Posts Tagged ‘exploration’

Repost: Blue Ice Reconnaissance

February 3, 2011

Original post, called in on January 12, 2011. Click on the links beneath the photos for their accompanying Picasa albums. Thanks again to Jonathan Beall for the transcription!

“Hey folks. It’s been another beautiful, sunny day here in the Allan Hills. We mostly don’t seem to have any other sorts, although we did have a little cloud this evening. We also had some rain, a type of precipitation I did not expect to find out here. You see, melting snow for drinking water, cooking, and in fact just hanging around and breathing in our kitchen tent creates a lot of moisture which condenses on the ceiling and freezes. When the wind dies down, the sun warms up the tent and there’s a minor deluge.

From In the Endurance

Pouring melted snow into a thermos to keep it warm/liquid during the night. These thermoses are pretty excellent, actually--water poured in at 90C (the boiling point at this altitude) will still be hot the next morning. The orange color is not a filter or special effect, it's just what things look like inside the orange Endurance tent. Pictures look a little more natural in black and white, but I thought I should give you the full experience of being there and having your color sense altered.

Aside from that, it’s been a pretty exceptional day. We headed out on snowmobiles this morning to survey our field site. We covered about 30 kilometers all told, visiting several fields of blue ice and some rocky moraines sticking up above the ice field. (A moraine, for the non-glaciologists among you, is a pile of debris that a glacier plows up as it moves, pushing rock to its front and sides.)

It’s neat to be out here. You get the experience of being on the ice sheet, with snow and ice stretching out for miles, yet there’s still enough mountains and hills to make for interesting topography. The mountains are beautiful—in that stark, lifeless sort of way that Antarctic mountains are beautiful. The ice fields are mottled blue and white with patches of snow. Driving across them in the sunlight is kind of like driving across the cloud-flecked sky, except when you’re driving into the sun, when the whole thing turns to liquid silver stretching out to the horizon, with ripples like the ocean.

From First Day Out – Allan Hills

A little liquid silver on a small ice promontory. Also a good illustration of an Antarctic photographer's dilemma: how to tell your subjects apart? Fortunately Big Red comes with a nametag, so I can tell you (using the hi-res version of this photo) that Ruschle is on the left and Martin on the right.

I even stepped into a crevasse today. Too small to fall into, but large enough to be a good object lesson about the importance of watching where you step. So, that’s your moral for today.

From First Day Out – Allan Hills

The hole I made in the snow bridge over the crevasse.

Until tomorrow, signing off…”

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Repost: First Days in the Field

January 31, 2011

Original post, Jan 11 2011. (Many thanks to Jonathan Beall for the transcription!)

“Hi, I’m calling WordPress on our satellite phone. So, if I cut out suddenly, or sound a little weird, that’s why.

Sorry to let you go so long without a post. Packing was a little bit of a scramble, and I found out at the last minute that the shuttle to our plane was rather earlier than I thought it would be. I never quite expected to make it out here on schedule, not after seeing friends get caught in the endless holding pattern of weather delay after weather delay. But yes, we arrived yesterday, right on time.

The Twin Otter that took us out to the Allan Hills.



Icefields near our camp.

The camp was already set up when we arrived. Mel, Ruschle, Steve, and Peter spent four days in forty-knot winds putting it together on their first trip out. The wind is a constant here. On the last trip the rest of the team only got one or two days of calm weather. Fifteen or twenty knots is more typical. The winds steal heat quickly, bare hands go numb within a minute, or at least mine do. None of the tents are heated, although the kitchen tent does have a heater that can be used in a pinch, so we do most of our living just below freezing. Fortunately, the constant wind makes indoors seem practically tropical. We keep warm with hot tea and lots of high calorie food.

My first glimpse of the camp.

Today it was a bit too windy to go out and do science, so we set up our equipment and went for a short hike to look at the blue ice near camp. This place is amazing and alien and desolate and beautiful, and I’m really looking forward to spending the next three weeks here.”

More photos of the flight and of camp.