15 November, 1998
Sunday, November 15, 1998
Hi everyone! This was a FANTASTIC day…one of my favorites so far in McMurdo! It started out pretty much the same as usual. I reported into the lab at 9:00 AM today and I got busy right away measuring the magnetic susceptibility of the samples Fabio and I drilled yesterday. I also started to measure susceptibility for some of the small plastic samples that Ken will be taking back to UC Davis with him on Thursday. I measured 50 of those samples…on both high and low frequency (as we usually do)…which means 100 measurements for just the boxes alone!
Ken and I went to Sunday brunch around 10:30 AM and then headed back to our dorm to change into our ECW gear. We were GOING FISHING! Yes, fishing in Antarctica. We joined Ed and Sierra, part of Fred Atwood's team. Fred is one of the other teachers here in Antarctica right now. He works in Crary Lab as well, and is working on a biology project…on the natural anti-freeze the fish have that allows them to live in the cold waters surrounding Antarctica. You need to read Fred's journals, and those of Skip and Lori (who were here in McMurdo earlier in the season). Please be sure to check out the journals from all parcticipating teachers…we have a lot to teach you about Antarctica!!!
It took awhile for us to get going outside, but Fred loaded the Spryte (track vehicle) and Ken rode with him. Ed, Sierra, and I went down to the Skidoos (snowmobiles) and got things ready on that end. We had to secure the jiffy drill to a large wooden sled that would be towed behind one of the snow machines. Also on the sled…a large orange duffle…you guessed it…survival bag! Each of us also brought along our own orange duffle of extra ECW gear. Finally we were on our way!
This was SO MUCH FUN! We drove the Skidoos out of town on the same path that we took last Friday in the Delta….on the way to Robert Scott's hut and the ice caves. What a totally different perspective though! (being at ground level) It was a GORGEOUS sunny day…blue sky, a few clouds. With our neck gaiters up and our goggles down to protect our eyes…we were off to try our luck at fishing. Ed , Sierra, and Fred need these fish to do experiments back at Crary Lab. Unfortunately for the fish, this does not bode well for them! They do have to kill these fish to use them for their scientific research. I've seen tanks down in the Crary aquarium…some filled with fish (both small and a few that are HUGE), and another tank that I was really interested in because it had tons of sea urchins and a few sea stars in it. I want to spend some time in the aquarium and tell you more at a later date.
The snowmobile ride was INCREDIBLE…open path, flagged (of course) all the way as far as your eyes could see. The Trans-Antarctic Mountains loomed off in the distance to the left. Mt. Erebus and its surrounding glaciers dominated my view to the right. The ice caves appeared off in the distance. Everywhere I looked….it was a beautiful, peaceful scene. Weddell Seals could occasionally be spotted lying out on the ice, near to a hole that led back to the sea. Skuas the first birds of the summer season to appear around McMurdo, were flapping their wings and gliding nearby. Although the heavily-built, gull-like skua is not a pretty bird or exceptional in any real way, I was delighted to see birds so often today. It is something we really take for granted back home…having some sort of wildlife around us. That, and the colors we see each day. As I looked around me today, all I saw was a white landscape, and though it is extremely beautiful, I find myself wishing for some color thrown into the scenery. I guess there was brown showing here and there…but that didn't count!
It took about 45 minutes to drive the Skidoos to Cape Evans and we parked the snow machines by a fishing shed just off the coast where Robert Scott's 1911 hut was being visited by a Delta full of red parka'd McMurdo-ites. We beat the Spryte by about a half hour, and considering that it left McMurdo about a half hour before us, you can see the difference in speed of the vehicles involved. Ed and Sierra began by using the jiffy drill and drilling two holes in the ice for us to fish through. This was fun to watch. They added on new sections of drill and when they finally got all the way through the ice they pulled the drill upward and with it came a flood of icy water!
We didn't use regular fishing poles, although they did have a cute "Snoopy" pole as a joke. Instead, we used a piece of wood with fishing line wrapped around it, and a couple of weights and a fish hook at the end. For "bait" we used bright lime green plastic worms. They looked like gummy worms to me. Obviously the fish thought they looked yummy, because the minute we started to drop our lines into the hole, we caught fish. The hole was about 3 meters deep, with a diameter of no more than 12 inches. We let our line out until it just hit bottom, then pulled it up a bit.
The fish we caught were relatively small, not very nice looking, and let me tell you, when I had to grab my first one to take the hook out of its mouth…it was COLD! (of course) Even so, the day was such a gorgeous one that I fished with my heavy parka off and my fleece jacket served as my outer layer. Our hands did get a little cold as we fished, but every now and then I stuck mine in my pockets or wore mittens for a few minutes to warm them up.
As Deltas arrived to let people off to see Robert Scott's hut, Ken joined one of the groups and saw the hut for the first time. When he returned, I got a second chance to see the hut…one that I relished as much as the first opportunity. Actually, it was even better the second time around. My eyes focused on some of the tiny details that I think I missed the first time. Isn't that always the way? When it's something that really intrigues us, we need to experience it several times to get the most out of it.
I took more photos, (imagine that!), but I also took more TIME to slowly walk through the hut and "feel" the presence of each member of Scott's party who lived there. Looking at the items of clothing---tattered and torn, patched and re-patched…the scientific equipment-test tubes, beakers, instruments, etc… I noticed string and spools of white thread, a tin foil mirror-faded with time. There were bottles and jars of medicine on a shelf above a bed…bandages still in the original boxes. I would glance around and see a sleeping bag on one bed…another with animal skins on it. On the wall there was a huge net, and on Scott's table by his bed…not only the penguin I saw on my first trip, but a what looked like a skua beak.
I bummed a piece of paper from a man inside the hut with me, and WROTE down some of the food items left in the hut…so that I could tell you about them tonight. I really looked at details and it was so FUN! There was Heinz ketchup in a corked bottle, Colman's dry mustard (the box looked the same in 1910 as it does now!), oatmeal, salt, flour, roasted veal in tins, cabbage (in tins), yeast, currie powder (they spelled it differently), baking powder, anchovies, pickled onions, tins of stew, veal and ham pate, tins of haddock and kippered herring (fish), Huntley & Palmer's biscuits, Heinz baked beans, savoy (maybe soy) sauce, and worcestershire sauce. Amazing! I'm sure there was more, but I just had to tell you what I saw! I just marvel at the fact that this stuff has been in the hut for so long…over 85 years!
I also took a good look at the stove, dishes stacked so neatly, cups hung in a row, and long table in the middle of the hut. I can picture the men, going about their daily routine, trying to survive in this harsh Antarctic environment. AWESOME!
Soon it was back to fishing and I was more than happy to do so! Ed and Sierra were lots of fun to be around…I enjoyed the fresh air, company, and activity A LOT! I was disappointed that by 5:00 PM we needed to think about packing up and heading back to Mactown. The Spryte was loaded first-Fred and Sierra rode back in that…Ken, Ed, and I took the Skidoos. I felt exhilarated as we buzzed over the snow and ice. We had to watch carefully because the light had gotten a little flat. Clouds had rolled in and covered Erebus with a soft white blanket. The lower the sun got, the harder it was to see the bumps and grooves of the snowy trail. Ed and I took turns doing "stunts" on the Skidoos…hopefully those slides will turn out! He and Sierra had been performing on the way out to Cape Evans! As we passed the Spryte, we put on a little show for Fred and Sierra! Every now and then we had to slow down and wait for Ken's Skidoo to catch up. His was much slower…I had started with that one this afternoon, but Ed had graciously offered to switch with me. Even so, none of them went that fast…I think 60 kilometers per hour was top speed.
We arrived back in McMurdo at 6:30 PM and unloaded our gear from the snowmoblies. The Spryte was just nearing Mactown when Ken and I walked up the hill to the dorm. We quickly changed out of our ECW gear and ran over to get dinner before the 7:00 PM deadline. It was a good thing we made it in time, because this was a good dinner---steak, GOOD steak.
After dinner I went straight for the computer lab. Hey, Ben (the Boy Scout) is back from the South Pole. If I can I am going to copy some of his South Pole digital photos and send them with a journal entry. Ben was showing me another GREAT web site where you can look at some beautiful photos taken at Pole, by a man who has "wintered over" (spent a winter there) two times. The site is: http://alizarin.physics.wisc.edu/rschwarz
Please check it out…it is a cool site!
I am calling it a day…a long, but FANTASTIC day! Talk to you tomorrow.
Smiles and miles away,
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