Sunday, December 30, 2007


Hello friends, family, and strangers!

First I'd like to wish you all happy holidays and a safe new year. I have been in McMurdo for the last week and a half decompressing from the crash and preparing to head to our field site in the Patriot Hills. If all goes well we will leave on Wednesday, Jan 2 and return to McMurdo sometime in late January, probably around the 22nd or 23rd. I'm not sure if I will have internet access there. Some people have been saying that we will, others say we won't so I don't know what to expect. The base we will stay at is a tourist facility for rich adventurers who like to do crazy things like bike to the pole. So it should be interesting. Around here we have been making last minute preparations for the field and celebrating the holidays. For Christmas, there was a big party with decorations and dancing and a Santa Claus. It was pretty fun. Then the next day we had a big feast that included crab legs, beef wellington, roast duck, assorted desserts and pastries, lots of wine, and lots of freshies (or fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, etc). Freshies are a pretty valuable commodity around here as we can only get them every so often. But the best celebration was for New Year's. This includes the annual music festival known as Icestock. Icestock is a collection of bands that play an all day music festival. Also there is a chili cook off during the festival that is pretty delicious. All of the performers either bring their instruments down to the ice or borrow them from the rec department, find like minded musicians, and form a band. There are some pretty talented folks here spanning all genres of music. I had a lot fun, probably the best time I've had since I've been here. So without further ado, some pictures from Icestock.

The lineup card and schedule. I'm only going to post the pictures of my favorite bands.

It was a pretty cold day for an outdoor music festival. It was pretty windy with sometimes heavy snow. I have to admire the musicians. My hands were cold and I had gloves on. And they were up there playing instruments with no gloves! Of course they weren't holding cold beers like I was but still.

These are some shots of the Phat Ass Bluegrass band. They were pretty good. Definitely my style. I recognized most of the songs they played. Scott, the guitar player, is an amazing musician. And the two female vocalists, both named Julie, were also pretty solid.

Nice costume!

These are some shots of the blues band Blue Ice. They were great. Solid all around. I know the singer, Russ, and the guitar player Scott (also of Phat Ass Bluegrass) pretty well. We've been playing disc golf together so I was really excited to see these guys. And they did not disappoint. Russ has got some soul and Scott could wail on that guitar.

There were lots of great costumes in the crowd. Everyone was fired up and ready to dance and have a good time.

This is the band Porn Spill. They were awesome! Probably my favorite band of the show. They were a rhythm/funk band with ultra high energy. Great performers with a killer stage presence. The first image is a short movie. I couldn't get the audio to work on the computer in the lab. But I'm not sure if there is audio. All of these pictures and the movie were taken from the community temp drive on the local network. Can someone let me know if it works and I'll try and fix it?

And finally, Muschnuckle. A rocking band for sure.

Ok, that's all for now. I've got lots more pictures to post so hopefully I'll get a chance before we head to the field. If not, you'll hear from me in a few weeks.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

an incident...I guess

Hello everyone,

As some of you know, I was involved in a little incident with the Basler (a DC-3 twin engine turbo prop airplane) on our most recent field expedition. The field work went well and we got a station installed at Siple dome and one at Mt. Patterson. But then we had a little problem during take off from Mt. Patterson. Some have called it an incident, others have been calling it a hard landing (although I don't know how you can have a hard landing when you havn't actually taken off). I call it a plane crash. Basically what happened is, as the plane went to take off and we reached flying speed, one side of the plane went up and the other didn't. The left wing got caught in the ice and sent the plane tumbling. My seat came unbolted from the floor with me still strapped into the seatbelt. When we finally came to a halt, we were all in big pile in the corner of the plane with all of the equipment. We got shaken up pretty bad, but there were no major injuries other than some minor cuts and bruises. We are all doing well and thankful the crash wasn't any worse. The plane, however, did not fair so well. The wings, props, and tail all got bent up pretty bad. The landing gear, skis, and hydraulic system (the red stain in the pictures below is hydraulic fluid) all were ripped from the plane and strewn about the ice. She won't be flying any time soon. After the crash, we got out of the plane and broke out the survival bags. We set up a camp and used the stove to make some fresh drinking water. We were in constant radio communication with McMurdo and after about 20 hours stranded on the West Antarctic ice sheet, they sent two twin otters to come and rescue us. We didn't have very much food so they sent some hot soups, stews, and sandwiches with the twin otters. It was a pretty delicious meal since all we really had to eat was some emergency survival bars. But actually I thought the bars were pretty tasty. People seemed to get a kick out of watching me eat them anyway.

We have come across a couple of news articles about the crash. Here are the links.

NY Times - This one is pretty accurate except they don't mention the seismic stations, they just call them 'other sensors'

The New Zealand Press - This one is way off. It is filled with inaccuracies and misinformation.

I think the Washington Post is planning something in the near future as well - hopefully with a picture. I'll post the link when it comes out.

Thanks to everyone for your comments! Keep them coming. I love hearing from you guys. In the next post I will have some pictures of our station installs and life at McMurdo. We will have some down time over the next week or so so I hope to do a lot of blogging. Merry Christmas everybody!

Ok, on to the pictures. Not sure how long these will stay up. NSF may have some spies out there trying to prevent these pictures from getting out. They told us not to share them for "a while" and in my book "a while" is a pretty vague term so I'll go ahead and assume it has been "a while."



Our field camp with Mt. Patterson in the background.

Some more shots of camp.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

lab photos


Hope everyone is doing well back in North America. Here at the bottom of the world we are busy testing equipment and sending supplies to our field camp in the Patriot Hills. We should have everything ready to go by this evening. It will be nice to finally have some down time. So far we've been working about 14 hours a day. But before we head to the Patriot Hills, we will install two stations via fixed wing from McMurdo. We will fly a C-130 to Siple dome on Monday, install a station, spend the night there at a field camp in a mountain tent, then fly to Mt. Patterson the next day on the Basler, install a station, then return to Siple dome for another night, and then fly back to McMurdo on the C-130. I don't expect any of that to happen on schedule but we shall see. The planes are frequently grounded due to weather. And in this case we will have to have good weather at 3 sites to complete the mission. Not likely. I've posted a map of our field sites below so you can get an idea of where we'll be. Also, you can get more information about the project and each of our field sites including photos, aerial photos, geologic information, etc from Just click on each of the site names. There are lots of good pictures of Mt. Patterson. Check it out by following the link below!

Send your questions/comments/feedback! Scott, Kaare, and Krystal - you guys are awesome. Thanks for posting. But I'm just kind of curious if anyone else is actually reading this blog...

Ok, on to the pictures. These are just some shots from around our lab on the ice runway. We are working out of a Jamesway. Which I believe is surplus from the Korean War. Apparently, the only ones left in the world are down here on the ice. Basically it is a tent in the shape of a half-cylinder equipped with power and the internet.

Me in the Jamesway.

Me doing some equipment testing. The big orange box is our station box that holds the electronic equipment and keeps it warm. We have a heating pad and about a foot of blue foam to keep the box insulated. We also get some heat produced from the equipment itself and the batteries. The box is designed to hold 10 12V batteries that will power the station through the long, sunless, Antarctic winter. During the summer months we will power the station with solar energy.

Our equipment inside the station box. The large orange box on the left is the Q330 datalogger and and the small orange box is the baler (flash memory drive) and the clear see through box is the power control unit. On the right is a battery.

This is a picture of the seismometer (or sensor) itself. It is the main component of the entire station. It sits on the bedrock outside of the station box. The sensor is designed to record the ground motion of the earth in the vertical, NS, and EW directions over a broad range of frequencies. This allows us to analyze the three dimensional ground motions for very fast movements such as earthquakes and very slow movements such as tides.

Dome covers for the sensors (seismometer). These will help protect the sensor from the harsh elements and provide thermal stability. We expect the average ambient temperature during the winter to be about -50F. The covers are insulated to prevent large temperature fluctuations.

View out the door of our Jamesway of a C-130 with the Transantarctic Mountains in the background. I think the Transantarctics are the most beautiful mountain range in the world.

Me out the door of our Jamesway with the C-130 Hercules fleet in the background. Around here we call them Hercs or herkybirds.

A shot of me on the ice runway.

Me in front of the Jamesway. (Sorry, these are all overexposed. Obviously I didn't take them.)

The outside of our Jamesway with some equipment testing going on.

Inside the Jamesway.

View from the rear of our Jamesway of Mt. Erebus. Mt. Erebus is an active volcano. However, it is the non-explosive type so no need to worry. On some days you can observe a steam plume spouting from the top of the mountain. The plume is not volcanic gases but rather condensing water vapor over the hot lava lake at the crater. If I can catch a good picture of this phenomonomenon, I will post it.

In the next post, pictures from Mactown (McMurdo Station) or as people have been calling it around here lately, McMudpuddle.