Posted by & filed under 2012 / 2013 Field Season.

Today has been a training day. For the newbies (like me), a lot of the details of how we will be hunting for meteorites is new. This continent can turn nasty very quickly, so one can’t just walk around casually hoping to find some sky rocks! Imagine doing systematic searching on snowmobiles for hours in a cold non-stop wind…and suddenly realizing the person behind you is no longer there. Clearly, this would be bad. Did they fall in a crevasse or just take a bathroom break? One needs to be observant not only of the surroundings but of your colleagues; full situational awareness is needed for a successful season.

Here, things that are normally simple, minor, or unimportant can become serious nuisances or even life threatening. Exposing just a little skin to the wind, for example, could lead to frost bite in not much time at all. Or simply walking from packed snow on to blue ice, the snow crystals on the bottom of your boots can become lubricants on the ice, resulting in a nasty fall, with the nearest medical facilities hundreds of miles away.

Of course, we have as much gear and training as possible to minimize the impact of the inevitable accidents. One such training is how to climb out of a crevasse or how to rescue someone who has fallen into one. The first picture shows us learning how to climb up a rope using two other ropes (I was having flashbacks to long-ago days of learning knots).

We’ve had some breaks today though. The annual MacTown craft fair was today. There are some very creative people here! And we managed to squeeze in a quick hike to the Discovery Hut, shown in the next picture. On the left side of the building in the shadows is actually a 100 year-old seal body, perfectly preserved. And the cliffs in the background are the location of the first death in Antarctica, over 100 years ago on the Discovery expedition. After sending this, I’m off to see our own astronaut Dr. Love give a presentation on his shuttle mission.

But we must remember at all times where we are: the coldest, driest, windiest, most desolate place on earth.

Rob Coker, 2nd December, 2012, McMurdo Station

Rope Tricks with the mountaineers

Discovery Hut, built in 1902 by Robert F. Scott’s Discovery Expedition.

Posted by & filed under 2012 / 2013 Field Season.

Sound like paradise? Well, it exists here in McMurdo at the Berg Field Center. This is where we spent much of our day today, familiarizing ourselves with the Food Room at the BFC (which, of course, is stocked with many more goodies beyond bacon and chocolates!) and with the contents of our kitchenware kits, stove kits, and sleeping kits. This is in preparation for the overnight “shake down” trip that we will be taking next week, when we will have a chance to try out all our gear. And we began the somewhat daunting process of planning for the “Food Pull” next week, when we will pick out all of the food that we will be taking with us for 6 weeks in the field – hard to believe that we will each be going through a few pounds of butter during that time! We will expend so much energy just to keep warm, that all of this butter and bacon and chocolates will be easily metabolized. I know this from experience, being one of the ANSMET veterans that Katie mentioned yesterday. I had participated in the 1992-93 ANSMET season – it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and possibly one of the best learning experiences that I had as a graduate student. I am back two decades later, and thrilled to be here again.

As I write this, it is almost midnight and the Sun is shining brightly through the large windows that overlook the Ross Ice Shelf in the library on the top floor of the Crary Science and Engineering Center. It is only our second day here in McMurdo, and what with all of the briefings andtasks at hand, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are in this uniquely and awesomely beautiful place! So it was nice to end the day today with a hike on the trail around Observation Hill, from where we had panoramic views of the mountains, glaciers and dry valleys surrounding McMurdo. We even saw several Weddell seals and their pups. Paradise on Earth? Yes, indeed!

Mini Wadhwa, 1st December 1, 2012, McMurdo Station

The Berg Field Center

Trying out FartSacks (sleeping bags)

Circumnavigating Observation Hill

Seals of approval (from a distance)

Posted by & filed under 2012 / 2013 Field Season.

 

 

Aboard the C-17, en route from Christchurch to McMurdo.

Hello! The 2012-2013 ANSMET meteorite hunting team is now assembled in McMurdo Station Antarctica. There are twelve of us from four countries ( USA, Canada, Japan and the UK), eight guys and four girls. Seven of us have been on ANSMET trips before, and five are newbies to the experience. Two of the team are expert mountain guides, one is a NASA astronaut, and the rest of us are planetary scientists and astrophysicists with diverse research interests from meteorites, to the Moon and Mars and asteroids.

We all flew around the world to meet up in Christchurch New Zealand where we were issued with all of our protective ice clothing kit, before travelling down to the ice as human cargo on a C-17 aircraft yesterday, on the 30th November 2012. We landed on an ice runway and were bussed to the US McMurdo Station, which is a bit akin to a mining village with cargo areas, living accommodation, fuel tanks, mess hall, bars and a large science research facility. There is a lot to see and do and explore the town. And it is flipping cold and the air is very dry here (no surprise there then as Antarctica is a dry desert!) – about minus 5°C in the daytime. There is no rain, which is a very welcome change for me coming from the UK (and from yesterday in a very wet Christchurch). The adventure is about to begin…

Ralph has already introduced the team, and you will hear from us all over the next couple of months as we blog from McMurdo and when we leave to start searching for meteorites in the Transantarctic mountains. This is my second time joining ANSMET – I took part last year – and I am just as excited to be back in this amazing continent again. Although this time I have an idea of what to expect being in Antarctica and being part of ANSMET, I am looking forward to all the new experiences that are ahead.

Speak soon,

Katie Joy 30th November 2012, McMurdo Station

 

PS – hello to the rest of the 2011 ANSMET team (Ralph, Anne, Jesper, Christian, Jake and Tim) and other previous ANSMET vets.

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under 2012 / 2013 Field Season.

The ANSMET teams did their clothing distribution yesterday,  and are scheduled to fly from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica,  in just a few hours.  Hopefully within a day or two we'll be hearing from them in McMurdo!    A picture of their likely aircraft  (a military C-17) sitting on the sea ice in McMurdo Sound,  with the Royal Society Range in the background,  is attached.

-Ralph                     

  • C17

Posted by & filed under 2012 / 2013 Field Season, 2012-2013 Season Preview, Reconnaissance Team, Systematic Team.

ANSMET’s 2012-2013 field season has begun, and is going to be busy.   Two teams are on their way to McMurdo Station,  Antarctica as I write this and should arrive in the next few days.  Advanced personnel (two mountaineers and the science leader) are already in McMurdo and eagerly awaiting the rest of the teams.

The two teams are going to different places and have different goals;  let me describe them both for you. One team is dedicated to systematic searches of icefields we’ve been to before, places where we know there are lots of meteorites to recover.   We call that the “systematic” search team (their formal designation within the US Antarctic Program (USAP) is G-058-M).  The systematic team will be heading to the Grosvenor Mountains region of the Transantarctic Mountains, about 650 km south of McMurdo Station (see theimage).  They’ll land on an open snowfield near the Otway Massif,  and then travel to icefields near Mt. Bumstead, the Larkman Nunataks, and around  Mts Cecily / Emily/ Raymond (the Grosvenor Mts proper).  If all goes well they’ll deploy to the region in the second week of December and return to McMurdo in the third week of January.   That team consists of…..

  • Jim Karner, from Case Western Reserve University (field team leader)
  • Shaun Norman,  from Twizel, NZ  (mountaineer)
  • Andrew Beck, from the Smithsonian Institution
  • Tom Sharp,  from Arizona State University
  • Marianne Mader,  from the University of Western Ontario
  • Rob Coker,  from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Mini Wadhwa,  from Arizona State University
  • Stan Love,  from NASA Johnson Space Center.

 

The other team is smaller and more mobile; we call them the “reconnaissance” team,  formally known as G-057-M.   Their goal is to explore icefields ANSMET has not visited before (or visited only briefly) and figure out their potential for larger-scale meteorite recoveries.   Like the systematic team, they expect to leave McMurdo in the 2nd week of December and return to McMurdo in the 3rd week of January.  The team will be moving around a lot during that season;  once a week or more (see the image) by light aircraft (Twin Otter for you airplane nerds).  During the first part of their season they’ll explore several icefields in the Graves Nunatak/ Robison Glacier region of the Transantarctic Mountains;  this is an area we’ve been to before and it has yielded many meteorite specimens.  But there are also lots of icefields in that region we’ve not visited,  so the full potential of the region is not yet known.  About half-way through the season the team will shift northwards along the Transantarctics to the Amundsen Glacier region. Here too they’ll explore a number of icefields whose setting suggests the potential for meteorite recoveries.   The reconnaissance team consists of:

  • John Schutt from Case Western Reserve University, field team leader and mountaineer
  • Joseph Boyce of the University of Hawai’i
  • Katherine Joy from the University of Manchester, UK
  • Tomoko Arai,  from Chiba Institute of Technology,  Japan

As the next 8 weeks go by we’ll fill in the details through daily (or semi-daily) website updates.  I hope you enjoy the show!

 

-Ralph Harvey,  Principal Investigator of the ANSMET.