"McMurdo, Journal #2"

April Lloyd - January 14, 1995

    I'm here at McMurdo trying to catch up with the correspondence with the kids and teachers across the state. While at South Pole, I spent a lot of time preparing for the LFA broadcast and also working on World Wide Web documents.

Last night, I went to a play here at McMurdo Playhouse called, "Saving Grace." The actors were all station people who have other jobs but in their spare time they rehearse and create the stage effects and the play runs each night for a week or so. It was a romantic comedy about a woman named Grace, who falls in love with a man that she thinks is a burglar but is really a phone man. It was silly in spots, and I enjoyed it. It is impressive to me the multitude of talent represented by these Antarcticans. At South Pole we had a coffee house where the musicians were amazingly good and the band on New Year's Eve, The Pole Cats, was made up of a meteorologist, astronomer, construction worker and communications technician! And they were great! The actors last night were of similar caliber. I was very impressed.

Today, I walked to Hut Point to see Scott's hut. The New Zealand Antarctic Program is restoring it so we got to go inside and look around and take pictures. After we did that, we walked up onto a little hill where there is a cross commemorating the death of one of Scott's team members and I looked down and saw a leopard seal pop up through the ice! He was bobbing up and down and looked very friendly...but I knew better! He may have been looking for penguins. The ice breaker came through the Ross Sea a few days ago and often penguins follow it into McMurdo. This leopard seal may have been looking for a penguin for lunch...but neither of us saw any!

There are a lot of folks here in McMurdo right now. The South Pole is sending some of their workers here because it is so crowded there right now. Much of the scientific work for the winter has to be set up now and many other duties need to be performed to get the station and the experiments ready for the harsh winter. My leaving South Pole early, allowed some scientists for CARA and other projects to stay and do the work they needed, while I could do my correspondence from McMurdo.

The difference between McMurdo and South Pole is dramatic. The only color at South Pole is white for miles and miles. Here at McMurdo, you can see the dark volcanic land striped with streaks of snow. There are lots of colorful buildings and lots of trucks and heavy equipment. Telephone poles strung between buildings provide light and energy all winter. The colorful halos come and go over the Ross Sea and a strip of broken ice shows sea green color where the ice breaker has made way for the supply ship. For me, the majesty and beauty of Antarctica is truly captured by the South Pole; however, McMurdo, has its own beauty as an essential supply port for the other bases, including South Pole. The people at South Pole station were like family and the small intimate community where you can sit and eat with anyone, play games or cards and where everyone shares time, talents and energy with each other was difficult to leave. Here at McMurdo, there is an anonymity that allows a lot of time for getting computer work done. Also there are many folks who are interested in educational computing and are willing to talk and share their ideas on how schools and scientists can form future partnerships like this one.

The supply ship will arrive the first of February carrying all the supplies and equipment needed for the winter. There will be many flights out to Pole and other permanent base camps to get them what they need for the winter including fuel. The store here at McMurdo is almost bare waiting for the ship to get here. Even the bathrooms have signs saying "No more Paper Towels until the Ship comes in." I've heard of waiting for my ship to come in, but that is ridiculous.! =-)

Elizabeth just left on a plane for Christchurch. There are 188 people waiting to get off the continent and since she has to get back to college at Northwestern, she is a priority. I am scheduled to get on a flight on Tuesday.....but we'll see. The VXE6 has had trouble with the mechanical parts of planes and then weather is always an unknown. I still have many people writing to me and the last Live From Antarctica program is on the 20th. It is interesting to see the jump in postings since the live show. I know that if I return to "home," I will not get the postings answered, and most people would rather me answer from "The Ice" for as long as I can.

I am beginning to write the research paper for the NSF grant. I want to write about the essential connection between schools and scientists. Through this project, using telecommunications, it has become vividly clear to me that schools have lost touch with the essential nature of science which is to wonder and find out...not to already know. Science in schools is taught as if it is a list of content to remember, when in actuality, science is the process of taking what you know, and what you have to work with, and bringing that to bear on a problem or unknown. Nowhere does this fact become more clear than at the South Pole. Making do with what you have seemed to be the forte of all stationed there. I understand that when you winter over, that becomes even more true! It was impressive to see people figure out how to use what was at hand to do something, whether in the galley, Clean Air, or CARA's site. From a "Post-It Note" attenuator to wires twisted together using a drill to make a cable, making silk purses out of sows' ears is a skill to be sought at South Pole. Common sense and ingenuity...the ability to think fast on your feet are more important attributes for future scientists than facts and figures.

Well, I'll try to write again tomorrow...I may not have a lot to report as it is Saturday here, and most folks sleep, do laundry and relax on Sunday...but I may be able to get some sightseeing done. Perhaps tomorrow, if the snow stops falling, I can hike to Castle Rock!

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