12 November 2004
The Hotsy, continued
As Andrew mentioned yesterday, the Hotsies need to be re-fueled every 3 hours when we're melting a hole in the ice. And as Andrew also mentioned, one of the holes we are melting is an hour away by snowmobile (at Cape Bernacchi). So, we all decided that it would be best if a couple of folks (because we always travel in pairs) actually stay out at Cape Bernacchi and babysit the Hotsy while it worked. Jennifer and I volunteered for this arduous task, which actually began yesterday night, and would end up lasting through Saturday morning. While the 3 hour Hotsy schedule would not be good for REM sleep, we would get to enjoy a spectacular location and a couple of invigorating snowmobile commutes in the process.
Thankfully, the weather was fine and it was a beautiful "night" (although the sun was still shining brightly) when we left New Harbor camp.
gassed up the snowmobiles
After wolfing down a couple of steaks each (generously prepared by the Bowser boys), We gassed up the snowmobiles, packed up our sleeping kits, filled the jerry jugs with diesel for the Hotsy and "mogas" (McMurdo-speak for "unleaded gasoline") for the generator, picked out the tunes in the MP3 player, then hit the road, so to speak. As an aside, the latter task (choosing music) is a most important one, as traveling through the Antarctic landscape requires a grand soundtrack to complement the austere beauty around you. Gangsta rap just doesn't cut it. Although I've never been a
connoisseur of classical music, I'm finding myself listening to a lot of Mozart, Tchaichovsky, and Beethoven, although I'll also slip in some bluegrass like Doc Watson or David Grisman when I hit a nice, flat stretch of ice where I can give the skidoo some gas and put the hammer down.
| The mountain behind camp.
|| The Commonwealth Glacier, a short hike from New Harbor.
||The road to Cape Bernacchi (looking back up Taylor Valley towards New Harbor), on a frozen moat inside of the tidal cracks on the sea ice. You can see the dirt on the ice that Andrew mentioned in his update from yesterday. I would put in some sllloooowwww music about here...
|After an hour or so we arrived at Cape Bernacchi to our humble camp on the sea ice. The hotsy and generator dominate the foreground in the picture, and our Scott Tent and sleeping tent in the background.
||Another view of our camp, with Mt Erebus and its inactive little brother, Mt Terror, in the background.
After feeding the gas-guzzling beasts that we came here to attend, we figured we'd try and get a perspective of our environs from a higher location. We scrambled up the hill directly onshore, hoping to get a view of B-15 - the gigantic iceberg the size of Delaware that is indirectly responsible for the sea ice remaining in McMurdo Sound for so long. Accompanied by ever-increasing winds, we finally reached a point about 300 feet above the sea ice where we were out of earshot of the Hotsy and generator, and it was getting too cold to go much farther. I think that this was the first time since arriving to New Harbor that I didn't hear some kind of motor running: be it the generator at camp (on 24 hours a day, until the Bowser crew leaves and we go to solar power), the generator for the hotsy, the jet-engine-like hotsy, the snowmobiles, Polaris 6-wheeler, and helicopters (or, "Antarctic mosquitoes", as I call them). The deafening silence was punctuated only by the stirrings of the wind, blowing snow and dust around like it has here for millions of years.
| 180 degree panoramic view from Cape Bernacchi (North -> East -> South). Ross Island is directly across the sound, with Cape Byrd on the left and Mt. Terror and Mt. Erebus in the center, and the Hut Peninsula (and McMurdo station) on the right. Huge tabular icebergs are visible in front of Cape Byrd. The continent upon which I was standing, and the mouth of New Harbor, is in the right-hand portion of the image, to the right of the large piedmont glacier spilling down from the mountains of the Royal Society range.
|| Closeup of tabular iceberg. The dimensions of the berg are approximately 1/2 mile wide by 200 feet tall.
By the time I snapped a few pictures, it was time to go refuel the Hotsy again, so we started back down for the midnight feeding. The routine for the next 36 hours will be to sleep for the next 3 hours, wake, fuel, sleep, wake, fuel, snack, sleep, etc. etc. If this is what having a kid is like, I don't know if I have the stamina. So goodnight for now and see you in 3 hours!
| Our camp and dive hole from above, sitting on the edge of a seemingly endless expanse of sea ice.