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8 November, 2003

Hunting and Gathering

Temperature: 17*F

Location: McMurdo Station, Antarctica

The main goal of today was to gather all the gear and supplies needed for the trip to the Dry Valleys. This involved retrieving all the scientific equipment from the storage "cage," collecting supplies like syringes, sample scoops, nalgene collection bottles, sampling gloves, and a myriad of other items. Finding some of these items led to some serious hunting through the supply room! Our preparation efforts also included organizing the camping gear, arranging helo (helicopter) flights - not only for us, but also for the gear, and "checking out" equipment like the communications radios.

In order to fly safely, the helicopter crew needs to know the weight of the load they will be carrying; this includes people and gear. In order to give them accurate figures, we needed to pack and box all the items we collected throughout the morning and weigh them. This may sound like an easy task, but it can be quite a challenge to keep track of all the items and pack them in an organized manner so the items can easily be found while in the field. Everything must be labeled and packages secured shut. At this point we are uncertain whether the gear will be transported inside the helicopter or outside on a sling. The final weight and cubic volume of our gear will determine its final transportation location.

Field science requires a coordinated effort from an enormous array of people. Every person here has a job that is vital to the success of the scientists. There is a sense of camaraderie here that the rest of the world may be wise to notice. The scientists are supported by an amazing group; the pilots, mechanics, supply personnel, kitchen staff, computer experts, fire department, and medical hospital - just to name a few! Everyone does whatever they can to help and support each other; so much more can get done when everyone works together.

Today also included some additional training. I am now certified to drive the small trucks in Antarctica - does that mean I have an Antarctic drivers license? We may need a truck in town from time to time to transport gear from one location to another. Any one of us can now go and fetch a truck if it's needed. I will be trained to use generators, jiffy drills, and ATV's on Monday.

We are just about ready to head out into the field. Peter, Phil, and Roman are scheduled to go on Tuesday. I will be going to "Happy Camper School" on Tuesday and Wednesday, so will join them in the field on Thursday. This is an amazing place, and yep - I'm having the time of my life!

1) Peter, Phil, and Roman gathering gear in "the cage."

2) Phil collecting supplies from the depot.

3) Phil and Roman arguing (in good spirits!) about who will lift the box!

4) Roman lifting it all!

5) One of the tracked trucks used around town.

6) The deck at the "Chalet" - National Science Foundation Headquarters. The flags are representative of the original countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty.

7) Looking across the sea ice in McMurdo Sound at Mt. Discovery.

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