When I applied to the PolarTREC program, I was asked where I would prefer to go given the options of the Arctic, Antarctica, or either. I checked the Antarctica box only, despite the fact that I may have decreased my chances of being selected. Antarctica was my preference for many reasons. As a teacher I felt that Antarctica represented the last frontier to study the geologic history of the planet because the continent is uninhabited, not polluted, and restricted to pure research. Over the last few years I have noticed that my students were very concerned with global climate change and based their opinions primarily on media information and misinformation, and not on science. I thought following me on this trip would open their eyes to the process of the scientific method and what it...
The team caught the December 17, 2008 flight to Christchurch at 0530. Approximately eight long hours later we arrived in Christchurch, claimed our luggage, and turned in our Extreme Cold Weather Gear. I stayed one night in Christchurch and left for Los Angeles on December 18, 2008. I managed to take a few interesting pictures on the flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles.
Will Sean look this happy in eight hours?
The 2008 Antarctic drilling season is over for Dr. Marchant's team. The team spent a total of 35 days in Mullins and Beacon Valley camps, and retrieved 72 m of core from 5 drilling sites.
Sampling locations and cores retrieved. Base map provided by J Walker RPSC 29 November 2006.
Dave Marchant has taken time from a busy schedule to provide a video recap of the science. Before we met, Dave Marchant was described to me as a "hardcore" geologist. After meeting and spending time with him in the field, I would describe Dave as an "old school" geologist. Old school geologists are all hardcore in the sense that they are willing to camp and conduct field work in any type of weather or terrain to get the job done. Dave doesn't shy away or cut corners when he encounters complex field problems and...
The entire team is back in McMurdo, but there is still more work to be done. All of the camp equipment has to be inventoried, cleaned, separated, and returned to the Berg Field Center (BFC). Team members carefully organized and stored the equipment upon arrival in Mac Town so that the sorting, cleaning, and return process took ½ day.Each Principal Investigator is assigned a "cage" or storage area. The cage is used for storing camping equipment and supplies as the teams prepare for field deployment and after returning from the field. At the end of the season, the cage must be cleaned out and all field gear returned to the BFC. In addition to the camping gear, all equipment used for communications (satellite phones, GPSs) and the food must be returned.
Dave is wondering where he...
The team moved to Site 5 on December 8, 2008. Site 5 is the location of one of the soil pits dug by Dave Marchant (See 22 November 2008 journal entry). Dave uncovered a volcanic ash layer directly on top of cobble-rich ice (the cobbles represent an ancient rock fall onto the glacier accumulation zone). The team needs to drill beneath this layer to determine if pristine ice lies beneath it. As mentioned previously, this will be the hardest drilling challenge of the season.
Base map provided by J Walker RPSC 29 November 2006.
Dave Marchant clears the ash from the ice in preparation for drilling at Site 5.
The drill was not able to penetrate the rocks at site 5. The final depth reached was 0.7 m. As readers may recall, one of Dave's drilling goals was to test the new ICDS (Ice Core...
On December 5, Cindy Dean, Environmental Education Compliance Coordinator at McMurdo came to Beacon Valley to film the drilling operation which will be included in a film on science in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.
The film crew sets up to interview the team. Dave Marchant and Cindy Dean are on the far right.
Dave explains the significance of the research in Beacon Valley.
Cindy conducted interviews with Dave and the team and observed the drilling and core retrieval process. Drilling at Site 4 was extremely productive and the team was able to reach a record of 28 m of mostly clean ice, with most segments being 50 cm in length.
Dave Marchant labels and photographs the retrieved cores.
The team moved to Site 5 on December 8, 2008. Site 5 is the location of one of the soil pits dug by...
I went back to McMurdo on December 1 to post journals and returned to Beacon Valley field camp on December 3, 2008 in time for a drill site move. Dave and the team decided to abandon the hole at Site #3 after drilling to 16.05 m and hitting dirty ice. They selected a new drilling location (Site 4) approximately ½ mile south of site #3. The team must dismantle the drill at the current location and prepare for the helicopter supported move to the next drill location by 2000 hours.
Base map provided by J Walker RPSC 29 November 2006.
Tanner Kuhl, (standing in blue jacket) driller, contemplates abandoning site 3.
This is the hole at Site 3.
Dave looks down hole at site #3.
The heavy equipment is put in a net sling that is clipped to the helicopter by Sean. The helicopter lifts the sling...
The team celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday November 29, 2008. Tanner was stranded in McMurdo due to weather conditions and his presence was sorely missed. Drilling was at a standstill, so team members conducted research on individual field projects in the area. Everyone came in from the field around 1600 and Joe prepared sliced turkey wrapped in bacon, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The turkey loaf was frozen solid - check out the video of Joe's turkey carving technique.
Joe prepared an excellent Thanksgiving feast.
Sean cleaned his plate, but there are plenty of leftovers.
Joe and Andrew await the Thanksgiving meal.
Can we have seconds?
What are the team members like? Do they all get along? Where do they come from and what are are they researching? How many times have they been to Antarctica? These questions and more will be answered in this journal.I have spent enough days in the camp to have a good idea of the personalities and roles of the team members. I don't know if the roles are assigned or assumed, but I will share my views as an outsider. This journal will introduce 4 of the 6 members of the team. Tanner Kuhl, the driller, will be profiled in another journal. Dave Marchant has managed to disappear each time I show up with my audio recorder. Beacon Valley is large and Dave can certainly hike many miles in a day, but eventually he has to come back to camp. You can run, but you can't hide - even in Antarctica....
What is day to day life like in a deep field camp in Antarctica? I am told by Gareth and Joe that our deep field camp is the most exclusive camp - strictly "A List". The guest list is by invitation only and extremely hard to get on. But, if you are fortunate enough to make the cut, it is the place to be in Antarctica. Very few people visit the Dry Valleys and Beacon Valley is considered the most exotic of the Dry Valleys.An earlier journal showed our primitive facilities, but we do have some comforts of home. There is a generator that we use to recharge batteries and use the computers.
I have not adapted to the cold like Dave – I have to wear glove liners and cover my face.
The first sight of the cooking stoves at the camp may shock the readers of this journal. I was taken...
This is a good time to provide an update on the status of Dr. Marchant’s field work for this field season. In addition to the team’s ongoing research on late Cenozoic climate change, Dr Marchant wanted to reach two specific drilling goals this drilling season: (1) drill to 20 m in 3 locations; and (2) test the new ICDS (Ice Core Drilling Services) drill.
The drilling began at Site 1 in Mullins Valley where the team surpassed the goal depth of 20 m and drilled to 23 m.
Base map provided by J Walker RPSC 29 November 2006
The drilling was relatively easy because at this site the ice is clean. Dave explained that the glacier contains scattered debris further down glacier (sites 2 and 3). The debris is a mixture of rockfall and sand veins, the latter being the vertical extension of sand...
I woke up on the morning of November 21st to the sound of quiet. The wind stopped blowing and it was a beautiful day in Beacon Valley. The night before Dave and the team were contemplating abandoning the hole and looking for a new drilling location. By lunch time, the team had definitely decided to select a new drilling location. They were not making it to clean ice and were instead hitting ice cement.
Drillers contemplate abandoning the hole.
The arrows are pointing to the cement on the barrel.
I discovered that it was not possible to transmit journals via the internet using the satellite phone as a modem as I had planned. Dave and I decided that it would be best if I return to McMurdo for the weekend. I could make sure the ice cores were placed in cold storage immediately and I could...
Today the team took a hike to a "Bigfoot" location in Beacon Valley. "Bigfoot" is the name given by David Marchant to debris-covered glaciers with unique imprints left by sublimated ice. "Bigfoot" locations in the Dry Valleys are of further significance because they are analogous to features found on Mars. The Dry Valleys have been recognized as an important terrestrial analog for Mars due to the cold climate and similar landforms.
The map shows the Bigfoot location in Beacon Valley relative to the drilling sites.
The general sequence of events leading to "bigfoot" formation in Beacon Valley and on Mars is as follows (see the diagram below): Initially, snow and ice accumulation is sufficient to form glaciers as in the top portion of the diagram....
I went out to the drilling site in the morning and it was really windy. How windy was it? It was so windy that Andrew had to hold on to me to keep me from hitting the ground. I was literally knocked down by the wind twice and had to grab onto large rocks. When I got to the drilling site, I had to sit behind a large rock and hold on to keep from being blown away.It amazes me that the team can work under these conditions. I moved around to keep the circulation in my hands and feet, but the wind chill made things really cold. I even had the hand warmers in my gloves and boots. The drillers jump up and down and do push ups when they get cold. After lunch I told Dave that I would not go back out to the drill site. It was too cold and windy to even remove my gloves and take a photo so not much...
When we set up camp in the evening on November 17, it was a dry, sunny, clear day and I thought to myself, the Dry Valleys are not like the rest of Antarctica. The temperature felt like it could be a spring day in the high Sierras of California. Within 24 hours the winds that Beacon Valley is famous for began blowing and within the next couple of days, I would be the coldest I have ever been in my life. I spent the first full day adjusting to camp life and getting used to the "facilities" such as they are. The first thing readers of this journal need to understand is that Beacon Valley is considered a "deep field" camp with no facilities of water. All liquid and solid waste must be separated and hauled out of camp to McMurdo and eventually off Antarctica for disposal....
Today is the Big Day. Almost one year in the planning with a few twists and turns in the expedition, but I will shortly be in a helicopter beginning the PolarTREC experience in Beacon Valley. In addition to transporting me to Beacon Valley, the helicopter will move the camp from the first location in Mullins Valley to the second drilling location and campsite in Beacon Valley. I did my laundry and took my bags to the helicopter pad. I intended to leave them and return for my 1350 scheduled departure. Instead the pilot asked if I could go early because they were concerned with weather moving in and the other trips had already been canceled. We departed around 1230.
There were many opportunities to take spectacular photographs of Mt. Erebus and several glacial features during the ride to...
This is the last day in McMurdo and I have a choice. I can do laundry, or go SCINI dipping. Cameo Slaybaugh tells me that her researcher, Dr. Stacy Kim, needs extra hands to help with the Underwater ROV (see Cameo's journals for the project details).Cameo's journal
After she explained that I get to ride in a snowmobile on the sea ice, this is a no brainer. I will spend my last day in McMurdo helping to launch the ROV "SCINI" through a hole in the ice. My marching orders are to report to Dr. Kim's lab at noon.
The touch tank contains marine organisms from the local waters in Antarctica
When we arrive on the ice, Marco and Stacy have to open up ice holes which have frozen so that recording instruments can be lowered into the water.
He can not fall in. See the next photo.
Since I am spending a few days in McMurdo while waiting for notification of the date of my helicopter flight to Beacon Valley, I decided to look around and take some photographs from McMurdo Station. McMurdo is the largest U.S. research facility in Antarctica. To the people who live and work here, McMurdo is known as Mac Town. It is located 2,415 miles south of Christchurch, New Zealand, and 850 miles north of the South Pole. McMurdo is named after Lt. Archibald McMurdo, an officer aboard the Terror, the first ship to penetrate the Antarctic pack ice. During the austral summer, over 1,100 scientists will pass through Mac Town, while approximately 200 stay here in the winter (or winter over).
The foreground consists of miles of sea ice.
Discovery was the name of the ship that Robert F....
On November 11 and November 12, 2008 I completed mandatory Snow School, also known as "Happy Camper School". This course is a requirement for anyone leaving McMurdo proper for a field camp at any time during their stay in Antarctica. The two day course covers camping, safety and survival skills in an extreme environment. Participants are required to bring ECW (extreme weather) gear and camp out overnight in tents or snow trenches.The twenty happy campers in my group were transported to our campsite via shuttle bus in the late morning on November 11, 2008.
Happy Camper students waiting for transportation.
Jackie Hams in ECW gear. Mt. Erebus is in the background.
The instructor transports gear using a snowmobile.
Our instructor explains the camp layout.
Once we knew the area...
It is Monday November 10 in New Zealand and this is the day of my scheduled "Ice Flight". I arrived at the Clothing Distribution Center around 0530 and began playing "musical luggage" again. I left the clothes I would not need until the trip was over in a storage area at the Clothing Distribution Center. I carried two bags on the plane: a backpack containing my computer and a small orange bag with my purse, lunch, iPod, and camera. Oh and don't forget the "boomerang" bag which went - I'm not sure where but it was the all important bag. Enough already! I have to admit that I had been in good spirits until I had to play musical luggage. Since I am an extremely organized person, I found it difficult and stressful to move items around in my carefully packed...
I left Los Angeles on November 6, 2008 on a clear day with a temperature of 81° F and good air quality. The day was so beautiful, it reminded me why people continue to flock to a city known for its high cost of living, terrible traffic, poor air quality, and high speed car chases. On a day like this, it is really hard to imagine the climate change I will experience in the next few days.
I will say goodbye to 80°F temperatures for the next two months.
I was feeling extremely excited, nervous, apprehensive, and a host of other emotions regarding the trip. As one of my colleagues stated, "Are you really going halfway around the world to spend a month at a remote campsite in Antarctica with no facilities and live and work with people you haven't met?" "Well yes...
Life, like planet earth, is constantly changing and full of surprises. Our department (Earth Science and Anthropology) moved from a Math Science Building which was built shortly before the Dinosaur Extinction, to the new Allied Health Sciences Building which was (almost) completed days before fall semester began.
The old classrooms and offices for the Earth Science and Anthropology faculty were located in this building.
This is the new location for classes and offices of the Earth Science and Anthropology department.
Some of my colleagues threw a Bon Voyage party for me in the new building.
Earth Science and Anthropology and Math faculty throw me a surprise Bon Voyage party.
My Bon Voyage cake complete with penguins.
The project team I will be working with also changed from the...
Each school year I take 2-3 field trips with students to the Channel Islands National Park. Over the years, we have visited four of the five islands that comprise the national park (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Santa Rosa Island). San Miguel is the outermost island and the only one I haven't visited (due to the strength and direction of the prevailing winds it is often difficult to make a landing).
The last field trip was taken on August 7, 2008 with the Oceanography 1 class. Here are some field trip photos of one of my favorite islands - Santa Rosa Island.
The maximum temperature was in the high 70's F on August 7 in the Channel Islands. In contrast, the maximum temperature at McMurdo Base in Antarctica on August 7^th was -21^o F.! The visibility was 6.0 miles and snowing....
I travelled to the University of Kansas a few weeks after the PolarTREC orientation and met the researchers at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) who are sponsoring my trip to Antarctica. The University of Kansas is located in Lawrence, Kansas, a very picturesque college town with a river running through it.
The Kansas (Kaw) River flowing through Lawrence, KS. The river is 171 miles long, begins in Junction City, KS and ends in Kansas City, KS where it joins the Missouri River.
Since my trip coincided with the National Science Foundation’s annual site visit and review, I attended the presentations and talks to gain an overview of the research projects conduced by CReSIS.
CReSIS was established in 2005 by the National Science Foundation. The CReSIS mission is to...
The Physical Geology laboratory class took an end-of-semester field trip to George Dukemajian Wilderness Park in Glendale, CA. The park is named for a former governor of California. Although the park is small (704 acres), it has a variety of geologic features within a reasonable hiking distance and view for students. The property was formerly owned by a prominent French winemaker and businessman.
The famous southern California marine layer kept us cool in the morning.
Physical Geology Laboratory students examine geology in stream bed.
The landslide is marked by the white arrow
Several microfaults are found in this outcrop.
Students examine outcrop to determine the number of microfaults
The slickenlines are the shiny linear marks on the rock surface that indicate direction of...
This site is supported by the National Science Foundation under award 0956825. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this site are those of the PIs and coordinating team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.