22 November, 2002
Life at Byrd Surface Camp
Time: 1600 local time
Latitude: 80 degrees South
Longitude: 120 degrees West
Temperature: -16°C( 3°F)
Wind speed: 12 knots
Wind Chill: -26°C( -15°F)
Wind direction: Northeast
Meters of ice collected: 0
Notes on daily life:
Walking about in the foot-deep loose snow doesn't feel that different here than it does anywhere after a big snowfall. Except for two things. One, there is nothing but snow to see in all directions, other than a few flags marking the runway, a few half-buried shelters, the old drill tower where the Byrd ice core was drilled in the 1960s, and of course the ITASE traverse equipment. Everything else is flat and white as far as the eye can see. The other thing is when you stop and think about it, there isn't just a foot of snow underfoot, which is what it feels like! Imagine swimming in the Pacific Ocean, a thousand miles from shore, with 10,000 or 20,000 feet of water underneath you. That’s about the same scale we are experiencing: we are about 800 miles from "shore" (McMurdo Station) and we are floating on top of about 10,000 feet of snow and ice. To be exact, there are a few feet of snow, about 100 meters of old, compacted snow on the way to becoming glacier ice (this is known as firn), and another 2000 meters of ice underneath us. Brian told us this morning, after testing his radar system, which bounces radio waves off the bedrock at the bottom of the ice sheet, that it was 2200 meters total from the surface to the bed. He measures the depth of the ice by recording the amount of time a few fractions of a thousandth of a second it takes the wave to leave his transmitter, bounce off the bed, and return to his transmitter.
We found out yesterday that some bottles of chemicals (standards that Markus needs for his experiments) got left behind in McMurdo. As sometimes happens, this was lost in the shuffle of cargo in McMurdo, after it was out of our hands. Today, a Twin Otter was sent out to bring it to us. The Twin Otter is a Canadian-made plane that everyone loves because they are wonderful to fly even in bad conditions; they have a short takeoff and landing. Ken Borek Air, based in Alberta, Canada, flies them all over the world and are here every year to work for the National Science Foundation. It can be a bit costly forgetting things; quite a lot of fuel and personnel time gets used up on a 1600 mile round trip flight, even in the efficient Twin Otter. It was a good thing anyway, because our bicycle pump broke and this way we were able to get a new one. What would we need a bicycle for? See if you can guess from the photos on the web pages. We’ll let you know the answer in a few days.
This afternoon we hooked up the trains. First, Lynn took the big Challenger with the blade on the front and dug out the packed snow from around the Blue Room and the Kitchen. Then we all dug in with shovels to remove remaining ice and snow from the skis that these buildings sit on top of. Then Karl hooked up the other Challenger to the Kitchen and drove around in a big slow circle to get it in position. After that came the fuel sled, which is really heavy and took a while to get moving. To hook up the fuel sled behind the Kitchen, we crawled under the Kitchen with a long cable which is attached to a winch on the Challenger; the end of the cable was attached to the front of the fuel sled. This allows us to pull the fuel sled up into position right behind the Kitchen and hook it up. This all takes very careful maneuvering by Karl and Lynn, who have the greatest amount of experience with these heavy machines.
For dinner, we had tortillas with salsa, guacamole and just-caught Antarctic cod, which marine biologist Art Devries gave us in McMurdo. Art has been in Antarctica every year for more than two decades, studying the unique antifreeze blood that allows these fish to live in water below 2 degrees Celsius. Dinner conversation was a silly race to come up with the names of every candy we could think of. We got to 152 before giving up. Here are a few examples: Three Musketeers, Candy Hearts, Milky Way, Peeps….
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