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14 November, 2004

If it breaks, fix it; if you can’t fix it, improvise!

Temperature: 32* F (am I in Antarctica??? - it was HOT today - well... for a few hours!)

Location: Lake Hoare

When things break in the field, creativity is often the most important component to a successful repair. In remote field locations, there is no “shop” to take items to for repair; one must make do with the resources at hand. Sometimes a little bit of luck also comes along! Today was one of “those” days, several obstacles were encountered, but each was overcome with amazing ingenuity and teamwork.

First thing this morning, Peter and I assembled the new underwater camera system and prepared it for a test dive. We greased all the o-rings, charged all the batteries, and tested all the parts. Everything was going great. We then went to connect the 100 foot cable to allow for remote control of camera operations. Problem number one was encountered. The manufacturers had sent Peter cables with incorrect connections. Typically, equipment is set up and tested prior to deploying into the field. Occasionally, however, situations are such that “pre-testing” is not possible. This was one of those instances. We had a camera that could not be controlled remotely. So, the people in camp jumped into gear. Everyone shared their expertise in different areas, and within a fairly short amount of time, the problem was solved. Kay and Jeff cut the cable and soldered a splice with a new fitting into the cable. The splice will not be able to be submerged underwater, but it will allow us to remotely control the camera from the surface. We were back in business.

We continue to do numerous jobs while we wait for the dive hole to melt. We had other cables to free from the ice, so we set up the generator and hotsy to start melting those cables out of the ice. Much to our dismay, we learned that the fuel line in the generator was broken. By a twist of fate and luck, we had some carpenters and mechanics stuck in camp due to a storm in McMurdo; they couldn’t get back to town because of the storm. They were able to fix the fuel pump. We were back in business.

While drilling a hole through the ice, the on/off switch for the Jiffy drill vanished; we were drilling with no way to shut the drill off. The choices: let the drill run out of gas, or improvise. We realized that with a little extra effort, we could still turn the toggle to “off”, so we switched it. The drill continued to cough and sputter, but eventually stopped running. We could “cheat” the switch and get it to turn on and off. We were back in business.

The rest of the day ran smoothly. We surveyed lake level, reset a data logger to continue recording for another year, and continued moving the hot finger around the dive hole. It has been a busy day, but all is well.

The weather is wild here. Just a few hours ago, it was 32 degrees (F); there were very small streams flowing off the glacier, and many melt pools formed on the lake. At this moment, a storm is blowing in and it looks like it might be an interesting night! Antarctica is a wild and magical place!

1. Peter with the underwater camera.

2. I think the underwater camera would make a great helmet cam!

3. Kay works on soldering the camera cable wires together.

4. We all scramble to get the camera working; success at last!

5. Jackie taking measurements through the surveying scope.

6. Brandy holds the surveying rod.

7. Underwater shot looking down the dive hole.

8. The programmer for the data loggers.

9. Scene from camp!

10. What's with the balmy weather?

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