After a short stay in New Zealand, and meeting some very interesting people, I have endured the long flight back to California. It was great to come back to school to a warm welcome. I cannot thank Mrs. Waters enough for taking such good care of everything!
While in Christchurch, I had the pleasure of spending time with Mr. Art Brown, the NSF Representative, who extended an invitation for dinner along with the former president of Slovakia, Rudolf Schuster. President Schuster was fascinating and gracious as he shared stories from his past experiences as the major of Kosice and the second president of The Slovak Republic. We also talked about the future of international sharing in Antarctica. Meeting Rudy was an honor for me and having time to visit with Art was great!
Looking back on the season, there are several aspects of Mt. Erebus that I learned new facts about. Once on the mountain, it was very interesting to see the different layers from earlier eruptions and how the volcano was formed in stages. While at the Fang you could see how the rock varied from that higher up. The lava that had flowed on the Fang was different from what is currently in the crater.
What is even more exciting to realize is that the entire mountain is made of crystals! The crystals form and are embedded in the glassy lava structure. As the structure is eroded away, the crystals are released and cover the ground. You can usually just reach down and pick them up!
It was also very interesting to note that crystals from different locations on the volcano had varied colors and textures to them. Some of this is due to the amount of plume from the crater that falls on the area. Because of the sulfur and other elements in the plume gases, the crystals get covered. The crystals around the rim are sometimes yellowish with sulfur deposits, while the crystals at the Cones area are very black and crusty feeling.
Of course the most fascinating aspect of Mt. Erebus for me is the lava lake itself. To think that the lake has been maintaining the same level for such a long time is almost unbelievable! And then to understand, and see the convection currents that are flowing in the lake was something that I did not expect at all! It's like Erebus is constantly on the verge of a major eruption, but never decides to do it! I have to say that on a couple of occasions while on the rim, we would be stopped in our tracks by the sudden sound of gas escaping from the lake or a big jolt from a gas bubble or landslide in the crater. It was almost like you were walking on a living giant that you did not want to disturb.
Time will tell if our efforts and planning were good enough to get the data we need. This trip and the experiment have certainly produced more questions than answers for me, which is really the goal of science. In the meantime I want to thank the students and public for their interest and their questions. I hope that you all continue to question and post comments so that this conversation may continue. I need to thank Dr. Kyle and the team for giving me this opportunity and then supporting me all the way through this adventure. I am thankful and proud to have met and worked with all of you. Thank you to PolarTREC for allowing me to share this experience with my students and interested students everywhere. Science without communication is a dead end. To my good friends Terry Melton and Art Brown and all of the folks at McMurdo and Christchurch who make this program work, and work well. And a big hug and thanks to my principal Cathie Abdel, my Assistant Principal Erik Miller, all of my Talbert family and all of my Fountain Valley administrators and schools who welcomed this opportunity. I want to thank my friends and family for going through this adventure with me.