22 JUNE 1995

We had an exciting day on the 21st which was Mid-Winter's Day. We dressed up. Margie put on a dress for the first time in six months and I wore normal pants and a shirt. Fortunately we had the heater turned up. We had a huge feast of all the good things we told you about last week.

We were very tired after all the phone calls we made. We spoke with students in remote locations in Australia via the Alice Spring School of the Air and more than two dozen New Zealand schools. We rang the Australian Antarctic Bases as well as the Macquarie Island Base to wish them the best on the darkest day of the year. Everyone is glad that the sun is now heading back to the Southern Hemisphere. It is quite amazing when you think about what happens to our voices when we speak down that satellite phone into a briefcase. Our voices turn into a signal that travels to a stationary satellite near the equator and over the Pacific Ocean. It is then sent from the satellite to the west coast of the United States where it is linked into the international telephone lines. COMSAT Mobile Communications certainly are a great help to Expedition Ice-Bound.

Every week we speak with New Zealand schools because Telecom New Zealand is sponsoring Expedition Ice-Bound and paying for all the telephone calls. We had a fantastic conference call with them this week. They told us all about the projects that they have been working on. They built mock-ups of Gadget Hut. Some students were sleeping over at school on the longest night with their heaters OFF! These brave students were trying this experiment so they could feel some of what we are experiencing at Commonwealth Bay. They were eating meals similar to what we have and created a concert and acting as if they were in Antarctica for Mid-Winter.
It was great for us to hear that students are taking that much interest in what we are doing! MENAI PUBLIC SCHOOL- AUSTRALIA Congratulations to Menai Public School. What a fantastic idea-- making a mock-up of Gadget Hut. It is exciting for us to hear of your total enthusiasm for the project and we look forward to seeing you when we get back. Hopefully we will talk to you on the telephone soon.

We though it appropriate to reproduce your letter for the other schools so they could get an idea of what you have done.
"Dear Don and Margie,
We are from Menai Public School in Sydney. There are 31 children in our Year 5/6 class. We have been following your expedition all year. We are simply amazed by the things you have experienced. We are standing in front of our Gadget Hut. We made our hut to the same dimensions as yours and as part of our Science and Technology work, we have made your microwave, phone and solar panels, a friendly lamp and a large map of Antarctica. We also made our own individual Gadget Huts and we had to make them with a removable roof and design the layout of the inside of the hut. We also had to make the furniture that we thought that you would be using.
We cannot believe that you are living in something that size. What we have found really interesting is that you seem to be getting along so very well. Everyone that comes into our room asks about our hut and they learn about what you are up to. We now have people from all over our district sending us news clippings, etc.
We also went to our near by high school to meet another Antarctic explorer, Phillip Bernaart, who showed us slides of his time in Antarctica and allowed us to try on his clothes and to hold an Emperor penguin egg. He also showed us slides of his Mid-Winter Party. We are also having a Mid-Winter Party. We are going to have lots of junk food because we decided that roast lamb was a little hard to organise but we are going to all bring mugs and have hot chocolate with floating marshmallows. We would like to congratulate you on your efforts.
We fell like we are part of your family.
Thank you for letting us experience your exciting world.
From 5/6W and Mrs. Walters, Menai Public School, Sydney.

Margie and I will try to organise conference calls to everyone who has sent us cards over the next few months so stand-by for that call from Mary Ann. Conference calls consist of twenty-five schools in total with five of the schools designated to ask three questions each. The other twenty schools listen in and during the following weeks some of those schools will get a chance to ask questions. It will be very exciting and we are looking forward to it.
For any schools that would still like to register that they are interested in a conference call, just send us a card letting us know how many students there are in your class, your teacher's name and where your school is located. We will put all the cards in a hat and begin our conference calls when you come back from school holidays. We wish we could speak to everyone on the conference calls but it is very expensive. We are trying to do the best we can at the moment with the limited funds in our education program piggy bank.

We had an exciting phone call today with the Alice Springs School of the Air. Children in the outback in Years 1 and 2 spoke with us which was great. It was difficult to think of them in the red dirt of the Australian outback while we are down here surrounded by all this snow and ice. They are isolated in a way that makes us have something in common with each other. Can you imagine what similarities we have with isolated students? Talk about modern technology, the satellite phone which gets connected to an international phone line in the U.S.A. then went to the Australian outback and was connected to HF radio. It was really fantastic. You never know, one day we might get to visit those students on their stations in outback Australia. Alice Springs School of the Air is celebrating its 44th Birthday this year. Congratulations, well done teachers and parents who work with students in these remote locations.

The idea of using a steel slops bucket instead of a plastic bucket which shatters in the cold seemed like a good idea. It is not a good idea, everything stuck inside when it froze solid. It took us ages to chip it out with a steel stake and hammer. We tried another old plastic bucket but if smashed on the first trip to the sea. Everything plastic is now cracking. We even broke the dust pan! It looks like we'll have to use one of only three special five-gallon (about 20 litres) buckets that we have which are very strong. They are rated to operate in freezers. If they don't work, we might have a real problem.

We've had very big blizzards this week and they keep getting worse as time goes by. Hopefully they'll get a lot better now that the sun's on its way home. We did have one really good night this week when there was absolutely no wind. Around midnight, Margie and I went outside for an hour or two. We were amazed at the strength of the auroras which completely encircled the horizon everywhere we looked. They were very bright. I tried to photograph them with the camera which has an exposure setting that can last as long as a minute and a half. I'm not sure whether they will turn out but I hope they do. The stars were fantastically bright right down to the horizon. The air was so clear it make it look as though we were under a huge dome. The Southern Cross stood out really strongly. It is directly above us and we enjoy thinking that we are living under the Southern Cross.

I had this idea that I'd take Margie out for dinner on Mid-Winter's Day. There really isn't any where to go so I decided to build a snow cave in the side of a snow hill. Margie got a good laugh out of my efforts. She told our office in Sydney, "I laughed a lot while Don was digging it. He looked like a dog trying to bury his bone. It's a bit cramped but I couldn't knock back an invitation to go out for dinner, but that's it. I'm not sleeping in it!" We couldn't get to the snow cave this week because it has been blowing so hard. Fortunately we sealed it up with blocks of snow before we left it because now it is completely covered with snow. In fact you wouldn't even know it's in the snow hill where we dug it. We'll dig it out again when the weather gets better.

The high tides and strong winds at the beginning of the week have taken the ice away from Boat Harbour once again. Everywhere we walked in the last few weeks is now turned back into water. It is really weird. When Mawson was here Boat Harbour froze solid three months ago and it didn't break up. In fact he set up a tide gauge on the ice and kept taking readings for the rest of the year. If it were there now, it would have drifted away with the ice. Maybe global warming is effecting the climate down here! That is one of the reasons we are keeping such a close watch on our weather statistics.

Our daily routine has changed since we have lost the sun. We now go to bed between midnight and 1 a.m.. We get up about noon and eat breakfast at 1 p.m.. I'm sure that sounds funny but that's the way life is down here right now. Our battery operated alarm clock is broken but luckily we've got a mechanical one that was given to us as a farewell present from a friend, Buster.

Thanks to all the Australian schools for the hundreds of cards, posters, jokes and recipes. We can't wait to see them all when we get back from Antarctica. They have been read to us over the phone and described to us. I understand that the TODAY SHOW zoomed in and gave a few cards national television exposure. We really appreciate your thoughts and we do feel as if you are part of our family. Telephone calls to school are an exciting part of our week. The AAP Group of companies is helping us to launch our phone calls to Australian schools and we'll be talking to you soon.

Keep warm,
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