10 December, 2003
A 12-hour day at 12,000 feet.
With fine weather forecasted for the day, we headed out for Mt. Kirkpatrick with Marty Reed the blasting expert. As soon as we landed we started sorting through the scree and Marty set out laying his dynamite. We wanted to get the area cleared of all the existing loose material checking it for dinosaur bones. We found lots of bone fragments and had nearly gone through the entire pile when Marty said he was ready.
Marty Reed has been with the United States Antarctic Program since 1992, prior to that, he worked for Home State Mines, in Lee, South Dakota. He started as an apprentice there in 1979, and has been a blaster ever since. You can tell that Marty loves his work and gets involved in it completely. He jumped in helping us clear the debris from the blast and was genuinely interested in the science that was going on there. Since Dr. Hammer was under the weather and could not go to altitude for safety reasons, Dr. Phil Curie explained to Marty what we needed to do.
Marty decided to lay the dynamite on the surface of the rock to fracture the over-burden. When he was ready, we retreated to higher ground, which is no easy task since we had to climb another 100 feet vertical when we were already at 12,500. Once in position, Peter Braddock who stayed with Marty gave us a countdown to the blast. To say the least, it was spectacular! We shot video and stills so the whole thing is recorded for history but we were not ready for the report and concussive force. It was as if you were right next to the firework that is that bright white light one with the loud boom. It was exciting, I do not care how old you are, exploding stuff is fun!
I asked Marty if his vocation led to any real exciting jobs and he said his most extraordinary one was doing the 4th of July at Mount Rushmore this year. He said setting off fireworks and sitting above the heads of presidents, is not something you get to do often.
After we cleared the debris, we realized we needed to go deeper so we grabbed the Poinjars (Gas powered jack hammers) and after getting them adjusted for the altitude we were able to drill the holes for Marty and his dynamite. This was long and hard work and we had trouble keeping the machines drilling.
The second blast cleared a good amount of material and we figured we were able to remove 2 cubic yards of overburden. That may not sound like much but remember, we do not want to damage the bones below and we are at 12,500 feet which means barometric pressure was about 18 inches of mercury. Not a lot of oxygen to go around!
So we are really tired but really happy and if we have as good a day tomorrow as today, we will be in good shape.
I'm hitting the sack now so I will be ready for tomorrow.
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