9. Nov. 4,1998, Sunday: Patriot Hills Camp
The plan is to fly today at 11 a.m. Commandante Moya will pilot one plane and Capitan Sánchez the other. Both will have copilots. Two commandos will accompany us: Bufalo and Chano. We are Liam, Pascal and I.
We lifted off at around 12 noon and headed south toward Martin Hills -- about a 1 1/2 hour flight. Fuel limitations had dictated that we could camp at one spot and visit one other for about two hours with the planes on the ground. I had to choose between Nash Hills and Martin Hills for the two-hour stop. Martin Hills looked like it had more possibilities and Pirrit Hills looked like it was worth camping at. We circled a while and landed very close to the site I had marked on the aerial photo. There seemed to be two main ice fields, both in back of (i.e., downstream of) Martin Hills. One required a longer walk than the other, so I asked Pascal to take that one, with some colleagues and Chano, one of the commandos. Alex Foessel, Mike Parris and Matt Deans were also along, so the far party consisted of Pascal, Matt and Chano. The nearby party was Alex, Liam, Mike and I. Bufalo stayed with the planes because it was not a dangerous route we had outlined. Facing us as we started out was a small ridge descending toward us from the main range of Martin Hills. One ice field lay to the right of this ridge and the other to the left. Pascal was heading toward the right-hand one, but decided to investigate first a wind scoop to the left of the ridge. Liam, Alex and I headed further left. After about twenty minutes Matt came on the radio to report that they had found a meteorite. This hit us hard, because we are a very competitive bunch. Alex offered congratulations in a voice that seemed to say, "Congratulations, shit heads!" But then, nobody found any more and we returned to the planes. Searching had been difficult because the sky was overcast, but it is not a place I would return to with enthusiasm. The meteorite is about the size of a golf ball, 70% fusion crusted and dark brown. It appears to be an ordinary chondrite. For the record, the finder was Chano. This is the project's first contribution to the meteoritical community.
We boarded the planes and headed back toward Pirrit Hills, in the general direction of Patriot Hills. I had indicated a campsite on a tongue of snow that extended out into an ablation basin below the east end of this part of Pirrit Hills. To my mind, this was the best bet because ice was coming around the corner of the nunatak from who knows what distance upstream to enter the ablation basin. Pascal agreed. Unfortunately, there was no good spot to land nearby. We circled endlessly and after a landing very far from any useful site, took off again and landed near the downstream edge of the basin. This was to be our campsite. From here it would be a long walk to the upstream end of the basin and a short walk to the downstream end: well suited to the respective capabilities of Pascal and me.
Pirrit Hills Camp
The pilot reports that comms by HF were not successful. He agreed to fetch the group after missing communications for three consecutive days (i.e. the planes would depart on Saturday in case there is no communication at all).
At Pirrit Hills we had three tents: a small pyramidal one that the commandos had brought and two North Face Expedition 25 tents -- one of these to sleep in and the other to house equipment. We divided up, with Pascal sleeping with the commandos and Liam and I occupying the other. Conditions were more crowded than I have ever experienced in the past, and it was not fun. At mealtimes Pascal cooked and did a very creditable job, considering the facilities, food and crowded conditions with which he had to contend. Circumstances were ameliorated somewhat by liberal additions of pisco to a powdered drink called Zuko, which comes in a variety of fruit flavors. So, while uncomfortable, we remained jolly. Retired around midnight and slept late the next day, amid rising winds.
Patriot Hills Camp
Matt, Mike and Alex returned with the planes and overflew the camp to get aerial photos. They also flew north of the camp to search for any sign of the missing parts of the Polarhaven shelter, but saw nothing.
The returning field party had a late lunch, nap, and dinner. They received no communication from the Pirrit Hills party, possibly, they thought, because the Patriot Hills station was very busy with other calls.
Matt, Christian and Sib went to windy pass to test the Inmarsat station. Alex and Mike went around the eastern end of Patriot Hills to check the route Nomad would take in its planned traverse to Nomad Valley. They visited Nomad Valley, Independence Hills Moraine, and circled over to Windy Pass, meeting the Inmarsat team. They deployed the station and were rewarded with a perfect communication signal. After a few phone calls home, they successfully tested the full path from the local area network to the CS network with automatic generation of the connection. After reinforcing the antenna to sustain stronger winds, the communication flight box and antenna supporting case were dug in and tied down.