So somehow I ended up going on yet another EVA today, even though I feel like I was outside really not that long ago. Again with the sweaty suits and radios and having a GPS strapped to your wrist! Or rather clipped to some random point on the flappy tent we wear to protect ourselves from that sweet Hawaiian sun. Today’s vague mission/excuse to frolic: gather as many GPS points as possible! I am something of a professional amateur at leaping elegantly from rock to rock (my dad was a mountain goat), so I had the dubious responsibility of being one of the guys who had to lug around some extra gear. Go figure right?
What this entails to anyone who doesn’t want to deal with jibber jabber or double talk is simply me walking around. I have a little GPS on my wrist, and I click the button that says “Save Waypoint?” every 5-10 meters or so. Then we can take all that information out back at the hab, and get a set of very precise coordinates as well as elevation. Mix that data with shots from Google Earth, or the drone if we ever manage to fix that, and you can find out all sorts of things! Wanna make a topographic map? Go for it. Figure out the rough volume of all the calderas? You’re set! If you wanna learn about the geology of an area, getting some guy (hello) to wander around getting a bunch of waypoints is a way to do it.
But enough of the boring premise of our adventure! Before we can go outside, we’ve gotta put on our sweat buckets! I managed to snap a picture of my EVA buddy Carmel getting her gear on, though she still has to figure out the top half.
Today was a gorgeous day to be out too, clear skies and the wind was enough to help keep you cool without trying to knock you down a slope or anything. We had two teams going out today, Carmel and I immediately started mapping out the right side of the quarry we live in and treading the like between Pahoehoe lava (yay!) and A’a lava (oh the horror!). Cyprien and Christiane sauntered up the adjacent hill to the experiment that I described during the last EVA post, and I guess just dug a hole or something for awhile. He had a shovel, fair guess right? But this is what we saw when we exited the airlock.
Because Carmel and I are the Montana crew, we got to the far end of the quarry in little time at all. Some of you may recall that this particular semi-distant caldera is the one with the totally awesome Pahoehoe lava waterfall that froze mid pour, lending that ambiance of “what the..?!” to the place that we’ve all come to love. I started to circle the rim, taking GPS points along the way so we could map it properly, when I discovered…there’s totally a way down even when you’re wearing a clunky suit!
Once we’d finished in the farthest part of the quarry, we started skirting the other side of the string of calderas while heading back. We actually live in sort of a wedge; our dome and the holes we’re mapping are in a flechette of crumbled Pahoehoe lava (the liquidy, smoother stuff) and we’re flanked on both sides by wide flows of sharp and crispy A’a lava that would tear anything apart in two seconds. We don’t get a lot of visitors.
Still! For some reason on this trip we found a bunch of stuff we just never had before. Remember the previously mentioned hole to the center of the Earth that I’ve shown pictures of? Yeah, I found two more of them, and I swear that the rock I dropped in called out a forlorn “goodbyyyeeee” as it disappeared into eternal darkness. While I know this isn’t really possible, I’m still halfway convinced that ten minutes later it landed in a glowing lake of molten rock, startling some trolls having a picnic on the nearby shore. Who really knows what’s down there right? Right!
It was about this time that Cyprien and Christiane finally finished their shovely task and tried to head out to meet us so they could use their GPS to get some work done too. I actually saw them a long way out, and decided to let them come to me because, well…those suits are hot!
As we were heading back, mapping all the way, we took the scenic route, of course, and ended up finding yet another hole that goes on forever. This one was especially devilish, in that it had an ever so tempting bridge of rock that framed one edge of it. I really should get on it to measure the landscape…but I’d never make it in a hazmat suit…but science! No no, don’t be crazy! In the end I only got close, but did discover that on the other side…another pit to pure darkness. What’s up with today?
And finally it’s time to head back to the dome. My hands are pruny from suit sweat and my arms are tired from constantly fighting the landscape with my hiking pole. It’s past noon, lunch has yet to be eaten, it’s getting hotter…time to call it a day. Thankfully, after all that laborious clambering about and several occasions of running away from deep dark pits of mystery, we were at the access road marking the tail end of the quarry. I’d walked along the entire darn thing, go figure. So I got to end the day with a gentle stroll up a smooth road, where after a measly 5 minute simulated decompression I could lay on the floor like a bum and cool off. Good times!
And in case anyone was overly worried, I did indeed get lunch. Shey was kind enough to make roast turkey sandwiches! I gotta say, they’re extra good when you’ve been mapping the face of a foreign planet for a couple of hours, if you want to make lunch taste fantastic, go on a hike in your snowsuit, everything is SO amazing when you finally get to take it off again.
Till next time, I need a shower!