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2 January, 2003

Day One in the Dry Valleys

Today was a real learning experience. Amber and I are sharing a Scott tent. It is actually quite nice in our tent. We even have it decorated with the flag made by some students at Rockland High School. Have to make it look homey! Check out the photo.

Scott tents are pyramid shaped and are designed after the tents originally used by Scott for his Antarctic expeditions. When we woke up this morning it was actually 60 degrees inside the tent. I hate to confess that because I figure everyone is feeling like we must be suffering in freezing temperatures, but it was actually quite comfortable in the tent. Mind you the wind was very calm last night, but as I reported yesterday for Happy Camper School, it can get windy and cold in what seems like just minutes.

We woke up at 7:00 am. The light makes the inside of our tent have a glow that Amber describes as lemon drop yellow. We crawled out of our bags, brushed our teeth, and layered up our clothing to prepare to go outside. So what's the first thing most of us do every morning when we wake up? Yup! Off to the bathroom. We grab our urination bottles, officially known as pee bottles as designated by the P on the cover so that we do not confuse them with our water bottles that look exactly the same. One would think someone could have designed them slightly differently, but what fun would that be? I include this in my journal because waste management is a necessary part of life here in camp. We are very careful to take care of the environment. EVERYTHING we bring in, we bring out.

We had breakfast in the group cook tent, supplied by the members of our team from New Zealand affectionately know as Kiwis. Hot cereal and hot cider. Then we packed our backpacks for the day with extra gloves, a water bottle, cameras, lunch, snacks, and of course, our P bottle.

We walked across the lakebed sand covered with surface gravel, down to the edge of Lake Fryxell. We needed to walk a good distance across the lake, perhaps a half-mile to get to the area where we would take core samples. It is very jagged and the ice on top has formed beautiful shapes as seen below. But the first three feet are not entirely frozen in all places. On one of my trips between camp and our drilling site, I fell through the surface up to my thigh. Not fun at all, as the freezing water went over my white rubber bunny boots and rushed in to fill the boot. My wool socks quickly became saturated and I found myself sloshing around inside the boot. Not comfortable!! We still had quite a walk left to get out to the drill site and amazingly, by the time I reached the site, the water had actually warmed up and my wool socks made my feet feel quite comfortable considering the circumstances. Such are the insulating properties of wool. In my dusty green backpack, I had remembered to pack a spare pair of wool socks that I quickly substituted for my soggy pair. I literally had to pour the water out of my boot and wring out my socks and set them on a sled to dry. Because the sun is always out, the air is very dry, and there is always some degree of wind, my socks and pants were able to dry quite quickly.

We drilled using the motorized auger for the first few hours. It was very rough going. At times we needed five or six people around the auger to push it down and lift it as the ice swirled up the blades to the top. We had to go down over six and one half meters or approximately 21 feet before we reached the sediment bottom. Then we had to pound into the lake bottom to remove two one-meter core samples. This process took us from about 9am to 6pm. It was a very long day and although it was only our first day, the ice was thicker than anticipated and quickly stressed the small engine we were using. We could have obtained one that weighed 80 pounds which I am sure would have cut through better, but we never would have been able to handle it. Five people on this small one was work enough to lift it up and down for several hours. We will all be very sore tomorrow.

Dinner was delicious. We actually had shrimp in a Thai sauce poured of couscous with peas on the side. I'm not sure every meal will be as tasty, but this was a great start.

Tomorrow I'll explain more about the coring process.

Flag made by some RHS students hangs in our tent.

Ice crysals on Lake Fryxell

More ice crysals on Lake Fryxell

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