5 January, 1997
Subject: Journal Philips 01/05/97
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
4:17 PM Finally, I have time to make an entry for January 4 (I guess I
have to make it for the 5th as well). I've had a major computer
problem. After faithfully sending out my journals each day I discovered
that they were not going anywhere. They are out in cyberspace somewhere,
waiting to be retrieved by some future civilization with greater
technological abilities. Jon helped me to retrieve it from my hard drive
and then get it to Rice University. I'm using another system right now.
[As I wrote todays journal I received message from cyber space telling
me that I had used a code that the receiving computer likes to snack on.
The computer was forced to regurgitate the slightly digested snack.]
Yesterday was very relaxing until evening, then things got a little hot
until 2:40 in this morning. McMurdo shut down pretty much yesterday to
make up for the missed New Years holiday. Bruce, Mike and I spent the
morning pouring over maps with three geologists. Bruce wanted to know
what activities were going on in geology in other regions of Antarctica
and how they might tie in with the Dry Valleys research. He also wanted
to know about some of the most recent findings...
INTERUPTION. WILL SEND REMAINDER TONIGHT
5:56 PM Uh, oh! Looks like another problem. Not with the computer
though. This time it's my left eye. Jon, Mike, and Zac asked if I
wanted to climb Observation Hill one more time. I really did not have the
time but went anyway (I'm getting used to working very late). I'm glad I
did, or else I might have done nothing about a medical problem that
started earlier today.
My left eye has been hurting. I assumed something was stuck in it
it. When I went back to the Hotel California (our pretentiously named
bunkhouse) I tried to flush it out with an eye wash. When that didn't
work I looked more closely and saw how bad it looked. Fortunately,
McMurdo has a small clinic for emergency treatment. My eye was diagnosed
as having a bacterial infection. They gave me some medicine that should do
the job in four or five days.
Now, back to where I left off.
At the end of the discussion between the four geologists, each requested
that Bruce collect a parcticular type of rock or sediment from an area
they did not have time to get to. He agreed willingly (as he always does).
Later we all went to Icestock (Antarctic's version of Woodstock).
This is just one of the many activities that go on to promote morale.
I met one of the geologists we met with earlier in the day---Isabel Basile.
She is from France. Isabel joined us on a long hike to Castle Rock, outside of
McMurdo. Castle Rock is a beautiful formation of a dark orangey, red
color. It looks like a butte in Monument Valley. It is actually all that
remains of an ancient volcano. All of the volcanic mountain weathered and
eroded away until only the neck of the volcano was left.
The best part of the hike was the scenery. After climbing the road and
trail out of McMurdo we could look around and see Discovery, Erebus, and
Terror---all volcanic mountains. We could also see the Ross Ice Shelf
glistening like white quartz; glaciers slowly, slowly pouring their icy
loads onto and under the Shelf; and expanses of ice that stretched on and on
until they met the sky.
The hike was very well marked for a good reason---crevasses. Crevasses are
deep cracks that can have depths of hundreds of feet. They are often
difficult to detect. They lie hidden under snow bridges that
appear as stable as the Summit bridge. The danger of these crevasses
along this trail was horribly demonstrated in 1986 when two men left the
trail and set out across innocent looking terrain. When they were found,
one was still alive, but dying. Although he was reached him by rope he
could not be removed alive. He had fallen 75 feet through a crevass
with walls that grew closer and closer with depth. As he fell the narrow
walls resisted the fall but the ice smoothed the way to greater depths,
crushing his body so tightly that it required hours of work to remove it.
This is typical of many crevass-related deaths.
When we reached Castle Rock we decided to make the extra effort to
reach the top. The climb was steep but each of us had the proper boots for
scurrying up rocks and scree (loose rock). At the top we shouted and
laughed for joy. Pictures were taken and candy bars were passed around.
The view was spectacular.
But even on top of this beautiful spot lies more danger. A few years ago
two people from McMurdo thought the climb by the usual route was not
difficult enough. Daring each other, they went down a different side.
Just fifteen feet from the top one of them fell to his death.
After Castle Rock Isabel and I decided to return to McMurdo the long way
(four miles instead of two and one half). We began by racing down the
icy slope at the base of the Rock. I tried to cheat by sledding down on my
rear end. That wasn't fast enough so I went back to the honest way.
Our journey back was very pleasant. At one point we stopped and listened
to the SILENCE. SILENCE born of eons of isolation. SILENCE as pure as
the white gleam of the ice. SILENCE as deep as the dark of the
Vulcan-blackened hills around us. SILENCE.
As we walked Isabel explained the glacial scenery around us. Glaciers
are her specialty. She is waiting in McMurdo for
her Tuesday flight to the Russian station, Vostok, where she will
study the sediments that are found in glaciers. Vostok is colder and more
isolated than even the Amundsen-Scott station at the South Pole. Her
isolation will be greater still---after she arrives there will be
twenty-nine men and Isabel at Vostok.
Although a little nervous, she is looking forward to her time in Vostok.
She is parcticularly excited about the drilling the Russians have done
into the ice. They believe that when they reach the deepest depth the ice
will be 800,000 years old. From the drilling samples (ice cores)
scientists have found clues to ancient climates, the composition of the
atmosphere, fluctuations in the sun, data on major ice ages, and so on.
Scientists from almost every discipline have a stake in what these fossil
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