15 November, 2002
Field trip back in time
Time of Log: 9 PM local time
Latitude: 77 degrees 51 minutes South
Longitude: 166 degrees 40 minutes East
Temperature: -12 C / +10 F
Wind speed: 11 knots
Wind Chill: -25 C / -13 F
Wind direction: East
Meters of ice collected: 0
Other data from this site:
Notes on daily Life:
Yesterday we had another waiting day here in McMurdo Station. The weather had deteriorated enough so that flights both in and out were cancelled. Unfortunately, it was just too cold and windy to go on our outing to see the Penguin colonies at Cape Royds and the famous huts of early explorers Scott and Shakelton. I was disappointed that we had to postpone the field trip, but thankful for a day out of the wind and cold. Gordon Hamilton and I discussed route planning and logistics came up with the first of our web questions for our audience. How many barrels of fuel will the team need to make the traverse? The answer ? 77.2 barrels of fuel are needed. But now for our second question, We have had 76 barrels of fuel dropped in the field for our re-fueling needs, do we have enough? How could this be?
This morning dawned partly cloudy, still cold and somewhat windy, but this is a rugged group, so eight of us bundled up in our cold weather gear and took off for a team field trip. Once again I found the experience to be an educational one that helped me become better prepared for the realities of our traverse to the South Pole. Preparations for this day long snow mobile trip to a location about thirteen miles from McMurdo included packing gear for overnight survival, extra fuel for our five snowmobiles and enough hot cocoa and snacks to keep us smiling! I was able to try out yet another clothing combination and to learn how quickly the weather conditions can change for the worse.
We got underway at about 10 am. Our little parade of five snowmobiles headed for our first stop, Cape Evans. This is the site of one of Sir Robert Scott?s huts. It is the one most commonly seen in photographs. It is an awesome experience to have the opportunity to visit these places and to stand in the same rooms that the explorers who came before us stood in. I was impressed by how well preserved the place is. Being there made me feel as if they had just stepped out for a moment and would be back at any time, wondering whom this person in a huge red parka was walking around in their hut. A very creepy feeling came over me as I looked around. The beds look like they just stepped out of them and the science benches are waiting patiently for their return with samples from the field. Stores of food are on the shelves and empty cans and boxes are stored just out side the door.
After about an hour's stop at this Cape Evans we reloaded our trusty snowmobiles and zoomed off for our next vista, and enormous glacier edge. This glacier is gigantic; it dwarfed us with its presence and stunned us with its beauty. We gazed at it for a while and then moved on to our final destination, Cape Royds, the site of another historic hut and a large colony of Adelie Penguins.
By now the winds had picked up and it was getting even colder, but we were determined to see the penguins and hut. One of my goals for this trip was to see these adorable penguins. We parked our snowmobiles carefully, remembering to face them into the wind and to check their fuel levels before we headed off to see the Penguins. I practically ran with excitement over the small hill that lay between the birds and me. It?s pretty hard to run in the big blue boots, however finding the birds is no problem, like any group of wild animals they have a strong smell. The winds were howling, making it difficult to stand on the hilltop to watch them, so we hid behind the rocks and silently watched these great creatures. Many of the birds too, were hunkered down, out of the wind, in small little balls of feathers. But many were up wandering about setting up their nests or socializing with one another. We would have stayed at this site much longer, but Paul recognized that the weather was deteriorating further and we had better get started for home.
The third and final stop on our outing was a visit to one of Shakelton's huts. This hut is also perfectly undisturbed. The sleeping bags of skin are on the beds, the pots for boiling water on the stoves. We had a look around this site and then began our long (one and one half-hour) snowmobile ride home into the blowing winds and snow. We kept close contact with one another as the weather came in around us reducing the visibility to only twenty or thirty feet ahead of us. Several times we stopped our progress and danced around to warm our hands and feet. As I gazed at the scenery around us, and the lack thereof, I tried to imagine how hard it must have been for the men who came to this place without our modern means of travel or fancy clothing. Experiencing the cold and wind while visiting these locations give us the chance to even more deeply appreciate the drive and determination of these earliest explorers. What courage they must have had in order to pursue science and exploration in this harsh and unforgiving, but beautiful place.
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