Tomoko Arai, Recon Team, 20th January, 2013, the South Pole Station
Last night we enjoyed sleeping in an actual bed, not in a sleeping bag, in the air-conditioned room. After having Sunday brunch, we packed cargo outside the building of the South Pole station to prepare for the planned move back to the McMurdo tomorrow. Then, we visited the sights and sounds of the South Pole. In fact, the geographical South Pole continuously moves and so there are two markers. One marks that actual location of the geographic South Pole as of Jan 1st 2013 and is marked with a white stick with a gold circle plate on top (see the photo of me holding the stick). There is also a ceremonial South Pole marker that is surrounded by flags (see photo of me standing next to it and Katie’s blog from yesterday – you can see the USAP research station in the background). We look forward to being back to the McMurdo and getting together with the main team hopefully tomorrow!
Andrew Beck, G-058, Sunday January 21st, Otway Massif, Antarctica
Four of the G-058 team members were picked up by LC-130 last Friday and are currently in McMurdo Station. The LC-130′s are big, but they aren’t big enough to get the whole team and our cargo out of the field in one flight. Jim, Rob and I remain at Otway and hope to be taken out tomorrow, weather permitting of course.
Given that four of our team members got one step closer to home, we count Friday’s pickup as a success. However, after two failed takeoff attempts, Friday’s plane taxied back to Otway camp and unload most of our cargo to try to get airborne on their third try. Jim, Rob and I then scrambled with Ski-doos to clear the dropped cargo pallets, sleds and boxes from the runway, and the plane got off the ground on the third try, and our teammates were on their way to McMurdo (via an unexpected and exciting stop at South Pole Station!).
The final few days at Otway have been busy, but well worth it. Most of our time has been spent getting the gear taken off Friday’s flight and the gear remaining in camp in order and ready for pickup. After doing some more packing this morning, Jim, Rob and I took a ski-doo trip to the southern side of Otway Massif to look for meteorites. While we didn’t have any luck finding meteorites, we did see some great vistas and had fun enjoying each other’s company (see picture). Rob treated Jim and I to a tasty pork loin dinner this evening and Jim and I are about to return the favor with some “no bake” cheesecake. Hopefully by this time tomorrow we will be enjoying the food and comforts of McMurdo!
Katie Joy, Recon Team, 19th January, 2012, SOUTH POLE
Hello. Hope you are well. The ANSMET recon team have escaped 13 straight tent days and the bad weather of Szabo Bluff, and are currently all safely housed at the USAP Amundsun-Scott South Pole Station! The clouds and fog lifted this afternoon to beautiful blue skies, clear views and low winds to allow a Twin Otter aircraft to fly in and pick us all up (see photo of us leaving the field). We took down camp quickly (after two weeks in a tent you would move fast if you heard a plane was on route!) and after loading the plane and a two hour flight we were all at Pole (see photo of the geographical South Pole with flags). It is bit of a shock being back in civilisation and seeing different faces, but we have enjoyed a dinner of pizza and some ice cream this evening and have indulged in wonderful hot showers, comfy chairs and the gift shop We are very grateful for the people at South Pole for having us to stay, and thank you also to the Twin Otter crew who came out and picked us up. We will let you know more news when we have settled in and know what the plan is for the next days.
Tomoko Arai, Recon Team, 18th January, 2013, Szabo Bluff
The end of the Antarctic summer season is approaching, but the weather today was still not unfortunately good enough for us to get back to the McMurdo. We need to fly from here to the Klein glacier by the Twin Otter flight, and then fly back to the McMurdo by the larger LC-130 aircraft. Since the weather now (around 10 pm) is perfect for the flight with no wind, no snow and clear blue sky (see the picture), we are hoping to get out of here definitely tomorrow!
We have a meeting in the tent of John and Joe at 19:30 every night. Especially in such prolonged tent days, the meeting is the only place where all of the four (John, Joe, Katie and myself) can get together, sit back and talk over after-dinner hot chocolate. Each night John kindly reads aloud us from the diaries of Amundsen and Scott, both of who headed for the South Pole around 100 years ago. Because the dates of the diaries are overlapped with our camp days, we compare our experiences with theirs day by day. Last night, John, who has over 30 years experience of the ANSMET mountaineer, told us how the ANSMET programme started in 1976-1977 season and of the U.S.-Japan joint missions which were undertaken during the first few years. I was glad to hear the history of the programme, and I felt how fortunate I am here not only as a meteorite researcher, but also being Japanese. In fact, the joint Japanese-Belgium Antarctic meteorite search mission is currently going on the opposite side of the Antarctica. I would like to send them positive vibes to collect many and exciting meteorites and I wish them all the best with their current field season (hopefully they are getting fine weather!).
Katie Joy, Recon Team, 17th January 2013, Szabo Bluff
‘Tent day 11, in the Big-ANSMET house…’. If someone could please vote us out of the field that would be great – just dial ‘SEND-LC130′ and press 1 for Joe, 2 for John, 3 for Tomoko, and 4 for Katie. Your call would be appreciated – especially if you could mash the dial pad and hit 1-2-3-4 all at once.
Hello. We are still here in the field at Szabo Bluff, not far from Graves Nunatak. Our flights were cancelled today as the weather still generally rubbish, although winds abated and the clouds actually lifted for a few hours this afternoon (sorry I appreciate that these recon team blog updates are turning into local weather reports). The break in the weather (see the photo for a glimpse of blue skies!) meant we could get out to dig up some of the things that had been buried in snow around camp and it was nice to see the surrounding mountains for a few hours. We had a tasty dinner all together in John and Joe’s tent this evening, to celebrate the fact that we hope to move in the morning. Everyone is generally in good spirits in spite of being tentbound, although I have noticed that the subject of Frosty Boy (the ice cream machine) back in McMurdo seems be coming up in conversation a lot now… somehow when you are surrounded by snow all you can think about is ice cream. Hum… Not a lot else to report. 101 years ago to the day Robert Falcon Scott and his team of four other men reached the South Pole, only to have been met with the discovery of the Norwegians having arrived there first. In his diary (see photo of John reading to us), Scott described the realisation of this dreadful event, and of the Pole in general, as ‘Great God – what an awful place’ (although it could have been the fact that they were running low on tea that had spoiled his mood and his appreciation of the locality). Thank goodness we haven’t been man hauling or been on a diet of pemmican as Sazbo Bluff is still, in spite of the weather, a very beautiful place to be.
PS – from Katie – Happy Birthday Dad! Hope that you have a good day and get to enjoy a little fish and chip supper.
PSS – from Tomoko – Happy Birthday to Yu-chan (Yusuke-kun) in Hong Kong for his 5th birthday!
PSSS – Shaun – got your text. Thanks for the message Hope that the sunshine is treating you well.
Marianne Mader, Systematic Team, Jan. 16, 2012 Otway Camp, Beardmore Region, Antarctica
We’re now at the Otway campsite, our final Antarctic home in the field and location of the ‘landing strip’ (i.e., flat snow surface) for the C-130 Hercules plane. It took us three attempts, but we finally managed to leave the Larkman campsite yesterday! We had originally planned to go to a third field site, near Cecily-Raymond Nunataks, however, we were turned back by weather and a medical situation. We’re happy to say that Shaun Norman, who was flown out of camp on a twin otter three days ago, is doing well and is in good health.
Overall, the moraines and blue ice near the Larkman Nunatak proved fruitful – we’re confident in the thoroughness of our meteorite collection and the site is now considered complete – no future ANSMET teams will visit this site again! Our meteorite hunting work for the 2012-13 season is officially over and we’re now waiting for flights back to McMurdo. We’ll need two C-130 flights to get us, our 329 meteorites, and all our gear back there. Yesterday, we took down our entire camp in record time (only three hours) and then, with two sleds trailing behind each snowmobile, we drove 34 miles to Otway – again in record time – only four hours! We had smooth snow all the way (see photo of some of our packed gear with Larkman Nunatak in the background). Our new camp was set-up by 6pm.
Today we packed up all our gear that is not essential for daily life onto cargo pallets. We also heard great news from McMurdo – our first flight is scheduled for tomorrow (Jan 17) evening! Four of us – Tom, Stan, Mini, and I – will leave with half our gear on that flight (provided the weather cooperates)! Jim, Andrew, and Rob will leave on the second flight, which is yet to be scheduled. Fingers crossed – hopefully our next blog post will be from McMurdo!!
Tomoko Arai, Recon Team, 16th January, 2013, Szabo Bluff
Hi! Ten days have passed since we were tent-bound on Jan 7th. The weather has never been good except afternoon in Jan 12th. Strong wind, low surface definition, and snow mounds around the tents, have made it hard for us to go to the poo tent or ice chipping sites, which are just 15-20 m away from our tent. A few days ago, I slipped down one of the snow mounds on the way to the poo tent, because I could barely see the snow surface topography. To avoid the slippery accident, I started to use an ice axe as a walking stick whenever I need to go out. As we are stuck in the tent with not a lot to do, eating is the most fun and fundamental activity. The picture shows a chef Katie cooking Halibut (white fish) with garlic and a variety of herbs. She is an excellent cook and we have very much enjoyed a wide variety of delicious dinner everyday. The dinner menu so far has included; coconut shrimp curry, Spaghetti Bolognese, beef steak with a garlic herb gravy, salmon teriyaki, sausage casserole, garlic shrimp, chilli con carni, sweet & sour chicken, beef-beacon-cheese burger, and so on. Now you probably start to feel you mouth watering (^0^) Last night, Katie and I discussed how much food was left in the food box, and confirmed that we could make it by comfortable for another two weeks or so before we have to switch to a cup-a-soup diet. I will share all the dinner menu of the season with you, once we can get out here hopefully by the end of the Antarctic summer.
Hi, Ralph Harvey here, PI of ANSMET.
The field team has asked me to fill you in on news from this season that didn’t show up in the blog because they weren’t sure how to deal with; there’s more to the “Groundhog Day at Larkman” story from a few days ago than they told you at the time.
As they left Larkman for the Mt. Cecily site last saturday morning, the team’s mountain guide (Shaun Norman) had been dealing with severe headaches for hours. And as they got rolling, things got worse, with Shaun getting disoriented. The team recognized this as very serious and immediately returned to Larkman where Shaun recovered significantly after some time in the tent, warm fluids and food. Again the team did the correct thing; they consulted with doctors in McMurdo Station and the decision was made that Shaun should go back to McMurdo for evaluation. Shaun made it back to McMurdo within the day and while he seemed to have recovered fully, the doctors there (including a neurologist) recommended he get back to Christchurch for a more detailed evaluation.
As of this writing Shaun has been back in Christchurch for about a day. I don’t have any details to share with you right now on his condition (UPDATED BELOW), but I can say that when I talked to him in McMurdo he seemed absolutely perfectly normal, which for Shaun means full of good humor, communicative to the point of being a chatter-box, personable, and more concerned for the team he left behind than for himself. We’re all praying that this was nothing more than severe dehydration and stress, which is entirely possible- the Larkman site is one of the highest we’ve visited, at the equivalent of about 9500 feet, and the traverse to Cecily was a big deal for which Shaun was in charge. It is really easy in the thin cold wind to work too hard and drink (and breathe) too little. In fact, in my own 20+ years of ANSMET fieldwork, I’ve only had altitude sickness one time, and it was in that region, while working too hard to get a traverse underway. It happens to be best of us.
As for the team, over the last 72 hours they’ve consulted with me, with John Schutt (the mountaineer for G-057) and the field safety folks in McMurdo. The decision was made that rather than go on to Mt. Cecily, where they’d get to work only for a few days at most, they will traverse back to the Otway landing site when weather allows. It’s about a 6 hour trip, and with their satellite images, maps, GPS and their own snowmobile tracks to find their way, it shouldn’t be a big deal. In fact it may have already happened- I’m sure the next blog post from them will update us. (UPDATE BELOW)
I will try to keep you updated as I learn more. For now, let’s all send our hopes and prayers for a very healthy Shaun Norman to recovery fully and quickly, with no long-term consequences.
UPDATE: 3 pm tuesday east coast US time. Jim Karner called me from the field and said that the systematic team is at the Otway landing site after a traverse that went very well, almost 2 hrs shorter than expected. They’re packing up 16,000 lbs of cargo and getting in the queue for flights back to McMurdo. Shaun Norman apparently had an MRI yesterday and there are no signs of brain injury, and they’re describing his episode as an extremely severe migraine.
Meanwhile, the recon team is still at Szabo Ridge, waiting to move toward Klein glacier for pickup or a trip to Pole to get a plane from there……
Katie Joy, Recon Team, 14th January 2013, Szabo Bluff
Guess what – we have moved and are currently enjoying a nice glass of red wine back in McMurdo. We are sitting in comfy chairs with cushions, and have had showers and washed our hair. No only kidding. We are still sitting in the field at Szabo Bluff in the Transantarctic Mountains. We have been in the tent 8 days now as the Twin Otter plane still has not had good enough weather to come and retrieve us. Still not as bad as the Antarctic explorers of 100 years or so ago who often had to wait a couple of years for the weather to be good enough for the boat to return them to sunnier climates… Always look on the bright side of life. The weather has been seriously odd – all day yesterday the clouds were thick and winds were really high and blowing snow (see photo), and we only had one to two mile visibility. Sometime in the night the winds just dropped completely and an eerie silence took over, but clouds still cover the sky meaning that we have little surface definition. This means it is too dangerous for the plane to come out, or for us to get out and try and do a bit more meteorite hunting. Even walking around outside is tricky as you can’t see shadows properly, and so tend to not see quite steep slopes on the snow drifts that are now lying between the tents – a few times now I have been strolling around only to suddenly find myself sliding down a slope on my rear end wondering where the ground went. Ah well.
We have had some moments of good weather to be able to clear up camp a bit, and get organised for the move whenever it might take place… hum… Even Priscilla the penguin joined in helping us empty some of the food boxes (which mainly involved her eating as much as she could to help lighten the load…). We are now out of chicken patties much to Priscilla’s disgust, and Tomoko and I only have one more can of Pringles left, and John and Joe are reaching critically low cookie levels – I think the food bartering between tents is going to start any time soon…
Hope you are all well and the weather in your part of the world is treating you well