Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains 2013

What Are They Doing?

Seismic station on the ice

Antarctica plays a central role in global tectonic evolution. Competing theories have been put forward to explain the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAMs) and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (WSB), primarily due to a lack of information on the crustal thickness and seismic velocity of these areas. The research team has attempted to resolve how the TAMs and WSB originated and how their formation relates to Antarctica's geologic history. Since most of Antarctica is covered by large ice sheets, direct geologic observations could not be made; therefore, "remote sensing" methods like seismology had to be used to determine details about the earth structure.

The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, was to broaden our knowledge of the geology in this region with a new seismic array; the Transantarctic Mountains Northern Network (TAMNNET), a 15-station array across the northern TAMs and the WSB that helped fill a major gap in seismic coverage. Data from TAMNNET was be combined with that from previous and ongoing seismic initiatives and was analyzed to generate an image of the seismic structure beneath the TAMs and the WSB.

While in the field, the team spent most of their time servicing the seismic stations that compose the new TAMNNET array. This included loading equipment onto small airplanes, flying to remote field locations, uncovering the deployed equipment, and checking for any maintenance issues. The first batch of data from the network was also retrieved during this time.

Where Are They?

View of the Transantarctic mountains

The field project was primarily based at McMurdo Station, with some work conducted from the Italian Terra Nova station, Mario Zuchelli. Seismic stations were installed at remote sites across the northern Transantarctic Mountains and onto the East Antarctic plateau in 2012. In the 2013 season, those stations were revisited for servicing and for collecting the first batch of data. Once in Antarctica, the field locations were reached either via helicopter or fixed wing Twin Otter Aircraft. The field team shared dormitory housing. Fieldwork was conducted outside at cold and (in some cases) fairly high altitude conditions.

Expedition Map


Buried Seismic Station
During the past week the weather finally lifted and we went to work, pulling twelve to fifteen hour days. In four days we serviced, an unheard of, ten sites. Quite amazingly, on some days we serviced three stations. We now have only five sites remaining. As we fly from site to site, the amount of work varies dramatically. At some sites, work is minimal, and all the team has to do is unbury the electronics box and remove the data from the drives. Because of the amount of snow accumulation, others require extensive manual labor digging up solar panels. Sometimes, the stations are not...
Discovery Hut
Since we arrived in Antarctic, the weather has been dismal. Wind gusts average 30 MPH, and temperatures hover around -30 to -40. Because of the weather, most flights have been delayed. Our team is hoping that the weather clears up by Tuesday so we can depart on our first service mission. However, we are on stand-by while other flights crucial to McMurdo Station take priority. During this downtime my adventurous nature has led me to explore Ross Island. First, I ventured to Discovery Hut. There Robert Falcon Scott, one of the first men to make it to the South Pole during the years of 1901–...
First Day in Antarctica
The endless hours in the air and constantly being seated next to crying babies made me question my choice to return to Antarctica this year. I was already missing my wife, family and my students. However, when I finally met up with the team I remembered why I am here. The research, scientific exploration, and relaying information to my students could foster the imagination of the next generation of scientists. First day in Antarctica in front of main chalet View from C-17 After arriving in McMurdo, I felt like a little kid going back to the amusement park in summer. The familiar sites...
Cousino Leadership Class
As the days draw close and I start to get ready for Antarctica again, I am full of excitement. Last year, I thought I would be experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity. Being gradated the opportunity to return to Antarctica, continue research with my team, and educate my students has fueled a new level of anticipation. This year, my thoughts are not exclusive to what Antarctica or my team will be like. I now have a better understanding of what to pack, a curiosity as to how the seismic stations have faired in the Antarctica winter and a daily I am generating new ideas for educational...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

4 November 2013 to 16 December 2013
Location: McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: Deciphering the Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin

Meet the Team

Brian DuBay's picture
Grissom Middle School
Warren, MI
United States

Wayne State University, in Detroit Michigan provided Brian’s foundation for a Bachelor of Science. Teaching high school students to embrace, appreciate, and love science seemed a logical utilization of his talents.

One of Brian’s core philosophical beliefs is that one learns the most when engaged and immersed in hands on learning. He not only reinforces this principle in his classroom, he also feels it is important to continue to learn as much as possible because ultimately, the more he learns, the more he can teach his students. In 2012 Brian was accepted by the National Science Foundation and PolarTREC to spend six weeks studying seismology in Antarctica. During this time, Brian not only fulfilled his roles as a geologist, but also conducted remote teaching with his classes. As a result of his dedication, Brian’s grant was extended and it is with great anticipation that he will return to Antarctica this year to continue working on the team’s goals.

Samantha Hansen's picture
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL
United States

Samantha Hansen is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, where she researches fundamental earth science processes, such as mountain building, continental rifting, and craton formation. She employs a wide range of geophysical tools to analyze seismic data to investigate structure and infer associated geologic mechanisms. Over the past few years she has worked on several projects in Antarctica investigating the structure of the Transantarctic Mountains, the Gamburtsev Mountains, and the West Antarctic Rift System. She also has interests in earth science education and promoting underrepresented students in science. To read more about Dr. Hansen's work please visit her [website](http://www.as.ua.edu/geo/faculty-staff/hansen-samantha/).

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