West Antarctic Ice Sheet Stability:
Glacial Record from the Ohio Range of
the Horlick Mountains in the Bottleneck
Hal Borns*, Aaron Putnam, UMaine
Robert Ackert, Sujoy Mukhopadhyay, Harvard.
December 15, 2004 to February 15, 2005
January 2nd 2005

January 19, 2005

The Mount Schopf Weather Introduces Itself; Flag-route Established; Thoughts on Attachment and Cleanliness

The first day at our new camp was unfortunately a bit relaxed. At 0800h, I was told to go back to bed on account of the 0% snow surface definition. The torturous element, was that we could plainly see Mercer Ridge! But, in order to safely place a flag-route, the definition needs to be good enough to see snow-covered crevasses. So, I dreamed a little more: mostly anxiety-ridden dreams about unfinished schoolwork and financial problems that are (in reality) awaiting me at home.

One thing that I’ve been thinking on recently, is the idea of worldly attachments – and what it is specifically that binds me to ‘home’ in Maine. As Terry Hughes’ ‘Bull-Nye Syndrome’ begins to show its first signs amongst our crew (including me, I’m sure), and the asymptotic end draws near but hasn’t yet arrived, I try to analyze exactly what it is that gives one the itch to depart… When getting down to the necessities, why would anyone ever want to leave this little paradise we have established for ourselves? We have good food, water, warm clothes, and comfortable sleeping quarters. What more does one require? A hot-shower seems nice, but not necessary… It is one of those things that one may romanticize the memory of, and greatly anticipate – but by the time you take the shower, before you know it, the novelty of the greatly romanticized and missed luxury is gone, and you are trapped back in the routine of everyday life.

On account of just the raw fact that one needs to remain clean to remain healthy, I feel as if the dry cold here has a very strong cleansing effect, and the body is able to resume its age-old cleansing mechanisms when not constantly bombarded by products. Even after running, when I feel especially clammy in my windproof outfit, one day of hanging the damp clothes will have them dry and smell-free, ready for use! Perhaps I am deluding myself, and I must acknowledge that over time this property of Antarctica doesn’t hold up, but I am sure amazed at nature’s ability to keep one clean.

The only comfort that I truly miss, and look forward to returning to, is running. A huge part of my life involves simply getting lost both in the world and in my mind, and running everyday to heart’s content. It is my form of soma, keeping me placid, free and inspired.

But all in all, the ‘Bull-Nye Syndrome’ seems to be merely a manifestation of the draw towards samsara and the eternal cycle of suffering. When leaving the ice – who is truly happy at home? Isn’t it all a bit melancholy to return, after the novelty has worn off? I find that at this part of my life, I cannot sit still for too long… I love finding new places to build a connection to, and find my niche that I can make my own.

I digress. We spent the day in idleness, waiting for a clearing that might shed some light on the ground. I tried my hand at being a tailor, and sewed a ‘Scott Base’ patch on my pack – I think I need some more practice.

Peter cooked up a tasty meal of pork and pasta, with Sujoy’s recipe applied to the frozen vegetables. As we ate, the sky cleared a bit, and the southern sun cast a light bringing out the definition on the ground. At 2145h, I suggested we go for it and set up a flag-route while we had the window. There was hesitant, but general agreement. So we set out, and flagged a route to the lower moraines deposited by a cirque glacier on the western face of Mercer Ridge. We managed to get around to the edges of some large, rather anomalous crevasses that stood between the ridge and us. We headed southwards to find the ends of the holes, but had to settle with crossing them where they had narrowed a bit, appearing to be at least partially filled with snow. We were glad we waited for the definition to improve when seeing these large crevasses… They were only distinguished from the rest of the white plain by a slight depression in the snow surface, with smaller sastrugi.

Reaching the moraine, we found it to be fascinating – quite different than the ones we had seen below the table. The lithologies were composed of dark red, weathered dolerite boulders, shales imprinted with the petrified Glossopteris trunks, and various bits of sandstone and glistening coal (or ‘black diamonds’ according to Perstrud on Amundsen’s southern journey). It will be a joy to spend more time on these moraines – the environment is truly spectacular! One almost feels a hint of walking through an ancient forest with the plant fossils and petrified wood everywhere you look!

I collected a stratified sandstone pebble, and a classic coarse sandstone conglomerate, placed them in the ski-doo box, and we were off back home. It is now late (after midnight), and I must arise early to prepare for a day of fieldwork. Ah, finally, back to work – hopefully there will be few idle days waiting to reach the outcrop.

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