4 November, 1998
I awoke at 6:45 am this morning slightly chilled, so I decided to get up to get warmed in the Jamesway (that, and I didn't know when everyone else would be "up and at 'em"). I was the second one up, so I ate breakfast and had some hot tea. By 10:15 in the morning, everyone had woken up, had breakfast, and were out gathering equipment for the day. Since Nina, Chris, Mark, and I were going to be drilling and coring (taking ice cores out of the ice at different depths), we had to pack banana sleds (long sleds used for hauling equipment away from camp) with the equipment we needed (meter-long drill bits, power heads, coring equipment). We also had to get our individual packs ready with snacks, water, and a pee bottle. (Remember, you can't leave ANY waste!)
At 12:00 we had a quick lunch to rehydrate and reenergize. It is very important to keep hydrated in cold temperatures. It allows your body to maintain its temperature and to keep your bodily functions going. During the day today, it reached -12 degrees C...it was sunny but windy.
From 1:00 to 5:00 pm we drilled 10 holes in the ice and attempted to core the ice. We had some difficulty with the power heads that powered the rotation of the drills. They refused to start, and after they started, they would conk out after a bit. The corer was having problems and refused to do the job at the end, so we had to come in and get it fixed. On a break out on the ice, Chris took us over to a distant "rock" which upon closer inspection, turned out to be a mummified seal. Mummified seals are not an uncommon occurrence in the Dry Valleys. They have been found as far inland as 40 km (which is remarkable for how awkward seals look on land). They lose their sense of direction, and instead of heading back to the sea, they go inland, only to freeze-dry to death. Because of the colder temperatures and dry air, their decomposition rate is slow. They are eroded away by the wind just like the rocks in the Dry Valleys. Once, an Adelie penguin was found here. Our camp surroundings are unbelievable. Other than the sound of the wind tugging and whistling past my hood, Lake Bonney is refreshingly quiet. Tall, snow-covered mountains surround our camp. Huge glaciers spill down the sides of the mountains. Every once in a while you can hear a glacier "calve", and a huge chunk breaks off to go flying down the mountain. The rocks are all different shapes here...they've been eroded in the wind. They are called ventifacts, and their windward sides have been polished smooth. The Dry Valleys were formed when the terrain uplifted faster than the glaciers could cut their way through them. Eventually the glaciers were stopped by high necks at the head of each valley. There is very little snow where our camp is because of a number of factors-- wind, extreme dry air, and solar radiation. The snow simply sublimates (goes directly into the air as vapor). There is ice on the lake, but the ice formations are very different. Around the edges of the lake is a very clear, deep, blue ice called "moat" ice. This is the ice that will melt later in the summer. The rest of the lake is covered by a white, very rough ice. Some of the ridges and valleys in the ice can be up to a foot tall. This is because of the wind. This is also the ice that will get slushy on top during the summer but never melt all of the way through because it is about 4 - 5 meters thick!
Scientists believe that the Dry Valleys are the best representation of what the terrain on Mars might look like. That's why NASA did extensive research here prior to the launch of the Viking probe to Mars.
Back to my journaling of my day...After fixing the corer, Chris and Nina returned to the ice. I promised that I would make dinner for the group again. I cleaned up the Jamesway and swept it out (wow, it gathers a lot of dust in here because of the loads of dirt outside!)...and I just can't sweep it outside...I have to collect it in a dustpan and place in the construction debris can. I collected ice berries again today and made dinner (steak fajitas, chips/salsa, refried beans, and cherry turnovers). It's amazing what you can cook down here!
John and Ed went to the West Lobe of Lake Bonney today to check their thermocouplers on the ice. They have temperature probes set in the ice every 1/2 meter from 1/2 meter to 4.5 meters. The light probe is set at 10 meters down (which is in the water). They have a data logger in a box in which all of the temperature and light sensors plug into. The data logger records the data from these sensors every 20 minutes. Small rectangular cans collect and store the data throughout the year. By measuring these things, they are determining how much liquid water is in the ice and what drives photosynthesis and productivity. They need to determine how much light is actually reaching through the ice and through the water in order to be able to discuss photosynthesis.
We ate dinner as soon as everyone had come in off of the ice (about 8:00 pm). Ed, Chris, and I tried the watercolor experiment again but were unsuccessful. Bedtime came at 11:30 pm...the temperature only dropped to about -15 C at night. I stole an extra sleeping bag from the Jamesway and put it over the one that I was issued. Boy, I slept like a baby!
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