Sunday, December 24, 2000

Warm bodies, warm hearts: A day with McMurdo's GAs

Published in the Antarctic Sun

It’s early morning. Most folks are struggling to get to work with coffee in hand. But several brighteyed, low-paid men and women are bouncing off the walls in the GA shack next to the carpenters’ shop at McMurdo.

Led by former general assistant Sally Lyon, this season’s operations GAs are ready to work. Lyon doles out the day’s tasks.

"Heather, you’ll go to waste. Lynn, you’ll go to the galley, but it’s just for the morning," Lyon says. She also sends two GAs in a Spryte to replenish the Penguin Ranch fuel supply. The remaining two head out to Williams Field to re-flag a route on the ice shelf.

These operations GAs are not the only ones in town. But the work of several other GA's assigned is with designated departments in town, such as facilities maintenance and fuels department, is bit more specialized.

The nine operation GAs are the ones out shoveling snow, moving boxes, entering data and generally helping out all around McMurdo Station.

It doesn’t take a lot of training to be a GA, though they do go to happy camper and sea ice schools early in the season. But it does take a certain type of person.

Lyon picks her crew carefully from a pool of applicants that by far outnumbers the number of positions available. They're all seeking a job with adventure. "The variety is what attracts most people," Lyon said.

Most of the people she picks, Lyon said, are flexible and have a sense of humor as well as
a broad range of life experiences. This year’s GAs include a former Peace Corps volunteer,
a former tour director with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and a person
who worked with delinquent youth.

But there is one characteristic that pervades all else in the application process, Lyon said: "Somehow they’ve made it clear that they will do anything to get here."

This means Lyons doesn't have to sell the job; she even tries to discourage applicants. She starts an interview by telling them about the worst parts of the job. If they still sound positive, she tells them the good parts.

As the season progresses, work varies a bit, but not always enough. Sometimes GAs end up doing the same thing for several days. Though from the beginning they were told that this would almost certainly happen, it is still sometimes difficult.

When the job does change every day, on the other hand, there’s different challenge. "You don’t see the big picture," said GA Lynn Keating. A day-long task for a GA may be part of a month’s worth of effort for everyone else; having a sense of closure about a project is rare.

Lyons tries to mix up the tasks among the group a bit, to keep them interested in what’s going on, and to keep them learning about how the station operates. "My goal is that they’re as excited to work on January 20 as October 20," Lyon said.

She reminds them to be aware of where they are and how amazing it is. "When you’re shoveling, don’t forget to look up," Lyon said.

In addition to becoming well-rounded in operations, being a GA is a good way to make a good impression on people who will be hiring for next season. "It’s a great springboard," Lyon said.

All of last year’s McMurdo GAs came back for another season, whether for winter at Palmer or in town this season. Many more ex-GAs work all over town and throughout the Antarctic program.

"Everywhere you go, there’s former GAs," said GA Heather Reider.

From those former GAs and the quality of work of each year’s crew, the word is spreading
that GA labor is valuable, Lyon said. "People are starting to recognize that there’s an incredible amount of talent in this group," Lyon said.

Lyon’s combination of practicality and motivation works out well for her and for the GAs. Most of them are active most days, and they are able to work without much supervision. "They exceed my expectations," Lyon said.

And even outside of work the GAs stick together as a team. "A roomful of strangers become the best of friends in four months," Lyon said. In the morning, they trade jokes and stories,
as well as tips and thoughts about previous work or that day’s upcoming projects. At lunch, they rally around each other, asking, "How’s your day going?" and exchanging reports of how life and work are in different departments.

The bottom line for most of the GAs is that they’re here on the Ice and experiencing a range of ways to work and live. "If you’re going to work your butt off for not very much money, why not do it here?" Lyon said.

Sunday, November 26, 2000

Pinpoint precision: Geographic locators are accurate to within tenths of an inch

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Several scientists in the U.S. Antarctic Program use specific measurements and locations on the surface of the Earth as key elements in their research. They watch many processes, including
the movement of glaciers, growth or shrink rates of ice sheets and rock layers and the melting of patches of snow in the Dry Valleys.

These researchers use the Global Positioning System, originally created for combat use by the U.S. Defense Department, to locate themselves and their study areas very specifically. At McMurdo Station each summer are GPS experts who provide equipment and training for about 20 science groups on the continent.

“We’re supporting grantees who are using GPS for their field research,” said project leader Bjorn Johns, of the University NAVSTAR Consortium (UNAVCO), a group of 100 academic institutions, including the National Science Foundation, promoting the use of high-accuracy GPS for scientific research.

Many people on the Ice and in the U.S. have their own handheld GPS units, which cost around $200. “It’s become a national utility,” Johns said.

Commercial handhelds provide accuracy to within about fifteen feet of an actual location, Johns said. By contrast, the equipment Johns and his colleague Chuck Kurnik issue are accurate to within tenths of an inch, cost around $15,000 and involve a plattersize antenna and laptop computer-size receiving box.

GPS is based on a group of satellites orbiting Earth and several ground stations monitoring them. The satellites broadcast their position in space and the exact time from an on-board atomic
clock. By receiving the signals from several satellites, a GPS unit on the ground can calculate its location.

But that can be difficult at high latitudes because the satellites don’t pass directly overhead, which would give the best possible readings. “They’re all low on the horizon in the polar regions,” Johns said.

All of the positions calculated are relative to other, fixed, known locations. To be precise, measurements need to be compared very carefully with the exact trajectories of the satellites at the time of the reading.

“That typically means collecting and post-processing data,” Johns said. That process can take a couple of days, he said. Some groups need Johns and Kurnik to do GPS portion of their work, while other researchers need technical assistance or data-processing help.

Johns and Kurnik also install both permanent and temporary stationary GPS stations to monitor ongoing geologic processes and to improve accuracy of nearby readings.

This season, they put a station on Mount Erebus to watch how underground activity changes the volcano’s surface. “If there’s any inflation or deflation of the volcano relative to McMurdo we’ll see that,” Johns said. If anything significant happened on Erebus, or anywhere else with a permanent GPS monitoring station, the data would be valuable for scientists.

“When an event occurs, you’ve captured it, with pre- and post-event data,” Johns said.

Another important element is fixing the exact antenna position to the ground. If a measurement is accurate within fractions of an inch, a human error in antenna placement for observation could
appear to be a large fluctuation in surface movement.

To provide a stable platform, Johns and Kurnik sink a metal rod into the rock or ice and affix a leveling platform to the rod. The antenna screws onto the platform.

Each reading, then, is taken from the same location relative to the rod. If a location change is measured, it means the rod has moved, and therefore the rock or ice surrounding the rod has moved.

This type of measurement is possible around the world using base stations and satellite readings anywhere on the surface of the Earth. But Johns said Antarctica is where GPS gets used most heavily. He and Kurnik may support five science projects during the rest of the year, and more than 20 during the summer field season on the Ice.

The GPS work helps influence future research, Johns said. This season at Icestream C, a group wanted to drill an ice core in an area where the glacier isn’t moving very quickly. Because of GPS
surveying last year, they knew where one was.

GPS is also used to map the atmosphere. Since GPS uses radio waves, which behave differently as atmospheric conditions change, GPS readings at known locations can show variations in
the ionosphere and troposphere through changes in radio waves along different paths.

Johns and Kurnik don’t directly interact with the atmospheric mapping projects, which are not based in Antarctica, but help people use GPS in all kinds of ways. “Everyone has something they want measured,” Johns said.

Swedish Polar Ambassador visits Ross Island

Published in the Antarctic Sun

The New Zealand Antarctic Program played host to the Swedish polar ambassador, Eva Kettis, last week.

She had been in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, for a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and was invited to be a guest at Scott Base.

After several days on weather hold in Christchurch, Kettis arrived on the Ice for her second visit. Her first visit was to a site on the Antarctic Peninsula where a hut was built by an early Swedish Antarctic explorer, Otto Nordenskjold, in 1901.

Sweden, which signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1984, maintains two small summer-only camps in Queen Maud Land and cooperates with Finland and Norway in areas of logistics and operations.

“We have subscribed totally to the Antarctic Treaty goals,” Kettis said.

While she is the ambassador for both polar regions, Kettis said she concentrates most of her
effort on the Arctic. “That’s perhaps nearer to our heart,” Kettis said.

She works with the Arctic Council, a group that includes the eight countries that border the Arctic and several groups of Arctic indigenous people. “That is quite unusual for intergovernmental cooperation,” Kettis said.

The political issues, she said, are very different in the north and south polar regions. For example, since the Arctic is largely ocean, no country can make territorial claims. Research,
on the other hand, is similar in the two areas.

“The science has a clear bipolar aspect,” Kettis said. “I think it has not only polar aspects but global aspects.”

On her trip to the Ice, she visited Ross Island’s historic huts, various field camp locations around the Ross Sea and in the Dry Valleys, and visited McMurdo, where she was particularly
impressed by the mawsonii in the old aquarium.

“I never thought I would see a big toothfish,” Kettis said.

As well, she toured Scott Base and liked what she saw. “They are very well equipped and it
works very well,” Kettis said.

She was unable to leave on schedule because of the weather, which frustrated her a bit, but Kettis said she was glad to be able to see this part of “this huge and beautiful continent.”

Sunday, November 19, 2000

Mind is in Maine

Published in the Antarctic Sun

On the windowsill above Ted Dettmar’s desk sits a picture of him taken five years ago. He looks every bit an old-time Down-East farmer of Maine. His ballcap is pulled down over unruly hair, his long red beard hanging over a canvas jacket. His feet are sunk deep into a pair of rubber Wellington gumboots, and he sits atop a piece of farm machinery that has seen better days.

In the picture, Dettmar has one horse reined in very tightly and the other let all the way loose. That’s how he handles his world, letting things go along their own way and then taking charge at specific moments that make all the difference.

Dettmar, 36, grew up in suburban Arlington, Virginia, the youngest of six children in a military family. His family lived all over the world while they were growing up and have all settled near the home their parents retired to, the one in which Dettmar grew up.

It’s Ted who is now wandering the globe, with this picture and a very specific goal.

“I want to live as close to the land as possible,” Dettmar said, “to get to know every tree, every bush, the soil types, the rock types.”

Here in Antarctica, that may seem a very easy dream: No trees, no bushes, no soil. And there’s not all that much rock, either. But he’s talking about New England, and a vividly simple life on a

Dettmar knows it’s a long way from the Ice, where everything is imported by cargo plane or container ship from the rest of the world, where the landscape can and will kill.

“The irony is not lost on me,” he said.

Now known as one of McMurdo’s eminent historians of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, Dettmar didn’t know much about Antarctica until just a few years ago.

The first thing he read about the Ice was Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s book, The Worst Journey in the World.

“That’s the typical first book,” Dettmar said. Just as he finished that, he came across another book.

“Somebody handed me a copy of Endurance and it had the crew list,” he said. One of the names on that list was Thomas Crean, a name he recognized as having been part of Scott’s Terra Nova
expedition from 1910 to 1913.

“I found out there were these guys who were just indestructible, just made of stone,” Dettmar said. They just kept coming back to Antarctica on expeditions.

When he got to McMurdo as a GA in 1994, he took a tour of the Discovery hut, given by someone who didn’t know what he was talking about.

“The tour guide was abysmal. The guy knew nothing,” Dettmar said. A history major in college, Dettmar bristled.

“People deserve to know more. These are interesting stories,” Dettmar said. “I thought, ‘We need people who can bring these places alive.’ I said, ‘That’s going to be me.’”

After working in waste management and now for the Field Safety Training Program, Dettmar now shares with people not only the history but also the practical lessons learned by polar explorers.

Even so, he doesn’t claim to be following in the footsteps of early explorers like Scott and Amundsen.

“There’s no comparison,” Dettmar said. "Amundsen’s story is the story of what people can accomplish," he said, likening it to the construction of the George Washington Bridge over the
Hudson River.

“Scott’s and Shackleton’s stories are the story of what humans can endure,” he said. “Everything they did was a close call.”

That’s not how Dettmar likes to do things, though some might disagree.

“I do not consider myself to be adventurous in the least,” he said.

He has been doing search-and-rescue since his junior year in college, recovering light aircraft crashed in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, and lived for five winters in the Harvard Cabin in Huntington Ravine on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.

With that experience, Dettmar got out into the deep field quite a bit as a GA, and was a rare first-year selection for the secondary SAR team. He’s been on the primary SAR team since his second year.

Now he’s the lead field safety instructor, in training his coworkers to do their jobs as best they can. He still takes the lead in sea ice training, which is his specialty, and keeps watch while
the rest of the instructors teach and learn and do.

“I think I can do it as long as I’ve got people underneath me who are more qualified than I am,” Dettmar said.

As much as the job, he really likes being here and being part of history.

When he leaves for the last time, he said, he expects he’ll be bawling. “I’m always ready to come back down here.”

Diving for science

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Most scientists in the U.S. Antarctic Program study things on or above the ground. Some even explore the sky or faraway galaxies. But a select few regularly descend into Antarctic waters to collect material and information for their research.

On average, 20 divers make 600 dives a year in McMurdo Sound, the Dry Valleys, near Palmer Station and based from the program’s two research vessels, said scientific diving coordinator Rob Robbins.

The highest number of dives recorded in any one year was 908 in 1984, Robbins said. The average dive lasts 40 minutes, though some have gone longer than 90 minutes. The water in McMurdo Sound is 28.5 F (-2C), and near Palmer it’s only slightly warmer, at
30 F (-1C).

This summer season, six research groups, five based at McMurdo and one at Palmer, will include16 divers. The GLOBEC survey of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, based on the Laurence M. Gould and Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessels, will have two groups diving in March.

Less commonly, Robbins will dive to support specific projects that don’t have their own divers.

“Most groups bring down whatever dive labor they require,” Robbins said.

Scientists dive for many reasons, including photographing marine life, collecting specimens for lab work and maintaining underwater equipment.

“The facilities here are fabulous for diving,” said John Heine, the U.S. Antarctic Program’s advisor for research diving. “The diving conditions are really great. The support from Rob is really what makes it happen.”

One reason to dive in McMurdo Sound is that the low water temperature attracts deepsea wildlife to shallow water with little light filtering through the sea ice.

“The sound is fairly interesting,” Robbins said. “You see animals in the sound you would normally see in deep water, but at diveable depths.”

The depth at which wildlife are observable is important, because diving deeper than 130 feet and for extended periods is not allowed for scientific research. Deep diving is more complex and dangerous, even in warmer waters. In Antarctica, the margin of error is slimmer, so divers take more precautions.

“ We don’t allow decompression diving,” Robbins said.

That’s when a diver needs to pause on the way back up to the surface to adjust to the difference
in pressure.

McMurdo Station has a recompression chamber, originally installed in 1984 to comply with federal safety regulations for construction diving. After the construction finished, Robbins
said, station management decided to keep the chamber in case of dive accidents.

Since then, nine people have needed treatment. Four were aviators who had decompression
problems after accidents in which their airplanes depressurized at altitude. The other five patients were divers.

“Every one was a complete resolution,” Robbins said.

Robbins runs the recompression chamber with a volunteer crew of six, as well as a doctor
and a medical technician from the medical department on station.

Palmer Station has no chamber, though there is one at the nearby British base, Rothera, as well as in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Robbins works hard, though, to avoid accidents, and gives each dive group a firstaid kit and an oxygen kit.

“ We provide a lot of safety equipment,” he said.

He also ensures that science divers know how to move around underwater while wearing a dry suit, which keeps them warmer than a wetsuit would.

“It’s really the dry suit that’s different from most diving,” Robbins said.

A dry suit traps a lot more air than a standard buoyancy control device. Therefore, as
the divers change depth, their buoyancy changes rapidly.

Each season, each diver has to do a refresher or orientation dive to qualify for Antarctic diving, because some of the things are different here. For example, most underice diving courses teach divers to use tethers.

But here, the water is so clear, Robbins said, that they don’t need tethers if they appropriately
mark the holes.

“Here the visibility’s good. When visibility drops we use the tethers,” Robbins said.

There are two ways to breathe under water. If divers use scuba tanks, at least two divers must be in the water, to help each other in the event of an accident.

When a diver is breathing from a surface supply of air, the system not only permits twoway
communication between the diver and someone on the surface, but a rescuer can follow the air hose from the surface to a diver in distress. So a standby diver is still present, suited up and ready to swim, but is on the surface.

With only one diver using air at a time, they can take turns diving and being the standby diver for each other, accomplishing more in one outing.

“ You can do a lot more work,” Robbins said.

Also with surface supply, a diver is more comfortable in the water, Robbins said.

“It’s quite a bit warmer,” he said. “Your face is covered.”

Robbins said he would like to be doing more commercial construction diving, but he’s pretty happy with the science support end of things as well.

“This is a lot more scenic,” he said. “I’ve potentially got the best job in the program.”

Solar flare shuts down continental communications

Published in the Antarctic Sun

MacOps bills itself as the Voice of Antarctica. The radio operators there talk to people all over the continent and elsewhere around the world on high-frequency and very high-frequency radios.

Thursday, just before lunch, the continent got a sore throat.

All the HF radios went quiet, broadcasting white noise instead of voices from all over.

“It was pretty eerie,” said Paula Elliott of MacRelay, which also monitors all radio frequencies.

A solar flare had sent a mass of charged particles out from the sun into the Earth’s atmosphere. Those charged particles had disrupted the ionosphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere that
reflects HF radio waves, preventing transmission of HF waves around the globe.

The radiation, the fourth largest storm of its type since 1976, caused some rearrangement
of communications and transport schedules on the continent.

“Camps were unable to check in,” Elliott said. “People were technically overdue for their
check-ins, though we knew why.”

If camps miss their check-ins under normal circumstances, rescue missions are launched. This
time, though, radio operators waited and worked around the situation.

They had lost contact with South Pole Station, Byrd Surface Camp, Siple Dome, Byrd Glacier, as well as the Olympus Range and Lake Vida, which are in VHF “dead spots” in the Dry Valleys.

Communications with the Pole were possible on the Internet during the Pole’s satellite window. The people at Vida had to climb a hill to hit a VHF repeater.

“We didn’t expect it to be as big as it was,” said MacOps coordinator Shelly DeNike.

The camp at Icestream C was put in during the communications blackout.

Normally, an airplane can’t leave a camp put-in until the camp radios MacOps on HF. This time, though, the camp was only able to talk to the plane on the ground. The solar flare’s energy prevented them from talking farther away.

Other than that small glitch, everything was fine.

“We’ve been pretty much prepared for this to happen,” DeNike said.

The larger field camps have emergency beacons they can set off if all else fails, just like if an aircraft crashes or a boat is in distress at sea. Had anything truly disastrous happened, they could have activated the beacon.

After two days without contact from Byrd Surface Camp, an airplane went out of its way to fly over it to make contact. Pilots helped by contacting camps along their flight routes.

“When they would fly in the vicinity of field camps they would call them,” DeNike

Camp managers knew this might be a problem. Before going into the field, they had been briefed that HF problems might occur in this year of high solar activity.

In terms of air traffic control, everything also went smoothly with what air traffic manager Dusty Barrett called “a little bit of creative scheduling.”

Before planes left McMurdo, controllers gave pilots instructions for flying both to and from the Pole; normally they clear flights for only one direction at a time. MacCenter, the hub of air traffic control at McMurdo was only able to talk to the planes while they were within line-of-sight.

In a contingency set up last year, they had two controllers in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The controllers in McMurdo talked over the phone to Christchurch, which relayed messages over a satellite communication link to the planes.

“Once the HF went down we had to be a little bit creative,” Barrett said.

They also used Iridium satellite phones, Barrett said. Pilots continued to use HF, sending their position reports “in the blind,” without knowing if they were received, in the hope that MacCenter could hear them.

“Sometimes you can receive but you can’t transmit,” Barrett said.

This is the second full blackout since Winfly, but there have been partial blackouts where only lower frequencies were cut off.

This type of event has happened in the past, but only for 24 to 48 hours, Elliott said. This time it was Saturday evening before things came back, a shutdown of nearly 60 hours.

“We’ve seen a lot more activity than we had last year,” Elliott said.

It may have to do with a peak in the 11-year cycle of solar activity. Sometimes these effects from flares are predictable, and this time there was some warning. But the loss of HF communications was rapid.

“It happened right away,” DeNike said.

Things are back to normal now, Elliott said, but it could happen again anytime, and without a lot of warning.

“They hit without much notice,” she said.

Exploring the plateau

Published in the Antarctic Sun

The U.S. segment of the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition left Thursday for Byrd Surface Camp to begin this season’s traverse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

The project is a multi-national effort in which the U.S. component this year involves 10 research institutions and five areas of study: meteorology, surface glaciology, geophysics, remote sensing and ice coring.

“It’s five coordinated disciplines,” said Paul Mayewski, coordinator of the U.S. traverse group.

Last year was the first of this four-year project that will end at the Pole in 2003. The information the team collected last year is already helping improve scientists’ understanding of the world’s climate.

The data is specific to the region of West Antarctica where the traverse will occur, but it shows effects of regional and even global weather and climate systems.

“What we’re looking for isn’t just an understanding of Antarctica,” Mayewski said.

By looking at snow layers in Antarctica ice sheets revealing the last 200 to 500 years of the Earth’s climatic history, ITASE groups across the continent have already learned about the
relationship of certain Antarctic weather patterns to large-scale climate phenomena like El Niño.

“We already have seen some very interesting results,” Mayewski said.

The team is also comparing the results from their work in the Antarctic to similar work in the North Atlantic, another powerful element in the engine of Earth’s weather. While small changes are localized, Mayewski said, larger alterations are visible in ice cores from both ends of the globe.

This field season, the traverse team will cover 1,200 kilometers in a triangular path starting and ending at Byrd Surface Camp. During the drive, they will use downward-looking radar to map the strata in the ice beneath the route. They will also have a shorter range crevasse detector radar unit operating to keep the vehicles and researchers safe out on the plateau.

At roughly 100-kilometer intervals, they will stop for a few days to drill a 200-meter ice core. The core itself and the hole it leaves show the chemical and physical properties of the layers of

They will identify specific layers in the cores that can be cross-referenced to the radar data, allowing them to follow snow layers for hundreds of miles.

“It’s almost like a three-dimensional ice core,” Mayewski said.

The data they get from the cores and from the radar shows indicators of the extent of the sea ice, activity of marine life and duration of polar stratospheric clouds in recent centuries, Mayewski said.

This year the team will be able to haul more equipment and better shelters, because they have a Challenger instead of one of the two Tucker Sno-Cats they used last year. The other Sno-Cat will
continue the journey this season.

As the project progresses, Mayewski said, the setup and takedown at either end of the traverse will become more streamlined, as vehicles and supplies are left to spend the winter on the plateau.

“We should be able to go in with a very small amount of C-130 support,” Mayewski said. This is a big efficiency advantage, he said, as compared with individual field camps.

“There are 10 institutions that can potentially be served by two to three flights in and two to three flights out,” Mayewski said, adding that fuel airdrops will also be part of the support of
the field traverses. This year they expect to use seven flights in and four flights out.

To choose its exact route, the team uses satellite photos to avoid crevassed areas and other potentially problematic sites. But they also confirm satellite pictures by reporting on surface conditions and comparing that information to the pictures taken from space.

In addition to their own work and contributions to wider projects like the International Geosphere and Biosphere Project, one of this year’s shallow cores is at a possible deep-core site like the one at Siple Dome.

“This is a return of the 1960s style of science in this region, with 21st century technology,” Mayewski said.

Sunday, November 12, 2000

What's in a name? The seventh continent bears the names of heroic explorers and heavy equipment operators alike

Published in the Antarctic Sun

When explorers first set eyes on Antarctica, “Terra Incognita” wasn’t just an unknown land,
it was an unnamed land, too.

They soon took care of that, naming prominent geographic features after themselves, their ships and those who gave them financial backing.

In 1841 Capt. James Clark Ross named the Ross Ice Shelf in his own honor; he named mounts Erebus and Terror for his ships. Capt. Robert Scott, 60 years later, named Cape Armitage for his second-in-command and Minna Bluff for the wife of Sir Clements Markham, one of Scott’s primary sponsors.

But Antarctica is a big place. There are still a lot of points, bluffs, peaks, glaciers, nunataks and other formations that need labeling. Since 1947, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and its Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names have handled that task.

To decide on designations names are first categorized as personal or non-personal.

The latter include commemoration of events (for instance, Jubilee Peak), ships (Glacier Bight), Antarctic-related organizations (USARP Mountains) and descriptions of features (Turtle Rock).

People’s names are, of course, also used.

They are assigned based on the level of a person’s contribution to Antarctic research or history, and on the type of geographic feature.

First-order features are large, such as regions of land, large glaciers, ice shelves and large
mountain ranges. They are named after leaders of major expeditions, towering figures in Antarctic history and donors to Antarctic research.

Second-order features include peninsulas, significant mountains, prominent coastal features and islands. They are named for people who have played significant but lesser roles.

Third-order features include nunataks, cliffs, rocks and anchorages. They are named for people who have supported Antarctic endeavors.

Various people in the U.S. Antarctic Program have been immortalized on the Ice, from top dogs at the National Science Foundation to long-term program employees (see sidebar). NSF director Rita Colwell was once an Antarctic field researcher; a mountain now bears her name. NSF representative Dave Bresnahan and his boss Erick Chiang both have mountains named for them.

Chuck Gallagher served in the U.S. Naval Support Force, Antarctica and then worked for Antarctic Support Associates before dying at McMurdo Station on May 1, 1997. A ridge bears his name.

In alphabetical order, here are some Antarctic geographic features named after some members
of the U.S. Antarctic Program who will be on the continent this season. Their accomplishments are listed in brief. For a complete list and searchable database, visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s Antarctic names web site at

Ainley Peak is named for David Ainley, penguin and skua researcher.
Alcorta Rocks is a nunatak named for Jesse Alcorta, hazardous waste specialist
and cryogenic technician.
DeVries Glacier is named for Art DeVries, long-time biologist at McMurdo Station.
Guthridge Nunataks are named after Guy Guthridge, director of polar information
services for the NSF and chair of the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names.
Joyce Peak is named for Karen Joyce, who has worked in computer science support for 10 years.
Kennedy Ridge is a ridge named for Nadene Kennedy, NSF’s polar coordination specialist.
Kottmeier Mesa is named after Steve Kottmeier, who’s been a scientist and administrator with the program since 1988.
Krall Crags is a pair of summits named for Sarah Krall, who has worked in the program for over 10 years.
Kyle Hills is a group of hills on Ross Island named for Phil Kyle, who has studied Mount Erebus for 28 years.
Lettau Peak is named for Bernhard Lettau, ocean and climate sciences program manager at the Office of Polar Programs.
Mount Bresnahan is named for Dave Bresnahan, current NSF representative at McMurdo Station.
Mount Chiang is a mountain named after Erick Chiang, manager of operations for polar programs.
Mount Melton is a peak named for Terry Melton, who has worked as an engineer and manager at Palmer and McMurdo stations since 1981.
Palais Glacier is a glacier named after Julie Palais, field researcher in Antarctica and NSF polar glaciology program manager. Palais Bluff also bears her name.
Robbins Hill is named for Rob Robbins, science diving coordinator and 22-year program veteran.
Scanniello Peak is a peak named after Jeff Scanniello, surveyor at McMurdo and South Pole stations.
Uberuaga Island gets its name from Jules Uberuaga, long-time equipment operator.

A long journey for three little planes

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Nine people and three small planes recently arrived at McMurdo Station after a journey of over 11,000 miles (17,700 km) from Canada to spend four months flying in the Antarctic.

Each year, three de Havilland Twin Otter airplanes owned and operated by Kenn Borek Air travel from the company’s base in Calgary, Alberta, through North and South America and across Antarctica to support the U.S. and Italian programs on the Ice.

This year the planes left Calgary on Oct. 23 and flew to Boise, Idaho, where two were inspected before continuing on to Houston, Texas, where they spent the night before flying to Grand Cayman Island for the second night of the journey. The trip affords them a luxury they don’t have in Antarctica.

“Every night we go out for dinner and relax,” said Kenn Borek’s chief Antarctic pilot Sean Loutitt.

Leaving Grand Cayman, they flew the three planes over Panama and on past the Equator to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Though government procedures in that area of the world can be difficult to deal with, three similarly-painted planes get friendly attention.

“They’re pretty smooth for us,” Loutitt said, though he noted that Ecuadorian officials inspect the planes carefully with drug dogs.

After a night in Ecuador, they leave the next morning for Arica, Chile, just over the border from Peru.

“We don’t land in Peru,” Loutitt said. “It’s hard to get landing permits.”

But they do just fine in Chile, with help from a few locals, including an air traffic controller who assists with paperwork.

“We seem to have built a good network of friends in Chile,” Loutitt said.

After a night in Arica, they normally fly halfway down the length of Chile to Puerto Montt.

This year the pilots were in a bit of a hurry to make it to McMurdo as soon as possible to start work. They continued to Punta Arenas, an extra 800 miles (1,200 km).

In Punta Arenas, they changed into their cold-weather clothes. They learned the weather was bad at Rothera, the British Antarctic Survey base on Adelaide Island, their next stop.

After a day’s layover, strong headwinds made what is normally a six-hour flight take eight hours. The winds, Loutitt said, included a 50 mph (80 kph) direct headwind, and crosswind gusts of over 80 mph (129 kph).

The gravel runway at Rothera is normally covered with snow in October, but this year it was not. Instead of just changing landing gear from wheels to skis on the snow-covered gravel runway, they had to shuttle planes one by one to a glacier runway for the conversion.

“Nine of us were working on this for 12 hours,” Loutitt said.

After Rothera, the usual flight path calls for the planes to refuel at Patriot Hills before continuing to the South Pole. This year, though, two of the three went directly to the Pole, while one
stopped at Patriot Hills to refuel and check the fuel cache the U.S. Antarctic Program maintains there.

All three made it to the Pole that day, Nov. 1, but then the weather came in.

“The next morning we woke up and couldn’t even see the airplanes,” Loutitt said.

Two days later the fliers were able to make it to McMurdo to begin the season’s work, which will include flying over 100 hours per month, supporting deep-field camps and aerial surveying
projects. One plane continued north to the Italian station at Terra Nova Bay.

At the end of the season, the planes will fly back to Canada again to work during the boreal summer before coming back down again next year.

“It’s a trek,” Loutitt said. “It’s actually kind of fun.”

Sunday, November 5, 2000

Cracking up: Sea ice under stress

Published in the Antarctic Sun

It’s strong enough to land planes on, too thick for a small drill to get through and cracks under pressure.

Sea ice is vital to the early-season research based at McMurdo Station.

Scientists base themselves on the frozen ocean to study the marine world. And when it breaks up and blows north, it leaves a spectacular expanse of open water.

David Cole and John Dempsey have forged a partnership out of the study of fracture of sea ice. Their work has involved lab work and field research in Alaska and now Antarctica.

Cole, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab, and Dempsey, from Clarkson University, are studying how ice behaves when under stress, in the breaking process.

Their project has faced some difficulty this year. The sea ice is thicker than usual, which is hard on their equipment.

They were expecting to find some ice as thin as 36 inches, and have equipment that can cut ice up to 84 inches, though very slowly. The thinnest they’ve found is 45 inches, with most of the ice 55 to 60 inches thick.

The amount of time required to cut through this thickness of ice is more than the team has.

“Because of ice thickness we can’t do the research we proposed,” Dempsey said. “We probably need a Ditch Witch,” a trenching machine for cutting through the ice faster.

Right now it takes too long to cut blocks the size they need. The biggest piece they’ve been able to study was three meters square. They would like to be studying deformation and fracture of blocks of sea ice up to 30 meters on a side, 100 times larger than they can get.

“The underlying theme of our research is to look at scale,” Dempsey said. Without large blocks of ice to study, they can’t get the data they would like.

Cole’s part of the study happens first. He wants to know how ice deforms when under stress. His work stops when the ice actually cracks, but the information he gathers helps Dempsey watch the right area of a floe when they do crack it.

“It starts with the microstructure,” Cole said.

The way ice crystals form and align themselves as the ocean freezes makes a difference in how the ice will crack, even months later. When there is a small current, ice crystals line up in one general direction.

That, in turn, makes the ice relatively weak in one direction, so it tends to crack for long distances in straight lines, Cole said.

“The properties are different depending on the direction,” Cole said. “It’s not just a homogeneous material.”

Some things are very different in the field from in the lab. For example, brine drains out of the ice when it’s brought into the lab, which changes the characteristics of the ice.

They have a camp about three miles (five km) from the ice edge, on fast ice. Their cutting area is a short distance away, but on much thinner, floating ice.

Cole and Dempsey and their two students mark out an area in which they want to work. They cut a block free of the ice sheet and then cut a starter crack, into which they insert a balloon-like loading device.

This “flat jack” has a computer-controlled inflation valve, which lets the team vary the pressure in the crack. The computer is set to stress the block of ice until they are ready to break it.

“We don’t want to accidentally break it,” Cole said.

As the ice deforms, they monitor it for stresses and tensions, as well as how it deforms in response to the pressure on the crack. Some of these processes, Cole said, vary with the size of the piece of ice, while others do not.

Eventually, though, they are ready to break the floe.

Ice breaking

“Ice fracture is a very complicated process,” Dempsey said.

They have learned that at the tip of a crack that is about to break further, a series of micro-cracks form. They have equipment listening for the noise of those tiny cracks, to warn them before the block actually breaks.

Cole always looks carefully at the structure of the ice as well as these micro-cracks, to estimate where the block will break.

“It’s nice to have nature verify your direction,” Cole said. But he’s never sure if he’ll be right until the chunk of ice opens up entirely,

“Until you come down and try to do some tests you don’t know,” Dempsey said. “There are so many different types of ice.”

The ice thickness affects the breakup, but the more significant factor is the nature of the ice itself, which depends on how old the ice is, how it formed, local landforms and other environmental factors.

“We’re getting different ice wherever we move,” Dempsey said.

The models Dempsey and Cole have made about the behavior of ice under tension are based on smaller, more homogeneous sections of ice. They are checking to see how well those models predict the behavior of the ice they find in McMurdo Sound, and in larger sections.

They’ve wrapped up for this season, but are ready to come back and keep working, perhaps with better equipment and ice conditions.

“We have two field seasons,” Cole said.

Sunday, October 29, 2000

Playhouse yields to communications building

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Construction crews this week tore down the McMurdo Station playhouse, also known as
Building 64, with a little help from the wind in Thursday’s storm.

Built in 1958, it was one of the original station buildings. It was the same age as the gym, the bowling alley/ceramics room and cargo building 73. The Mechanical Equipment Center, building 58, was also built that year.

The metal Quonset hut known as the Playhouse was used for many things during its life.

It was used as a steel shop during the construction of the Crary Lab, a warehouse for the station store, winter storage for heavy equipment, and a home to the general field assistants in the 1980s, McMurdo operations manager Bill Haals said.

He also remembers when the building was shortened by about 15 feet, resulting in an informal name change for Building 64.

“It was called ‘Building 63 and fifteen-sixteenths,’” Haals said.

The playhouse was also used as a temporary heavy shop in 1982-83 after fire destroyed the regular heavy shop.

“It’s been used for a lot of different things,” said McMurdo construction coordinator Woody Haywood.

Now, however, the area will be used to build a communications center, consolidating Internet, telephone and satellite operations. Those facilities are now spread throughout town.

“We’re creating a new building that will be the hub of communications at McMurdo,” Haywood said.

Construction on the new building will begin during the winter. Until then, the workers will clear the site and prepare it for new construction.

The workers, Haywood said, haven’t found any material of historical significance, though he said they might when they tear up the floor later in the season. He said the crew would help preserve anything they find.

“When we do find some of that old stuff we just throw it in the bars so people can look at it,” Haywood said.

The workers are on the South Pole construction crew, working while they’re in town, before heading to the Pole. When they go, Haywood said, McMurdo construction workers will complete the project.

Waste not wanted

Published in the Antarctic Sun

McMurdo Station is the largest human settlement on the continent of Antarctica. More than
1,000 people will call it home this summer.

It’s an around-the-clock operation that generates sewage 24 hours a day. That waste is piped into the ocean less than 200 feet from the shoreline.

Two researchers are studying the impact the sewage outflow has on the McMurdo Sound ecosystem and on the quality of drinking water at the station.

John Lisle and Jim Smith are examining samples of ocean-floor sediment, the seawater, Weddell seal feces and McMurdo’s drinking water for evidence of human bacteria and viruses.

The first two are primary sources for a baseline indicator of how much pollution the sewage is introducing into the slow-moving ocean off McMurdo Station.

Seal feces help show the degree to which human bacteria have become part of the ecosystem, possibly causing disease in the seal population.

The drinking water studies are the first to test for viruses in McMurdo’s fresh water supply. The station’s water is regularly tested for bacteria and other contaminants, including lead.

The three major indicators the pair are looking at are fecal coliform bacteria, a common indicator of water quality used in judging safety of beaches and shellfish, clostridium perfringens, a bacterium associated with human sewage, and human enterovirus, which is found in human

Seal exposure
Lisle and Smith will compare the genetic material in bacteria in sewage and in similar bacteria in seal feces to see if the human bacteria are exchanging genetic information with bacteria in seals.

“Nobody knows if seals normally have clostridia,” Lisle said. He said they are also trying to find some seals that would not have been exposed to human waste, to give them a baseline level of clostridium bacteria in seal feces.

They hope to learn whether human diseases are being transmitted to the seals.

Two teams of researchers studying Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound are helping the pair by collecting samples of seal feces.

Outfall sampling
Science support diver Rob Robbins is collecting samples of water and the ocean floor around the sewage outfall.

Previous work has shown clostridia in sediment layers containing fecal coliform, and defined the physical extent of the pollution from the sewage outfall.

One of the problems was the concentration of waste in a location where the water doesn’t do much to dilute it.

“There aren’t very high current speeds here , ’’Smith said.

The end of the pipe, Robbins said, is 180 feet offshore in an area where the bottom is 60 feet deep. The pipe is raised four feet off the sea floor.

Since the new Crary aquarium was built five years ago, it flushes 250 gallons of cold seawater through the system each minute, Robbins said.

It used to be that the pile would grow over the course of a season to the height of the pipe. Now, Robbins said, with the increased flow from the aquarium in Crary, the waste has spread more thinly over a large area.

“Now it’s this huge field of effluent. It’s mostly poop out there,” Robbins said.

“Most of the pieces are about as big as your fingernail.”

Robbins talked about the spiny sea urchins that like to try to camouflage themselves with debris from the ocean floor.

Normally, they use other animals or bits of coral or other normal sea-floor debris. Near the outfall, though, Robbins said, “You see them with pretty interesting things.”

“I like diving at the outfall,” Robbins said. “You see things you’d never see anywhere else.”

Drinking water quality
The sewage plume extends beyond the intake for McMurdo’s water supply, but this has not been a problem in the past.

“The drinking water quality’s always been fine,” Smith said. But they are testing the water in a new way.

“This is the first time that viruses have been looked at,” Lisle said.

Both are clear, though, about the outfall’s role in transmitting contagious disease on the station.

“You can’t get the Crud from the sewer,” Smith said.

The samples of drinking water will be sent to the University of Arizona for analysis of viral presence; the results will not be available until the scientists return home.

Sewage treatment
“With the Antarctic Treaty, all the treaty signers are held to various standards for pollution and waste,” Smith said.

Some Antarctic bases do treat their waste already, including an Australian base, Smith said. New Zealand is planning to build a sewage treatment plant at Scott Base. McMurdo’s current macerator system meets the treaty requirements.

“Doing sewage treatment down here is a real challenge,” Smith said. Other places, he said, use big lagoons or oxidation ponds.

“ You can’t have that here. It’d just freeze solid,” he said.

Blasting began last week for McMurdo’s new sewage treatment plant, which will be running in 2003, said NSF facilities manager Frank Brier. The sludge from the plant, Brier said, will be sent back to the U.S. for disposal. The water leaving the plant will be treated to kill viruses and bacteria to prevent further pollution of the ocean.

“What is discharged (from the plant) is not drinkable but it’s clean,” Brier said.

Sunday, October 22, 2000

Science roundup

Published in the Antarctic Sun

As summer returns to Antarctica, scientists and science support staff around the continent gear up for the prime research season. On the U.S. research vessels Laurence M. Gould and Nathaniel B. Palmer and at McMurdo, South Pole and Palmer stations, over 600 researchers will work on over 130 separate science projects. Here are some of the highlights of the upcoming science season:

The International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition will continue its journeys in East Antarctica, looking at shallow ice cores, showing climatic data from the past 200 years or so. (Corrected: West Antarctica.) Most global climatic data shows general trends of warming and cooling through Earth’s history, according to Bernie Lettau, the NSF science representative at
McMurdo Station. But climate also includes smaller areas. Global fluctuation is punctuated by more localized changes.
“There still have to be regional differences,” Lettau said. ITASE will continue to look at the actual data for the recent history of Antarctica.

The Support Office for Aerogeophysical Research will fly over the area of Lake Vostok and Russia’s Vostok Station to study the area more closely. The information will be used in preparations for further study of Lake Vostok.
“It’s so they can make some educated decisions about what to do,” said Crary Lab supervisor Robbie Score.

The Crud
John Lyle is studying the McMurdo Crud, the illness that can strike McMurdo residents each season. The viruses survive in the air as well as in the sewage outfall into McMurdo Sound. They are not native to the area, and so they affect the water quality and the wildlife around the station.
“What they’re trying to do is see how our viruses influence the indigenous populations,” Score said.

Sea ice
John Dempsey of Clarkson University is studying the structure of sea ice, including how it forms and how it breaks up. The group is based near the edge of the fast ice of McMurdo Sound.
“They’re cutting a floe out and they’re going to start a crack and put weights on either side,” Score said.

Decoding ice cores
A team at South Pole Station is looking at how atmospheric particles end up in icecore sediments. Interpreting ice cores, Lettau said, requires an understanding of how the layers form. The team, led by Doug Davis of the Georgia Institute of Technology, is specifically targeting sulfur chemistry because of the significance of sulfur deposits in ice.
“Sulfates in ice are a primary proxy for reconstructing the climatic history from the core,” Lettau said.

The Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics study group will spend their first summer looking at krill as part of a summer-winter-summer set of cruises to look at the basic element of the Antarctic food chain.
“It is intended to look at the health of these various niches in the ocean ecosystem,” Lettau said. “What do krill eat when they’re under the ice in winter? Are they happy there?”

Scott Base
Antarctica New Zealand are supporting several projects this summer season, including a study of methods of preserving the historic huts on Hut Point, Cape Evans and Cape Royds. Also this season, Scott Base will see a series of interviews designed to compare people’s expectations
about Antarctica and their actual perceptions upon arrival, several ecological and environmental studies and a study of Adélie penguin populations at capes Crozier, Royds and Bird, which is one of several collaborative efforts between U.S. and New Zealand scientists. The equipment
used in the Cape Roberts drilling project, which was stored on Cape Roberts over the winter, will be returned to Scott Base this season.

Galley's gone... It’s now called the “dining facility.” More than the name has changed.

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Dining workers are experimenting on McMurdo Station residents. With the opening of the new dining facility in Building 155, food service staff have been trying out new configurations of equipment and different traffic flows.

The new space opened in mid-August, just before Winfly, and eaters and servers have both shared confusion at its use, said food services manager Lester Bracey.

“Initially we didn’t know what everything was supposed to do,” he said.

Some of the kiosks on which food is served can be rearranged, which allows for flexibility. The new structure, though, is designed to be less of a cafeteria line and more like a food court.

“It’s supposed to scatter people around,” Bracey said. “You’re just supposed to move in and out.”

With fewer bays, the kitchen staff can spend more time preparing food.

“They’re actually able to focus on a better-quality product for fewer slots,” Bracey said.

Not all of the food-serving areas are open yet. With new staff and a new facility, they’re
moving slowly to be sure things run smoothly, said Bracey. “Over Winfly we moved
things around a lot.”

But some things are not working out so well, such as the dish-return area.

“We’ve got a bit of a traffic jam,” he said.

However, people are responding to that by staggering their arrival times for meals and
leaving earlier to get to work on time.

There was no logjam when it came to construction.

Things went very well, said winter construction and maintenance manager Mike Kelly.

The first task was to open up the space. “The first month was almost completely
tearing things out,” Kelly said.

He said new features of the dining area include ventilation equipment that exchanges
the entire volume of the room 42 times each hour, skylights with motorized shades that can allow light in or seal it out, and radiant, under-floor heating, which uses the same glycol-
based waste-heat recovery system as the rest of the building.

The construction crew numbered anywhere between 15 and 25 people, Kelly said.

But even with all the demands of the job, Kelly said they only had to work one Sunday of overtime to finish the work on schedule.

Several people, Kelly said, were truly crucial to the success of the construction, which is the first major winter project completed on time in several years. Kelly credited electrician Dale Role, plumber Paul Rogers, metal-worker Fred Cunningham, and Ken Robinson and his crew of sheetrockers.

“We were lucky to get people who can do this quality of work,” he said.

Kelly also gave credit to Vince Scopa, who coordinated the project. Scopa, Kelly said, became known as a hard-driving boss, but one the crew wanted to work with.

“They jokingly called this (building) ‘Cellblock 155.’ But they all wanted to work in Cellblock 155,” Kelly said.

With 358 seats, the new facility holds 60 more seats than the old galley.

Some things have been left to be finished this summer season. For example, there will be clear glass blocks placed in the railings to better separate the sections of the dining space.

Thursday, September 21, 2000

Fire damages old courthouse

Published in the Addison Independent

MIDDLEBURY - A fire at Middlebury College's Center for Educational Technology closed sections of Court Square Monday afternoon. The center, which has been undergoing restoration, caught fire in the cupola of the landmark building, which was the Addison County Courthouse through 1995.

Middlebury Fire Chief Rick Cole said he understood the fire had started when painters were peeling paint with heat guns as part of the restoration work. He said the fire, which was the first in the building in at least 25 years, was fairly small but complicated due to the structure and the new construction.

"You have to take it slow and easy," Cole said.

The freshly restored cupola roof, completed just days before the fire, proved an obstacle to the firefighters because of the newness of the construction.

Cole called out most of the Middlebury Fire Department to fight the fire. He said the New Haven Fire Department was called to assist at the scene as well as to cover the Middlebury station while the department was at the old courthouse. When he decided he wanted an additional ladder truck, Cole called Vergennes, which responded with the one ladder truck requested.

Cole said there were no injuries to firefighters. Damage to equipment in the high-tech building was also minimal.

Inside the building, the firefighters had covered computers and office desks with plastic, which saved most of the computers from water damage resulting from the firefighters and sprinkler system.

A couple of offices in the front of the building were destroyed by water damage, but the main teaching spaces and most offices were damp but not seriously affected, according to Marsha DeBonis, assistant director of Project 2001, the college organization that occupies the building.

"We're trying to dry things out," DeBonis said. "The front offices got hit badly."

The offices will be repaired within 10 days, DeBonis said. The computer equipment was working well, she said.

"Everything came back up (Tuesday) morning beautifully," DeBonis said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Monday, August 14, 2000

Demolition derby rocks county fair

Published in the Addison Independent

NEW HAVEN — A junkyard was parked in the mud. The crowds were gathered to watch the ultimate battle, a fight to the mechanical death. The last one to need a repair shop wins — except they all could already use some body work, and maybe a few new parts.

A coat of paint? Definitely.

But then, this is the Addison County Fair and Field Days demolition derby, where muscle and steel count for everything and things like windshields and mufflers don't even exist.

Fire crews and an ambulance stand ready to rescue drivers whose cars get destroyed — or rather, finished off. Seventy vehicles are in the lineup for the night, in six heats with a final feature smash-up for the big money.

Without the traditional Field Days rainstorm, the Vergennes Fire Department had to pre-soak the ground to ensure the proper degree of mud for the first night of competition on Wednesday. The destruction began with four heats of big six-cylinder cars.

Here is a look at how the action went.

In the first heat, Thadeus Sorrell in the No. 41 car took several long high-speed runs, reversing into the mass of cars at one end of the ring or the other. But his fortune turned against him when several cars seemed to gang up on him, reducing his car to a smoking hulk with massive bends in its frame.

Matthew DeBisschop in car 70 took Madeline Martell in car 57 and Travis Forbes (car 45) on a long ride most of the length of the ring, pushing Forbes over the concrete barrier at the edge.

"Number 51 is now a compact," the announcer said, after a big multi-car collision.

The heat winners were Chad Steady (car 99) and Mike McGrath in car 11. Wendell Mason in car 21 was third.

The top two in a heat win money and are eligible to appear in the final feature of the night. The third driver is also eligible for the final, though the driver wins no money for the heat.

As the smoke cleared, two Bobcats and a forklift entered the ring to begin removing the steaming, smoking wrecks. Most of the drivers were able to steer their cars; some were able to move under their own power after being extracted from other cars or the barrier edging the ring.

The second heat started with Pat Deering (car 12) nicking part of the log barrier on his way into the ring.

Nathan Bingham (car 9) was quickly driven up high on the barrier. Thomas Sattus (car 38) hit Troy Goduo (car 30) heavily, but was then pinned by three disabled cars. Eric Huestis in car 55 cleared Goduo with a heavy hit.

Derrick Dykstra (car 81) got stuck in a corner for a while, but managed to make it out eventually. Because his car was protected from the early carnage, Dykstra was able to make some long damaging runs later in the heat.

Goduo put a huge hit on Deering, lifting both cars off the ground. Car 55 had destroyed its rear end, but Heustis continued smashing competitors with the back seat.

When action resumed after a fire was extinguished, Nathan Bingham took his No. 9 on a long run, pushing Harry Chamberland (car 22) high up onto the barrier. Chamberland was able, though, to spin his wheels enough to get unstuck.

VanDeWeert and Chamberland were the top two in the heat, while Bingham also survived to be eligible for the final round.

In the cleanup, Garrett Given's No. 77 pushed Matt Deering (car 13) out of the ring.

As the cars entered the ring for the third six-cylinder heat, Phillip Stevens' No. 63 died before even getting past the barrier. Stevens, obviously frustrated, was towed away, but would return in the fourth heat.

This round was characterized by several cars pushed up on the barrier very quickly, and by the massive fishtail tactics of Boomer LaFountain in the No. 57 car.

For a time, Kenny Lussier in No. 2 was sandwiched between LaFountain and Gerard Grant in No. 71, but escaped and slammed Jeffrey Sampson's into the wall.

Sampson got stuck in the corner behind Jody Bartlett's No. 72. Sampson kept backing into Bartlett, hammering away trying to get out, but eventually the engine had enough and quit in a massive cloud of smoke and steam.

LaFountain and Lussier won the heat, with Ben Paquin (car 69) in third.

"It was my first time out there," Lussier said, "I just keep hittin' and hittin' and hittin'."

In trying to remove David Parker's car 51 from its position on the barrier, the Bobcat drivers nearly flipped it. When they did get it unstuck, though, Parker was able to drive out of the ring without a problem.

Stevens got his car 63 into the ring for the fourth heat, but only took one run at an opponent before it died.

The No. 35 car, driven by Roxie Hall, caught fire and Hall got out quickly. Safely in the crowd, she could still see the flames in her head.

"I had watched the fire long enough," she said.

Gregory Manchester in No. 52 and Michael Gill in No. 32 set up a joint attack on Mike LaFountain's car 84, but it went awry. Gill successfully hit LaFountain, but was immediately hit by Manchester.

Bruce Putnam, in No. 50, had some serious trouble with his partially-detached bumper. No matter where he headed, he had to drive over his own bumper to get there. It made for a rockier ride than usual for Putnam, whose car later caught fire.

The final three were locked in battle for a long time. Manchester and LaFountain sandwiched Tim Tenney's No. 44, compressing it from both ends simultaneously. When Tenney finally escaped, his car was crippled.

LaFountain executed a smooth evasion of a threat from Manchester, but was hit by Tenney's crawling car in a last-gasp effort to keep car 44 in the running.

In the back lot, work was frantic. Drivers who won their heats were trying to fix up their vehicles to give them a good chance in the final.

"They're just rippin' stuff off, ripping fenders off, changing tires, chains and that," said Mike McGrath. He didn't have much work to do, though.

"I just tried to plug up the radiator so it won't leak," he said.

In the meantime, the four-cylinder cars were lined up to drive each other to bits in two heats.

Jason Paquette in No. 42 was first off the line, but Chris Bearor in car 9 stole the early stages with a long sweeping run piling up several cars on the rear end of his.

Todd Huestis in No. 75 had a flashing light atop his car. After a few hits, though, the light quit flashing and just stayed on.

Jeremy Markwell in No. 65 smashed into Bearor, putting both through the barrier.

"It's crunch time at the Addison County Field Days," the announcer said.

Melissa Smith in No. 31 went head-to-head with Kevin Wedge in No. 17. Smith, granddaughter of legendary demo derby driver Wally LaFountain, took a huge evasive swing and drove Wedge into the wall for the win.

In the second four-cylinder heat, John Bannon, Jr., in car 22, didn't get off the line.

The other cars did, though, and soon bumpers, tires and car parts littered the mud, popping tires and adding to the mayhem.

In a tribute to the American automotive industry, several cars took head-on collisions and kept moving, with their drivers unhurt.

Mike Paquette in No. 19 and Steve Miller in No. 33 were the last two. Miller's car was much stronger, but Paquette's was more agile and outmaneuvered its opponent for the win.

The final feature heat brought back the winners in the six-cylinder class. Some were in the same cars, while others had traded up to better cars for the final.

Mike McGrath in No. 11 dominated the final, making hard hits on Jason VanDeWeert in No. 25 and Mike LaFountain in No. 49. LaFountain and Harry Chamberland in No. 78 spun their tires into cinders and smoke.

LaFountain and McGrath were the last two, engaged in a dance for the cash. They spun in circles, went back and forth, side by side. McGrath's dashboard warning lights were all lit up.

In the haze and smoke the two drivers eyed each other, each aiming to disable the other's car without a fatal blow to his own. After several attempts, McGrath got free and set up for a crushing reverse blow. He delivered it and went back for another, both of which landed solidly.

LaFountain's engine caught fire, and it was all over.

McGrath came over to the stands, waving his trophy to the adulation of his fans. His most enthusiastic supporter, though, was Dave Musante, who gave McGrath the car.

"When I first came here in 1998, I drove into a snowbank," Musante said. "Mike pulled me out and said it looked like a good car for the derby. I told him, 'It's yours when I get rid of it.'"

On Thursday, the action continued, with Dave Holbrook outlasting everyone and taking the championship.

Thursday, August 10, 2000

Field Days kicks off with kids: From dairy cows to the call of the carnie, fair has it all

Published in the Addison Independent

NEW HAVEN - Over at the Addison County fairgrounds, the chairs and awnings are set up, the lights are on and the merry-go-round is turning. Kids and adults of all ages roamed from the calliope to the Christmas trees, and between the handmade candles and flashing electric lights.

It was the first day of the Addison County Fair and Field Days.

At the booth displaying the machines of Middlebury's Champlain Valley Equipment, things were quiet in the early afternoon.

"Nighttime is better," Matt Deering said. He and his brother Pat and their boss, Jerry Gordon, were waiting for customers to appear for their tractors, barbecue grills and other equipment.

The threesome were in good spirits and enthusiastic about their products, and were looking forward to increased traffic later in the day.

Tom Verner is performing his magician's act for the first time at Field Days. He does two shows
each afternoon. His first show drew a good number of spectators, including a group from Camp Keewaydin.

"It gets bigger as the week goes on," Verner said.

Up on the midway, Mike Greenhalgh's voice rings out.

"Rollaball racin'. Firstclowntotheendwins. It's a rrrraace!"

He is reaching out for potential competitors, without a lot of success, so far.

"It's day one," Greenhalgh said. It's his first time in Vermont, and he's glad to be here.

"Rolling hills. I love 'em," he said.

His computerized game does much of the work for him, but he has to attract the people.

Two 10-year-old girls approached and asked about the game. They looked a bit uncertain, but Greenhalgh is a salesman. He told them what they want to know, showed off the stuffed-toy prizes and suggested they go get a few more friends to race against.

"The more racers the nicer the prize," he said.

The girls left, with a promise to return with a bigger group.

With all the people the Field Days draws, politicians can't be far behind. Even Bernie Sanders showed up to campaign in the evening.

The Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force was collecting signatures for its "marriage resolution."

"Ultimately the idea is equality," said task force statewide coordinator Dorothy Mammen, who is running for a House seat representing Middlebury. She said a lot of people had come by the booth.

Take it to the People was also there. "We're urging people to get out and vote," said booth staffer Jean Smith. The booth had a "petition to repeal civil unions."

"We're not pushing it," Smith said. "But people who do come by usually have a strong opinion."

The Democratic and Republican parties were also there, with candidates, balloons, bumper stickers, buttons and signs.

Several people, including some out-of-staters had come by the Democratic booth, according to Fran Putnam.

"Everybody's excited about the Gore-Lieberman ticket," Putnam said.

Bette Trucott of Barton drove down from the Northeast Kingdom to staff the Take Back Vermont booth, where things were fairly quiet.

"They come in clusters," Trucott said. "The Take Back Vermont sign gets a lot of interest. We're a nonpartisan group."

At the peewee cattle show, Allie Orlando of New York showed Pee-Wee, a calf owned by her cousins, the Weavers of Rochester. She had done this once before, as have most of the other competitors in her group, the kids who will show in 4-H next year.

The judge, Jim Gilmore of the University of Vermont, asked each youngster a few questions about their calves. He also passed along a few tips.

"You oughta give 'em a name," Gilmore said. "You want to walk slow so she looks nice. And keep her head up."

Allie did fairly well and didn't have the mammoth struggle others endured to keep their stubborn calves walking around the ring.

The Addison County Dairy Board's booth was giving away both white and chocolate milk, but only one of those was really moving.

"People love chocolate milk," said Charlie Huizenga. "It's about five to one. They come around here just for the chocolate milk."

At the Home and Garden display, the flowers and vegetables were alongside beautiful baked goods and textiles.

"We have quite a large number of entries," Carol Morrison said. The awards ceremony for the home and garden is 8 p.m. Thursday.

"We have a lot of winners," Morrison said.

Devon Karpak, Ripton's "Balloon Man," was in the 4-H building making complex art forms out of inflated rubber. A few kids could be spotted wearing his creations, though most just had the normal helium-filled balloons tied to their wrists.

Karpak is a self-taught balloon artist whose skills are well-known among his peers.

"Give it to anybody out there that's my age," he said, "and they'll know."

Anthony Mastergeorge of AJ's Catering has been making fried dough at fairs throughout the Northeast for 47 years. This fair, he said, is his favorite.

"It's the most courteous fair of the year," Mastergeorge said. "There's more families that come to this fair. Everybody says 'please' and 'thank you.'"

Mastergeorge, from Connecticut, also appreciates the esthetics of the fair and its surroundings.

"The scenery is beautiful," he said.

But more importantly, he said, it's the right kind of fair.

"They stay with the agriculture," Mastergeorge said. "Once they change that, it just becomes another carnival."

Thursday, August 3, 2000

Taking a look at how county legislators voted the issues

Published in the Addison Independent

Editor's note: This report does not include information from the 1999-2000 legislative session. The state Legislative Council has not finished compiling and publishing all of the data regarding legislation proposed and passed during the most recent session. That information will be available on-line by September and in bound form by November, according to the Legislative Council office.

Method: Using the Vermont Legislature's web site at, the Addison Independent looked at the record of all Addison County legislators at the state level. The web site lists bills by primary sponsor and then by co-sponsors, who frequently sign on to a bill after it is written. The Addison Independent looked only at bills whose primary sponsor was an Addison County legislator, and examined the outcomes of those proposed bills.

ADDISON COUNTY - In judging the performance of Addison County's legislative delegation, like an annual job performance review, one objective measure is to review the legislation that has been enacted with their influence.

The Independent researched the number of proposals each member of the county's delegation has authored - from the date the legislator was first elected - and whether any of those proposals made it out of committee, through the House and Senate, and into law.

While it is only one measure of a legislator's performance, the types of legislation proposed and the success of those proposals is, at least, indicative of how effective the county's delegation has been.

Comments from each legislator were sought to allow them to reflect on what they considered their most effective role to be, as well as to comment on their legislative records.

Rep. Tony Dominick, I-Starksboro, wrote one bill during his first two-year term in 1997-98, which proposed restructuring Vermont's electrical utility industry to allow Vermont residents to choose their electrical company. That bill died in committee.

Dominick said the local government committee, on which he sits, isn't a big newsmaker. "They don't make a lot of headlines, which is fine with me," he said.

He is pleased with the campaign finance reform law, which is now beginning to make itself felt as state elections get going.

"As far as statewide impact, I think that was the most challenging and rewarding for me," Dominick said.

Despite that success in committee, he is concerned that legislators spend too much time in meetings and involved in committee work.

"We should spend more time on the (House) floor," Dominick said. "There's a tremendous amount out there that we have to get informed about."

Writing legislation is not his priority, he said, though this past session he sponsored bills benefiting Starksboro and Lincoln residents.

"I don't go around looking to write bills because there are so many out there now," Dominick said.

His electrical restructuring proposal, he said, didn't have a good outlook, even at the beginning.

"It was doomed from the start," Dominick said.

But he said the regulatory work is constraining proper business practices; he expects electricity rates to keep climbing as a result. Dominick said he also expects restructuring to happen in Vermont, but on a slower timetable than it would have been under his proposal.

Rep. Anne Ginevan, R-Middlebury, sponsored no bills in her first term in the House in 1997-98. She was on the Education Committee and helped pass a bill that helps parents save for their children's post-secondary education.

"It's doing quite well," Ginevan said, "better than they had expected."

She said she was part of efforts to increase the funding for the state's institutions of higher education. The total budget for University of Vermont, the state colleges, and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, Ginevan said, went up 7 percent in that year's budget.

Ginevan has supported elderly services, environmental issues and helping revitalize downtown areas throughout the state. She is also concerned about health care including prescription drugs and mental health, she said.

Ginevan said she represents her constituents well.

"I will certainly sponsor legislation that my constituents ask me to," she said, adding that she is planning to introduce some constituent-requested bills in the next session. She would not give details, though, saying the form of the bills is not yet final.

Rep. Connie Houston, R-Ferrisburgh, proposed having seat belts in school buses in the 1993-94 legislative session. That idea, and six other Houston-sponsored bills, never made it to the House floor. Her proposal to expand coverage of the working farm tax credit was approved by the House, but did not make it past the Senate Finance Committee.

In the 1995-96 biennium, Houston was the primary sponsor of eight bills, none of which made it past the House. Those proposals included requiring government agencies to report on the economic impact of their proposals, restructuring property taxes, requiring additional grading and regulation of schools, and mandating motor vehicle owners have insurance. In 1997-98, Houston again sponsored the latter bill, which again died in committee.

"I don't really care if I pass a bill," Houston said. "All I really care about is representing my constituents."

She said he has assisted members of her constituency with state bureaucracy in matters ranging from the Act 250 permit process to health insurance.

"My priority is the people," Houston said.

She has, she said, also worked to reduce taxes and protect the Northeast Dairy Compact. "We appropriated money to keep the compact continuing," Houston said.

Rep. Bruce Hyde, R-Fayston, proposed one bill during his first session, limiting to one the number of bear a hunter can take in a season, and shortening the bear-hunting season from 16 weeks to just four. During his second year, his proposal giving state consent to the United States Forest Service buying land in Vermont passed the House but died in a Senate committee. None of his proposals were enacted.

"I've been on the Natural Resources committee for six years," Hyde said.

He advocates simplifying the Act 250 permit process to better coordinate with the Agency of Natural Resources and the Water Resources Board, which also often issue permits for projects requiring Act 250 clearance.

"One agency doesn't know what the other agency is doing," Hyde said. "It just seems that things take forever."

Rep. Thomas McGrath, R-Ferrisburgh, proposed four bills in his first biennium, 1997-98, two of which dealt with regulations on emergency vehicles' license plates and colored lights.

Three never escaped discussion in committee, but the other passed the House. That bill proposed allowing Vermonters to display a Fraternal Order of Eagles commemorative license plate on the front of their cars, much like the Vermont bicentennial commemorative plate issued in 1991. That bill, however, never left the Senate Transportation Committee.

"I feel pretty comfortable that I do represent my constituents," McGrath said. "The biggest thing is being able to serve."

Rep. Betty Nuovo, D-Middlebury, wrote four bills in 1997-98, her first term in the House after taking several years off from politics. She wanted to double speeding fines for people who drive too fast in construction areas, and to give $50,000 to the Addison County Career Development Center to build and addition and renovate some existing space. None of Nuovo's proposals made it out of committee to a second reading on the floor of the House.

"There's lots of bills that get pieces through in other ways," Nuovo said. "It takes several years to get things through."

She was, she said, able to help get some money for elderly services and for the Middlebury sewer plant, but she is happiest with her stands on recent statewide issues.

"I've been most proud of the civil unions and Act 60," Nuovo said.

Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, was new in the 1999-2000 legislative session. He sat on the House Agriculture Committee, and worked to get relief for apple growers hurt by last year's summer drought and autumn winds. That work was unsuccessful in the Senate, but Smith also helped deal with big agricultural concerns.

"The permitting process for large farms is permanent now," Smith said.

Smith said he also helped to broaden the range of input into the state's educational planning system, including putting a student on the state Board of Education.

He said he is concerned with giving adequate money to programs the Legislature deems worth funding.

"They have several good programs out here," Smith said, "but they seem to be chronically under-funded."

Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Sudbury, is not running for re-election. She used her first term in 1997-1998 to propose funding for an experiment to control Eurasian water milfoil in Burr Pond using a combination of chemical and non-chemical methods. The bill proposed the experiment should happen during the summer of 1999. This bill passed the House, but never left the Senate Natural Resources and Energy committee. The bill passed in the 1999-2000 session and the experiment was carried out in the summer of 2000. Results are not yet available.

Rep. Bill Wisell, D-Bristol, started slowly in 1991-92, sitting quietly without proposing any legislation. But the following year that observation paid off.

He proposed two bills, both of which were enacted into law. One, of which he was the primary sponsor, was a collaborative effort of a committee on which Wisell sat. It required Vermont motorists to wear seat belts. The other successful bill that year was part of the combination of the village and town of Bristol.

In 1995-96, he did not propose any legislation. In 1997-98, he proposed three bills, none of which made it out of committee.

"I haven't introduced many bills," Wisell said. "My feeling is that there's enough of it."

His main work, he said, is "trying to represent in the general Legislature what I think is in the interest of the people of Bristol."

Rep. Mark Young, R-Orwell, sponsored one bill that became law in his first session in 1993-94, bringing $15,000 in state funding to the Shoreham school district for its heating system. Since then, he has proposed six bills, one of which extended workers' compensation to volunteer firefighters undertaking department fund-raising activities. That bill passed the House but stalled in a Senate committee during the 1997-98 session. All of his other proposals failed to pass the House.

"I've served eight years on the Commerce Committee," Young said, acknowledging his work has been not as visible as some other legislators. He said his work has been more valuable on a statewide basis than directly to his constituents.

Young said he sometimes votes across party lines, to be in accord with what he feels is best. This, he said, sometimes confuses members of both parties, who expect him to stick more to the party's position.

"I keep them all guessing," Young said.

Young said he has tried to help with road projects in Shoreham and the sewer project in that town. He said he is running to bring some experience back to the House, though he expects about half of next session's representatives to be new.

"There needs to be somebody back there," Young said, stressing the value of continuity in the House. "It helps to have some legislators with a track record and some time there."

Sen. Tom Bahre, R-Addison, has proposed a total of 59 bills, seven of which have become law. In 1991-1992, his first term, Bahre proposed a referendum on the death penalty, as well as a bill entitled "Fetal Homicide and Other Crimes." Three of his 15 proposals were enacted that session, including a bill giving a 20-year permit for Shorewell Ferries of Shoreham to operate a ferry across Lake Champlain at Larrabee's Point.

In 1993-94, among his 19 bill proposals, Bahre proposed requiring bicycle owners to pay a $25 registration fee. He also proposed a bill to require parental notification of a minor's abortion. Both of those failed in committee.

Bahre was able to secure nearly $8,000 for the Addison Central School to defray the 1991 expenses the town had incurred to install a modular building. The other bill he proposed that was enacted in 1993-94 established statewide programs for helping children at risk of school failure.

In 1995-1996, Bahre's third term, he proposed 14 pieces of legislation, one of which became law, establishing increased controls on commercial waste haulers. He also proposed a bill to base property tax appraisals on present use, rather than potential development use.

In 1997-1998, Bahre sponsored 11 bills, one of which was enacted, designating a portion of Route 22A in Vergennes as Kayhart Crossing, in honor of Roger Kayhart, a longtime county legislator. Bahre also proposed that a part of the old Burlington-Vergennes highway in New Haven be designated as part of a historic roadway.

Bahre, who sits on the Senate Agriculture, Transportation and Finance committees, said he is able to benefit the county in the context of the statewide issues those committees handle.

"I do the county some good by being able to be there," Bahre said. As examples, he mentioned the road improvement projects on Route 22A in Vergennes, the intersection of Cider Mill Road and Route 125 in Cornwall and Route 125 in Addison.

"I've been a voice for infrastructure maintenance and repair," Bahre said. "I maintain some attention to those in the agency (of transportation)."

Since the 1991-92 failure of his proposal to consider the death penalty in Vermont, Bahre has not proposed it again, because, he said, he is concerned that the state's judicial system won't handle a capital case properly.

"I've lost quite a lot of my confidence in the courts," Bahre said.

He has other major concerns now, though: primarily health insurance and prescription drug prices.

"Being in a minority in my committee, I couldn't stop the foolishness of the prescription drug proposal," Bahre said. "The state of Vermont has loused up health insurance for people."

He said has worked to oppose what he calls "social medicine," state support of health care, and to increase the number of companies offering health care in Vermont, as well as legislation allowing Vermonters to set up medical savings accounts.

"The health insurance trouble is getting worse on a daily basis here in Vermont," Bahre said.

As for his bicycle registration fee, he remains adamant. "The concept of bicycles paying for public infrastructure isn't a bad idea," Bahre said.

Bahre said he has been effective, though not always through directly authoring legislation. As an example, he cited his work to reduce license plate fees for local emergency vehicles. He proposed eliminating the fee, which was phased out over several legislative sessions, ending with its elimination as a rider to another bill.

"If I wasn't there holding their feet to the fire it wouldn't have happened," Bahre said.

He said it doesn't matter whether legislation gets passed in its own bill or as part of another, as long as it does, in the end, succeed.

Sen. Elizabeth Ready, D-Addison, has proposed 89 bills, 10 fewer than all of the county's other incumbent state legislators combined. Ready has served one more term than Bahre, the next most senior elected official from the county.

In her first term, 1989-90, Ready wrote four bills that became laws, allowing administrative enforcement of some environmental laws and establishing a statewide commission to discuss the future of Lake Champlain, as well as other issues. One of her proposals that failed was a state equivalent of the federal Clean Air Act.

In 1991-1992, Ready wrote nine bills that were enacted, including giving additional power to the citizen committee to address issues regarding Lake Champlain, set up procedures for converting mobile home parks to condominium-style organizations, and increased energy efficiency of state government offices. Ready proposed a state Clean Air Act again, which again did not make it out of the House.

Her third term, 1993-94, saw the only gubernatorial veto of a bill proposed by a sitting Addison County legislator. Ready proposed regulations for water and sewer systems at mobile home parks, which was approved by the House and the Senate but vetoed by Gov. Howard Dean. Four other of Ready's 26 proposals during the 1993-94 legislative session, were enacted, including screening of children for lead poisoning, preventing people convicted of certain crimes from being professional waste haulers, and to prevent monopolies in the waste hauling business. She proposed requiring using recyclable packaging for certain types of products, and establishing a security fund protecting milk producers from defaulted payments from milk handlers.

In 1995-96, Ready proposed increasing control on motor vehicle emissions, but that and six other of her proposals failed. She did successfully write and pass an act streamlining some permitting for waste haulers.

Her fifth term, in 1997-98, saw her propose 22 bills, of which three became laws. One was a moratorium on the use of herbicides in commercial forestry. Another act Ready wrote was to help large farms deal with their animal waste and methane emissions. She also effected the identification of the northern leopard frog as the official state amphibian.

Some of her proposals that failed to be enacted included requiring lobbyists in Montpelier to wear badges identifying their employers, and expanding the beverage container deposit law to juices and other drink containers.

Ready, a 12-year member of the Senate Natural Resources committee and its chairwoman for four years, said she has made her priorities environmental issues and the quality of life of working people.

"Those are the areas that I really came to the Senate to work on," Ready said.

In her second term, she said, she became involved in prioritizing spending for those issues and others.

"We found ourselves really awash in a whole sea of red ink during the deficit years," Ready said. "I became part of the team that balanced the budget and retired the deficit."

She is proudest of a collection of bills about environmental issues, including use-value appraisal for some property taxes, energy efficiency.

"A lot of these are first-in-the-nation bills," Ready said.

The Clean Air Act proposal was not a complete failure, she said, explaining that other laws enacted small segments of the larger proposal.

"We ended up doing it in bits and pieces," Ready said.

Her biggest legislative disappointments, she said, have been difficulties passing comprehensive utility restructuring and prescription drug price controls.

What it takes to be a strong legislator: Veterans say time, compromise key

Published in the Addison Independent

What makes a good legislator? All voters ask some form of that question as Election Day approaches. Two area politicians have some suggestions.

Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin emphasized individual resources and personality traits as two major identifiers of good candidates.

"It's important to have a legislator who has time to do the job well," Kunin said. "The most effective legislators are those who know how to build a consensus and a coalition for the support of an issue that they are advocating."

That said, the part-time nature of the Vermont Legislature has its benefits both for members and their constituents.

"Vermont has a citizen legislature," said Kunin, who served in the Vermont House from 1973 to 1979 and was lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983 before winning the state's top post. "Most legislators like to think they're not professional politicians."

Respect in the Legislature, she said, can come to any type of person, no matter his or her background or prior experience. It's a matter of them doing their homework and being well-informed about issues before the Legislature.

Peg Martin largely agrees. Martin, a former Democratic representative from Middlebury and current Middlebury selectman, said courage and balance are also important parts of the mix.

"You want somebody who is not afraid to stick their neck out if that's appropriate," Martin said.

While Martin said she sees a place for extremism in the House and Senate ("You need to have extremes in the Legislature so you can find the middle"), consensus is the real factor in making things happen under the Golden Dome.

"It's when you get many people to buy into a solution that it has a chance of working," Martin said.


And, she said, the people who propose the legislation are not always the ones who do the legwork to help it succeed.

"I'm not personally convinced that the individual who proposes the most legislation is necessarily the most effective," Martin said. "There's a lot of glue," she said, referring to legislators who work behind the scenes to build support for bills.

Voters must determine individually what issues and character elements they value, and members of the various parties will differ dramatically. But all voters should expect their representatives to be intelligent enough and skilled enough to carry out the basic requirements.

In a companion piece in this issue of the Addison Independent is the legislative record of area legislators since first elected. It serves as a reference to the level of accomplishment in this one area of a legislator's duty. The types of legislation proposed as bills reflects the quality of thinking each legislator has exhibited while in office. No guide is, of itself, a determining factor for whether a candidate is qualified, but it does grade the legislators for their level of accomplishments and the quality of their efforts.