What Are They Doing?

Seismic station on the ice
Seismic station on the ice
Antarctica plays a central role in global tectonic evolution. Competing theories have been put forward to explain the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAMs) and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (WSB), primarily due to a lack of information on the crustal thickness and seismic velocity of the areas. The research team attempts to resolve how the TAMs and WSB originated and how their formation relates to Antarctica’s geologic history. Since most of Antarctica is covered by large ice sheets, direct geologic observations cannot be made; therefore, “remote sensing” methods like seismology must be used to determine details about the earth structure.

The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, was to broaden our knowledge of the geology in this region with a new seismic project; the Transantarctic Mountains Northern Network (TAMNNET), a 15-station array across the northern TAMs and the WSB that will fill a major gap in seismic coverage. Data from TAMNNET was combined with that from previous and ongoing seismic initiatives and was analyzed to generate an image of the seismic structure beneath the TAMs and the WSB.

While in the field, the team spent most of their time deploying seismic stations that compose the new TAMNNET array. This included loading equipment onto small airplanes, flying to remote field locations, digging large holes in the snow/ice to shelter the equipment, and assembling and testing the seismic hardware.

Where Are They?

View of the Transantarctic Mountains
View of the Transantarctic Mountains
The field project was based at McMurdo Station and at the Italian Terra Nova station, Mario Zuchelli. Seismic stations were located at remote sites across the northern Transantarctic Mountains and onto the East Antarctic plateau. Once in Antarctica, the field locations were reached either via helicopter or fixed wing Twin Otter Aircraft. The field team shared dormitory housing. Fieldwork was conducted outside at cold and (in some cases) fairly high altitude conditions.

Expedition Map

McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title
Deciphering the Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin
Brian DuBay - Teacher
Grissom Middle School

Wayne State University, in Detroit Michigan provided Brian’s foundation for a Bachelor of Science. Teaching high school students to embrace, appreciate, and love science seemed a logical utilization of his talents.

One of Brian’s core philosophical beliefs is that one learns the most when engaged and immersed in hands on learning. He not only reinforces this principle in his classroom, he also feels it is important to continue to learn as much as possible because ultimately, the more he learns, the more he can teach his students. In 2012 Brian was accepted by the National Science Foundation and PolarTREC to spend six weeks studying seismology in Antarctica. During this time, Brian not only fulfilled his roles as a geologist, but also conducted remote teaching with his classes. As a result of his dedication, Brian’s grant was extended and it is with great anticipation that he will return to Antarctica this year to continue working on the team’s goals.

Samantha Hansen - Researcher
University of Alabama

Samantha Hansen is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, where she researches fundamental earth science processes, such as mountain building, continental rifting, and craton formation. She employs a wide range of geophysical tools to analyze seismic data to investigate structure and infer associated geologic mechanisms. Over the past few years she has worked on several projects in Antarctica investigating the structure of the Transantarctic Mountains, the Gamburtsev Mountains, and the West Antarctic Rift System. She also has interests in earth science education and promoting underrepresented students in science. To read more about Dr. Hansen's work please visit her website.

Latest Journals

As my Antarctica adventure draws to an end, I'm left not only with sadness that the experience has concluded, but also an ememces amount of gratitude. Through the efforts of the PolarTREC organization and Dr. Samantha Hansen, my experiences superseded that of my childhood imagination. Not only was…
In many ways the Italian base, Terra Nova, is similar to McMurdo. There are a lot of politics and waiting for weather. When we first arrived, we started installing stations immediately; it looked as if we were going to finish ahead of schedule. Then, numerous weather delays and communication issues…
After my first helicopter ride where we landed in the middle of a glacier, I was truly able to witness the majesty of Antarctica. Taking in the spectacular scenery I didn’t see how my day could get any better. Just when I thought I experienced all that I could have asked for, we got the call from…
Being involved in the Italian Helo Ops project has been an opportunity of a lifetime. Using the helicopters during the installs was just icing on the cake. The nature of the helicopter offers better views than the airplanes because of the lower speed and larger windows. Getting right next to cliffs…
We finally received a call that we will fly again. Fortunately, because of the rotation it was my turn to venture out into the field. It just so happened that site 12 is a blue glacial ice site. I was thrilled and excited to see a new piece of Antarctica. When we arrived we circled for a good…
In McMurdo they celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday and most have Sunday off. This free weekend turns into one big party. Lots of bands playing, a 5K-turkey trot, and it caps off with Freezing Man. Freezing man is supposed to be like Burning Man with costumes. It is also a good time to see the…

Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains Resources

Organizing Questions:

1) Why is it important to collect large quantities of research data?
2) How can photographing a subject be similar to scientific observation?
3) How can one plot photographic data on a map?

About a week
High school and Up

Antarctic educator, Mark Walsh, created this video for the PolarTREC 2013 spring online professional development course. This video uses the concept of Density to explore how mountains are built as well as how to throw a good Cinco de Mayo party at McMurdo Station Antarctica. He uses the Dr. Samantha Hansen's Transantarctic Mountains work as an example of mountain building.

Less than 1 period
Middle School and Up
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Students will use the TAMMNET project and accompanying PolarTREC resources to learn about seismology in the Antarctic, culminating in the creation of an annotated map using google maps.

Less than a week
Middle School and Up
Download and Share

This one hour webinar is for educatorson the use of video and social media tools to bring polar science into the classroom. PolarTREC teacher Brian DuBay speaks in the context of his expedition to study the Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica.

About 1 period

This one hour webinar is part of the online polar professional development course on physical science for educators. Dr. Hansen focuses on her research of the tectonic history of the Transantarctic Mountain in Antarctica.

About 1 period