Hi Everyone! Welcome to the first post of the 2014-2015 Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) field season.
The 2014-2015 field season takes ANSMET back to the Davis-Ward icefields, one of a number of productive meteorite stranding surfaces in the southern headwaters of the Beardmore Glacier. ANSMET has visited the Davis-Ward icefields four times previously. Reconnaissance visits in 1985 and 2003 demonstrated the potential of the site, and later systematic searching visits in 2008 and 2010 led to the recovery of over 1000 meteorites from these icefields. Meteorites recovered from the Davis-Ward site bear the DOM sample prefix, as do samples recovered from the nearby Dominion Range icefield.
The Davis-Ward site is fairly compact compared to many of the places ANSMET has worked, with a main icefield in the form of a pendant glacial tongue filling the area between Mt. Ward and the Davis Nunataks. A terminal moraine along the tongue’s northern edge connects “Davis” to “Ward” and separates this main icefield from a set of icefields of similar total area on the downhill side of this moraine. The entire site is only about 10 km across, making daily commutes from camp to almost any recovery area quite reasonable. This is welcome change from places like the Miller Range where a trip from one end to the other can be a day-long production.
The proximity of Davis Nunataks and Mt. Ward to the exposed ice means that terrestrial rocks are common on almost all parts of these icefields. Even worse, most of these consist of dark, fine-grained dolerite and basalt, making it difficult to identify meteorites at a distance. There is a silver lining, however; several locations harbor a fantastically high spatial density of meteorites. In one such location, a linear depression informally known as “the Trough” (aptly named given the feeding-frenzy it often produced) It is not unusual for several dozen meteorites to be found on an area the size of a football field (see photo). Most days (weather-permiting) at Davis-Ward are productive and include a significant amount of warmth-inducing foot-searching.
Given some of the difficulties we faced last season (primarily due to last October’s government shutdown) the unassuming and straight-forward job ahead of us at Davis-Ward is something to look forward to. Of course it’s still a trip to the end of the Earth, so nothing is ever completely normal and predictable, and we’ll bring our usual flexibility to the situation as we get ANSMET’s 38th field season underway. As in recent seasons, ANSMET is fielding only a single team this year . The first few field party members (mountaineers) will deploy in mid-November, with the remaining field party members departing from the US in late November. They should get to McMurdo in the first few days of December and deployment into the field is planned about a week after that, with most of the crew returning to the “civilized world” in the third week of January.
PROGRAMMATIC NOTE: As in previous seasons, there will be at least a few more pre-deployment posts, including an introduction to our fantastic 2014-2015 field team. Once the whole group is in McMurdo we expect to post daily, so stay tuned!
-posted by Ralph, also sarcastically referred to as “Da Boss” or “Oh Mighty One”.