Notes on daily life:
We are underway here in the middle of West Antarctica as the winds are howling and the snow is falling. Yesterday morning we connected all of our vehicles together and started traveling to our first drill site 170 km (102 miles) away. Currently we are traveling at about 10 km per hour (6 mph). Our front vehicle train consists of the tucker sno-cat (with the ice penetrating radar mounted on the front) which pulls two sledges filled with generators and other equipment, then four smaller sledges with scientific equipment, and in the back is the polar outhouse. The second vehicle train consists of the Caterpillar Challenger 55 tractor pulling a huge sledge filled with fuel, equipment, and ice core boxes, next comes the actively cooled freezer sledge, then the science shelter, then the polar-haven kitchen and the last in line is a deep ice penetrating radar unit. In the first 4 hours we traveled 40 kilometers (24 miles) and then stopped for the night. It takes 7 people to operate all of the tractors, radar, and global positioning system (GPS) equipment needed to travel. That leaves three of us to hang out in the science shelter working on writing, the satellite system, and catching up on sleep.
We started today out with a nice breakfast of cold cereal, hot drinks, diminishing winds, and sunshine. Today is a special occasion because Steve Arcone, who has been delayed in the United States, arrived in a Twin Otter airplane. Steve is the chief operator of the radar used to detect snow layers within 60 meters of the surface and crevasses. As we travel today we will continue to work the quirks out of our system which, hopefully, means that we will move faster and more efficiently. Paul and Cobi are driving the Tucker, Steve A. and Gordon are manning the radar in the back seat of the Tucker, Steve N. and Benjamin are operating the Challenger, and the rest of us are working in the science shelter (except for Mark who is napping).
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Notes on daily life:
Here in Byrd camp it is already Monday. We have been here for about 5 days but it seems like much longer. Working 12 hour days trying to get our caravan together has made the time go quickly. Yesterday around dinner Steve Niles had the Caterpillar tractor assembled so we hooked up our science shelter, freezer unit, kitchen unit, and a 10 foot by 21 foot sled loaded with fuel, and took a test drive around camp. Our Caterpillar tractor is rated to pull 40,000 pounds and it better because we have lots to pull. Our other tractor, the Tucker tractor named Ellie May, will be pulling about 20,000 pounds of additional gear. Yesterday and today were filled with packing, unpacking, rearranging, and reorganizing. It is incredible to believe the amount of food, fuel, and gear we will need. We have seven 4 foot by 4 foot boxes of food, one for each week. And an additional 7 boxes of frozen food, one for each week. Tonight for dinner we had halibut steak, brown rice, broccoli, and ginger snap cookies for desert. We all rotate with assisting Cobi with dinner cooking and cleaning-up. Tonight Cobi and Gordon cooked and Paul and Mark cleaned-up.
Both yesterday and today the weather was very nice - for West Antarctica. With the blowing snow crystals we had spectacular halos and sun-dogs both days. Today we even had a rainbow. It was 99' white but it was a rainbow made by a snowstorm instead of a rainstorm. About 4 pm today we realized that the farthest distance that we could see on the horizon was getting closer and closer. A ground blizzard was developing and we started to make sure that everything was tied-down tightly so that it would not blow away.
We have made very good progress assembling our caravan of vehicles and sleds. We are planning to be underway and start our traverse in two days, on Wednesday November the 22nd. Everyone is very anxious to get underway and start to collect data. Our satellite dish is a little finicky so daily reports have been reduced to two per week. Please keep checking back for further updates.
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