3 November, 1998
We had breakfast at 7:00 am this morning, and while we were at the Galley, I picked up the frozen bread dough promised our group. I checked my e-mail one last time, did my laundry, and packed my bags. I went to Crary Lab to make up my NaCl solutions for my sediment traps and ran over to the electrical supply building to pick up some wire and plugs for John.
I'll be drilling a hole in the ice once we get to Lake Bonney and placing a sediment trap down the hole to collect sediment for approximately 5 days. By placing the NaCl/Formalin solution at the bottom of the bottle, I am making the bottom liquid more dense, and therefore the liquid will tend to stay at the bottom of the bottle. When the sediment falls to the bottom, it will tend to stay there, even after I pull the bottle up. The Formalin just kills any algae or cyanobacteria that I collect. Great planning, huh? Now I just hope it will work. Usually, I would have to get my bottles of Formalin checked out by Hazardous Cargo, but since my solution is such a low percentage of Formalin, they are allowing me to pack and take the solutions without getting checked. As a side note, I am checking the sediment in the lake because there are liquid water pockets in the ice, and as melting occurs, the sediment trapped in the ice is released into the water column. Does this sediment composition match the sediment composition of sediment on the hills surrounding the lake? That's one thing we're trying to find out. The cyanobacteria and algae tend to congregate around these sediment deposits, so we need to know what they are using from the sediment to survive.
We ate lunch, I mailed some postcards, and we gathered our bags and boxes together in the staging area. At 1:15 we were picked up to go to the helicopter pad. We were briefed on proper helo conduct again, were given helmets to wear (these have speaker device hookups so that you can talk to one another and the pilot), and were weighed with all of our gear on. The weights are very important to a helicopter pilot. They have to distribute weight evenly and not go over a certain weight in order to make it off of the ground.
At 2:00 pm we lifted off for the Dry Valleys. [Our pilot's names were John and Richard]. Since we were slingloading a pack underneath the helicopter, the pilots had to circle back around the pad and pick up the pack lying on the ground. I could see the shadow of the pack swinging beneath us. Our flight to Lake Bonney would be about 45 minutes, total flying time (a little slower because we were carrying a load underneath us).
The view from the helicopter was spectacular! I could see huge fractures in the sea ice that seemed to stretch for miles and miles until it hit the mountain ranges in the distance. Once we were up in the air, we could unbuckle and move around a little. My pictures seem a little blurry because of the movement of the helicopter. As we neared the Valleys, I could see huge glaciers spilled into the Valleys, stopping short of entering the Valleys. I began to see several lakes-- we went past Lake Fryxell and numerous glaciers. The ground right beneath us had what is called frost pentagons (the way the ground cracks under cold). Our destination was the East Lobe of Lake Bonney, and we soon arrived at a small camp on the edge of the lake. Our parcticular camp has a brand-new helo pad because of an incident last year involving a helicopter not landing properly on the side of the mountain. We unloaded the helicopter and stashed the DNF (Do Not Freeze) items in the main Jamesway (remember, this looks like a half of a cylinder). Nina and I began unloading the boxes into the food shelves and stocking the outdoor freezer with the frozen food while the guys set up the tents. The outdoor freezer was dug so that it is underground. By pouring water into the bottom of the freezer, underneath the wood slats, a camp can have frozen food for quite a while. You're probably wondering why we just couldn't leave the food outside. Wouldn't it freeze? Well, not exactly...we're going into the summer months, and while the temp. may be below freezing, the sun shining on to the food would cause it to melt and rot. Yuck!
I made dinner...one that is a good standby in camping situations (a homemade chili over rice...melted cheese on top, green peas, and pears with cinnamon and nutmeg). [Thanks, mom!]
I was quite impressed with our living accommodations. The Jamesway is the main place that we all "hang out." It has myriads of pictures and artifacts from previous year's groups, a stereo, a preway heater, a stove, refrigerator, and an overall pleasing ambiance. : ) It is evident that we need to conserve water. There are buckets underneath the sink, collecting the water (called grey water-- this includes dishwashing water, face washing water, etc.). The water we drink comes from the ice on the lake. We will take turns chipping the ice and bringing it up to the Jamesway to place in a large pot on top of the preway for melting.
Yes, there is an outhouse...remember we must package up all wastes to have them shipped back to the States for cleanup. We have an exceptionally nice one, I'm told. Ours has two seats-- one for urine and one for feces-- yes, you have to try to separate the two. There is also a funnel set into the side of the outhouse for the men. All of the liquid waste drains to a barrel outside. The solid wastes get packaged up in poly -paks (big plastic bags) and shipped back to McMurdo.
The camp has 3 labs which are each heated by preways, so in case any lab work needs to be done in camp, the facilities are there.
I picked ice berries (what the ice chips are called) in the evening, staked down my tent (which was just easier to do with ropes tied to huge rocks...because of the loose sediment), listened while the guys smoked their Cuban cigars and John played his guitar. Ed tried his watercolor experiment for the first time. He was trying to simulate what one of his friends, Mary Ann Beckwith (professor at Michigan Tech), had tried to do with watercolors and freezing temperatures. Somehow he was trying to get the watercolors to freeze and watch how the ice crystals form. His hypothesis was that the water in the watercolors would exclude the solute (the color) and push it out to the edges. To make a long story short, the experiment didn't work tonight....We'll try again.
Before bed, we each made ourselves a hot water bottle for the bottom of our sleeping bags. We picked up our sleeping gear from outside (a sleeping bag, small pillow, two pads...one of which is a ThermaRest), and a fleece liner) and went to brave the elements (at -26 degrees C). It was a long day. We didn't get to bed until 12:30 pm. What mechanisms do you think the earlier explorers used to keep warm?
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