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Sunday, October 21, 2007: Days off are well spent
The work days seem to fly by and before I know it, it’s time for another update and a day off! Everyone in McMurdo Station usually works about 10 hours a day six days a week with Sunday being the only day off. Except for a select few who work 12 hour shifts and get two day off. You’d be surprised how much there is to do on a day off. There are all sorts of arts and crafts events, movies shown thought out the day, workout sessions, soccer, rugby, basketball, tours, hiking, skiing, snowboarding and even a quite library where this update is being written.

Come on, I just couldn't resist putting up this silly picture of our P.I. (principle investigator).


So on days off it is nice to catch up on some sleep. I usually don’t go to bed until after midnight and wake up around 6:30 in the morning. So I am averaging about six hours of sleep a night which I function just fine on. It’s hard for me to sleep when I can see sunlight out at night, it like my mind and body want to go outside and play in the freezing conditions. It’s like being a kid trapped indoors on a rainy day. You know you shouldn’t go outside or else you’ll get sick (at least that’s what my mom told me) but something about the rain draws you outdoors. Well the sunlight is my rain and it keeps me up at night. I heard some Antarctic slang this weekend. When you are having trouble sleeping it’s called having the Big Eye. So I this day off I slept in until 9:30 a.m. which is a new Antarctica record for me.

As I comfortably lay in bed I picked up Antarctica - The Heroic Age, a book I have been reading lately. I picked this book up at the McMurdo Library, which has a fairly extensive selection of books. The Heroic Age is a book about some of the first explores to step foot on the polar desert that is Antarctica. The book highlights the first three exploring parties that attempted to reach 90 degrees south. The first of these exploring parties was led by Robert Falcon Scott. Scott was unsuccessful in reaching the South Pole but he had done what no one else had ever done. Scott proved that people could travel around in Antarctica and in doing so cover several hundred kilometers.

The next party to attempt to reach the South Pole was led by Ernest Henry Shackleton. Shackleton was part of the first expedition that was led by Scott and had gain a great deal of knowledge from his mentor. But like Scott, Shackleton was unable to reach the South Pole but was able to get closer to the South Pole than the previous expedition and this satisfied Shackleton.

The third attempt was led by a Norwegian explorer named Roald Amundsen. During this time Scott had launched a second attempt at reaching the South Pole and a race was on as to who would reach the South Pole first. On 14 December 1911 Amundsen was the first party to reach the South Pole and arrived five weeks earlier than the Scott party would. Amundsen made a successful journey to the pole and back and was now headed back to Norway to bask in fame but Scott would not be as lucky. On the return trip from the South Pole Scott and all of his men perished. The trials that each of the exploring groups had to endure was amazing and these men were true heroes of their time. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to know a little more about the first explores to come to Antarctica.

So after reading this fascinating story and an awesome Sunday brunch what else was there to do…. go to work! Well I didn’t really go to work to work but instead to write some emails and get online. Which is very slow by the way, think of the days of 56k dial up modems and it is slower then that. While I was writing some emails the Crary Lab was giving a tour to residents of McMurdo. Every Sunday one of the tours that are conducted is of the Crary Lab. The tour guide tells the guest about the science that is going on here and sometime can get a researcher or two to tell the group what exactly they are doing. Taking a break from the emails I decided to go out and talk to the group about Project SCINI. I invited the group into the lab to show them SCINI and where Marcus and Stacy both joined in on the group conversation. All of us really enjoy talking about our project and it’s great to be able to share our excitement with other people who are just as interested. The group was awesome and had all sorts of questions. After some Q and A that was directed by Stacy the tour concluded and the group was off. And Mindy and I were off to a dive hut.

Here I am talking about SCINI, what a captivated audience.

So why would Mindy and I go out in the freezing conditions to a dive hut? Well to chip open a dive hole and fish out all the ice blocks! We recently had two dive holes that were drilled for us but require two people to go out daily to clear out the holes. It is so cold here they any exposed water will be frozen over in less than 24 hours. Lucky for Mindy and I the ice only builds up a couple of centimeters but this whole process can take about two hours. We began by chipping the ice away with chipper bars that weight about 10 pounds and once all the ice is free we have to clear it with nets. This whole process sounds easy enough but believe me, when you have “Big Red” on, in -20 degrees C temperature everything is harder. While Mindy and I were chippin’ and fishin’ we came across a funny looking ice block that we just had to take a picture of.

We found a heart in the dive hole. I wonder who it belongs to???

Mindy and I decided it would be fun to fish the heart out and take some fun pictures with it.

After the silly pictures with ice some of the group got together to watch the movie Life Aquatic. This is a hilarious movie that is a bit of a spoof of the famous French scientist Jacques-Yves Cousteau. I won’t go into too much detail of this movie as you should watch it for yourself but seeing this movie reminded me of why I enjoy watching it so much. In some ways I feel like the Project SCINI team can relate with the characters of the film.

To conclude the day off I went to the Sunday Night Science Lecture entitled “The Antarctic Cryoecosphere: A New Paradigm for Life in the Biosphere. This was a very interesting talk and focused on microscopic life that may be living in the ice and in the subglacial lakes that are several kilometers below glaciers. One of the lakes that the talked focused on was Lake Vostok which is considered the sixth largest fresh water lake in the world, and it’s under a glacier!!! A Russian science group is leading the drilling operation and are very close to penetrating the lake. It’s exciting to think that there are new discoveries are occurring here every year and I geek out on the idea of finding life and new organisms in Lake Vostok. I wonder if they will want a robot to go down into the lake a take a look, perhaps a small size diameter shaped robot named SCINI???


i havent seen u in ages, but reading about u everytime i check these posts almost daily, it as if i suddenly miss ya hehe. keep doin your thing, nick.

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.