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.
Hello from Panorama Glacier! We hope that all of you are well around the world, as we are in here Antarctica. Much has happened since our last update (and I apologize for the vagueness and indecision in the audioblog). We have been awaiting a resupply and a helicopter close support day since last Friday. The weather up here and at MacTown has been inconveniently complimentary. It seems that it is nice here while it is stormy at MacTown (100 km away), and vice versa. We are hopeful that the flight will happen tomorrow. The helo staff at McMurdo have been incredibly helpful and patient during the weather delays. We have plenty of food, but the variety has been impacted ☹. Jo still manages to cook up some tasty meals– I am currently watching and smelling in anticipation as she cooks up sausage with curried vegetables and rice. Despite non-ideal weather we have accomplished quite a bit out in the field. We have covered almost everything that is in range of our camp, and we should be able to complete everything that we need to if we have a few more nice days within the next week and a half. Yesterday, after waking up early only to find out that we would not be flying that day, we set out across the Kemp Glacier. Most of the glacier travel that we have done so far has been on solid blue ice. The path across the Kemp looked sweet on maps and when we approached it, but it is almost entirely snow covered, so we roped up in case there were bridged crevasses. It was our first time roping up, and Bryan and Graham learned a lot from Jo. No crevasse experiences (to my relief, rope or not). The afternoon was sunny and pleasant, but a wind storm with gusts up to 75 km/hr and wind chill down to –35° C (~ –30° F) came in when we were making our way back to camp¬– see picture of Bryan (small dot on right) and blowing snow below. It was a tid-bit chilly, but we made it back without incident.
Well, we best be signing off. It’s time for vittles. Until next time… Don’t forget to stimulate your gums!
Happy New years from Antarctica! 2012 is here, which means are field season is winding down. The weather in Antarctica as been up to its old tricks with 2 days of strong winds 1 day of nice weather and 1 ½ days of snow. When the winds started we all tried to be tough and work anyway, but that left us fleeing the hills after 70 km/h gusts made field work nearly impossible. New years day greeted us with beautiful weather, sunny and warm (if you can call a few degrees under freezing warm). On January 2 we woke up to 3 inches (~7.5 cm) of fresh white fluffy powder. Although the snow is pretty and fun for boot skiing it covers all the wonderful rocks, making geology more difficult. January 3rd we left camp with a light dusting of snow covering are tracks. At lunchtime the weather looked as though it was taking a turn for the worst. We were slowly being buried by snow as we enjoyed crackers with cheese and tuna and bumper bars. We finished eating and continued up the steep ridge we had started before lunch. The wind began to pick up and the visibility was decreasing. We decided it was time to call it a day and make are way back to camp. Currently the wind is still blowing and we are recording some of are coldest temps of the season at -29o C (-20 F) with wind chill. Hopefully the wind blows away the snow covering the rocks. Today graham emerged as a rugged Antarctic mountain man he is, with a healthy beard filled with blowing snow and icicles hanging from his mustache.
Well that’s all for now, we wish all are friends and family back home the best and Happy New Years. Panorama Glacier Out!
The top of the Panorama Glacier with Mt. Erebus in the far distance
Now that John is back in Santa Barbara he’s had a chance to upload some videos. Check out these selection (there are a bunch more on our youtube channel – Antarctica360). They play best if you open the Youtube link in the lower right of each video.
A lot has happened since are last blog update, including the celebration of our first Antarctic Christmas. Jo and Bryan made a tree out of snow and decorated it with miscellany from camp. Santa Claus came, even for Graham. Bryan and Graham did some shovel-sledding (videos to come pending bandwidth), and Jo cooked a feast– by Antarctic or any standards. It wasn’t quite the same as home, but we had a great time regardless.
|Panorama Glacier Christmas Tree|
Monday was business as usual. We had he snowmobiles slung back to Mac Town for lack of appropriate terrain, so all of our work has been on foot. We have trekked across the panorama glacier a couple of times and also checked out some of the rocks close to camp. The new field area has introduced a great deal of variety of the geology, and Graham and Bryan are reinspired. A particular highlight was finding huge books of biotite, the largest weighing in at over 20 lbs! We walked back with overloaded packs full of samples for mineralogy class– hopefully our students don’t need a hand lens to identify a Bt crystal the size of their heads!
|Very large Biotite Crystals manlig-halsa.se/!|
We have just past the half-way point of our field season. For those of you anxiously awaiting our return, especially Mike awaiting Graham, we will see you soon! I promise, we will shower first! The last few weeks will fly by, as did the first few. At first it seemed that we had a surplus of time, but we are now trying to maximize our efficiency to get everything done! Cheep Cheep!
|Shovel sledding on Christmas day|
Today we are unfortunately not able to take advantage of the beautiful weather as we are on the helicopter schedule to shift our camp tomorrow and need to spend the day sorting, organizing, and packing. We also snuck in a sleep-in, have done some washing, and are communicating with the outside world. Although we’ve had another calm, sunny day so far, as I write this the cloud from the far horizon has finally developed over us, the temperature has dropped, and it disappointingly looks as if the MacTown Weather Ops forecast for an incoming storm might be correct. If we can’t do our camp shift tomorrow or Friday it will be Boxing Day, as the pilots are having the holiday weekend off. We’re keen to have as much time to geologise from our high camp as possible but there’s plenty we can do down here now that the snow has melted. Captain Oates would prefer to stay at lower elevations as it means less distance to travel to the sea should he no longer wish to be part of our team.
Tune in next time to find out where we’ll be having Christmas!
The last couple of days have been a mixed bag – another day of low cloud and big fat snowflakes saw Graham go almost insane and Bryan retreat to his sleeping bag. In an attempt to ward off cabin fever, Graham and Jo spent the afternoon developing an aerobics routine to Blondie ‘Heart of Glass’ much to Bryan’s dismay. We plan to post the video once we’ve perfected the routine.
Yesterday we were stoked and relieved to wake to improved weather and finally some SUNSHINE! We’d forgotten what it felt like to have the warmth of the sun on our skin (faces) and to make all the daily tasks seem that much easier. With heaps of snow still lying on the slopes and outcrops and the weather not completely settled we decided to head across the Walcott – our closest destination. Our walk through Dr Seuss-land was made more bizarre and stunning by the additional 3 inches of creamy sparkly snow topping all the features. The fresh snow also made the trip a bit more challenging, as we were unable to determine what sort of ice was hiding underneath. Once we reached the slopes on the northern side of the Walcott it was crampons off and another day of interesting measuring and sampling whilst Jo amused herself with the lightest, fluffiest snow that she had ever seen. By mid-afternoon the clouds had thickened and clusters of stellars were again falling on us. We headed further up the hill but soon found the geologizing difficult with the thick snow layer hiding many interesting features. The descent was somewhat slippery until we reached a ‘road’ conveniently carved back down the hill. Back across the Walcott and through Dr Seuss-land with our tracks barely visible from the new snow that had fallen during the day. Satay for dinner and we weren’t long out of bed. To our surprise and delight the sun burst through the clouds just as we were brushing our teeth and continued to shine through the walls of out tents as we fell asleep.