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23 November, 2002

Diamond dust and Lynn's Birthday

Date: 11/23/02

Time: 1600 local time

Latitude: 80 degrees South

Longitude: 120 degrees West

Temperature: -14C( 7F)

Wind speed: 8 knots

Wind Chill: -20C( -4F)

Wind direction: Westerly

Meters of ice collected:

Dan Dixon wrote today's journal.

This is my second year with ITASE and although the first day at Byrd was a bit of a shock (as my body adjusts to the environment), I am really starting to enjoy my time here. I realize that I am lucky to be a part of such a historical trip. Not many people on this world will ever set foot near the South Pole. I know the entire ITASE crew is eager to get underway. Yesterday we hitched up all the large Berko sleds with the Caterpillar tractors. Today we continued to prepare the rest of the sleds and hitch them up to the trains. The remaining sleds are a fairly easy job, the hitching process on these can be accomplished with snowmobiles or manpower. Amongst the other jobs completed this morning, the three-inch drill was tested. Mark, Eric, Susan, and I towed the drill sled about 0.5 km away from camp and prepared for drilling. Once we had prepared the drill site we began to drill ice core. The drill has a lot of complicated parts that need to be adjusted correctly in order for good quality core to be extracted. We drilled about 5m of ice core before we had the drill set up perfectly. This 5m of ice core was not included in our core log because we were not wearing our masks, gloves, and Tyvek suits while drilling, therefore the ice was contaminated and we threw it away.

The weather was absolutely lovely all morning. At around noon a cold air mass rolled in accompanied by a thick fogbank, this completely obscured the sun and the horizon in about 15 minutes. The air masses in Antarctica are so cold that moisture actually condenses right out of the air without needing any condensation nuclei. The ice crystals that form in this manner are minute and are called "diamond dust". After an hour or so the fog began to clear and the diamond dust left in the atmosphere created some spectacular visual effects with the sunlight. I was fortunate enough to see sun dogs, sun pillars, and sun halos. As I was photographing these spectacular solar effects the air all around me started sparkling like glitter, this glitter effect was caused by the sunlight reflecting off the diamond dust. The whole experience seemed very surreal.

Later in the afternoon, Gordon, Kirk, and I took a snowmobile and drove out to the site of old Byrd Station about 1 km away from Byrd Surface Camp. The old Byrd Station was set up in the 1960s and it was the site of the first deep ice core to reach bedrock in Antarctica. The length of the Byrd surface to bedrock ice core was 2263m. Today, the entire old Byrd Station is buried under snow apart from the tip of the drill tower. The old drill tower was over 100 feet tall and today only about 30 feet is left exposed. It was quite spooky seeing this tower looming out of the ice. As I leaned against the gleaming aluminum beams (still shiny after all these years) to pose for a photo I realized that I was in some way connected to the Earth beneath more than 2263m of West Antarctic ice.

Later in the evening we had a delicious slap-up meal prepared by Andrea and Susan in honor of Lynn's birthday. Everyone sang Happy Birthday as Lynn blew out the candles on his birthday cake (unfortunately we only had four matches, but who's counting !?!) and we all signed a card. As I write this we are sitting down in the Jamesway shelter and toasting to Lynn's good health. All our sleds are now ready and hitched up, tomorrow will be the first day of our long journey to the South Pole. Wish us luck.


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