Ice Shelf Flow and Fracture Dynamics Journals

Time to fly
After a two week break in New Zealand, I have returned to the United States and to Timberline, my home school. I have to say it feels odd to be here after two months away and my mind continues to drift back to Antarctica and all of the high and lows of my time there. Antarctica is an amazing, astounding place, a place that is relatively untouched by humans and is a natural laboratory for all ranges of science – including the 600,000 sq. miles of Ross Sea that was protected on October 28. It has been protected by its remoteness for decades during the Age of Exploration – but as our civilization matured and advanced, additional protections beyond that of remoteness and inhospitably needed to be given to this unique area. On December 1, 1959, 12 countries signed a treaty to provide that...
Phoenix Airfield First Landing
The runways at McMurdo Station in Antarctica are vital to mission of the NSF and USAP – without them, the program just wouldn't work. Getting personnel and equipment (not only for the U.S. but also for New Zealand and Italy, as well as various other countries periodically) would not be as easily possible without the airfields and the hard work of the U.S. Air Force and Reserves. In the November 4th blog post, I discussed the development and challenges of the various runways that support the operations down in the far South. Today, November 15th, marks the first time that a aircraft landed at the new Phoenix airfield. A C-17 aircraft flew into Pegasus airfield and after disgorging its passengers, took off again and landed safely a few miles away at Phoenix. But how did we get to this...
Runways of McMurdo
In early August of this year, Chicago O'Hare broke ground on their newest East-West runway at 11,245 ft and 200 ft wide – it will the second longest at O'Hare and will continue to expand the service at one of the nation's busiest airports. It's not often that a runway gets built – runways are often refurbished, lengthened, or improved it other ways – but altogether new ones? Nope, just not that often any more. In the realm of "not that often" anything that gets done in Antarctica is "not that often" – but building a runway down here falls at the far end of that category in the "almost never" realm. This year that changes with the opening of Phoenix – a new runway to replace the aging Pegasus (where I landed) and is a one-of-a-kind piece of a Antarctic engineering. Ice Runways: Good,...
Weddell seal range
Okay so my friends will say (and I will admit) that I'm not exactly the most touchy-feely guy out there, but today I headed out to Turtle Rock and Hutton Cliffs to get an idea what the team from Montana State University has been up to while doing the Weddell seal census – one of the longest Antarctic projects, having been started in 1968. Any attempt to not be touchy-feely would be ridiculous after having seen this ... so bear with me and enjoy the experience. The Weddell Seal Population Study Studied since 1968, the Erebus Bay population of Weddell seals is the southernmost breeding population of mammals in the world and the database contains information on more than 24,200 individual seals. This has been a massive and unique undertaking which has resulted in knowing more about...
Steve and Penguins
No it's not Sunday, but since this post is a review of unposted photos and videos of the last week I'm going to call it that again. McMurdo life is nothing if not busy – the population is rapidly moving up to 900 and there are now lines in the cafeteria. Community is ramping up to full speed and Halloween was celebrated on Oct. 28th (Saturday) here at McMurdo. When the T-Rex costume was seen running through town I think I had seen it all. How someone managed to get a T-Rex costume all the way down here is beyond me, but I swear it's here. The trail system has nearly completely opened up now and everyone is rapidly checking out the fat tire bikes and cross country skis to get out in the amazing weather that we have been having the last couple of days. So while I enjoy the feast of...
Astrammina rara
Foraminifera are protists and can be found all over the world in both fresh water (a very few) and marine waters, primarily living in the seafloor sediments. You've encountered them often though you may have never known it since they are single-cellular and are generally smaller than 1mm. This group of organisms is older than our species (homo sapiens), having existed for at least 550 million years. Here in Antarctica they have grown to a considerably larger size, some reaching a diameter of over 4mm – that may not seem significant but consider that most foraminifera cannot be seen with the naked eye. One particular research project here is studying the foraminiferan Astrammina rara and I've been able to join them for a few days as they find, collect, and investigate this local...
In front of the Erebus Glacier Tongue
Training is one of those things, just when you think you've completed it all, it turns out there's some more. I returned to the classroom yet again for training on sea ice safety since I will soon be heading out to the dive shacks and meeting up with teams that are working out on the sea ice. Obviously, traveling on a floating sheet of ice comes with its own special hazards, and being safe out there is imperative. Sea ice is something that changes throughout the year in more ways than just breaking apart (which it does, since the dock here at McMurdo is ice free – not right now, but eventually this year it will be). Sea Ice is NOT Glacial Ice Mt. Erebus covered in glaciers, snow and ice, feeds the Erebus Glacier which in this photo is out of frame to the right. The large mass of ice...
Endless Tracks
Its been a few days since the announcement of Gordon Hamilton's accident on Saturday, October 22nd and the team has slowly come to grips with this new unpleasant reality. The team has supported each other fully, the staff here at McMurdo have been exceptional, and the NSF has truly gone out of their way to make sure that we all are well and safe. The team has decided that science will stop this year and that the season needs to come to a close for this project - and as a result we have taken down the camp that we had begun to make our short-time home on the ice. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to the team today as they boarded the plane back to New Zealand on their first hop back to the states. The team's camp on the ice is at the left of the picture with the SPOT crew's...
Gordon Hamilton
This journal entry was written a number of weeks ago and is only now being posted (Nov. 12). It has been a long few weeks dealing with the loss of Gordon, but I wanted to finally share my thoughts on his passing and the man. On Saturday, October 22nd, after a day in the field with Gordon, Lynn, and Peter, we were returning to the Shear Zone camp when unexpectedly tragedy befell our group when Gordon Hamilton and his snowmobile fell into a deep crevasse in the Shear Zone. The fall was fatal and we have lost a friend, colleague, father, husband, teacher, and so many other things. It has now been four days since we were pulled from the field. This has been a challenge for me in how to share this accident with you all and whether I even should given that there are any number of press...
White
The light comes from everywhere and nowhere. You're not in a cloud, it's more like you're in a space with no borders, but there is an indeterminate depth - dimensionless dimensions. The intersection between sky and snow - a faint changing of color, tracks disappearing, shadows coming and going. It can be disorienting. This is flat white and has always been a challenge to mountaineers and individuals in the polar regions. When you look outside and all you can see is the flag, it's a good idea to just stay inside for a little while Geophone installation took slightly longer than expected. Not completely unexpected since even the best laid plans can be thwarted by weather and technical issues. We were relegated to the cook tent for the better part of a day due to high winds...