In a few short days I will depart the sunny coast of southern California and arrive at McMurdo Station, a research center on the south tip of the Ross Island at the far edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. As unbelievable as that sentence still sounds to me, it is true, and I am excited!
My UCSB research companions are Dr. John Cottle and Demian Nelson. We will spend a short time at McMurdo and then spend about six weeks in the field, almost completely cut off from humanity, all things living, and colors beyond brown and white. This will be my first time in Antarctica. The things I can foresee are average temperatures between -30 and -40 degrees Celsius (Antarctic summer time!), hidden crevasses littering a glacier covered terrain, and high potential for rapid and extreme weather changes. Logistically, I can expect no laundry, no showers, collecting all waste into buckets, and carrying around tons of rocks that we will hammer off of exposed outcrops. What I cannot yet fathom is collecting rock samples from the Transantarctic Mountains within 7 degrees of the South Pole, in one of the most remote and impressive field areas. This means that I will not be at a station, but camping on ice and relatively exposed to the elements. My mode of travel will be on foot and by skidoo. This will be an amazing experience!
I am no stranger to extreme winter activities and surviving on my own in nature. However, Antarctica feels like the last frontier, a place where I will not only be challenged physically and mentally, but also intellectually and scientifically. I am beyond excited and ready for whatever this field season brings my way. Now I just need to pack my bags and hope I do not forget a vital piece of equipment. –Elizabeth