Thursday, February 14, 2008

homeward bound

Hello everyone,

Well, it's been a great trip, but my time on the ice has come to an end. We flew back to NZ yesterday. And as much of a shock as it is to arrive on the ice, it is an even bigger shock to arrive back in New Zealand. It's a hard feeling to describe, but the best I can do is say it is sensory overload. There are many colors and sounds and the smell of fresh vegetation and moisture in the air, and it's all very foreign to me at the moment. So after a couple days of decompression in NZ and a weekend with Maggie in L.A. I will return to St. Louis on Tues. Feb 19. Look forward to seeing you all soon!

Some answers for Miss Howell's class:

Courtney asks "What was the red stuff in the snow, under the plane in the photo right before the crash pictures?"

That is hydraulic fluid that leaked from the plane during the crash. It is used to operate the landing gear.

Gaby asks, "What inspired you to do the work that you do?"

I have always been fascinated with nature and the outdoors and interested in how the Earth works. Now I hope to study the data from this project to determine how the Earth's crust and mantle will affect the stability of Antarctic ice sheets during this period of global warming and sea level rise.

Erik asks, "What was scarier: sledding down the mountain, climbing up the mountain or the plane crash?"

Sledding down the mountain!

Hannah asks, "When you stayed in the clam shells, were they already there or did you have to put it together?"

Fortunately, the clam shells were pre-assembled for us by the staff at the tourist facility that we stayed at. However, we did assemble the red science tent that we used as our lab at Patriot Hills.

Miss Howell asks, "Where were the restrooms when you were living in the clam shells?"

There was an outhouse 30 yards or so from our tent. And at night we used pee bottles that we kept in the tent.

Thanks for the questions!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Brimstone Peak

Hey friends,

Here are some shots of my trip to Brimstone Peak. It was by far the best flight I've ever been on in my life. I can't describe how truly awesome it was, but I'll do my best with these pictures. And just so everyone knows, all of the pictures from Antarctica that appear on this blog were taken by other people. I'm hoping my film shots turn out a lot better, but I really need to get a digital camera...

The view from Brimstone Peak. Unfortunately the lighting was not very good the day we were there and the pictures do not show how truly breathtaking the scenery was.

Here is Abel and myself hanging out at the GPS site. There was not a seismic station here, I just went along to help the GPS guys out. It was really easy and they didn't really need my help. I was mostly along for the ride.

Here is me standing next to our mode of transportation, a Bell-212 helicopter or huey. These things are a lot of fun to ride in.

Here is me at my seat in the helicopter. Check out that view!

On the way back we stopped at this sandstone near the fuel cache to play around for a bit. It was really neat, we collected ventifacts (wind eroded rocks) and petrified wood. The petrified wood could be found laying around as logs in situ! I wish I had some better shots of these two things...

On the way home we flew along the edge of the sea ice and spotted numerous whales and penguins. This is a shot of two orcas or killer whales. They are magnificent creatures and a whole lot bigger than the ones you see at Sea World. The ones we saw were roughly the size of a school bus. The water is so clear and blue and green that you could see them just cruising around. And of course they would surface frequently to breath and look for penguins. This was a really cool sight because they would come up vertically and stick their head out of the water and hover and look around for a bit. We also saw a couple of Minke whales and loads of Adelie penguins.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

more photos

Hey everybody,

More photos! Look forward to seeing you all soon.

This is a picture of Scott Base. Scott Base is the Kiwi (New Zealand) base located on the same island and just across the penisula from McMurdo. For some reason all of their buildings are green. You can also see some ridges in the sea ice directly behind the station. These are known as pressure ridges and form where the sea ice is under compression as it is pushed into the land by the ocean currents.

This is a bird called a skua. They are ornery little bastards. They sit at the entrance to the galley and wait for people to walk out with food. Then they attack you and take your food. At the chili cookoff, I saw them dive bomb people and steal their cup of chili right out of their hands. Pretty comical. They are about the size of a typical seagull.

Some shots of McMurdo with Ob or Observation Hill in the background. Ob Hill is an old (inactive) volcanic cone. It was formed when fragments (called ejecta) thrown up from a volcanic vent, piled up around the vent in the shape of a cone.

Here is a group photo of the entire Polenet science team. I'm underneath the Norweigan flag for all you geography buffs or fourth in from the right.

Mt. Discovery - a dormant volcano.

Ob Hill.

View of McMurdo from the top of Ob Hill.

Mt Erebus from Ob Hill.

These are some more shots from Patriot Hills. One morning Don and I hiked to the highest point along the ridge in the mountains behind our camp. As usual the pictures do not do it justice, but the scenery was spectular! It was a pretty grueling hike too because it was really steep and you were either walking on ice or skree (loose rock) for the entire ~700m vertical climb.

So towards the end of our stay at Patriot Hills after all the tourists or tour-ons left, the camp staff decided to groom the snow in the mountain (snowy pass) behind camp for sledding. I'm not sure how high the slope was but it was higher than anyone should have been sledding on. It was crazy! You couldn't see the top from the bottom or vice versa and there was a giant turn with rock ledges to maneuver. But we all grabbed a sled a gave it a whirl anyway. Man was it fun! The most extreme sledding I've ever done in my life. We were all rolling on the ground laughing from the hilarity of it all. The top picture is a shot of me going down the mountain. I had snow and ice in every crack and crevice on my body by the time we were finished. We warmed up by drinking a hot, spiced red wine. I forget what they called it but it was delicious. The second picture is of the snow machines shuttling people to the top of the slope.

And even more photos coming soon!