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Authors: Matthew Reilly

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Ice Station

BOOK: Ice Station
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Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station
Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station

Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station

Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station
SOUTHEASTERN ANTARCTICA
Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station
THE ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF

 

Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station
INTRODUCTION

From: Kendrick, Jonathan

The Cambridge Lectures: Antarctica—

The Living Continent

(Lecture delivered at Trinity College,

17 March, 1995)

Imagine, if you can, a continent that for one-quarter of the year
doubles in size. A continent in a constant state of motion, motion
that is undetectable to the human eye, but that is
devastating nonetheless.

Imagine if you were to look down from the heavens at this vast,
snow-covered mass. You would see the signatures of motion: the
sweeping waves of the glaciers, bending in curves around mountains,
falling down slopes like cascading waterfalls captured on film.

This is the 'awesome inertia' that Eugene Linden spoke of. And
if we, like Linden, imagine that we are looking at that picture
through time-lapse photography, taken over thousands of
years, then we will see that motion.

Thirty centimeters of movement every year doesn't look like much
in real time, but in time-lapse glaciers become flowing rivers of ice,
ice that moves with free-flowing grace and awesome, unstoppable power.

Awesome? I hear you scoff. Thirty centimeters a year?
What possible harm could that do?

A lot of harm to your tax dollars, I would say. Did you know that the
British government has had to replace Halley Station on four
separate occasions? You see, like many other Antarctic research
stations, Halley station is built underground, buried in the
ice—but a mere thirty centimeters of shift every year cracks its
walls and drastically skews its ceilings.

The point here is that the walls of Halley Station are under a lot of
pressure, a lot of pressure. All of that ice, moving outward
from the pole, moving inexorably toward the sea, it wants to
get to the sea—to see the world, you might say, as an
iceberg—and it isn't going to let something as
insignificant as a research station get in its way!

But then again, comparatively speaking, Britain has come off rather
well when it comes to dramatic ice movement.

Consider when, in 1986, the Filchner Ice Shelf calved an iceberg the
size of Luxembourg into the Weddell Sea. Thirteen thousand
square kilometers of ice broke free of the mainland ... taking with it
the abandoned Argentine base station, Belgrano I, and the Soviet
summer station, Druzhnaya. The Soviets, it seems, had planned to use
Druzhnaya that summer. As it turned out, they spent the next three
months searching for their missing base among the three massive
icebergs that had formed out of the original ice movement! And they
found it. Eventually.

The United States has been even less fortunate. All five of
its 'Little America' research stations floated out to sea on
icebergs in the sixties.

Ladies and gentlemen, the message to be taken from all of this is
quite simple. What appears to be barren may not really be so.
What appears to be a wasteland may not really be so. What
appears to be lifeless may not really be so.

No. For when you look at Antarctica, do not be
fooled. You are not looking at an ice-covered rock. You are
looking at a living, breathing continent.

 

From: Goldridge, William

Watergate

(New York: Wylie, 1980)

CHAPTER 6: THE PENTAGON

... What the literature is oddly silent about, however, is the strong
bond Richard Nixon forged with his military advisers, most notably an
Air Force Colonel named Otto Niemeyer... [p- 80]

... After Watergate, however, no one is quite sure what happened to
Niemeyer. He was Nixon's liaison to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his
insider. Having risen to the rank of full colonel by the time Nixon
resigned, Niemeyer had enjoyed what few people could ever lay claim
to: Richard Nixon's ear.

What is surprising, however, is that after Nixon's
resignation in 1974, not much can be found in the statute books
regarding Otto Niemeyer. He remained on the Joint Chiefs of Staff
under Ford and Carter, a silent player, keeping much to himself, until
1979, when abruptly, his position became vacant.

No explanation was ever given by the Carter Administration for
Niemeyer's removal. Niemeyer was unmarried; some suggested,
homosexual. He lived at the military academy at Arlington, alone. He
had few people who openly claimed to be his friends. He traveled
frequently, often to 'destinations unknown,' and his work
colleagues thought nothing of his absence from the Pentagon for a few
days in December of 1979.

 

Shane Schofield Series 1 - Ice Station
PROLOGUE

Wilkes Land, Antarctica 13 June

It had been three hours now since they'd lost radio contact with
the two divers.

There had been nothing wrong with the descent, despite the fact that
it was so deep. Price and Davis were the most experienced divers at
the station, and they had talked casually over the intercom the whole
way down.

After pausing halfway to repressurize, they had continued down to
three thousand feet, where they had left the diving bell and begun
their diagonal ascent into the narrow, ice-walled cavern.

Water temperature had been stable at 1.9° Celsius. As recently as
two years previously, Antarctic diving had been restricted by the cold
to extremely short-lived and, scientifically speaking, extremely
unsatisfactory ten-minute excursions. However, with their new
Navy-made thermal-electric suits, Antarctic divers could now expect to
maintain comfortable body temperatures for at least three hours in the
near-freezing waters of the continent.

The two divers had maintained steady conversation over the radio as
they made their way up the steep underwater ice tunnel, describing the
cracked, rough texture of the ice, commenting on its rich, almost
angelic sky blue color.

And then, abruptly, their talking had stopped.

They had spotted the surface.

The two divers stared at the water's surface from below.

It was dark, the water calm. Unnaturally calm. Not a ripple broke its
glassy, even plane. In the glare of their military-spec halogen
flashlights, the ice walls around them glistened like crystal. They
swam upward.

Suddenly they heard a noise.

The two divers stopped.

At first it was just a single haunting whistle, echoing through the
clear, icy water. Whale song, they thought.

Possibility: killers. Recently a pod of killer whales had been seen
lurking about the station. A couple of them—two juvenile
males—had made a habit of coming up for air inside the pool at
the base of Wilkes Ice Station.

More likely, however, it was a blue, singing for a mate, maybe five or
six miles offshore. That was the problem with whale song. Water was
such a great conductor, you could never tell if the whale was one mile
away or ten.

Their minds reassured, the two divers continued upward.

It was then that the first whistle was answered.

All at once, about a dozen similar whistles began to coo across the
dense aquatic plane, engulfing the two divers. They were louder than
the first whistle.

Closer.

The two divers spun about in every direction, hovering in the clear
blue water, searching for the source of the noise. One of them unslung
his harpoon gun and cocked the hammer, and suddenly the high-pitched
whistles turned into pained wails and barks.

And then suddenly there came a loud whump! and both divers
snapped upward just in time to see the glassy surface of the water
break into a thousand ripples as something large plunged into the
water from above.

The enormous diving bell broke the surface with a loud splash.

Benjamin K. Austin strode purposefully around the water's edge
barking orders, a black insulated wet suit stretched tight across his
broad barrel chest. Austin was a marine biologist from Stanford. He
was also the chief of station of Wilkes Ice Station.

“All right! Hold it there!” Austin called to the young
technician manning the winch controls on C-deck. “OK, ladies and
gentlemen, no time to waste. Get inside.”

One after the other, the six wet-suited figures gathered around the
edge of the pool dived into the icy water. They rose a few seconds
later inside the big dome-shaped diving bell that now sat
half-submerged in the center of the pool.

Austin was standing at the edge of the large, round pool that formed
the base of Wilkes Ice Station. Five stories deep, Wilkes was a remote
coastal research station, a giant underground cylinder that had
literally been carved into the ice shelf. A series of narrow catwalks
and ladders hugged the circumference of the vertical cylinder,
creating a wide circular shaft in the middle of the station. Doorways
led off each of the catwalks—into the
ice—creating the five different levels of the station. Like many
others before them, the residents of Wilkes had long since discovered
that the best way to endure the harsh polar weather was to live under
it.

Austin shouldered into his scuba gear, running through the equation in
his head for the hundredth time.

Three hours since the divers' radio link had cut out. Before that,
one hour of hands-free diving up the ice tunnel. And one hour's
descent in the diving bell....

In the diving bell, they would have been breathing “free”
air—the diving bell's own supply of heliox—so that
didn't count. It was only when they left the diving bell and
started using tank air that the clock began to run.

Four hours, then.

The two divers had been living off tank air for four hours.

The problem was their tanks contained only three hours' worth of
breathing time.

And for Austin that had meant a delicate balancing act.

The last words he and the others had heard from the two
divers—before their radio signal had abruptly cut to
static— had been some anxious chatter about strange whistling
noises.

On the one hand, the whistling could have been anything: blues,
minkes, or any other kind of harmless baleen whale. And the radio
cutout could easily have been the result of interference caused by
nearly half a kilometer of ice and water. For all Austin knew, the two
divers had turned around immediately and begun the hour-long trip back
to the diving bell. To pull it up prematurely would be to leave them
stranded on the bottom, out of time and out of air.

On the other hand, if the divers actually had met with
trouble—killers, leopard seals—then naturally Austin would
have wanted to yank up the diving bell as quickly as possible and send
others down to help.

In the end, he decided that any help he could send—after hauling
up the diving bell and sending it back down again— would be too
late anyway. If Price and Davis were going to survive, the best bet
was to leave the diving bell down there.

That was three hours ago—and that was as much time as Austin had
been willing to give them. And so he'd pulled up the diving bell;
and now a second team was preparing to go down—

“Hey.”

Austin turned. Sarah Hensleigh, one of the paleontologists, came up
alongside him.

Austin liked Hensleigh. She was intelligent while at the same time
practical and tough, not afraid to get her hands dirty. It came as no
surprise to him that she was also a mother. Her twelve-year-old
daughter, Kirsty, had been visiting the station for the past week.

“What is it?” Austin said.

“The topside antenna's taking a beating. The signal isn't
getting through,” Hensleigh said. “It also looks like
there's a solar flare coming in.”

“Oh, shit....”

“For what it's worth, I've got Abby scanning all the
military frequencies, but I wouldn't get your hopes up.”

“What about outside?”

“Pretty bad. We've got eighty-footers breaking on the cliffs
and a hundred-knot wind on the surface. If we have casualties, we
won't be getting them out of here by ourselves.”

Austin turned to stare at the diving bell. “And Renshaw?”

“He's still shut up in his room.” Hensleigh looked up
nervously toward B-deck.

Austin said, “We can't wait any longer. We have to go
down.”

Hensleigh just watched him.

“Ben—,” she began.

“Don't even think about it, Sarah.” Austin began walking
away from her, toward the water's edge. “I need you up here.
So does your kid. You just get that signal out. We'll get the
others.”

“Coming to three thousand feet,” Austin's voice
crackled out from the wall-mounted speakers.

Sarah Hensleigh was sitting inside the darkened radio room of Wilkes
Ice Station. “Roger that, Mawson,” she said into
the microphone in front of her.

“There doesn't appear to be any activity outside,
Control. The coast is clear. All right, ladies and gentlemen, we
're stopping the winch. Preparing to leave the diving
bell.”

One kilometer below sea level, the diving bell jolted to a halt.

Inside, Austin keyed the intercom. “Control, confirm time at 2132
hours, please.”

The seven divers sitting inside the cramped confines of the
Douglas Mawson looked tensely at one another.

Hensleigh's voice came over the speaker. “I
copy, Mawson. Time confirmed at 2132 hours.”

“Control, mark that we are turning over to self-contained air
supply at 2132 hours.”

“Marked.”

The seven divers reached up for their heavy face masks, brought them
down off their hooks, clamped them to the circular buckles on the
collarbones of their suits.

“Control, we are now leaving the diving bell.”

Austin stepped forward, pausing for a moment to look at the black pool
of water lapping against the rim of the diving bell. Then he stepped
off the deck and splashed into the darkness.

“Divers. Time is now 2220 hours; dive time is forty-eight
minutes. Report,” Hensleigh said into her mike.

Inside the radio room behind Sarah sat Abby Sinclair, the
station's resident meteorologist. For the past two hours Abby had
been manning the satellite radio console, trying without success to
raise an outside frequency.

The intercom crackled. Austin's voice answered, “Control,
we are still proceeding up the ice tunnel. Nothing so far.”

“Roger, divers,” Hensleigh said. “Keep us
informed.”

Behind her, Abby keyed her talk button again. “Calling all
frequencies, this is station four-zero-niner—I repeat, this is
station four-zero-niner—requesting immediate assistance. We have
two casualties, possibly fatalities, on hand and we are in need of
immediate support. Please acknowledge.” Abby released the button
and said to herself, “Somebody, anybody.”

The ice tunnel was starting to widen.

As Austin and the other divers slowly made their way upward, they
began to notice several strange holes set into the walls on either
side of the underwater tunnel.

Each hole was perfectly round, at least ten feet in diameter. And they
were all set on an incline so that they descended into the
ice tunnel. One of the divers aimed his flashlight up into one of the
holes, revealing only impenetrable inky darkness.

Suddenly Austin's voice cut across their intercoms. “OK,
people, stay tight. I think I see the surface.”

Inside the radio room, Sarah Hensleigh leaned forward in her chair,
listening to Austin's voice over the intercom.

“The surface appears calm. No sign of Price or
Davis.” Hensleigh and Abby exchanged a glance. Hensleigh
keyed her intercom. “Divers. This is Control. What about the
noises they mentioned? Do you hear anything? Any whale song?”

“Nothing yet, Control. Hold on now: I'm coming to the
surface.”

Austin's helmet broke the glassy surface.

Icy water drained off his faceplate. Austin lifted his Princeton-Tec
dive light above the water's surface. The exposed halogen bulb
cast a wide flood pattern over the area around him, illuminating it to
its farthest corners.

Slowly, Austin began to see where he was. He was hovering in the
middle of a wide pool, which was itself situated at one end of a
gigantic subterranean cavern.

He turned in a complete circle, observing, one after another, the
sheer vertical walls that lined every side of the cavern.

And then he saw the final wall.

His mouth fell open.

“Control, you're not going to believe this.”
Austin's stunned voice broke over the intercom.

“What is it, Ben?” Hensleigh said into her mike.

“I'm looking at a cavern of some sort. Walls are
sheer-sided ice, probably the result of some kind of seismic activity.
Area of the cavern is unknown, but it looks like it extends several
hundred feet into the ice.”

“Uh-huh.”

“There's, ah... there's something else down here,
Sarah.”

Hensleigh looked at Abby and frowned. She keyed the intercom.
“What is it, Ben?”

“Sarah...” There was a long pause. “Sarah,
I think I'm looking at a spaceship.”

It was half-buried in the ice wall behind it.

Austin stared at it, entranced.

Completely black, it had a wingspan of about ninety feet. Two sleek
dorsal tail fins rose high into the air above the rear of the ship.
Both fins, however, were completely embedded in the ice wall behind
the ship—two shadowy blurs trapped within the clear, frozen
wall. It stood on three powerful-looking landing struts, and it looked
magnificent—the aerodynamics sleek to the extreme, exuding a
sense of raw power that was almost tangible.

There came a loud splash from behind him and Austin spun.

He saw the other divers, treading water behind him, staring up at the
spaceship. Beyond them, however, was a set of expanding ripples, the
remnants, it seemed, of an object that had fallen into the water....

“What was that?” Austin said. “Hanson?”

“Ben, I don't know what it was, but something just went past
my—”

Austin watched as, without warning, Hanson was wrenched underwater.

“Hanson!”

And then there was another scream. Harry Cox.

Austin turned, just in time to see the slicked back of a large animal
rise above the surface and plow at tremendous speed into Cox's
chest, driving him underwater.

Austin began to swim frantically for the water's edge. As he swam,
his head dipped below the surface and suddenly his ears were assaulted
by a cacophony of sound—loud, shrill whistles and hoarse,
desperate barks.

The next time his head surfaced, he caught a glimpse of the ice walls
surrounding the pool of water. He saw large holes set into the ice,
just above the surface. They were exactly the same as the ones
he'd seen down in the ice tunnel before.

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