it is a ten minute walk away when; in fact it may be a three hour walk. As I took my 40 minute walk to F6 everyday from our camp, I just kept Lake Fryxell on my left and knew I had to cross three streams before I reached the hut.
The research team does carry a GPS to connect to polar satellites that recognize our exact position and provide us with our location coordinates (longitude and latitude). This way we can record our exact drilling sites or rock/mineral collecting sites.
WEIGHT LOSS & EATING: I don't know if I have lost or gained weight. I feel about the same right now, but putting on a regular pair of pants would answer that question quite quickly. It is hard to tell in these bib wind pants and I won't have on regular pants until I return to New Zealand. For breakfast, oatmeal or granola cereal and powdered eggs are generally available. On Sunday's, the treat is pancakes. Sometimes Chris cooks up bacon (like Canadian style bacon), which is a nice treat. At lunch it is always the same... cabin bread (like square milk crackers) with peanut butter and jelly, a candy bar, and your choice of tea or hot cider, as we always carry thermoses of hot water in our backpacks.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids because it is easy to become dehydrated. Antarctica is a dry environment with a constant wind, and you do work up a sweat when you work, which is quickly evaporated so we are careful to drink frequently.
ANTARCTIC MASCOTS: The following characters have traveled to Antarctica with me:
From Rockland, Tux the Penguin.
From Dighton Middle School, Paul the Penguin
From Grade 1 at Jefferson School: Fleece Flat Stanley, Pink Flat Stanley, and Colorful Flat Stanley. They are all doing well and enjoying their visit.
NEWS: We receive some news almost every night. When Chris does the nightly call into Scott Station (New Zealand Station) we are told the day's headlines. Then if there is something we would like more information on, the communications operator will read us the entire arcticle. We don't get a great deal of news, but at least we feel we can stay in touch with the outside world. I could also go on line to get some news, but as of yet, I have not had the luxury of spare time to do that.
E-MAIL CONTENT: I am trying to touch on a variety of topics to capture the interest of various people at different age levels. I realize some days my entries may contain information about the science that is difficult to follow, but I am trying to explain our research and activities in such a way that everyone can gain a little something from each journal entry. I will also try my best to describe life here on the Ice.
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