Saturday, December 8, 2007

Scott Base

Our cross-valley flight was pretty awesome Saturday. We were probably in the air for a couple of hours after all was said and done, and we got some pretty good views. It was a bit nerve wracking coming over some of the cliffs, when all of a sudden the ground is a good 2000 feet farther down than it used to be, but it was still fun.

Today we headed over to take a look at Scott base, the kiwi installation just around the island. It's much smaller, and cleaner looking. All of the buildings are the same green color, and all connected by hanging hallways, so that you don't have to go outside to get from place to place. We were going to meet up with a guide that we had met at Bonney with the BBC guys, but he was out doing some training. It's a bit odd, as he told us he would be in.

For those who wonder, we are scheduled to leave McMurdo on 12/11. We will leave New Zealand on 12/13. I won't know until 12/11, fairly late at night, when I get to Chicago, local time. Since we're leaving on 12/13, and we make up 17 hours coming back, I may well get home on 12/13. I will try to let people know, probably via txt. Some of you may have to make phone calls for me.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Running Water and Electric Lights

With much difficulty, we have arrived in McMurdo once again. We got stuck at LH for two days rather than one, and were nearly stuck at Fryxell for an overnight instead of a simple day trip. It's nice to be clean and have a bed, but I wouldn't want to be in McMurdo for very long. Tomorrow should be a day flight in an AStar, the smaller, faster helo. And you can sit in the front! After that it's just equipment returns and a few more days on ice. For those of you asking, I've seen some life wildlife. There was a skua, a sort of large cold weather seagull, hanging around outside the Crary lab. The things are sort of vicious, swooping down to take food from peoples hands and if you've got a good grip, swooping into the back of your head to make you drop it. They're the reason that most of the dead seals don't have eyes... Cute lookin' though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Return to Hoare

We made it to Lake Hoare today. All in all it was a pretty relaxed day. We only had one thing to do here. Tomorrow we'll hop to Fryxell and then McMurdo. You can almost count the days at this point.

Looking out at the lake, seeing the buoy site where we worked, makes me feel like I've been here for years. It seems like it couldn't possibly have been just a month and a few days ago that we got to Hoare for the first time. It's all been so constant and draining, and mostly so foreign. Being in such a different place and learning such a different lifestyle makes everything seem to last much longer. Added to the frequent travel and contrasting landscapes, it may as well have been a year. It's not a bad thing, really, just a rare sort of feeling. Well, one more night in a tent.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Life in the Valley of the Dead

As many of you are, I'm sure, aware I have an intense and irrational anxiety associated with the site of dead animals if there is any flesh to be found. It's not as strong for me as when I was a child, but it comes up. Roadkill isn't bad, and I've gotten pretty used to dissections. You may also know that I've got something of a fascination with bones, and find them apt decorative pieces, in the right setting.

So, it's been an interesting time here in the Valleys, where mummified seals and penguins are fairly commonplace. I've taken photos of all individuals I've found. They're all in various conditions, some just bones, some with skin, some with fur or feathers yet.

Mystery Revealed: Posted now on Flickr are ten my choosing. I didn't post the most disturbing of them (there's nothing quite as unsettling as an eyeball that hasn't rotten away in a skull without any skin), in part because it's a public forum, and in part because none of you were expecting it. All photos are of different individuals, not all individuals that I have found will be online. Finally, none of you asked why Mummy Pond was called Mummy Pond!!!! Come on! What a lead in! Oh well.

On a completely different note, bad weather has set in. We're still at Bonney for now.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In the Shape of Things to Come

Well, we're packed up and loaded; everything's ready to go. We finished the last buoy today and put away all of the tools and toys. We'll be at Lake Hoare tomorrow to fix (read: revert to an older version because my keeper didn't properly prepare in Chicago) some software issues. The day after we'll be at Lake Fryxell for the same reason. We won't be drilling any new ablation stakes as Meda is hurting pretty good and doesn't want to strain his back any further. After that we're in McMurdo for a few days, one of which will be a flying tour across a few lakes north of here. We may catch an early flight home, which would put us in Chicago on 12/14 instead of 12/19. I won't know honestly probably until 12/10.

Today I took a walk to Mummy Pond. It was about two hours away, but a pleasant walk. The winds were picking up, but sun dominated until I got there. I was warm enough anyways, and the scenery was nice. There's a high road and a low road, I took the high in and the short out. Up on the bluffs were boulders glaciers. The winds are pretty good across that stretch of land, so many of the rocks were sculpted. It was pretty cool to be able to look down on the lower route, which is an outwash plain of Suess Glacier when the full melt season is on. There were two streams flowing, but it is still colder here than usual. Generally by now the streams are in full bore and you can hear ice calving off of the glaciers frequently. Leave it to me to pick the cold year... The low path was mostly sand and flat. In many places wind and water left ripples in the sand, as if to speak of a beach long since gone. There weren't so many sculpted rocks here, but the contrast was pleasant. Mummy pond itself is smaller than any of the lakes I've been to. It's small enough that the ice is smooth all the way across. There is still ice movement, however. It doesn't form abrupt walls there, rather it swells up, sometimes more than a meter, creating odd and unexpected ice domes. It was a pleasant day, and a hike I've been trying to make since we got to Bonney, but could never find the time for.

One last note, true believers. Tomorrow will see the unveiling of my super mystery photo album extravaganza via my Flickr account (assuming i have the internet still). I haven't decided how many images will be included in the album, but I'm thinking maybe 10 or 15. I have more to chose from that would be appropriate, but don't want to go bananas. For those of you keeping score, I've now taken 984 images (admittedly some of those are work related and I managed to get a few of the floor of the CDC....). Still, you've been warned! When you ask to seem them, expect many!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mostly Dry Valleys

Today sucked. The hot water drill was almost a joke. The guy shipped it with used pipes and hoses, and some sort of soap in it somewhere. Thankfully we shot it into a bucket on the first run, or the clean up would have been horrendous. The burner wouldn't work, so it was a cold water drill, which simply isn't effective. The weather was terrible today. Grey and windy, cold again. The meltwater at the lake edge is thoroughly refrozen.

And, to top it off, it's snowing in the driest place on Earth. Chances are we won't get our flight tomorrow due to weather, and they don't fly on Sundays, so we won't have our cables and cutters until Monday, which means our Monday move becomes a Tuesday move, our Tuesday a Wednesday, and our Wednesday a Thursday. Hopefully we're not delayed too much more...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life During Wartime

We've scored a decisive, and potentially final, victory in the war against the Generators today. It is a great day indeed. Unfortunately, on the heels of this spectacular win in glorious battle comes a sudden uprising among the plebeians of the Hotsy region in the Eastern district, aided by their allies the sand grains, in the form of a stuck hose. To add insult to injury, in replacing the hose Meda took a stream of (thankfully not hot or he'd probably be blind) glycol to the face. We quelled this rebellion quickly, but are wary of scattered bands of resistance that may come up when we send a delegation to the barony of Brancker hole. Tension is high.

That much aside, the day was alright I guess. We got the first UW PAR (under water photosynthetically active radiation) replacement logging. We should be done with Jiffy drills, as the lake level measurement has been completed. This is good news for my neck and shoulder. The hot water drill is in today, and we've got to play with it to see how it works. If it does its job, this will be the first step in permanently replacing all Jiffy drills on Ice. Yay us. I made June's Chicken for dinner, which was tasty, sad, and nostalgically pleasant all at once. There's been no time for hiking lately, but I'm hopeful for the weekend. There are two places I'd like to get to before we move on. One of them (is not crucial but) would be helpful to the mystery photo album extravaganza which I'm sure you're all (chirp, chirp) anticipating (read: have completely forgotten about) greatly by now. And at this point it would be good to remember that it's 1:30, and sometimes it's good to sleep.

By the by, the Blood Falls pics finally made it up. They're pretty damn neat.