Wednesday December 24, 2003
Katie writes from McMurdo:
Monday morning while Alex and Tom prepared to fly out, Erica and I left for a fun two days in snowschool. We first learned about frostbite, hypothermia, and the survival bags packed in every vehicle, and then traveled with our group of 10 out to Snow Mound City. Snow Mound City is the place where every snow school goes to build survival shelters in the snow. It's located on an ice sheet about 2.5 miles away from Mac-Town. It was a gorgeous day - Mt. Erebus was in plain view with a plume of smoke rising from the top. We learned how to build a quinzhee, which is a hollow snow dome similar to an igloo, a wind-break wall made of snow blocks, and also how to set up Scott tents and other tents using snow to insulate them. We learned to use the small gas stoves given in survival bags and had to make dinner by melting snow for water. Around dinner time the Snow-school instructor left us to fend for ourselves in our newly constructed shelters. He slept about a mile away in a nice warm hut. It wasn't bad sleeping in our shelters though, it was a very sunny night and quite warm.
The next morning we learned how to operate the radios we will be using in the field. As a test of our knowledge we made a radio call to the South Pole, who wished us a very Merry Christmas. Then we came back to McMurdo to watch a video on proper helicopter protocol. The weather was pretty cold and it had been snowing steadily since about 10 a.m., so at this point we were informed that our scheduled flight had been indefinitely postponed. That day was the last fly day before Christmas, so we will be staying here until the 26th. We were quite disappointed at not being able to join Alex and Tom, but since we're here for Christmas we will be able to participate in Christmas Dinner (which I hear serves lobster, steak, and roast duck!) and hopefully get in touch with our families. Erica and I have both come down with The Crud, the Mac-Town name for the common cold, so having two more days to rest up indoors will be good for us. We have just found out that we will be flying out at 8:30 on Friday morning. Hopefully the weather is good so we can join Alex and Tom in the field!
Merry Christmas and best wishes from all of us!