|Graham, John, Forrest, Sophie|
Highlights from our sunny Byrd Glacier camp include hiking the edge of the icefall behind camp on an especially warm day. By afternoon, heat radiating off the dark gneissic rocks caused enough melting for small streams of water to flow over, beneath, and within the blue ice. Graham got down on his hands and knees to slurp water from his cupped hands. I crunched down the stream in crampons, mesmerized by the trickling and gurgling sounds (amazingly refreshing after listening to the wind, flapping tents, and the propane stove for a month).
Another day, John and I trekked up Mt. Rummage to a view of the full wasteland that is the Byrd Glacier. Near the top, we spotted unusual signs…first a kitchen match, then a footprint, then helicopter skid marks. On the summit, we discovered the remains of a cache including tattered black plastic, a wooden board, and a rock pile, beneath which there was a survey monument. Being the closest sign to civilization we’ve seen yet, I’ve dubbed the peak “Mt. Rubbish”.
The effects of the Mayan calendar even penetrated the Antarctic continent. Early in the morning of Dec. 21st, we all lay huddled in the sleep tent in anticipation of moving camps, having taken down the Scott tents and sledded them to the runway. After weeks of peaceful calm, the ice below us showed signs or restlessness, beginning with distant pops. As we disassembled camp, the cracking noises grew to explosions that reverberated off cliff walls. The suspense grew again when we failed to reach the McMurdo base on the satellite phone for an update on our camp move. As we debated the origins of the explosions, we nervously joked that an enormous crevasse would open beneath us…
But the calm returned, as did the Canadian pilots to shuttle us to Darwin Glacier, our final camp. Our world did end, in a sense, but it has been replaced by a new one; we have left the world of sun and entered the world of snow. Gentle snow was falling when we arrived to laboriously dig tent platforms in heavy fresh snow and now we are pelted by the first snowstorm since arriving, with blustering wind covering our new camp with wet drifts.
-Forrest plus Graham plus Sophie minus John (he finally escaped to McMurdo on the Twin Otter after a week of delays)