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Sighting Lake Mercer, and Skidoo Singing

Yesterday we made a trip to Lake Mercer, the second lake of the four lakes we plan to visit during our field work. The lake has been informally named Lake Mercer because it’s located on lower Mercer Ice Stream, near the junction of Mercer and Whillans ice streams. We took a fairly direct route to the lake, going southeast for 52 km. Traveling with roped skidoos, we go about 5-15 km/hr, and it took us about 7.5 hours to reach the lake, but returning unroped took only about 3 hours. Lake Mercer is visibly much larger than Lake Whillans. As we drove onto the lake, we could clearly see that we were going into an enormous bowl, and it seemed almost as though we could see the ice surface curving down all the way to the Transantarctic Mountains, though I knew that the horizon actually cut off our view in a few kilometers. The Transantarctic Mountains to the south are a blessing here—on clear days, their sharp, snow-clad peaks add a beautiful backdrop to the otherwise endless flat white expanse.

Long skidoo trips are quite tiring—first, sitting on the skidoo without moving for a long time and the wind makes it very cold, even though we cover up completely, leaving no exposed skin. My right hand also begins to ache soon from grasping the skidoo throttle, especially when traveling slowly with roped skidoos. I quickly lose a sense of time on the long skidoo trips—my mind loops over and over through the same subjects, and the roaring of the machine fills my head. Singing is a fun way to make the time pass as we motor along—I can sing at the top of my lungs, and no one can hear me, even though they’re only 10 m away. My current repertoire includes Johnny Cash songs and German folk songs.

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