It has been 6 or so weeks on the ice (to be honest, we’ve lost track of time and don’t even know the day of the week). If anything, time is measured by alternating cooking duties and the numbers we write on canvas sample bags—in excess of 400 so far. Some changes have become hard to ignore. For example, our toilet fortress, once a 4 ft deep hole surrounded by 4 ft walls of snow blocks has filled in with drifts and eroded down such that it hardly provides any shelter or privacy; the sastrugi on the interior adds décor. In the cook tent, snow has melted and compacted under the floor such that the stove, food boxes, and chairs are precariously inclined to crash inward.
Across from camp, seven triangular ridges expose layers of granites and metasediments, sandwiched between steep tributary icefalls. Reaching the cliffs requires crossing the five-mile-wide Darwin Glacier. Although the Darwin has a central corridor of shiny sun-scoured blue ice, strips of crevasses line the edges. Melt water runs in and amongst crevasses, creating mazes of small channels and deep cracks. Complicating navigation, variable amounts of wind-blown snow cover and hide the surface of the glacier. Fortunately, we have been joined by Alaska Larry, a mountaineering guide on Denali in the other summer, to help navigate the Darwin.
This morning we woke up at 5am, and headed from our Hotel in Christchurch to the International Antarctic Center to check in for our flight to McMurdo.
Getting our gear together prior to the flight
We then headed to the passenger terminal with all our gear and checked in.
Forrest, checking in.
Some spectacular views from the windows on the way down. Here are some photos of the Antarctica a couple of hours north of McMurdo
Forrest and Graham enjoying the view!
Here’s a short video of the trip we took today. We’re now getting our gear together and will hoepfully be leaving McMurdo for our first field site in about a week. We’ll keep you posted!
We’re in the final stages of preparation for our trip to Antarctica. We should be on our way to New Zealand by the end of the week. We’ll post some more details of our preparations soon, but we thought we’d let you know about an iPhone App we wrote. It’s pretty basic but it’ll let you follow our progress in the field right from your phone. You can download the app for free from here or visit the app store and search “Geologists On Ice”
It’s that time of year again! We’re gearing up for a new field season in Antarctica. This year we’re heading further south in the TransAntarctic Mountains to map and collect a suite of samples for analysis. We’re scheduled to depart Santa Barbara for Christchurch during the first week of November, so we have a lot of preparations to do before then!
More details about our trip preparations soon, but first, let’s meet this years team. John and Graham will be heading down again, and in addition, we have a couple of new members joining us. Here are some quick introductions:
hop over to this web-site Forrest Horton is a PhD student at UCSB. Born in Montana, Forrest moved to the East Coast for school, receiving his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in Maine. Traumatized by the flat landscape of New England, Forrest has subsequently sought mountainous environments for work, study, and recreation. After dabbling with gold exploration (and mosquitoes) in the Kuskoquim Mountains of Alaska, he raced cross-country ski marathons in Idaho. Eventually realizing that wearing bright spandex doesn’t pay the bills, Forrest embarked to the Indian Himalaya to begin a Masters Degree at San Francisco State University; his research focused on determining the age and origins of granites near the India-Pakistan border. Hired temporarily as a geologist by the Department of Defense, he worked for a stint with the Afghan government to identify mineral resources. At UCSB, Forrest studies the heating of middle and lower crust in young/active (Himalaya) and old/eroded (Madagascar) continental collision zones—for more on his research, visit his website for further details. In California, cold weather and helicopter withdrawal have driven Forrest to take up telemark skiing and paragliding. However, he spends most of his spare time tromping along trails and consuming spicy foods.
find out this here Sophie Briggs is a first year PhD student at UCSB. She is originally from New Zealand where she developed an interest in geology while working as a tour guide on White Island, an active marine volcano near her home town of Whakatane. She completed her undergraduate degree in geology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. For her senior honours thesis she investigated the petrology of the Alpine Dike Swarm in south Westland, New Zealand. Before coming to California, she spent four months working in gold and uranium exploration in Western Australia. Sophie enjoys camping, surfing, waterskiiing and playing the ukulele, and is very excited about her first trip to Antarctica. Experiencing a white Christmas in the southern hemisphere will be a first!
Sorry that it has been so long since our last post. We have all been very busy back here at UCSB, our home institution. The field work in Antarctica that you followed along with is only one aspect of this project. Now it’s time for the “science-y” stuff. We have been organizing our samples and preparing them for dating and geochemistry.
Here’s Jason Schmidt, a research assistant working with us this summer, helping archive our samples in the dingy basement of our Earth Science department. We start with whole-rocks collected in the field and try to extract accessory minerals that are useful for dating and geochemistry. We crush the rocks using the disk mill you see below and then send the material down the water table (basically a glorified gold pan). This sorts the material based on grain size and grain density.
Next we use special chemicals to further separate the material based on density. Here I (Graham) am working in the fume hood, isolating dense minerals such as zircon, monazite, titanite, and garnet.
We take the most dense fraction from the “heavy liquids” step, and separate different minerals based on their magnetic properties. We use this funny looking contraption, the Frantz isodynamic separator. After this step, we hopefully have nearly pure separates containing only the accessory minerals that we are interested in.
It’s time to image our samples before analyzing them on the mass-spectrometers. We take cathodoluminescence images using a scanning election microscope.
Finally! It’s time to get some data! The real interesting stuff happens in our plasma-source mass spectrometer lab. We have two lasers and two inductively coupled plasma- mass spectrometers that enable us to measure a wide range of isotopes as well as the concentration of trace elements at several ppm precision!
More to come on the lab work this summer… Stay tuned for updates on the upcoming field season as well!
For those of you who are interested in how we set this up – Graham used a satellite phone to call a Google voice number which was then played through a laptop connected to the internet. This allowed us to turn the volume up loud enough so everyone in the classroom could hear Graham, and, using the inbuilt laptop microphone we were able to ask him questions. A pretty simple solution with excellent audio quality, no echo and best of all the Google Voice number was free!
We arrived back in Mac Town on Friday right on schedule. We have spent the last few days returning all of our gear, which was quite a process. We have had some time to get cleaned up and kick back as well. We have been running and hiking around the base and Hut Point Peninsula.
There was marathon on the Ross ice shelf on Sunday. Bryan talked me (Graham) into doing the half-marathon, but w missed the registration deadline by a few hours when we arrived on Friday. Lucky for other runners – we would have won that marathon fur sure! Next year.
Well, this concludes our first Antarctic field season. Bryan and I are going to do some traveling in New Zealand for a couple of weeks, and Jo is getting married soon! Congratulations!
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the science or the journey. Thanks for following along with our adventure!
Here are some miscellaneous videos that were too big to upload to the blog while out in the field. Enjoy!
-John, Graham, Bryan, and Jo of “Geologists on Ice”
Hey Ya’ll, This should be our last blog update from the field! We are scheduled for extraction tomorrow morning, of course, subject to weather. We have had a busy day breaking camp. We prepared a sling-load full of our heaviest gear and dug out our tents, which were buried beneath >1 m of compacted drift snow. Hopefully the wind doesn’t pick up tonight, or else we will be digging out all over again tomorrow morning. It will take three Bell 212 Helo loads to get us and all of our gear out.
Here is our blog station (yes, of course that’s a lherzolite xenolith). I like to eat tots while I blog, and sometimes they get on John’s computer, but I’m sure he won’t mind. Tots have been a staple here– “Napoleon, give me some of your tots. No, get your own!”. It’s amazing that we have all lost so much weight, despite eating butter fried tots most nights. Bryan lost 20 lbs! He is just a wee boy now.
Here’s Captain Oates as Penguin Perry (Antarctica Penguins music video to come soon).
Well, next time you hear from us, we should be back in Mac Town. We have arranged to have a phone chat with a Santa Barbara elementary school class on Saturday (the kids’ Friday). John, I hope there having tots for lunch when you visit! Panorama Glacier out…