30 October, 1998
Friday, October 30, 1998
Hello! I slept in this morning...really needed to catch up on sleep from yesterday, but it is hard to sleep when it's always light out. I put an extra blanket over my curtains, but light still manages to creep in somehow.
I headed over to Crary Lab around 10:30 AM and got busy in the computer lab. It took awhile to get my e-mail account here set up. For those of you who have been using my home e-mail address, you can STILL do that. I check AOL each day. You can also e-mail me directly at McMurdo by using a new address: email@example.com Remember to spell it correctly...it's a little different than my last name (an extra "e" in there). I have received a ton of mail already, and I'm trying to respond to each of you individually. As core samples start streaming in to the lab, I think my letters will be quick ones.
I took a GREAT HIKE again today. Near McMurdo is a place called "Hut Point." Out on this point is Robert Scott's hut from his "Discovery" expedition in 1902. Members of his National Antarctic Expedition built this prefabricated building, similar to those still found in rural Australia. Purchased in Australia, the hut was expensive and took considerable time and effort to construct. Scott's men never used the hut for living quarters...it was used for storage, repair work and as an entertainment center. The "Discovery Hut" was used more heavily by expeditions that followed. Shackelton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1915-1916 used the hut and its resources when their ship, the Endurance, was being crushed and sunk by the Weddell Sea ice. They were able to find supplies, such as food, cigars, sleeping bags, and a pair of long undies, that came in handy while they were stuck in Antarctica. I've heard that the blackened interior of the hut came from the smoky blubber stove that was used to help the Ross Sea party stay warm. I did not get to go inside, but heard that if you sign up and get a key, small groups (8 people max) can visit inside the hut.
Hut Point is close to McMurdo...a fifteen minute walk, which felt great! Since it is so close, about 1,000 people visit it each year. A down-side of being so close to McMurdo is that many people took artifacts (objects) from the hut in earlier years, and now it is protected by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and preserved for all to enjoy and learn from. I hope to get inside soon!
Cricket (who I walked out there with) and I took lots of photos of the hut and the oak cross that is standing nearby. The cross is a memorial to a seaman George T. Vince, who fell over an ice cliff into McMurdo Sound (and died) in March of 1911. Just a few steps away from the cross is a cliff, and as we peered over the edge we saw 5 large Weddell seals lounging on the ice below. As we were about to turn and hike back to town, we heard a noise from the ice and we were lucky to catch a glimpse of a seal trying to slide up through the hole in the ice to join the other seals already hanging around. It never did make it up out of the hole...the ice is so deep in McMurdo Sound, and it was an incredible thing to watch this seal use it's head to sort of "rough up" the surface of the ice hole, and try to get the momentum to spring out of the hole and onto the ice. It was GREAT!
After a quick dinner I came back to Crary Lab to work on the computer. There was also a presentation by Peter Hillary and the other two men beginning their expedition to the South Pole on Sunday. Let me fill you in...
This journey is being called the "Iridium Ice Trek" and YOU can access a web site to find out more information and follow the journey as it unfolds. The site is: www.iridium-icetrek.org
I will be trying to follow it from McMurdo, and I hope that some of you will follow it from wherever you are. It is quite an undertaking. The word "Iridium" comes from the name of the mobile phone system they will be using for daily communication with media, family, their support base, etc... Iridium, the world's first mobile satellite phone will enable the explorers to communicate their experiences to the world. The Iridium system has placed 66 low-earth orbit satellites which go beyond the reach of conventional telecommunications networks.
The three men...Peter Hillary, Jon Muir, and Eric Phillips, all experienced ice and snow adventurers, plan to ski and ski-sail (using specially designed traction kites called Quadrifoils) to the South Pole and back. They plan to accomplish this by the first part of February...and are going to try to arrive at the South Pole around/on Christmas Day. As they leave Scott Base (the New Zealand base close to McMurdo) they will each be towing a sled containing 150 kg of food, fuel, and other equipment. As they proceed toward the South Pole, they will set up depots of food and supplies for their return trip. I think they are setting up about 8 depots altogether.
These men can not accept any food or help, in order for this to be considered an "unsupported" journey. Even one cup of tea would spoil this title. If successful, the Iridium Ice Trek will have achieved several key things:
** the first self-supported South Pole return journey
** one of the longest ever self-supported polar treks
** a new route to the South Pole
** completion of Robert Scott's 1911 mission~~to manhaul to the South Pole and back
** the first ever expedition to communicate via telephone from the Antarctic plateau~~using the Iridium mobile satellite phone
Good Luck to all of these men as they begin their journey to the South Pole! Remember to check their educational web site: www.iridium-icetrek.org
Have a good day wherever you are and I will talk to you tomorrow.
P.S. To answer a couple of questions I gave you yesterday...
It is summer in the southern hemisphere right now...this is due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis. Right now the Earth is tilted so that the South Pole is pointing more directly toward the sun...giving us 24 hours of sunlight each day. The North Pole is currently having 6 months of darkness...it is facing away from the sun, and the light from the sun can't reach the pole that is facing farthest away.
The second question I asked was what time would it be in Illinois if it was about 12:00 midnight here in McMurdo? The answer is 5:00 AM. You would just be starting your day (if you get up that early) as I was ending the same day! Strange, isn't it?
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