Sunday, November 29, 2009

Castle Rock crevasse deaths 1986

McMurdo search and rescue report, 23 November 1986:

"... The two entry sites into the crevasse were approximately 30' apart. Looking into the crevasse we could not see the bottom, nor was there any response when we tried to yell to the victims..."

"Once a rope to the first victim was established, (Mr.) Petty prepared to rappel down, and observed a repeated tugging on the rope from the victim below. On descent into the crevasses, it was noted that the crevasse width decreased from three feet at the top to approximately fifteen inches, seventy-five feet below the surface, where the victims were."

"Both had slid down the rock surface vertically, and appeared to be tightly wedged in... Petty (McMurdo medical) was the first to assess victim #1, and found him able to talk, although he appeared in a shocky state."

"Victim #2 was able to grab the end of the rope and coil it around his wrist, but was unable to hold on when it was pulled. His only words were to the effect "Get me out of here... I'm really in a mess, aren't I?"

"On victim #2... a final extrication attempt... we were able to secure a grappling hook under his arm for a fairly secure hold. With eight rescuers hauling on a 2:1 pulley system, the patient remained jammed, showing how tightly #2 was in fact jammed in..."

Both victims died in the crevasse accident. They had left the safety of the designated Castle Rock flagged route and had attempted to take a "short cut" to Scott Base (the New Zealand Base). A third member of the party was between the two when they dropped through the hidden snowbridge and into the crevasse. He crawled on his hands and knees to the flagged route, below the area known as the "Ice Fall" and ran to Scott Base, instigating the Search and Rescue (SAR) call-out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SAR training all day today- pt treatment and packaging, communications, and ICS
Sea Ice training tomorrow...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

everythings white and fresh and its sweatshirt weather after two days of snow

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just made the Winter SAR team!!!!

World map of photosynthesis

Sun night science lecture

Biogeochemistry in Antarctic waters

talk by a scientist conducting DNA sequencing and protein analyses of local phytoplankton in order to study the effect of nutrients and micronutrients on their growth.

Interesting points:
- important elemental nutrients used by phytoplankton: N, Fe, K, Si, Zn, Co
- some nutrients only come from bacterial processes- B12 for example. Guiness beer is rich in B12 due to its special bacterial populations.
- about 30% of the world's ocean surfaces are Fe-deficient
- polar regions are more likely to be Fe-deficent because much iron comes from windblown dust. Dust is in shorter suppply in mostly snow-covered areas such as Antarctica.
- Some Antarctic plankton "hot-bunk" iron. They use iron to build photosynthesis-related proteins during the day, then tear these proteins apart each night so that the same iron is available for alternative purposes. This allows the plankton to produce more in iron-limited conditions, though at a high energy cost.
- The metal hulls of scientific ships can throw off study measurements by artificially enriching the immediate vicinity with Fe from underwater rust
- underwater volcanic vents release metals and other nutrients which are carried away by currents, forming a plume pattern
- scientists theorize that global warming is being caused in part by excess carbon released into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. One of the geo-engineering solutions suggested is to fertilize the oceans with iron, thereby causing a plankton bloom which will form a massive sink for atmospheric carbon (and eventually carry this carbon back into the rock cycle). Experimental fertilization attempts thus far have caused blooms visible from space for a month or more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saw my first puddle of liquid water in 2 months outside yesterday.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday night science lecture

This week's science lecture featured SCINI - McMurdo's underwater ROV. The original SCINI was pioneered in 2003 using a grand total of $300 of off-the-shelf equipment, including sewer pipe, model helicopter propellers and toy racecar controls. The 2008 version of SCINI remains quite simple and cheap and has been repaired in settings such as inside a tent in a remote field camp. Including high tech cameras and navigational equipment, the newest SCINI is worth about $30,000 (typical for similar built-to-order ROVs). SCINI is 15cm wide, modular, and can travel at up to 4.5 knots to a depth of 300meters. Power and communication is provided by a tough tether with two ethernet (no delicate fiberoptics) cables.
SCINI's purposes include
1) providing a cheap and speedy way to evaluate possible scientific sites. Drilling, blasting, or melting holes large enough for divers can take several days. Local fluctuations in light, temperature, current, etc. can create undesirable nonrepresentative microenvironments. Winter Quarters Bay is very polluted; it contains more PCBs than LA harbor for example. Until 2003 raw masticated sewage was dumped into McMurdo Sound; the pile of sludge resting under the pipe is predicted to remain there for thousands of years before breaking down.
2)making deeper, longer dives than human divers can acheive. During the 1960's Dr Paul Dayton of the Scripps University conducted many experiments involving long-term growth observations of local sea life. These are known as the "Lost experiments" because many of them were below 40m, the current accepted maximum safe diving depth. SCINI can access these sites and collect decades worth of data. Long dives also make mapping of hard-to-access sub-ice areas possible.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

good time at the halloween party last night...
went out to Cape Evans today and visited the hut that Scott and his party wintered in during 1910-1911 before they started on their fatal South Pole expedition. They set out on this very day- November 1 - 98 years ago. They reached the pole just after the rival Norwegian Amundsen expedition. The norwegian expedition made use of arctic standards such as skis and dogsleds, while Scott used a less effective combination mechanical sleds, manpower, and horses. On the way back Scott's party ran into rough weather and their progress was slowed. Starving and frostbitten, the team lost first one man to injuries and a then second who, near death, walked out into a storm rather than be a burden to the desperate team. The three surviving members of the original 5-man group hunkered down in their Scott tent through a storm at the end of March and never woke up again. Their bodies were recovered later that season.
There's a joke that goes: why did the English come to Antarctic?
Answer: to put up crosses.
Scotts hut was used as a refuge a few years later by some of Shackleton's men when their ship broke free and drifted away north in the pack ice. Above the hut on a hill is a cross dedicated to three members of the Shackleton expedition who died nearby. After 1917 the hut was buried under drifts until the 1950's, when it was dug out and its contents were found to be remarkably well preserved. The hut is 50' by 25', constructed of wood with a rubberized roof, and insulated with seaweed. A addition on the north side was built to house Scott's horses.
The hut's interior is dim and saturated with a smell of rancid seal meat that was strong enough to make me feel slightly nauseaus after a while. It included a large kitchen still stocked with boxes of flour and butter, cans of "pea flour" and preserved cabbage, and bags of cocoa. The hut was kept quite warm by a combination of acetylene, coal, and blubber burned in the kitchen stove and a second warming stove. The center of the hut held a long well-worn dining table, and its edges were lined by sleeping areas, storage, and benches covered with scientific equipment. At the huts rear was a 1911 era darkroom complete with necessary chemicals. Scott, the doctor, and an officer had semi-private sleeping quarters in a rear corner. The beds were short wooden platforms, still holding reindeer skin sleeping bags and surrounded by shelves of spare wool socks and sweaters. Scotts rough wool blankets looked a lot like the ones they gave me for my bed.
The wind and sun had dried the hut's exterior to a bleached white color. Scattered nearby lay the bones and skeletons of what seemed to be every dog and seal that had died in the vicinity. A couple of dogs were whole and mummified, one still attached to its chain.
From the hill above the hut I enjoyed the most beautiful view I've ever seen- looming Mt Erebus with its glacial tongue pushing out into the ice of the bay, sea ice bounded by high ice cliffs stretching north, permanent surface of the Ross Ice shelf stretching south, and the tall rugged Royal Society Range across the bay. All was painted in the array of blue, purple, yellows, white, and orange light peculiar to the Antarctic.
On the Delta ride to the Hut we stopped and got out to look at some penguins standing half a mile from us. To our surprised delight as soon as they saw our 21 member group they waddled over to within a few feet of us and checked us out. When they got close enough their yellow necks identified them as Emperors. They slid around on their bellies some and made that funny lonely call that penguins make. I'll have to try and get some of Docs pictures of the event. They had a good look at our Delta then continued on across the road.
Our final stop was an ice cave created by the interaction of seawater with the Erebus ice tongue. It was very beautiful, filled with intricate ice crystals and deep blue light.