Sunday, October 21, 2007

Heading for the Field

As I write, the last preparations for the field are getting made. Food is has been packed up, trailers have been filled with seismic equipment, fuel, sleepingbags, tents, ice axes... Stoves have been tested. The drill was oiled and tested. It is remarkable how much needs to be done to prepare for work in the field!

Today is Sunday, October 21. I was scheduled to head off into the
field today on an over-ice traverse involving 4 vehicles all pulling over-stuffed trailers and sleds. I am so very excited to be in the field in the Granite Harbor area, close to the terminus of the Mackay Glacier. I am ready for the long awaited site survey, to begin exploring subsurface rocks of the area and to learn about these geophysical tools.

However, I was rather dreading the
trip, as it was going to be in a very bumpy vehicle called a pisten
bulley, which bumps along at a very slow pace and is very jarring and
tedious in a cold metal box. The traverse is expected to take 24
hours, which will be done in one continuous marathon.

A few things have changed (to my delight!) First, I will one of the
priveleged ones to head into the field by helicopter! I promise to
take pictures and videos of that 100 or so mile trip out to our field
are (around 100 miles north of McMurdo Station). Secondly, a big storm is brewing out there as I write
- and, from my window in the lab, I can see helicopters and
snowmobiles and other oversnow vehicles racing in to be secured before
the onset of the storm.

There are 3 weather conditions in Antarctica. Condition 3 is fine,
good visibility, and mild winds. Condition 2 is a deterioration in the
weather with blowing winds, minimal visibility, and no permitted
non-essential travel. I believe we are heading for Condition 2 as I

Condition 1 is zero visibility. White out conditions. In these
conditions, you are not allowed to leave the building. You can
literally get lost walking between buildings, or get blown away by the
wind. These are also known as "herbies" and they come howling in from
the south.

So I am feeling quite cozy in a warm building as I watch this storm
build up outside. Our departure has been postponed until Monday.
The over land traverse (6 people with 2 trains of vehicles
pulling MANY sleds of gear, and 2 snowmobiles) will also leave Monday and
arrive Tuesday (weather permitting). and the folks traveling by
helicopter (5 of us) will arrive early and set up camp.

We have a mountaineer with us who will oversee everything and monitor the weather and ice conditions. We will set
up the tents to withstand extremely strong winds. And there are
already carpenters at our site setting up two larger tents that are
like quoncet huts, which will be our cooking/eating area and our
science area. Remarkably, both tents will have electricity from generators.
Stoves and heaters will run off of propane. So the common areas of our
remote field area will be quite comfortable. We will be sleeping in
Scott Tents, two people per tent. These measure about 10' by 10' and are identical to the ones we slept in during Happy Camper School. I just hope I stay a ilttle warmer than I did in Happy Camper School! Wish me luck!

When I am in the field, I will not have any internet connections. Though I won't be blogging as often, please continue to check out the blogs of my colleagues. I
will be able to make occasional phonecalls from an iridium phone (a
satellite phone) and hope to call in to McMurdo to dictate some blogs from there.
Occasionally a helicopter will fly into camp, and I will be able to
send out a CD with new blogs that my colleagues can post to my blog

I expect to be back in McMurdo on Thanksgiving, and will certainly have a great deal of news to share. Meanwhile - stay tuned and keep warm!

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