19 January, 1997
>The following entry is taken from the hand-written journal after the >failure of the solar battery. A freshly charged battery was returned to >the Dry Valleys from McMurdo when the helicopter came in to take us on a >flight. > >1/19 Sunday, 9:20 PM >Blast all machines! > >It seems pretty simple---you ask a few silicon chips to convert a blazing >24 hour sun to a few watts of electricity and what do the chips do? They >metaphorically spit in your face and refuse to do their job. So here I >sit, ink pen in hand, writing my journal the old fashion way. > >Today is Sunday. We rest on Sundays. Not! What we actually do is sleep >in and then work until late at night to make up for lost time. > >I knew I was in trouble when Bruce asked me to go with him "just a little >ways" to look at some granite. Today "just a little ways" with Bruce meant >eight hours of hiking over scree slipping, sand sliding, ice cold blowing, >sweat spewing miles with a 3700 foot ascent thrown in for desert---and >delight ful scenery, pleasant conversation, and a major find. > >Bruce wanted to check out a wedge of granite that separated the Basement >Sill into two channels. We both wanted to see what would happen to the >oxypyroxene crystals (OPX) when they encountered the wedge. We never found >out... > >_________________________ >7:40 AM 1/20 > >Called away to dinner last night I found the solar cells got off their >rear ends and did some work for a change so I worked until 12 AM >down-loading Quick Take pictures. > >Now, back to yesterday. >__________________________ > >...After clawing sideways through scree and sand we stopped at a high ridge >to see if we could spot the granite. Off in the distance we saw it---but >it was the wrong distance; we had walked past it without seeing it (this is >very easy to do on a scree slope where things are obscured). So back we >crawled (actually, I'm the one who crawls; Bruce stays upright). As we >screed through the slippery debris Bruce kept repeating, "Something really >weird happened here, Bill." He often paused to break off a piece of rock >and hand it to me while asking, "What do you see?" Before responding I >made several intakes of air that sounded much like someone responding to >CPR. I appeared to examine the rock carefully as I gasped a few more life >saving breaths. At last I could concentrate on the rock and let my natural >reflexes take over the breathing again. What I saw was rock with little or >no OPX. In the outcrops of rock around us we could see vertical strands of >feldspar---such strands were horizontal every place we had studied, except >Bull Pass. Indeed, something weird was going on. We climbed higher and >higher. Bruce knew he was on to something and just watching him work and >discuss the terrain gave me the strength to keep up. At last, we saw what >appeared to be the solution in the rocks high above us---a fissure (crack >in the earth where melted rock can move) that ran for miles. This fissure >appears to be the SOURCE. The source of the miles and miles of black >diabase sills in the dozens of mountaintops around us. > >Higher we climbed until we reached the fissure itself. The rock appeared >different from anything we had sampled so far. Both of us were thrilled by >the discovery. > >By coincidence, Mike, Jon, and Zach were high on the opposite side of Bull >Pass. From their vantage point they could see something weird about the >rock as well. Each hour that we contacted them by radio (this is a >required safety procedure) they would report something new about what they >observed. Bruce would answer, "We're standing there now. Tell us what you >see." Their reports complimented and confirmed what we were seeing---the >SOURCE. > >It was about 9 PM before we returned to camp. The return trip included >sledding down a snow covered slope,moving downhill through a refreshing >bath of knee high snow, and gently sliding down and down over the sand that >that resisted our climbing. It was a great hike and an exciting discovery. > >Speaking of discoveries. I never finished telling about the discovery made >on 1/17 at the Friis area. I think I have enough battery power to finish >that story now (knock on silicon chips). > >You may recall that on 1/17 we were searching for a contact between two >layers of rock---the Basement Sill and the Peneplane Sill. Bruce had seen >what appeared to be a contact in aerial photos and had tried to find it >during the previous two years of research in the Friis Hills. > >The evidence was all around us---very black pieces of rock with very tiny >crystals. If we could find the source of these rocks we could find the >margin of contact. >I started searching with Mike. Mike is a very careful and meticulous >observer. Soon he identified an area that had a high concentration of the >black pieces of rock. However, this evidence can be deceptive---the rock >is washed down from higher up and sometimes collects in great numbers in a >lower area. This can be very confusing. I searched the area thoroughly >for an outcrop. After a while Bruce and Mike joined me while Jon and Zach >went over to a different area. Bruce and Mike pointed out that there were >some black pieces above where I was searching. This meant that there must >be a source higher up. And it wasn't long before Mike found the source, >high above the area I had searched. Bruce and Mike were thrilled. Bruce >could now date the Basement Sill as being younger than the Peneplane Sill. >Maria was there to record the event for National Geographic. > >This discovery is not earth shaking, nor is it as important as the one I >discuss above. What is important is that another piece of the puzzle of >the formation and the evolution of the earth was found. It contributes to >further research and new discoveries. It validates the scientific method >through careful observations and the collecting of evidence. And for those >involved it gives immense satisfaction. > >Tired and happy we headed for the glacier and lake below us to enjoy its >phenomenal beauty. > >Once again the battery fades. Curses! > >8:27 PM Solar cells are alive again and so am I. > >Let's continue with the activities of 1/18. > >When the helicopter pilot, John, picked us up at the glacier at the bottom >of Friis Hill we then proceeded to Marble Point to refuel the helocopter. >It was a beautiful ride. > >At Marble an evil practical joke evolved in my mind. The joke involved >three elements: Jon's shyness around women, the fact that you can't tell >who is talking on the helicopter helmets unless you recognize the voice, >and a very pretty woman headed for McMurdo (I'll call her Cheryl). When we >got back on the helicopter Cheryl asked me how to hook up the sound on her >helmet. I helped her to hook it up, but I turned the sound off. After >take-off I turned my head away from Cheryl and Jon and said, "Hi Cheryl, my >name is Jon. I'm sitting across from you next to the large window." I was >about to say more but Bruce began laughing so hard when he recognized my >voice that I started to laugh as well. I noticed that Jon was not >laughing; he looked surprised. I then turned up Cheryl's microphone, acted >as if nothing had happened, and pointed out the features we were flying >over to her. > >When we returned to our camp in Bull Pass I took a sandwich and my extreme >cold weather jacket up the Pass to be alone for a while. On the way I >stopped to collect a sample of the long dead seal (maybe hundreds of years) >to take to McMurdo for analysis. Altogether, we have seen three seals who >crawled to their deaths, far from the safety of the Ross Ice Shelf. For an >animal lover it is sad to see, and very hard to understand why they do it. > >I then walked to the "Sydney Opera House" rocks and sat down among the >weirdly shaped hoodoos to listen to music. It was a wonderful evening. >Near the horizon were beatiful cirrus clouds that looked like gold fire. >Above the golden fire were patches of clouds, edged by blue. The blue >looked like water and the patches like wind sculpted ice. What a wonderful >feeling to listen and look and to feel the solitude of one of the most >spectacular places on earth. > >Much has been said about the solitude you can find here. My two favorite >quotes come from Borchegrevinck and Scott: > >"...the darkness and the silence in this solitude weighs heavily on one's >mind. The silence roars in the ears. It is centuries of heaped up >solitude. " Borchegrevinck, Norway, 1897 > >"For countless ages the great somber mountains about us have loomed through >the gloomy polar night with never an eye to mark their grandeur, and for >countless ages the wind-swept snow has drifted over these great deserts >with never a footprint to break its white surface." Scott > >I do not find in the valleys the description that Milton gave in Paradise >Lost, Pt. II: > >Beyond this flood a frozen continent >Lies dark and wilde, beat with perpetual storms >Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land >Thaws not , but gathers heap, and ruin seems >Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice. > >But I am only visiting a small part of this giant continent for a brief >time under ideal circumstances. I can experience the romance without the >awfulness that Scott found at the South Pole, "Great God, what an awful >place this is." > >I returned to my tent about 12 midnight.Return to Bill Philips' Page
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