Space Chronicles on Ice #7
by Don Pettit
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Dec 10, 2006:
We broke camp this morning, loaded up our Nansen sledges, and formed a snow mobile convoy in the middle of Antarctica, with eight machines, sometimes blowing smoke in protest of the load. We drove from the Otway Massif to Mauger Nunatak, a section of blue ice glacier that has never been looked at before (for meteorites). The traverse was about 35 kilometers. During the traverse, a number of boxes fell off of the sledges, apparently they were not tied on sufficiently to secure them. Since I tend to drive slow, I was literally picking up the rear, finding boxes of supplies that had somehow managed to wiggle loose from the constant pounding of the sastrugi structures, beautiful sculptures carved out of wind blown ice.
We set up camp near an area of blue glacier ice. This field of blue ice gave off a robin egg hue in the low angle of the Antarctic summer sun. Even though it was summer time, the ambient temperature was -20 degrees C. We wasted no time erecting our tents, putting the snow mobiles to bed, and firing up the stoves to make dinner for hungry travelers.
One part of camp set-up was to erect the out-house tent, complete with cardboard bucket (toilet) seat. During this process, an excited voice announced the finding of our toilet seat! Apparently, we did not forget it; it was simply hiding among the 8,000 kilograms of supplies. This was welcome news.
However, often times the euphoria of good news is countered by new information. Apparently, my lagging sledge had not gathered all the spilled off boxes of gear. At least one had escaped and was somewhere, multi-kilometers behind. As if from O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," the lost box contained our expedition's supply of toilet paper.