11 November, 1997
Sunday night at McMurdo Sound, the major researcher at Cape Roberts spoke on the project. It is amazing the amount of science that can be done in a small period of time. Being able to track the history of Antarctica from rock core being dug anywhere on the continent is amazing. Finding new species of diatoms in the rock is again real important to science and maybe to our environment. One must wonder why these animals are no longer with us and what happened. If Antarctica had dinosaurs at one time and large plants similar to South America, New Zealand, and Australia, Why is it in the position that it now holds on our Earth while the others moved forward to warmer places? What major part does Antarctica still play in the environmental make up of our planet? What will we learn from her and will she really give up her secrets?
Those are questions that I wanted answered but was left to ponder as we rolled out of McMurdo Sound in a Sprite on our way to survival school on Monday morning. The locals call it Happy Camper School and all people that will be leaving McMurdo and going into the field must first go through the course.
The course consists of learning about hypothermia, frostbite, and personal safety. We moved out onto the Ross Ice Shelf which is the largest moving glacier covering a vast ocean region. We drove toward our chosen site by passing Scott Base (the New Zealand base) and then into the open where glaciers abound. You can see blue pressure ridges in the ice where the frozen water from the sea meets the land along with crevasses in the glaciers themselves. On one side of the vast open ice field, you can see Mt. Discovery, an extinct volcano, White Island, and Black Island leading up toward Mt. Discovery. To the left of the islands there is an opening called HOBIE since it is here that hurricane force winds roar across the ice. Looking toward White Island, we find the general direction of south. We are already at a little over 77 degrees south latitude and we are on the other side of the International Date line from the US. Mt. Erabus and Mt. Terrible located on the opposite side of the ice field were covered in clouds for the entire day.
After spending a night in the Scott tent and listening to the wind howl around us a distinct quiet feel on the camp early in the morning when the wind suddenly quit blowing and roaring through HOBIE. The quiet was the most unusual and peaceful thing that I have ever experienced. The quiet on the ice is total since there is no animals, foliage or water to be heard or seen for many miles. The severe winds had however blown the cloud cover from Mt. Erabus and it then stood before us in all its glory. Mt. Erabus was quiet that day and no plume of smoke could be seen bellowing from its crater.
In the full majesty of the mountains and the ice we continued taking down the camp that we had erected the day before and got ready to move make into McMurdo Sound. The finishing touches of the camp were to run through scenarios of accidents or whiteouts where we would need to use the information that we had just learned to use. Upon finishing the camp, we headed back to town and a warm shower. For some of us, we moved onto snowmobile training.
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