7 November, 1999
The weather here is still overcast with blowing snow. The visibility varies from a mile or so to much less. Yesterday the peak wind was about 70 miles per hour. There has not been a fixed wing aircraft in or out of McMurdo for about a week. There are a lot of people waiting in Christchurch to get a flight to the ice. Helo flights have been very limited as well. A helo went out to Cape Roberts to bring core samples back and to take some people out there. I am scheduled to go to Cape Roberts tonight at 7:00PM NZT, but I think the chances are good that the flight will be cancelled. If I don't post a journal tomorrow, you'll know that I made it on the helo. I should have a lot to tell you about when I get back. Wish me luck and hope for fair skies.
Several days ago I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the center for Antarctic research for New Zealand, Scott Base. Scott Base is located on Ross Island about 2 miles by road from McMurdo Station. The station was constructed in 1957 and rebuilt in the 1980s. Its site was selected by the famous Kiwi Edmund Hillary, one to the two men to make the first ascent of Mount Everest. It was built initially for the International Geophysical Year and has served Antarctic science since. Scott Base was also the Ross Island base of the British Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition, whose goal was traversing the continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the South Pole in a manner attempted by Ernest Shackleton. The role of Scott Base is the same as McMurdo Station, to support scientific research in Antarctica. But that is where the similarity ends.
My visit to Scott Base was at the invitation of John Simes, the person I work with in the palynology lab at Crary. The Kiwi station is much smaller than McMurdo. Scott Base has a population of about 100 scientists and support personnel compared to as many as 1200 at McMurdo. There is regular travel between Mactown and Scott and there is even a shuttle service. Many of the people working on the Cape Roberts Project are lodged at Scott Base. Several people, including John, commute regularly between the two bases. Despite the close proximity of Scott Base to McMurdo Station, there have been several times when the weather has been so bad that travel between the two bases was prohibited. People were stranded where they were. Because Scott Base is so small, it has a much different environment and feel than the relatively hectic pace in Mactown. It has much more of an intimate or lodge atmosphere. The quarters are more confined with some sleeping rooms accommodating as many as 6 people. Two or three is typical in McMurdo in a room of similar size. Most of the buildings are connected by passageways. The dining room is, of course, smaller. The meal I had there was excellent though there was only a single choice of meal. The atmosphere is very cozy with a delightful British feel to the conversations and traditions, including afternoon tea. Following dinner, each person cleans his or her own dishes and stacks them in the racks. People staying at Scott Base share duties of maintaining the camp.
Another thing that sets Scott Base apart is that all of the buildings are the same green color. This gives the base a very tidy and organized appearance. Scott base has a helo pad, storage buildings, store, bar, and a hydroponic garden where lettuce and herbs are grown. It was very warm and humid in the hydroponics building. It was quite a change from the dry, cold, windy weather outside. After dinner, John and I took a walk out on the sea ice along a safe, flagged route. In the distance, we could see the edge of the permanent ice of the Ross Ice Shelf and the landing field that will be used after the sea ice runway becomes unsafe, Williams Field. Seals are often seen near the cracks created by the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base. Following my visit to Scott Base, I took a shuttle back to Mactown. I hope I get to visit again.
Remember, I will be starting the evaporation experiment on Monday (If I get back from Cape Roberts). If you need a copy of the experiment, please request one and I will send you a MS Word document with the experiment.
Today's featured CRP Team Members are Tom Janecek and Matt Curren both from the Florida State Antarctic Marine Geology Research Facility in Tallahassee, Florida. Tom is the project Curator and Matt is the Assistant Curator. A curator's job is to care for the core samples as they are delivered from the drill site. They set the core out for the scientists to exam each day. After the various disciplines choose which part of the core they want to sample, Tom and Matt cut these pieces out of the core and package them for the scientists. They are also responsible for archiving the core for future study.
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