Back in Christchurch!

Hello all,
We have arrived back in Christchurch! The last few days were a flurry of activity. We were stuck in the field for an extra couple of days due to weather. We were extremely busy in McMurdo hoping to leave the continent ASAP. We pulled it off! Yesterday morning we hopped on an LC-130 airplane at the “Pegasus” ice shelf runway. Eight hours later we arrived in NZ! The sensations of feeling humidity, hearing birds (other than penguins), and smelling vegetation for the first time in 9 weeks are indescribably amazing!

Forrest hopped on a flight early this morning to head home; Sophie and I are about to embark on another field adventure! We will be doing some work in Westland for about a week. We can’t wait to leave the beds and pillows behind and get back to our sleeping bags!

Please stay tuned to the blog to read about our NZ adventures and our progress in the lab! We thank you for joining us this season!

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Farewell to the field…

 Tonight is a special night– our last in the field. We are to return to McMurdo tomorrow via Twin Otter. The occasion is joyous, but the mood is sombre– not out of sadness, but with deep reflection of last seven weeks. It is easy to overlook the specialness of an experience when you are living it, and the realization of the wonder often lags. We now look back at all of the wonderful events of the last seven weeks– the majesty of the landscape, the extreme weather, the physical challenges, and the serenity of a small camp in Antarctica, hundreds of miles from another human. We flew over the TransAntarctics in small aircraft, climbed mountains, ran on glaciers, and came back to our cosy camp to have meals of salmon alfredo, Thai curry, and roast cornish hens. We have seen and done amazing things during this field season, and we have much to be thankful for and much to rejoice. We all feel a sense of success, and we owe much appreciation to all of the support from the contractors in McMurdo, the National Science Foundations for funding, and of course, to John, who made all of this possible. We hope that this will not be our last trip to this beautiful continent.
I know that all sounds very sentimental, but I assure you, we are all anxiously anticipating our extraction! Perhaps I should save the sappy blog updates until we have actually departed. The weather is unpredictable, and we may be spending the weekend in our tents eating the dehydrated meals that are left over. By the time you read this we will hopefully be in MacTown, groomed and warm. Wish us luck!
-Sophie, Forrest, Graham

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Graham’s Snowy Day in Antarctica Cinnamon Rolls

Hello all! Snowy, windy weather has us stuck in the tent on one our last few days in the field… Time to bake! We made some delightful cinnamon rolls and would like to share the recipe with you!

strattera online no prescription Graham’s Snowy Day in Antarctica Cinnamon Rolls
Dough Ingredients:                                               
2  1/4 cups white flour
3/4 tsp salt           
4 tsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup butter (softened)
1 cup powdered milk (or normal milk)           
Filling Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter (melted)
a bunch of brown sugar           
a bunch of granulated sugar
a bunch of cinnamon
bunch of chopped dates, golden raisins, almonds
prezzo Quetiapine Directions: 
Mix the dough ingredients in a dirty plastic bowl that hasn’t been washed in nearly two months. Soften butter on camp stove (or by any means) and cut into dry ingredients; when frustrated, mash the refrozen butter with your fork. Add enough cold water so that dough is slightly sticky (note: adding hot water from your “billy” will prematurely activate baking powder).
Preheat dutch oven (or any oven) to an unknown temperature. Clean off half of dirty, cold metal table with baby wipes and then wet paper towels. Sprinkle ample flower on the table. Roll out dough ball with purple Nalgene® bottle into a rectangle with a 2:1 x/z ratio that is ~3 mm (3×107 Å) thick. Pour melted butter over dough and slather with filling ingredients.  Roll up the fillings into the dough and cut into 3 cm tall pieces.

Use Crisco®, vegetable oil, or butter to grease pan. Place rolls in pan, adequately spaced to accommodate a bit of rising. Prior to “burny” smell, flip rolls to other side (note: this step is probably unnecessary in a normal oven). Remove once rolls are the color of titanite (or slightly darker than staurolite in plane-polarized light) on each side and enjoy while warm with lots of tea!

Note: the cinnamon rolls should be vegetarian if not cooked in an unwashed dutch oven with 8 weeks worth of meat residue. Note: Sorry if I ruined anyone’s appetite by mentioning “meat residue” in a cinnamon roll recipe.


By the way, I included a graph to help people visualize the stinky-sock lemma that Forrest introduced in the previous blog post.

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A day in the field

So, what have we actually been doing in the field for the last 2 months? Each workday begins by starting up a snowmobile with a broken choke switch, which requires two pairs of hands, a set of pliers, and some love (i.e. Graham hauling violently on manual-ignition chord). Once parked near our destination ridge or cliffs, we dismount and set out for our farthest destination on foot and work back to the machines. “Empty” backpacks (i.e. without samples, but laden with sledge hammers, chisels, first aid kit, water, spare cloths, crampons, ice axe, etc.) are never lightweight, but the crampons are invariably necessary to climb off the glacier or up a hardened snow slope. 
When it comes to approaching fresh outcrops of rock, each geologist has there own style; Sophie, for example, crouches to look for minerals in her magnifying hand lens, whereas Graham takes measurements with his Brunton compass. I generally prefer the more direct approach of obliterating the nearest piece of rock with a six-pound sledgehammer. After heated debate of the geologic characteristics of the rocks—orthognessic? poikioblastic? porphyroblastic? pseudomorphic?—we scribble in yellow notebooks. The detail and thoroughness (and accuracy?) of my notes scale with temperature (1+ page at 25 F, 3+ lines at 5 F, and 1 line at -10 F), but I reason that writing with frozen fingers will yield illegible results anyway… Before stumbling to the next cliff, we chisel away and pack grapefruit-sized samples for extracting zircon, monazite, titanite, or garnet. Each of these lucky samples will have a scenic journey to sunny California onboard a freighter before being bombarded with electron beams and blasted with lasers.

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Sastrugi, smelly socks, and ocelli

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.

Our clothing is also disintegrating. My pants are torn from crampons, my jacket is accumulating patches, the seams of my boots unravel more each day, all my gloves are riddled with holes, and my sunglasses have been scratched by flying rock chips. Every morning I’m haunted by my brother’s unheeded advice: “Bring 10 pairs of socks and always, always, always, save one for a rainy day.” All three of my sock pairs have long since passed from the “crusty” stage to the “cheesy” stage, but there is still no alternative to drying them at head level in the cook tent. My only consolation is the fact that the smell of dirty cloths increases asymptotically, and mine are now nearing the limit of maximum stench.
Small discoveries keep life interesting here. Upon washing my hair—something I’ve only attempted once in the field—I was humoured to find small chips of granite on my head, but was unable to identify their exact lithology. Most exciting of all are the lamprophyres, chock full of pyrite, ocelli (ask Sophie), and xenoliths of various origins.
 Unfortunately Grahams camera is on the ridge somewhere, so we’ll send pics when we find it…

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Summiting Diamond Mountain (Hill)

Happy New Year from Diamond Glacier!!! 
We hope that everyone had a wonderful 2012 and are looking forward to 2013! We certainly have had a few fun and eventful recent days. We decided that we needed to end the year with a bang, so we decided to clime a peak on Dec. 31. Diamond Hill towers over our field area and was the obvious challenge. I know, “Hill” sounds kind of wimpy, but I’m sure that it would be considered a small mountain anywhere else in the world. In truth, it was not the most technical or difficult climb, but going from 400 m to 1400 m while collecting and carrying rocks gave us a pretty good workout! We toiled to the mighty summit only to find out that a hardened Kiwi mountaineer had arrived moments before! She denies any relation to Edmund Hillary, but I’m sure that everyone on those two little islands are somehow related.   
That night we stayed up and welcomed the new year in the bright sunshine of a spectacularly warm and calm midnight. The midnight hours, when the sun is low over the southern horizon, offer the most stunning pastel views of the landscape. Sophie and I recently remarked how Antarctic vantages often appear more like paintings than real landscapes; I’m certain that our photographs will never do justice.    
We took a lovely 1st of the new year off from work to rest, relax, read, and run (the “four r’s” of leisure). The afternoon brought the warmest weather that we have yet seen (ambient temperatures around freezing, but hot in the sun). We took the opportunity to get some vitamin D and work on our tans before our return to society, that is, society outside of camp. My tan obviously leaves room for want.   
The morning of Jan. 2 brought a bit of a surprise. We got up lazily at 8:00 and proceeded with our delectable breakfast of oatmeal, soggy mini-wheats, and black coffee for the rugged “Alaska” Larry. After eating I called “Helo Ops” to provide details for the close-support day that we were expecting on the 3rd. I identified our team and said that we were calling about our close-support day; the response: “Oh yeah, they’re on their way. They left at about 7:45.”    
Ooh! “Everyone get ready; the helos are coming today!” We all scrambled to get our gear together and consolidate the items to be taken back to town, including Larry (not to objectify our friend Larry). We managed to get everything together just when we heard “gulf-zero-six-four, gulf-zero-six-four, this is zero-eight-hotel” on our VHF radio as the deep whir of the Bell 212 came into earshot. Whew! We were ready just in time… to find out that they were going to go to a satellite fuel cache to fill up! Well, an hour for some more tea then! Anyway, we had a very successful day and covered lots of ground with the help of the awesome helo team. We were sad to see Larry go back to MacTown, but happy to have some new food and mail! Thanks for the mountaineering guidance Larry!

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Survival of the fittest on the Darwin

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.

After an hour of zig-zagging between crevasses on snowmobiles, we reached a tumultuous region where the ice falls merge with the blue wavy ice of the Darwin. Larry dismounted every several yards to poke and probe the ice, but I kept my ice axe convenient in case I needed to make a hasty jump off a tumbling snowmobile. I can testify that the machines have an impressive ability to bridge crevasses up to two feet wide (if on a perpendicular trajectory of the crack) and we eventually made it through a hazardous rollercoaster course to the cliffs. Cramponing up a steep snow chute provided great access to several prominent granite layers that we sampled while hiding from occasional loose rocks crumbling from the cliffs above, thawed by the afternoon sun. 

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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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Christmas Greetings from Darwin Glacier!

Christmas Greetings from Darwin Glacier! We treated ourselves to a holiday on Christmas day here at camp, keeping ourselves busy by preparing some special holiday feasts. Our eating day began with brunch: freshly baked biscuits (or scones to us kiwis) with berry compote, bacon and cinnamon and sugar. We took some time to digest and build a beautiful snow-woman, just to even out the gender ratio here at camp. Graham taught me (Sophie) the snowball-accretion method for snowman building, which worked very well, as you can see from our group photo with our new lady friend. For Christmas dinner all stoves, pots, pans and pairs of hands were employed to create a feast of roast pork with veggies, potatoes, applesauce, cranberry jelly and sweet potato frying pan bread. Yum! Wishing all those at home a Merry Christmas – we hope yours was as delicious as ours.

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