11 November, 2001
After lunch, I walked to the Commonwealth Glacier with two of our team members, Dr. Jan Pawlowski and Dr. Sergei Korsun. As we trekked across the base of the Taylor Dry Valley, the wonderment of Antarctica filled every step. Today, the weather is incredible! I only needed my wind jacket for this beautiful five- hour walk. Yesterday, I couldn't get warm enough. The wind seemed to blow right through the Jamesway. (Actually, the wind was so strong yesterday, it blew something off the wall.) We left for the glacier about 1:30 p.m. and made it to the edge of the glacier by 3:00 p.m. The Taylor Dry Valley is barren, but even so, the variety of rocks and sediment lend a certain beauty to the surrounding mountains and ice. Many rocks are sand-blasted or polished from the sediment, wind, and ice. Some rocks show evidence of cracking or being sliced through by the freeze/wind conditions here in Antarctica. Walking through the Dry Valley gives the impression of being on another planet. It is easy to understand why NASA has chosen to use the Dry Valleys as a model for extraterrestrial studies for Mars.
As we came upon the glacier, the edge of the glacier seemed to tower above us. We "skated" along the frozen stream next to the glacier as we listened to the cracking and moaning of the glacier walls. In order to understand the science in Antarctica, it is helpful to become familiar with the make-up of this continent. I've seen glaciers before, but the glaciers in Antarctica are massive. Life as we know it is more intensified in Antarctica. The weather, the logistics of getting what we need or where we need to be, and the constant surprises must always be factored into everything we do. The batteries in the cameras run down faster in the cold. To my dismay, the batteries in the digital camera stopped working before getting the best photos of the glacier. I did get photos with a 35-mm and a digital video camera. One more lesson to learn: Always take extra charged batteries with the camera and keep them inside an inner layer of clothes. The view overlooking the glacier gave a broader impression of the Commonwealth Glacier's slow movement toward the ocean. Glaciers move slower in Antarctica because it is colder. Many glaciers move several meters in a year, but the glaciers in Antarctica may take a hundred years to show the same progress. The parallel sediment lines indicate the movement of the glacier hundreds and thousands of years ago. The glacier will lose its mass through ablation: melting and flowing into the streambed, an iceberg calving (breaking) off from the glacier, or through evaporation (water changing to a gas).
On the way back to the field camp, an Adelie penguin scurried past us, destination unknown. We arrived back in camp just in time to cook dinner. Sergei made steak with gravy, rice, and corn. Dr. Pawlowski worked in his lab, while Phil Forte, Dr. Bowser, Dr. Pollock, and Rob, the Science Dive Coordinator (See journal: November 10th) made a collection dive at a hole near camp. This dive site is near an underwater ice cliff, and is a good place to collect forams. After dinner, I took a "shower" using warm water from sea ice melted on the preway stove. A shower bag was hung from the ceiling, and when finished the "bath" water had to be poured into the wastewater container. Living in Antarctica takes time. Even the simple tasks become an ordeal. Yet, without a doubt, the beauty, surprises, and experiences far out-weigh any of these inconveniences.
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