9 November 2004

A day to pack

We finally had a dry day - a day without diving. Tomorrow we are flying to New Harbor and so we need a day to clear the nitrogen out of our tissues by staying at sea level (not below it) so when we go above sea level we will have no trouble with bubbles in our blood. These bubbles can cause decompression sickness or "the bends" when the bubbles lodge in smaller blood vessels and block blood flow to parts of your body. By waiting to offgas we avoid bubble formation.

A Bell 212 helicopter, the aerial "truck" of the Antarctic, which we and our gear will fill to capacity twice over.

But not diving doesn't mean not working. We had a lot of preparation and packing for all our gear. We put together 498 pounds of food, 667 pounds of diving gear, 433 pounds of camping equipment, and 424 pounds of science equipment. Along with 1330 pounds of people, we pretty much maxed out 2 helicopter loads.

We also tried to leave everything in good shape - our lab organized so that others can use it while we are gone, our dorm rooms clean in case anyone gets bunked there temporarily, our vehicles ready for others to use. It is so busy at McMurdo that anything that we leave behind will probably be utilized by another group before we return. This sharing makes working at McMurdo both fun and challenging, depending on who you have to share with. We try to be one of the groups others like sharing with!

McMurdo under Mt.Erebus - trying to leave our small parts of it shipshape!

Finally we chipped out the holes we are going to need to dive again one more time, in hopes that they will not freeze too thick before we return. I am especially concerned about the hole at the outfall, where we are leaving our timelapse camera recording the emissions of the outfall itself. There is a solar pod and batteries on the ice, and a power cable running into the hole with our camera on the seafloor. It is exciting and a little scary to leave it behind – wondering what it will record while we are gone and worrying whether it will run like it is supposed to! We also made sure that we had good GPS coordinates for all the locations where we dived - wouldn’t want to lose them.

Finally we said some farewells to our friends and colleagues who will be leaving before we return. Adam Marsh and Richard Strathmann who have enriched our time with scientific discussion and given us help with larvae, Linnea Avallone, an ozone researcher, and Craig Marshall, a researcher from New Zealand who is at Scott Base next door to McMurdo. Though our time here is only halfway over, for many the research season is ending already. It makes us anxious about getting our work done in time too!

The pressure ridges in front of Scott Base, which are 30- 40 feet tall this year, due to the thick, non-moving sea ice.

With a list of a few last minute things to do in the morning, we stumble off to bed near midnight - our last night in a real bed for a while. I am looking forward to my sleeping bag and tent on the ice.

Sweet dreams to the mysterious singing of seals and moaning of the sea ice - Stacy

Lets see the next day!