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Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 1 December 2005

December 1, 2005

I anticipated doing “Bag Drag” today. This is the procedure where you bring everything you intend to bring on the plane back to Christchurch with you to be weighed. Then, you take back to the room just enough to wear in case you are boomeranged back to Antarctica. My flight was canceled, so everything is delayed a day. Bad weather (cold and windy here today) coming from the direction of South Pole across the high Antarctic plateau arrived at McMurdo this morning. The good news is that it is moving off to the Ross Sea. The bad news is that this is the direction I am heading.

There were lots of little errands to do during the morning and early afternoon. Then, we had a meeting in the Jamesway concerning the project at 2:00 pm. A test flight was decided upon, and I got to go on it! So, I gathered my ECW gear, and joined Lee and Fred for the trip. The Twin Otter is not a big plane, especially when it is next to a C-130 or even worse a C-17. It is a turboprop plane with wings across the roof. The plane started up, we buckled up, the wind blew, snow surrounded us, and I wondered about the sanity of what I was about to do. I was very pleasantly surprised. The plane handled very well and the pilots were great.

Fred and Lee worked on the instruments, the pilots flew the plane, and I got to look out the window! It was beautiful. As you might expect, there is a lot of white stuff (clouds, ice and snow) on and above Antarctica. However, features could be made out including mountains, glaciers, and the ice sheet. In the distance, I saw Mt. Discovery, and the Transantarctic Mountains, and we flew over White and Black Islands and Scott Base. Mt. Erebus was not visible, but clouded over. The worst disaster in Antarctic history occurred when a plane struck the mountain killing all the nearly three hundred people on board. I took it as my responsibility to keep a look out for the mountain in case it made a sneak attack on us. Pesky mountain.

Each feature in the area has become a landmark for me. When I look south, I look to Minna Bluff, and check to see if it is visible. If not, Minna Bluff which is on the major storm track, you can expect a storm in two hours. We were up in the air for about an hour and one-half. Between you and me, don’t tell anyone, the first time I saw the Twin Otter I knew I had to get in the plane and see Antarctica from above. The C-130 was not going to do. Well, it happened. Contrary to many things one hopes for, it was as good as I imagined!

Antarctica is a wonderful place. The beauty is harsh, and the forces at work on it are unyielding, but it inspires one, and beckons one to explore and wonder at its majesty. I am glad to have passed this way and seen such beauty, had such wonderful experiences, and met great people.

Thank you Doug.

Take care of one another. mp