Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wright Valley

Things have been busy since I last wrote. I made the transition back to the day shift. It wasn't too terrible. I did 18 hours up, 4 hours of sleep, then 24 hours up before the transition, so I just passed out for 12 hours from exhaustion and was on day shift schedule.

The first couple of days on day shift were a bit rough. I was fairly tired and there are a lot more people and a lot more going on during the day. I felt like everyone was coming at me and getting in my way in the Galley. Things are better now, though, as I integrate more fully with the hustle and bustle of days.

Yesterday, I went on a fam trip to Wright Valley in the Dry Valleys. The vistas were enough to take my breath away. My pictures don't do them justice, but I've included a few here:

This is a shot of the Air Devron Six Icefalls from our banking helicopter. The icefalls were spectacular. It looked like a waterfall frozen in time. The ice that is spilling over is from the Polar Plateau, the ice sheet that covers most of the continent.

Here's another shot of the icefalls from the Dais. In the foreground, you can see a feature called the Labyrinth.

This is another shot of the Labyrinth. If you didn't see the snow in the background, you might think you were in the American southwest.

This is down in Wright Valley proper. You can see some alpine glaciers spilling down the valley walls.

There's got to be worse places to sit down and take a rest.

This is an aerial shot from the helo on the flight back to McMurdo.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Random Pictures

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanks to all of you that sent me Thanksgiving wishes. I hope everyone had a good meal, especially if it was turkey. We don't get turkey dinner until tomorrow, but if last year is any indicator it will be good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

We officially terminated HQ drilling last night at the depth of 1011.08 meters below sea floor (mbsf), just below our target depth of 1000 mbsf. Hats off to the drillers!

A picture from the drill site to commemorate crossing the 1000 mbsf mark and one from the Crary night shift:

Even though we've hit our target depth, there is still a lot of work to be done. A group of scientists went out to the drill site today to do measurements on the bore hole. Over the next couple of days, they will be sending various instruments down the hole to collect data about the physical properties of the rocks.

Back here at Crary, we still have ~200m of core to log and sample. About the time we get caught up, the drill site is going to be drilling another 50m or so to perform an experiment at the bottom of the hole, so we'll have to log that. That should bring us to the beginning of December or so, where the focus will shift to writing up the results and on-ice report. When that's done, we'll have to pack up all of the gear and get it ready to ship home. Busy, busy, busy.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Snarky Jar

We reached the point in the season where people, myself included, are getting tired and short tempered with people. To combat this, Laura and I decided to create a "snarky jar" in our office:
If someone comes into the office and complains or makes a snarky comment, then they have to pony up some money to put in the jar. The rules are the same for Laura, Rich, Leslie, and I. The general going rate is $0.25/snarky comment or $1 for a particularly good rant. I've already contributed almost $5. At the end of the season, we're going to take the contents of the jar and treat ourselves at the bar. And to protect the snarky jar from any thieves, we've got a guard:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vehicles 3: Skidoo

This is my third post in an unofficial series about the vehicles I've driven while down here. I had to test some video conferencing hardware from the drill site, so Rich, Christina, and I hopped on skidoos and headed out there:

The skidoos are a bit inconvenient if you have a bunch of stuff to carry, but they make for a nice and quick ride. If the weather is nice and the trail is in good condition, you can get moving at a pretty good clip. We had full face helmets, which I'm obviously not wearing in the picture, so the wind and cold is not a problem. The helmets also make you feel a bit safer, but I'm pretty sure if you fly off your skidoo at 60mph and hit the ice, the ice will win helmet or no helmet.

The drill site was pretty much same old, same old. The VTC hardware worked on the first try. A core came up while we were out there, so we got to watch the process pulling the core barrel up and extracting the core. We were lucky to be there at the right time. I also got a nice shot of Mt. Discovery illuminated by the sun:

Monday, November 12, 2007

One Month Left

Sorry for the long time since the last post, it's been pretty busy around here. We've had good weather these last couple of days, so the core has really been flowing in. We're down to about 670 meters below sea floor. With our current drilling pace, we're poised to reach our target depth in the next two weeks. The season seems to have flown by. There's less than a month left for most of the science team. I'm leaving on the 14th, so I've got just over a month left.

I haven't had much time to do anything other than work, but I did sneak out the other morning and take a few pictures from hut point. I particularly like this one:

It's of Vince's Cross, a memorial to George Vince who died in an accident nearby in 1902.

Tomorrow night I'm heading out to the drill site to test some VTC equipment. It'll be on skidoo, so that should round out my Antarctic vehicle blog series. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Scott's Discovery Hut

Well after the excitement of Condition 1 last night, today was bright and clear. The same system that produced the storm last night is supposed to move back in tomorrow. We took advantage of the break in the weather to go tour Scott's Discovery hut. I've walked by in a hundred times but this is the first time I actually got to go inside it. The hut was used primarily for storage, and as you can see in the photos below, they liked their biscuits:

While I was waiting to get into the hut, a plane was taking off from the ice runway headed to the Pole:

Ann Curry and her crew were on the plane. If you look real close, you can see her waving to me.

Finally, when I was walking back to my room last night, I saw something that made me giggle:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Condition 1

The helos were able to get out to the drill site and bring some core back this morning. It's a good thing, too, because the weather turned nasty again:
This is the same view out my office window as the picture in the "A Cruel Mistress" post below. We're officially in Condition 1, so we can't go to lunch until things clear up.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Not too much going on here. The Today Show had a live broadcast yesterday and this morning. We've been working away, though we've been hampered by the weather. There have been no core flights the last two nights so now the sedimentologists are caught up. If there is no flight today, we may not have much to do tonight. They've been making great progress out at the drill site so they're getting pretty backed up. At least the temperatures have been much warmer than last week when I froze my ears off.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Cruel Mistress

Things have been cold the last day or so, but I didn't realize how cold it was until I had to make an emergency dash down to the skidoo berm (don't ask, it's a story best told over a beer). The berm is a fairly decent jaunt out onto the sea ice:
In my haste to get down there, I threw on my wool hat and big red and headed off at a run. I remembered it being cold out when I came to work but I was totally unprepared for how cold and windy it was out on the ice. I was only down there for 15 minutes or so but in that short amount of time I frost nipped both of my ears and one of my fingertips. It's no surprise, either, considering it was -50F in the wind and I was running into it on my way back. I've got feeling back in my fingertip and the swelling in my ears is subsiding. They are quite red, so I look pretty comical, but I don't think they will blister. Antarctica is a cruel mistress.

UPDATE: My ears are still pretty red, but doing better. They look and feel like they've been severely sunburned. This whole incident has given me a healthy respect for how quickly frost nip and frost bite can happen, even if you're wearing your hat, parka, and gloves.