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18 December, 2002

Helicopters are grounded today.

When we get up this morning, it is snowing hard and the ground is covered with about an inch of new snow. Visibility is very limited. Laurie and Barb are usually up first and heat water for a hot morning drink. after looking outside, we both speculate about getting back to McMurdo on time. The helicopter schedule is usually posted on the web site. Also Laurie needs to call in to Mac Opps to report where we are, how many of us are here, and how we are doing. She calls. Then she checks the schedule. We have not heard any helicopters this morning. Our suspicions are confirmed when she called the helo tech Mike. All helicopters are grounded for the day due to visibility.

We have the day open and each of us uses the time in different ways. We read novels, go for walks, and then decide th make a science fiction 3 minute movie! This turns out to be lots of fun as we speculate about the possibility of some giant mutated nematodes that might make an appearance. With creativity juices flowing, we all get into the act. I will share a few pictures with you.

Rusty went for a walk and retraced his steps to the moss he found on the first day. He can no longer resist. He brings back a tiny sample for us to look at under the microscope. This gets us all involved as we look at the hyphae matrix in the loose sandy soil and gravel. Then while we watch, a wingless fly emerges from the soil mat. We are astonished because we didn't think there were any large organisms here in the dry valleys. We all insist on a turn at the microscope , identify it as a wingless fly, then hop on the web to look up information and pictures to verify our identification. Then someone else finds a tiny red critter what we think might be a mite. Only two people see it, when is it becomes lost and no one can find it again. Now there is some teasing about what might have been there.

The snow is beautiful making this place seem magical in a way. We go out for walks on the sea ice and look at the pressure ridges caused by wave action and currents. The bay at New Harbor must be shallow because we can see the sand between the cracks.

Later in the day we take time to prepare all of our materials for the return flight and hope that it will occur tomorrow. Everything is weighed and packaged except stuff that we might need. We make a list of things we need to do. We have stayed here for 5 days. We used some flour, sugar and baking powder to make scones three times, we burned fuel, used the Pee can, washed dishes.

What should we put on this list? If you were the next group to use this field camp what would you want to have done and ready for you?

Talk with your friends and make your list.

We hang out at the field camp with a relaxed morning. Laurie makes scones while Scott makes hot chocolate. Rusty and Regina sleep in today. There is no need to hurry here. How would you spend the day? What suggestions do you have for these stranded scientists?

Scott is patiently waiting for the helicopter. What would you do with the time? Remember, there is no TV.

Laurie challenges herself with a game of solitare. Later we all join in a card came or two. There are lots of ways to wait.

Laurie Connell waits while watching outside. Then we get creative as the fog rolls in and out.

Regina and Barb go for a walk. If you look carefully you can see the snow coming down. It is beautiful and really fun to walk on teh sea ice close to shore.

Rusty and Scott put the ATV away and make sure it is properly covered.

The helicopter arrives! The helicopter arrives at about 4:00 p.m. the next day. We are ready and quickly more all of our gear. This time everything is stowed inside. There is no extra cargo being delivered at other places. This is the last flight for this crew for the day. They have had a busy day catching up after being grounded for a day. Everyone is good natured and flexible since safety always comes first. We will have lots of lab work to do when we get back. And the samples that have been in the incubator will have had a chance to grow. We are all excited about seeing what might be growing on those little black filters.

Scott is enjoying the helicopter ride back to McMurdo Station.

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