As 2007 ends, I am reflecting back on this entire year as well as my experience in Antarctica. And I realize that Antarctica has permeated much of this year. It was this time, one year ago, that I completed and submitted my PolarTREC application to ARCUS. Then in early March I interviewed with Stacy, Nick and Bob, and was accepted onto the SCINI team and into the PolarTREC program. Less than two weeks later I was in Fairbanks, Alaska at the Orientation Workshop with almost all of the teachers selected for the 2007 PolarTREC experience.
The orientation was an outstanding experience. The workshop was extremely organized and all the information was valuable. A bonus was how well the teachers bonded and how professional, supportive and friendly the entire ARCUS staff was and continues...
Before I left for Antarctica, Stacy sent me a diagram of a photo frame that Bob had designed for an underwater student experiment. My students looked for ways to improve the frame design, and then I picked up donated supplies from our local Home Depot. I e-mailed one of my past students who is a great builder of things – including a great big catapult – and Sam Parrott agreed to build the frame for us.
Then, Janeece Henes, FALA art teacher extraordinaire, and her photography students took digital pictures of all my students, printed them to the correct size, laminated them with donated supplies from our local Staples and sent me to Antarctica with dozens of student photographs.
Janeece and Amanda Reid laminating photos for Antarctica
Korey Walton organizing photos on the computer...
"Ice people say that when you leave the Antarctic, part of you stays behind forever.”
From Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica, by Sara Wheeler
I do feel as if I have left a bit of myself on this amazing continent, but mostly I feel I have taken much from Antarctica. I have memories and photos and new friends and many learnings to share from this amazing experience.
Remember how I got to skip Monday, October 1st when I crossed the International Date Line? Well, today I got Saturday, November 17th twice!
I started the day with an early morning walk in the Christchurch Botanic Garden.
Spring flowers at the botanic gardens
Marcus and I flew to Auckland in the afternoon and then transferred to our international flight and went to sleep on the plane around midnight on Saturday...
"Under its worst conditions this earth is a good place to live in."
This quote, by Henry Robertson "Birdie" Bowers, exemplifies the positive attitude of many polar explorers. Bowers was one of the five men on Scott's ill-fated return from the South Pole and perished with the others. Scott, in his diary, said of Bowers: "As the troubles have thickened about us his dauntless spirit ever shone brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable to the end".
In my six weeks in Antarctica, I have seen many people exhibit positive attitudes and great work ethics. Granted, most of them will never be challenged like the early explorers were, but there are still struggles due to extreme weather and difficult logistics.
Since today is my last day in...
"Ross Island is not a place for a settlement; it is a place for an elaborately equipped scientific station..." A prescient statement by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, when you consider all the science that is being done at McMurdo Station almost 100 years later!
McMurdo may not be "elaborately equipped" but it has amazing people that can get great work done. Sherri Fabre is the carpenter that built special boxes for the trailer we pull behind the Tucker. She did beautiful work!
Sherri built specially made boxes that fit on our trailer
Today is the last day Marcus and I are at McMurdo, assuming the weather holds and our C-17 aircraft comes in tomorrow. Since Marcus is our VideoRay master, he is passing on as much of his knowledge as possible to everyone else.
"Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion."
Another applicable quote by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. People can explore so many different topics in such a variety of ways. It certainly doesn't have to be in Antarctica, or under the sea ice! But that is where Stacy is headed again today.
Rob and Stacy talking about the surface air supply system
Stacy has a long-term study site at the end of the sewer pipe going out into the Sound. You can see my photo of this location in my October 23rd journal entry. Though all solid waste is now packed out of McMurdo Station, they used to pump sewage into the water until 2003. The community of organisms living on and near the sewage outfall is different than the organisms living in similar natural habitats nearby...
"All the world loves a penguin: I think because in many respects they are like ourselves, and in some respects what we should like to be.” This quote comes from Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World: A Tale of Loss and Courage in Antarctica.
Today we trundled along on the sea ice in the Tucker for two and a half hours to get to Cape Royds. On the way we found a seal-breathing hole being used my several different seals.
Weddell Seal in breathing hole
This is where Shackleton built a hut in February of 1908, almost 100 years ago. And this is where Cherry-Garrard saw the Adélie penguins that inspired the above quote.
Cape Royds Hut, built by Shackleton's expedition in 1908
You can't really see the colony but if we walk a little closer...
Cape Royds colony...
"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." is the concluding line of Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses, and was placed on the cross honoring Scott and the men that died with him on their return from the South Pole.
Cross honoring Scott and his men
The cross was placed on top of 750-foot-high Observation Hill on January 22, 1913 by the men from the expedition that had supported the polar party of Robert F. Scott, Edward A. Wilson, Henry R. Bowers ("Birdie”), Lawrence "Titus” Oates, and Edgar "Taff” Evans.
Observation Hill is a popular hike at McMurdo that yields great views. The hiking trails are all marked by trail signs.
Trail sign and view to the top of "Ob" Hill
It is a steep trail but only takes a half-hour to scramble up. And the views at the top...
"He is happiest who hath to gather power and wisdom from a flower." is the quote I found inside of the McMurdo Greenhouse on my visit today.
The outside of the McMurdo greenhouse
When I walked in I found John Williams and Farah McDill just enjoying the warmth, humidity and oxygen from the hundreds of photosynthesizing plants in the greenhouse. Sunday is their one day off from work and they spent some of it recharging their personal batteries in the greenhouse.
John and Farah enjoying the atmosphere and ambience of the greenhouse
The McMurdo Greenhouse was first built during the 1988-1989 summer from mostly scavenged materials. You can learn ALOT more about the greenhouse at this website.
The greenhouse tech is Karen Harvey. She and her fiance Tighe Urelius had just...
"A man doesn’t begin to attain wisdom until he recognizes that he is no longer indispensable.” These words are by Richard Byrd while camped alone in Antarctica.
Flying above the land and ice of Antarctica you get a larger view of the landscape and it is easy to feel insignificant against this immensity. We got a view of Commonwealth Glacier from the helicopter. Can you see the sharp ice margin that we walked to yesterday?
View of Commonwealth Glacier from the air
We also flew over the Andrill (Antarctic Drilling program) site in McMurdo Sound. Andrill is drilling deep into the earth below the ice and ocean to learn more about past climate in Antarctica. You can learn more about what their project entails here. Andrill is an international project involving the United States, New...
"The wind evaporated the ice just as fast as it arrived. In one of nature's greatest magic tricks, the glaciers in the Dry Valleys vanish into thin air." This quote comes from Paul Doherty's website after his visit to the Commonwealth Glacier in 2002.
The Commonwealth Glacier was named for the Commonwealth of Australia which funded part of Scott's 1910-1913 expedition, and contributed two members to the Western Geological Party which explored this area.
We worked hard to finish packing for our trip back to McMurdo so we would have time for a hike today. Packing does not involve putting clothes in a bag. Packing involves putting "rudders" on snowmobiles and hooking them with cables in the correct places so the helicopters...
"The McMurdo Dry Valleys contain cold desert soils millions of years old, unusual biological communities, special geological features and minerals and spectacular scenery.” From the McMurdo Dry Valleys Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA) Manual.
Today we woke up to strong winds. None of us wanted to go outside and work, but Stacy and Marcus headed out to get ready for VideoRay's big day at the dive site called "Circus". Stacy radioed the rest of us in the Jamesway for help. One by one we slowly blew out the door to help.
Speaking of blowing out doors, look at the carpenters' fine work on the inside of the outhouse door. When the easterly winds blow, you have to pull on the webbing to shut the door!
Outhouse door handle, webbing and lock
We drilled the last of...
"The McMurdo Dry Valleys are the largest expanse of ice-free ground in Antarctica.” This comes from the first sentence of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA) Manual.
I woke up today to gentle snow falling. Okay, I really woke up to my alarm at 4:40 am. But, regardless, the snow is more important! This is the first significant snowfall since I have been here – usually the hard wind-packed snow just blows around and reduces visibility. Today, there is real snow. We’ve heard this is the most snow they have seen in the Dry Valleys in nine years.
Bryan sweeping off the solar panels
Since there is no sun and no wind right now, and our batteries are limited, there is no power this morning. Our electricity needs for daily life are 100% solar and wind power...
I woke up early today to fuel the hotsy. It is like a hungry monster that always wants food. It cycles on and off, but it often seems that it cranks on as it is guzzling the diesel I pour in! Marcus had to get up early as well for his remote presentation in Key Largo, Florida with the Iridium satellite phone. Since he was up early, he made blueberry buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. My dad made sourdough buckwheat pancakes when I was a child, so the flavor of buckwheat is a special one for me!
Nick and Marcus get some navigation hints over the satellite phone
Stacy and I did camp chores this morning. Chores, unfortunately, doesn’t mean doing dishes and sweeping. It means dragging the empty propane and fuel tanks to the back of the lab building and strapping them together, and...
"The Antarctic is the most beautiful place in the world.” Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Today felt balmy (it got up to 14 F) until the wind switched directions and blew cold air from the east. For a brief while, we all had our Big Red's off!
There are so many things we are thankful for here:
We are thankful for this beautiful continent
We are thankful the helicopter folks for bringing us supplies
We are thankful for Big Red even when it has rips
We are thankful for our goggles even when they get cracks
We are thankful for our Kahtoola MICROspikes so we don't slip on the ice
We are thankful for the computers and network so we can download video and still images from the R.O.V.'s and so I can upload my journal entries
We are thankful for good food like the Turkey dinner...
"Paul Dayton’s contributions to Scripps and the science of marine ecology have been virtually unparalleled,” said Scripps Institute of Oceanography Director Charles Kennel.
Dayton’s career has been motivated by the belief that one must understand nature to protect it, and he has attempted to use analytical techniques to understand marine community systems, reports a 2002 Scripps News Release. Dayton spent more than 50 months in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, performing research during more than 500 dives under the ice. The scientific papers resulting from these research projects are largely believed to have set the standard for Antarctic undersea ecology.
These photos, from the SCINI website, show Paul during some of his Antarctic work. Notice that he is wearing a wetsuit! When you...
Yes boys, we will be home again,
But our hearts will still be faithful to this Southern land of ours,
Though we wander in English meadows ‘mid the scent of English flowers,
When the soft southerly breeze shakes the blossom away from the thorn,
And flings from the wild rose cup, the shining gift of the morn;
And when the scarlet poppies peep through the golden wheat,
As the stronger winds of Autumn march in with heavier feet;
And when the fields are snow clad, trees hard in a frosty rime,
Our thoughts still wander Southward, we shall think of the grey old time;
Again in dreams go back to our fight with the icy floe…
We shall dream of the ever increasing gales, the birds in their Northward flight;
The magic of twilight colours, the gloom of the long, long night…
And when, in the fading...
Today’s quote comes from the outhouse wall again. It is our 4th day in camp, and though we don’t have a smooth routine as every day varies by our main job to do for SCINI science, there are some things that happen each day.
Bathroom reading consists of student notes to Dr. Bowser
Every 3-4 hours we need to refuel both the generator and the hotsy. I left off on yesterday’s journal with Marcus and I going out to refuel them at 4:30 a.m. Since we now have 24 hours of daylight, it is easy to see, but the sun is low in the sky at that time and it was -15 F. Brr… There were low clouds so it looked like Mt. Erebus was a floating island.
Mt. Erebus "floating” above the clouds
Marcus fueling the generator with Erebus in the background
After we fuel, we drive the 6-wheeler back to...
"Dear Dr. Bowser, Thank you. I liked the dynamite. From, Bryan”
This young student's thank you note to Dr. Sam Bowser (who studies Antarctic foraminifera) is on the outhouse wall at New Harbor camp. We could have used some dynamite today!
We started with a big breakfast and got out to the far dive site named "Deep” this morning. Stacy, Nick and Marcus started drilling the ten-inch hole for SCINI to dive through. Drilling this large of a diameter hole is enormously challenging and the ice was over 16 feet thick. Notice Nick on the drill box to put more pressure on the drill going through the ice.
Marcus, Nick and Stacy pushing on the Jiffy Drill head to cut through the ice
When they broke through the ice at the bottom, the water pressure shot the drill out of the hole and over...
We have a great view of Erebus from New Harbor. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, an early explorer with both Scott and Shackleton, described seeing Erebus for the first time. "I have seen Fuji, the most dainty and graceful of all mountains; and also Kinchinjunga: only Michel Angelo among men could have conceived of such grandeur. But give me Erebus for my friend. Whoever made Erebus knew all the charm of horizontal lines, and the lines of Erebus are for the most part nearer the horizontal than the vertical. And so he is the most restful mountain in the world, and I was glad when I knew our hut would lie at his feet. And always there floated from his crater the lazy banner of his cloud of steam.”
Everyone is so happy at New Harbor. Even though there is a lot of work, it is so great to be in...
"Watch out kids. There's a lot of ice around here." Quote by D.C. in 2005 found on the wall of the Jamesway at New Harbor. He said this after slipping on the ice and landing on his rear end.
We are so happy to be at New Harbor! We woke up this morning, had an early breakfast, and then got on our helicopter for our flight to New Harbor.
"Our" helicopter on the heliport at McMurdo Station
View of McMurdo from the helicopter
View of Hut Point from the helicopter
Hut Point is where we walked to the hut built by Scott in January of 1902. It is amazing to walk to, and then fly over, these historic sites!
We crossed 50 miles of sea ice to the west side of McMurdo Sound and approached New Harbor camp.
View of our camp on the edge of the continent
Yesterday we did a lot of packing for our trip tomorrow to New Harbor in the Dry Valleys. I wrote earlier about the logistics of working in Antarctica and how we packed up ALOT of camping gear, fuel, spill kits (to ensure no fuel gets in the environment), even snowmobiles and generators, to go on a traverse to Marble Point. A traverse is an over-land or over-sea-ice caravan of vehicles that carries heavy gear out into the field. Marble Point is the staging area for the helicopters to then pick up smaller loads and carry those to New Harbor, or to other field sites for other science groups in the Dry Valleys.
This latest packing was for all the equipment we've been using in the field here, including SCINI and SCINI 2, as well as the VideoRay and all the equipment needed for navigation,...
On Shackleton’s return journey from within 97 miles of the South Pole, they were miles off their course, starving and weak, when by "an almost incredible coincidence the signal flag Joyce had mounted on the depot was raised into sight by a mirage, just in time to save the returning party.”
This quote, from Shackleton’s Forgotten Men: The Untold Tragedy of The Endurance Epic by Lennard Bickel, describes a Fata Morgana.
We see Fata Morgana as raised cliffs on the normally more gentle topography across McMurdo Sound.
See if you can see the difference between my two photos. The scale and the colors aren't the same, but use the two peaks as guides and look at the landscape between them as it reaches the sea ice. I hope you can see the steeper cliffs on the top photo! It was a clear...
Today began with another "Tomato” dive. Nick and Stacy moved the Tomatoes over new dive holes so Stacy could continue collecting samples and photos for her long-term monitoring of the benthic organisms in front of McMurdo. Our dive tender today was Allan Timm. He works in the IT department at McMurdo and this is his first season here.
Allan Timm in the McMurdo Dive Locker
Allan, thankfully, has videography skills that we put to use today. Marcus will be presenting at a conference in Florida long-distance from Antarctica, so Allan videotaped Marcus in the dive hole giving the introduction to his presentation. It was hard for Marcus to talk with all his dive gear on and with frozen lips after the dive!
In the afternoon, Stacy and I went out to the sea ice to drill two 5-inch...
"We worked hard, ate heartily, and enjoyed life." This quote by Douglas Mawson, an Australian geologist who made several expeditions to Antarctica in the early 1900's, sums up my experience so far. Of course, he was eating seals, penguins and skuas, and we get an incredible variety of tasty food in the galley!
This morning Stacy and Nick dove at a new site near McMurdo. Each dive involves certain protocols for video-taping, still photographs, and sample-collecting. Then Stacy comes back and processes all her samples. Our dive tender today was Ben. Ben has been working here for three seasons and has had a variety of jobs.
Stacy and Nick fawn over Ben
You can tell that the divers really rely on the dive tenders!
Yesterday I was responsible for our "food pull" for our upcoming trip to...