Hunting lamprophyres from the sky

A helicopter is the ultimate tool for geologists; it provides access to the inaccessible and views from the sky where the landscape can be seen on a tectonic scale (almost). We were fortunate to commandeer the use of a Bell 212 helicopter—a twin-engine Huey—from McMurdo with a bright red and blue NSF paint job.
First stop: Buntley Bluff on the Mulock Glacier. On the third flyby of the 1500 ft looming cliffs, the pilot finally spotted a small flat patch. Over the intercom we hear, “Might be able to set down there…heavily crevassed… need to watch for rocks falling from above…overhanging serac of snow above us…not much room to manoeuvre…lets do a compaction test…” The skids of the helicopter bounced several times on the surface without it caving in, so we were ushered out. I wielded the hammer, Graham and Sophie the notebook and GPS. We stormed up to the cliff, whacking off samples and taking some notes before returning to the aircraft. Off to the next stop.
Hopping our way back to camp in great helo leaps, we kept our eyes pealed for dark lamprophyre intrusions. Approaching our final destination, we finally spotted a lamprophyre running across the top of a mountain ridge. Sophie had to be refrained from jumping out of her seat in excitement so we asked the pilot to land us there. After a few circles, we had to abandon the idea of landing, but managed traced the dark strip of rock across the mountain, collecting a sample of the host rock at the base of the slope.
The next morning at 5:00 am, I was hearing helicopter rotors in my sleep. Then I realized I was awake and that the sound was real.  Except it wasn’t a helicopter…it was the snowmobile. I bundled up and crawled into the morning wind to investigate. All the tents were closed tight and everyone was asleep. Why was the snowmobile running? Who turned it on? I woke the others and we have yet to solve the mystery. Strange things happen in the land of the midnight sun.

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Geologists are on the Ice!

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.

We then boarded a C-17 military plane for the 5 and a half hour flight to McMurdo. As you can see, it doesn’t exactly look like a regular airliner!
Graham and Forrest enjoying the inflight entertainment…

Some spectacular views from the windows on the way down. Here are some photos of the Antarctica a couple of hours north of McMurdo

The C-17 lands on an ice runway about 20mins drive from McMurdo station. The ice here is about ~2m thick. Beneath that is normal sea water.

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!

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Antarctic Service Medal

The team received their Antarctic Service Medals in the post today! The medals are awarded to those who have served as members of a United States expedition to Antarctica.

The various colors of the ribbon on the medal all have meaning.  The outer bands of black and dark blue comprise five-twelfths of the ribbon’s width, representing five months of antarctic darkness; the center portion, by its size and colors – grading from medium blue through light blue and pale blue to white – symbolizes seven months of solar illumination, and also the aurora australis.

There are three words engraved on the reverse of the medal – COURAGE, SACRIFICE, DEVOTION.

For those of you interested in the history of this medal. On July 7, 1960 Congress enacted a new law buy propecia merck “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That each person who serves, or has served, as a member of a United States expedition to Antarctica between January 1, 1946, and a date to be subsequently established by the Secretary of Defense shall be presented a medal with accompanying ribbons and appurtenances, under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of Departments under whose cognizance the expedition falls, such regulations to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The regulations may include provisions for award to civilian as well as uniformed members and for posthumous awards.”
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