Friday, December 28, 2007

Sounds and Smells from the far South

My flight to Christchurch was canceled, rescheduled, and re-rescheduled, so I may be getting out of here this morning, I may not.... this calls for caffeine! Below are some pictures from the Sound Walkabout of McMurdo lead by Andrea Polli (artist). We recorded sounds heard around the station including the wastewater treatment plant (below). Admittedly, smell was my overwhelming sense at this location, but once I plugged my nose, I heard some lovely gurgles and stream-songs.
And the satellite tracker (Nik led us into the inner world of the golfball)

(Andrea is pictured listening above).
Anyway, I'll be heading up the hill again soon, with big red on, and my fingers crossed. I hope I'm home for New Year's, otherwise, I'll be blogging from Icestock and the great Antarctic Chili Cookoff. (and working on my dissertation from the office here). I went black-light bowling last night. A few folks act as pin-resetters, strategically wearing boldly striped socks to not get mowed over by over-eager bowlers.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


The warm yellow of my tent-favored laundry gets to dry out, or 'air-cleanse'.
Sleeping is surprisingly easy even in the glow, my skin burns yellow.
High flow from the Suess Glacier creates a braided bed, where sediment drops out in small bar deposits.
I think this might still be Mars.
Rae deserves a postcard every year for managing camp- many thanks to her and Sandra!
Differential melt caused by dark sediment absorbing heat creates strange forms on the glacier's surface.
Descending from the glacier to the lake, there is little difference between the two surfaces.
The jamesway at Lake Hoare, storage facility and where some of the diving equipment is stored. (people scuba here in the beginning of the year to observe the algal mats at the bottom of the lake).
Poles sticking out of Matt's Glacier pack were used for setting up sensors to measure discharge and conductivity on the glacier surface- to ultimately estimate the amount of melt.

The clouds lifted and Paul (pilot) and Grifford (helitech) swooped down taking me back to McMurdo and dropping LeeAnn off at F-6. We flew dauntingly close to the ground, it felt much like being in a sports tank (something fast, but ground-crunching). I loved it (and got some amazing video footage until my battery died). The smell of the paella that I missed lingered in my brain fading with my dinner of soggy raisin bran, social hour with Kathy and Nik, and the happy discovery that my town roommate was a friend from home (Stephanie Konfal).

Now, I am packing samples to ship home, and getting ready to bag-drag this evening (take all my hand-carry items up the hill to transport back to Christchurch and then home). I will post more soon- on my adventures in McMurdo Soundscapes with artist Andrea Polli. Andrea had visited us out at Lake Hoare. Last night, Andrea led a group of townies around recording the sounds of McMurdo. Tonight will likely be my last night in McMurdo and then I shall head almost immediately home. I won't be spending any time in Christchurch, as lovely as it is, I would much prefer the comfort of home and time with my wonderful husband. Besides, I am inspired by the data to come, the answers revealed, and the new questions to pose. These, and the inspiration of students and colleagues, are the great motivators.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Weather Hold

(Canada Stream)
Produce is such a treat!
A seal weathering.
The Suess Glacier
A pyramid for rock mites.

See the algal mats?
I may get out today, I may not. Such is the weather hold. Clouds tethered tightly grasped by vapor fingers to the ground, their thick congestion means that for a while no helos will fly. The only wildlife is us, and we are caged in our waiting. (All of the scientists at camp have flights planned today to get to their research sites, or back to town). Still I will lug my sleep kit up the hill in anticipation of the brightening sky.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays at Lake Hoare

LeeAnn and I finished our second 24 hour sampling event-just in time to join holiday festivities. This included decorating cookies and camp.

We all decorated the gingerbread house that Rae and Sandra had baked a few days prior (equipped with candy-pane windows). (We covered the windows with dark cloth to block out the 24 hour sunlight and illuminated our special dinner with lights and candles).

We exchanged gifts and laughter after our wonderful holiday meal!

Tomorrow I fly back to McMurdo and will post more pics from the field. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two times 24

House Stream (LeeAnn's first Taylor Valley Samples).Salt in the soil, drawn from the lake... patterned ground created by freezing and thawing of the icy soil (much like pot holes in the pavement)
Canada Stream Gauge (Flume with stage height- used to determine the amount of flow per/time, otherwise known as discharge)
Our sampling coolers, we had some help unloading sampling equipment.
Done with our first 24 hours, (waiting to find out if we had helo support or if we had to hike to Lake Fryxell Camp)
(We rolled out of our helo wait position and hiked to Lake Fryxell, our LTER and NASA friends had prepared a nice spaghetti dinner and we had nice conversations until we fell soundly asleep).

LeeAnn and I have been sampling a lot of bottles in a row. Because of a helo delay we got started sampling Canada Stream a few hours late, another helo delay had us staying the night at Lake Fryxell Camp, and so soon after completing our first 24 hour sampling cycle, we are in the midst of another. I have been filtering time-sensitive samples from our first collections in between collecting our next set from Andersen Creek. LeeAnn and I are rotating sleeping, sampling, putting together sampling bottles, and filtering. In the meantime, camp is alive with holiday cheer, I'll post some pics of the cookies that are keeping us going soon! We're exhausted, but wouldn't trade it for this amazing experience!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Whittled Away

We can walk alone in the Taylor Valley, attached to civilization by a radio. Stretching legs, you wonder what you are doing heading out into the striking landscape, so whittled by the elements. The winds or snow set in at you feel changed by the mesmerizing power. You know you will make it back to camp, but shudder. So thankful that your body is fueled by sugar and motion. This is not our permanent camp, especially, in a timescale of millions of years- the age of the oldest exposed terraces. Small resilient creatures thrive here, their bodies joined to rock and sediment, or entombed in ice to revitalize for a few watery blinks every year. Some ancient and some newly birthed, a mystery to solve. Their persistence endures.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What the glacier tells us

We've had a great deal of melt over the last few days. The lower Canada Glacier has swift streams and ponds collect in pools, that pour from their pinched outflows. Sediment melts into the glacier and creating pocked surfaces and odd meltforms. All this water means that a whole lot of science is underway. Liz Bagshaw (Martyn Tranter's dissertation student) is examining nutrients and other chemical info in cryoconite holes, the ice-lidded tombs that form from sediment melting into the glacier surface. Matt Hoffman (Andrew Fountain's dissertation student) is working to understand and model how glacier melt occurs on polar glaciers and what this means for lake levels. I spent much of yesterday collecting trace metal samples from the streams and lakes on the glacier. (I collected the inflows and outflow from the large pond in several of the above pictures along with several more isolated cryoconite holes).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Day of Reflection

Its Sunday, our day of rest and showers. The glaciers flow cleansing their dirty faces, and the once abundant snow patches are now disappearing. Pulled down to the streams and vaporized in the sun. This rare year of snow; erased. Only the highest parts of the accumulation zone retain their snowy mass, keeping these glaciers in rare equilibrium. Today I am going to hike up the mountain behind camp with my water colors, yesterday was warm enough for windpants and a dark Smartwool top- I had my head open to the sun, relieved. This break is well needed as well as the time to appreciate this great valley. I am ever reverent.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Antarctic Freeway: fast ATVs, faster streams

I hopped a ride with the stream team to House Stream (flowing along the eastern margin of the Suess Glacier).
Lee collected some algal mat samples while we assisted.
A crab-eater seal vertebra fell victim to the stream.
Sampling is going well, I have most of my supraglacial (on-glacier) samples complete and will collect the rest of them over the next week. Dr. LeeAnn Munk from the University of Alaska, Anchorage has arrived in town (McMurdo) and we will be conducting a 24 hour sampling scheme on the two streams flowing along Canada Glacier. (We will are working alongside my advisor, Dr. Berry Lyons and Kathy Welch). I am so excited to see LeeAnn, she completed her dissertation with Dr. Gunter Faure when I first started graduate school-and she is wonderful!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Waterfalls for my flat friends

While I was working in the lab, my flat friends ventured over Canada Glacier to gaze down at Lake Fryxell and the gushing Canada Stream. The Frankenburg fish wanted to swim in the lake, but alas there are no fish in these strange ice-covered waters.A little upset that the lake was not fish-friendly, the fish, gator and penguin waddled across the Canada Glacier, enjoying the view of an icefall.
They raced back to camp to tell me that water was flowing from the glacier. A glorious waterfall! The field season has truly begun!
The camp set in shadows, yet melt everywhere, the lakes, ponds and glaciers alive!