13 November, 2001
We got up early this morning to put on Extreme Cold Weather gear for our flight to Marble Point. Dr. Bowser, Dr. Pollock, and I were going to this area to scout out a place for a new collection site. A dive hole here would allow Dr. Bowser's team to compare organisms and the underwater environment beneath the ice at Explorers Cove with organisms a more northern location. The helicopter was delayed due to weather conditions in McMurdo. We left the field camp at New Harbor around 10:30 a.m. The destination was a short helicopter ride from Explorers Cove. The helicopter set down on the sea ice, and we quickly gathered gear, a survival bag, helmets for the helicopter ride, nets, an ice pick, and drilling equipment. Dr. Bowser immediately got on the radio to establish contact with McMurdo. Radio contact is a "must" anytime someone leaves the camp. While scouting for an optimal site for the dive hole, I saw bird tracks in snow near a frozen stream. It is rare to see birds in this part of Antarctica, so I was excited to see a Skua fly overhead.
After scouting the area, decisions were made as to the best places to drill holes to test the depth of the water. The first drill hole went through 12 feet of ice to find water which was only 37 feet deep. The further we got off shore, the deeper the depth of the water. After drilling five holes, a depth of 92 feet was finally reached about 250 yards from shore. The two men coming to blast were detained by windy conditions back at McMurdo. The strong winds made it cold to stand out on the sea ice, so we found shelter on the beach away from the wind. It was hard to walk at times as the wind pushed us along the ice. Each step was taken with precautions to slipping or falling into snow covered tidal cracks. It really helped to take Sea Ice training before coming to the field. It taught me how to look for unsafe ice, as well as how to drill holes into the ice.
I had trouble with my cameras and batteries getting cold, so I had to keep them warm in my parka and bib overalls. When I took off my outer gloves to connect the drill or take pictures, the tips of my fingers would get very cold. Several times my gloves flew away as they escaped from my pockets. It was hard to find enough places to "stuff" my cameras, film, batteries, and gloves. The wind was so strong; it seemed to slice through the many layers worn. I had on two layers of long underwear, two pair of pants, including fleece pants, a fleece jacket, a wind jacket, bib overalls, the big red parka, two hats, three pair of liner gloves, wool mittens, and outer wind gloves. I was still colder than I've ever been in my life. It wasn't the cold of Antarctica, but the wind. Even so, I couldn't stop marveling at one of the most beautiful sites that I've ever seen &and feeling fortunate to have this amazing opportunity to experience ANTARCTICA and to parcticipate in Dr. Bowser's project.
We waited for two hours for the helicopter to bring the men with what Dr. Bowser refers to as the "hole inducing agents" (dynamite). The blasters carefully and safely prepared the charge. When detonated, the blast shot ice high into the air. The blasters ensured we were far from the explosion, and that there was no danger of getting hit by this flying ice. After four such blasts, the helicopter was called because a perfectly fashioned hole was created for diving. Our mission completed, we left one of the most beautiful ice scenes on Earth. The snow covered mountains, the glaciers meeting the sea, the icebergs frozen in the sea ice, the bluish ice streams, the ice sculptures, and the huge rock formations made this a memorable experience. It's not the cold, but rather the beauty of this continent that will be remembered.
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