29 November, 1996

November 29th, 1996

Camp Pull Out

Mrs. Bennett got sick last night around 5:00 am so she took her sleeping bag into the Scott Tent so it would be easier to make a dash for the latrine tent. Our tent is snowed in so it is difficult to get out of, as it takes time to open and close the door. As a result, I didn't wake up until almost 9:30. (We stayed up until 2:00 am work though don't forget). Everyone was just starting to work. We have a lot to get done before the helos come at 2:00 pm.

After bolting down my customary cup of instant oatmeal, I helped get everything packed up. We put things in boxes and weighted them all. The helos require the loads to be exact and balanced, so we brought a scale into the field with us do take the weights. We packed up all out personal items and our sleep kits. Then we dug out the mountain tents. And I mean dig! The tents were behind snow walls but during the storm they had been covered nearly completely. There was probably only a foot or so of the top showing. We had to dig out all the stakes and the tent itself. It took several hours of very hard work to unearth -er unsnow- the two


After this we stopped very briefly to eat some bread and bagels. We also made radio contact with helo ops to advise the pilots of the weather. This is standard. We told them about the prevailing winds including direction and speed estimates. We also told them about visibility by telling them which land marks we could see. With a map, they could then get a feeling for the conditions. The winds were fairly strong, and due to cloud cover we could not see White or Black Islands, but we could see Mt. Terror and Mt. Erubus. The conditions were well within the safety margins for the helos.

When the helo's arrived, we had to stop to make sure everything was secure. If a loose item blows through the blades of a helicopter, it must wait at the site for repairs, difficult in Antarctica and dangerous for all concerned. Dr. Braaten was using the VHF hand held radios to talk to the pilots. The helos landed and shut off their engines. There were two helos, a small A-star which carried the sling loads and a larger "hewy" style craft which we road on. This time both helos were American. We still had the HF radio and two Scott tents up as a safety precaution. If a storm blew in we would still have "coms" and shelter.

The two "load masters" came from McMurdo to help prepare the sling loads which will carry all of the large equipment back to McMurdo. They are packed in large cargo nets. Everyone, even the pilots helped pitch in to take down the tents (more digging) and pack up the helos. Then very tired we flew back to McMurdo.

The flight back was neat. We saw some crevasses in the ice that the storm had uncovered (most crevasses are covered by snow which makes them all the more dangerous: you can't see where they are). We also did a practice run on the ice runway. The air traffic control in McMurdo needed to train a new person to use the radar. The radar system here is old. New systems use transmitters in the plane to identify the air craft. Older systems use a "skin paint" which means the radar is detecting the metal outside of the craft. As this is an older system, the helicopter is detected on the radar so it can impersonate a C-130 coming in to land. The pilot acted like he was a fixed wing aircraft and took directions from the air traffic control person. It was neat because we got to fly over the edge of the sound were the glacier looks like sea ice. It was neat to see from the air.

After the helos landed we took our equipment by truck to various places. We dropped off human waste near the helo pad. We then took the ice cores and profile samples to the Crary Lab and put them in a freezer so they wouldn't melt. We dropped of the science equipment there as well. The rest of the stuff went back to our cage. We just dumped it in, then ran for the showers. It was wonderful to wash my hair, the first time in a week! We caught the tail end of dinner by this time we were really hungry.

After dinner we went back to our cage and opened everything up. I don't know how many pounds of snow we brought back with us in our tents and bags, but it was a lot. Everything was full of snow. Then I sent a brief e-mail to my parents to let them know I was "safe" again in McMurdo and hit the sack. I was exhausted.

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