Antarctica Day

Happy Antarctica Day! Today is the anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. It was signed 56 years ago on December 1, 1959. Celebrate Antarctica Day with my research team today by participating in our webinar (10 AM Alaska Daylight Time, 11 AM Pacific Standard Time, 12 PM Mountain Standard Time, 1 PM Central Standard Time, and 2 PM Eastern Standard Time.). You can register for it here.

Going to the Barwick

While I was with Project SIMPLE yesterday, my research team was hiking for miles in the Barwick Valley.

Barwick Valley
The Barwick Valley is a polar desert, with lakes and very little snow.

The Barwick Valley is a very special place to visit. In 1975 it was marked as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and in 2002 it was renamed as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area. This means a special permit is needed to enter the area. Also, there are protocols to keep soils from other areas of Antarctica or beyond from entering the area. The United States believes it is "one of the least disturbed and contaminated of the Dry Valleys of Victoria Land." Since the Dry Valleys are important areas to conduct research in (such as Lake Fryxell), there are human impacts in these areas. The Barwick Valley has been protected to ensure there are places in the Dry Valleys that have not been impacted by humans--even those who are studying the environment!

View towards Apocalypse Peaks
The Apocalypse Peaks can be seen from the distance in the Barwick Valley.

The Barwick Valley is a polar desert. You might not think a lot of things would live there, but there are lots of different bacteria and microflora (very small plants). For example, there are lots of algae there. There are also lichens, fungi and bacteria. Footprints can easily damage these organisms and are severely restricted which preserves the Barwick Valley as a protected area. These organisms can be damaged easily from footprints which also supports why the Barwick Valley is such a protected area. The South Polar Skua also visits the area.

Near Lake Vashka
Lake Vashka stands in the foreground of the Barwick Valley.

Critical Thinking

What are some things we can do to ensure the Barwick Valley is not greatly impacted by humans? What rules should people follow who do get to go there?

The History of Humans at Barwick Valley

In 1993 a team investigated the area looking for evidence of human impacts. Field camps had been in use at Lake Vashka in the 1960s. Soil pits, a trench, remains of wooden crates and boxes, and broken food caches had been found in the area. Dynamite had also been used near Lake Vashka and another location in the Barwick Valley. In 1995/1996, a New Zealand team cleaned up the site. From 2008 - 2012, only one team of two people visited the area to map the spatial distribution of soils.

Lake Vashka stands in the foreground of the Barwick Valley.
A remnant of humans in the past is monitored for contamination.

Collecting Samples

The B518 research team flew to the Victoria Valley, right outside of the Barwick Valley, and hiked in to set up camp. After eating lunch, the team collected sediments from areas where humans have been in the past, collecting a total of 24 sediment samples. This spanned a 13 kilometer stretch of land. The team found evidence of humans throughout the area, from footprints to holes in the Earth. The sediment samples collected from the area will help better understand the level of human impact in an already heavily protected area.

Team at Barwick Valley
Andrew Klein and Steve Sweet enjoy a warm drink as Terry Palmer takes in the view from the Barwick Valley.

Life in Antarctica

Since today is December 1st (in Antarctica), holiday decorating has begun. The staff and scientists at Crary Lab helped brighten the hallways with holiday decorations at the end of the work day.

Andrew decorates for Christmas
Andrew Klein adds holiday decorations to a window in the Crary Building.

Ice Picture of the Day

Ventifacts are interestingly-shaped rocks found throughout the Barwick Valley.

Carl and the Venrifact
Carl Green stands by a beautiful ventifact in the Barwick Valley.

How do you think these rocks are formed? Download the PowerPoint Slide here:21_icepod.pptx

Brought to you by...

Today's journal is brought to you by Mrs. Montiel's class from Flour Bluff Early Childhood Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Brought to you by Mrs. Montiel's class.
Today's journal is brought to you by Mrs. Montiel's class from Flour Bluff Early Childhood Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Date
Location
Barwick Valley, Antarctica
Weather Summary
Sunny
Temperature
28 F
Wind Speed
5 knots
Wind Chill
22 F
Documents
Attachment Size
21_icepod.pptx122.25 KB 122.25 KB

Comments

austin kincade

how much do you guys travel? how often do you use the vehicles that you own? how much do you walk by foot?

Tyler Lakin

How many times does a white out occur? And how tall are the poles attached to rope that help you get to the other building close to each other during a white out

Tyler Lakin

How many times does a white out occur? And how tall are the poles attached to rope that help you get to the other building close to each other during a white out

Michelle Brown

status: 1Dear Tyler,
Thank you for such great questions! A white out (known as condition 1 here)
only occurs occasionally, especially in the summer. I have yet to see a
condition 1 since I've been down here, nor did I see one in 2011 when I was
here. During a white out, you are not meant to move to another building. In
fact, during a safety course, they prove just how hard it is to travel in
condition one by giving people white buckets to put over their heads and a
rope. People try to get from one location to another, but get lost. The
activity is meant to teach us that when it is condition 1, stay inside.
There are, however, flags that mark trails so that you can find your way
home if you are stuck outside during condition 1 (a white out condition) or
condition 2 (when it is windy).

Michelle Brown

status: 1Hi Austin,
Thank you for your questions! We travel a lot some days and weeks, and
little other days and weeks. For example, early on we spent a lot of time
collecting samples from the sea floor. This required traveling out to the
sea ice, both close to the station and a few miles away (Turtle Rock!). We
would take a PistenBully out to these sites. We don't own the PistenBully,
it is owned by the U.S. Antarctic Program and we can sign it out to borrow
it. Other days and weeks we flew to control sites in a helicopter. The
helicopter dropped us off in the morning and picked us up in the afternoon.
We walked around by foot at the locations we were dropped off at. We've
also used snow mobiles to travel shorter distances over the sea ice. When
we are sampling at McMurdo Station, we often use a truck to get us from one
area to another, although we get out and walk on foot to collect samples.
We are out walking on foot most of the time. I'm not sure how many miles we
walk each day, but I would guess it is quite a few!