Almost two weeks into our field season and things are in full swing. We’ve moved camp once, collected 300+ rock samples, and almost eaten all our chocolate bar rations. Our first camp in the Wright Valley was nestled next to a frozen Lake Vanda that we slowly chipped away for drinking water. We’ve had mostly good weather other than nearly 50 knot winds one day that ripped Rob’s tent off its tie downs. Although, what’s considered good weather here is still capable of freezing your urine container in your tent overnight. Living in a tent with 24 hour sunlight in freezing and windy conditions seems inhospitable but we’ve quickly made our Trango 2 tents home; it’s impressive what a massive sleeping bag and a water bottle full of hot water can do. Our eating habits have also changed significantly to include: powdered and condensed milk, 4+ cups of Earl Grey tea per day, candy bar lunches, and food well past its “best by” date. FYI: pudding mix over a decade past due tastes exactly like it sounds. Our dinners have been great despite our assortment of aged food. We’ve had all sorts of meals from Thai curry to burritos and we even have dessert. We made a batch of cookie dough and only made one cookie, apparently we all prefer the dough. Ultimately, living conditions aren’t bad and I’d like to assure my mom that I’m eating my vegetables and brushing my teeth twice a day!
Working conditions are slightly worse as you battle to take copious notes in the frigid cold with clumsy gloves on and snot constantly leaking from your nose. We’ve hiked up hundreds of meters of steep scree and across miles of rolling landscape with packs full of rocks every day. The only deviation from that daily schedule was a couple of days with helicopter support. Essentially, a helicopter picks you up and drops you off at the foot of the outcrop of your choosing and later returns for you and your hundreds of pounds of samples to whisk you off across glaciers and valleys right back to camp. If a helicopter ride in Antarctica doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will. Now we’re camped in the Taylor Valley at a place called Nussbaum Riegel but the scenery hasn’t changed much – dozens of glaciers, jagged peaks, frozen lakes, and a view of the East Antarctic ice sheet. I don’t think that will change much regardless of our camp location. In summary: life in Antarctica is good as long as your hand warmers are still working, you’ve wiped the snot from your nose, the geology is good (and close), and you’ve got a hot dinner to look forward to… t hrow in a helicopter ride and some cookie dough and life is great.
~Demian for the Antarctica360 team