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10 November, 2004

Scramble Day!

Temperature: 18 *F = it’s down right warm today!

Location: McMurdo Station

The Code of Antarctica: Be Flexible! I was supposed to make my first Antarctic dive today, but Rob - who I must make my first “check out” dive with - is ill and thus could not dive. I took a quick tour of the aquarium here at the Crary Lab instead! One never knows what might come up in Antarctica; it could be a storm, equipment failure, injury, or illness. Everyone must be able to manage frequently changing plans.

Since I could not dive this morning, Peter and I immediately started packing the big white containers for our helicopter “sling load”. We have over 1000 pounds of gear to get to the Dry Valleys. Some of this gear will be transported inside the helicopter, and some will be transported outside. The external load is typically carried in a sling load. The helicopter pad has huge cargo nets. We will deliver our external load to the helo pad, and the crew will place it on a cargo net. The net is then wrapped around and over the gear and fastened at the top. A long cable is then attached between the cargo net and the helicopter. When the helicopter takes off, the cable lifts the cargo net thus creating a “sling load”. It is quite interesting to watch the process. There are helo’s with sling loads flying by quite frequently. It reminds me of bees going in and out of a hive; McMurdo Station is like the hive, and the helo’s are like the bees.

We packed, and repacked, weighed, and re-wieghed all our gear. We must record the weight of each bag, the cubic dimensions of each bag, and whether or not the contents can be allowed to freeze. When things are transported externally in Antarctica, they are guaranteed to freeze. We must keep careful track of where the sensitive items are; we do not want solutions ending up in the sling load! Our gear must be delivered to the Helo pad tomorrow so that the helo crew can build the sling loads for our gear and determine what needs to be packed internally. It is quite a process!

The weather today was spectacular! It is baffling to me that I can be in Antarctica, wear only a light polypro layer under a tee shirt and cargo pants, with a wind breaker on top and actually be hot! The sun is so bright it is painful to not wear sunglasses.

1. One of our bins packed and ready to go.... well, once we put the lid on!

2. These cables are ready for packing; they will be used to connect various probes to the monitoring stations.

3. Giant Isopod in the Crary aquarium.

4. Sea spider in the Crary aquarium.

5. Antarctic Cod Fish; these fish can get up to 200 pounds and are typically found in about 1500 feet of water!

6. Some impressive snow removal out on the "ice runway"; the ice runway is the road leading to the actual runway.

7. The Royal Society Mountains. The impressive thing about these mountains is that they simply burst out from sea level and rise up to 10,000 feet!

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