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Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 16 November 2005

November 16, 2005

The day started with incredibly beautiful. It was nearly perfectly calm at sea ice level, clear with thinly spaced clouds aloft, and a bright warm sun shining brightly. I walked the mile or so to the airfield (frozen sea ice) to the planes. The scientists were working hard on the instrumentation, and they seemed a bit more anxious than yesterday. Time, cost, and energy are all thought about constantly. The logistics of working in the Antarctic are difficult. I took some pictures, and as always everyone took time to answer my questions and chat a bit.

The walk back was equally pleasant. Mt. Erebus (which in Greek means the gates of hell) was venting. The plume rose upwards, and then deflected. The mountain stands at about 13,000 feet, and rises from sea level majestic and confident in its power. I noticed cracks in the ice road way. I am sure it is still cold enough to refreeze. Still, in the not too distant future, the McMurdo crew will move the airfield to Willie field on the back side of the McMurdo hills. As sea water freezes, it pushes out and down the salt creating a higher than normal sea concentration of salt water directly under the ice. Certain halophilic (salt-loving0 alga and bacteria thrive in this condition, and other sea creatures such as krill feed on them, and in turn other creatures feed on the krill. It is a food chain containing untold numbers of creatures at each level. The ice on which I was walking is more than 70 inches thick (a six foot person is 72 inches), and as it melts seals, and penguins move in. They use the cracks and holes that develop in the ice to enter and leave. Orcas follow, and as they see shadows burst up and shatter the remaining ice to capture prey. Humans are advised not to walk on the ice at this time.

Some of the crew gathered for lunch. As always, tasty and if one chooses wisely, healthy. My computer was repaired, or at least improved over the day of my arrival, and I am now working on it and not using the systems computers.

Ice core samples were scheduled for 2:30 PM. We gathered in our ECW gear, and drove off to core. The drive is only about 2.5 miles away over the hill near the Kiwi station (New Zealand). The station is much smaller than McMurdo. The buildings are painted appropriately kiwi green. The wind was blowing very hard and it was very cold there. I could see where I will be taking my snow school. It is going to be quite a night. The sea ice never melts there, and is said to be tens of feet thick. As the ice is pushed around pressure builds, and massive pressure occur thrusting ice upward. It is quite an impressive sight. Typically, the McMurdo group and the Kiwis at Scott station are not permitted to mix. Thursday nights is an exception, and a shuttle runs on the hour. I am going to go.

The ice cores taken today were an effort to test equipment and procedures. Cores are taken to see how gases trapped in the ice and snow mixture compare with atmospheric gases. The deeper one goes into the snow and ice, the older the trapped gases. Many people have heard about this technique as in regards to carbon dioxide (involved in the greenhouse effect/global warming). Snow falls at about four inches a year in Antarctica, so a twenty inch core means a five year record. The test today showed that the technique needed to be modified. The snow at about one-half meter (one and one-half feet) was harder than expected, and bent the plastic liner. A shorter collection height is being considered.

It is gray, windy and cold now. I am glad to be at the station. I finished up the ANTCI McMurdo scientist directory and the overview for the teacher page is written. It will need some editing, but it is close. Look for it shortly on the ANTCI website.

I am tired today. I walked a lot. I called my parents (reached my mom), and talked with Barbara and Carsen on the phone. I wonder what Shackelton, Scott, or Amundsen would have thought about the creature conveniences and communication devices we have now.

Be well. Take care of one another. mp