Location: F6 Camp which is located in the Taylor Valley. Coordinates of: 77°36'29.8" South and 163°15'19.1" East

Weather: Good enough to get us dropped into F6 in the morning, but not good enough to get picked up.

Me, Tasha, Topper, Alissa
Myself, Tasha, Topper, and Alyssa at the start of an Epic stay at F6.

Topper (Dr. Tom Powers), Alyssa, Tasha, and myself were asked by Byron (Dr. Byron Adams) to go into Camp F6 for a few hours to conduct a few expeditions.

The four of us showed up to the helicopter airport the required 45 minutes early. We weighed our gear, ourselves, had the flight briefing (which is getting very familiar at this point), got our helmets, and were then told that the weather was not looking good for the day. We were told that they could safely get us into the Dry Valleys today, but picking us up was not for sure. We had samples that needed to be collected, and experiments needing to get done, and besides that...they would dump us off the helicopter with our "survival bags", just in case we get left. We accepted the risk, climbed onboard the bell 212 helicopter and lifted for the F6 Camp in the Dry Valleys.

You can see from this photo lifting off from McMurdo Station, that the weather was not looking good. We proceeded to F6.

Icebreaker and re-supply ship
The Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star leading the way for the resupply ship into McMurdo.

We had several experiments to conduct and samples to take. The first experiment we did was the stoichiometry experiment where we added different nutrients to soil sections. Measurements would then be taken in the future to see how the animals (small worms, tardigrades, and rotifers) would react. This was the same experiment we did last week at the plot at Lake Bonney.

Pouring nutrients
This is how we poured the nutrients (carbon, water, nitrogen, and phosphorus) onto the different plots.

The next experiment took us to a plot of land where little greenhouses (ITEX chambers) had been placed over areas of soil. This was to increase the temperature of that soil to see the reaction to the animals. It is great to see how they don't have the chambers set all over this experiment area. They also collect samples from the same location that does not have the chambers set up. This is so they will have a control for their experiment.

Collecting at the site where "greenhouses" were placed over soil plots.

Tasha Ibex Chamber
This is Tasha getting a soil sample from an ITEX chamber meant to increase the temperature of that plot. Notice the anchors used to hold this chamber in place through the Antarctic winter.

Our next task took us to the edge of Lake Fryxell where we were to test the animals found at different elevations. Our first row of samples were close to the water. We then sampled at different elevations. Below, you can see Topper and Tasha adding in two more "transects" in our experiment. You can see them measuring 1 meter in elevation, using their iPhone leveling app, and then they would tell me where to hammer in markers up the hill after they sighted in on me. Pretty clever way of measuring the elevation of an incline.

Setting transect
Topper and Tasha doing survey work to put in new plot sections.

It was about this time where we got a call on our hand-held radio (there are repeaters on top of the mountains out there to provide communication) telling us we would not be picked up tonight and had to spend the night. We were dropped by the helicopter close to this science hut. All scientists have left this hut now except us. We were not worried about it being locked. Huts being robbed is not a worry around here. Not many robbers out cruising the Dry Valleys looking for science huts to rob. Notice that orange box to the right of the hut. There is a picture of that two pictures below.

Camp F6
Camp F6 in the distance.

Survival cache
This survival cache was found near the F6 camp. It has supplies just in case people are forced to spend an unplanned night out, like we did. Very nice sleeping bags were located in that box to the right. We were very grateful to find those.

Collecting water
This is how we got our water. I am out on frozen Lake Fryxell. I took that rock you see there, and smashed a hole in the ice. I would then dip in and fill our cooler. No need for filtering this water. No Giardia here.

Alissa's dinner
This is Alyssa. She looked through the camp hut and found spices and other things to make us a curry dish for dinner. Very tasty.

Our last experiment for this eventful day (it was now past 10pm), was to hike up a stream bed and find the aeolian plots and get soil samples from that area. This is such a cool experiment. Dr. Ruth Heindel is the name of the scientist who is conducting this work. She posted bundt pans, just regular kitchen bundt pans, up on stakes. In those pans, she placed marbles, which help to trap dust particles in the air. The collected dust is then collected to see how different minerals are transported through the area by wind. If you look real close in the photo below, you can see these pans in a row every few meters apart.

Tasha aeolian
Tasha is taking soil samples around this aeolian experiment. Aeolian means something that has to do with the wind.

Bunt Pan
This is Dr. Ruth Heindel's instrument to collect dust in the air. Those white things are marbles to help trap dust particles from the air and get them to collect in the bottom of the bundt pan. Very clever.

That was about the end of our day of experimenting and collecting at the F6 Camp. We received our flight plans for in the morning on what sites we would be flown to, rolled out our sleeping bags, and feel asleep pretty easily. That was a good day.

F6 Camp located in the Taylor Valley on the shore of Lake Fryxell, Antarctica. This is across the lake from the Lake Fryxell Camp which was our first field location.
Weather Summary
Mostly cloudy
Wind Speed



Why would the knowledge of how the particles are transported throughout the air be useful? Is the idea to know if life forms (tardigrades, cyanobacteria, nematodes, etc) could be spread throughout the continent via wind? If so, why would the bacteria not be in the liquid of the lakes?

Kevin Dickerson

Hi Ryatt.
Such great questions. Yes, you are correct in your thinking. Knowing what is being transported in the wind is a great way to know how different life forms could move around the continent.
Bacteria is found in the lakes. The bottom of the lakes have "mats" of life. Bacteria is the start of the food chain there. Cyanobacteria are the ones that photosynthesize and get things started in the very simple food chain of the Dry Valleys.