the big blue
(Note from the editor: the low bandwidth of the Iridium email system can have strange effects as it shuffles data from one satellite to another, then downlinks to servers which may choke up with messages, resulting in emails squirting out of buffers days after they were sent. That’s what happened with this post, obviously prepared on New Years Day.)
We send a warm hello to all of our faithful blog followers. For most of you, this is a greeting from the future – and from here in the Miller Range, 2014 looks bright and hopeful. We are still without the rest of our field party, and we wait anxiously for good news on that front daily. Because of an already stressed flight schedule from agency cutbacks, plus unforseen aircraft mechanical issues and then bad weather on our 5 or 6 total hours of window for putting in last week, the odds were not in their favor for getting out. But now some other things have fallen into place, so we are crossing our fingers that we’ll be a complete team by this weekend or early next week.
(note from the editor: the field party was completed late yesterday; this post was prepared 4 days ago.)
In the meantime, we’ve been traversing the wide, beautiful blue ice fields around camp to assess their productivity. Aside from the good fortune of being out in such amazing scenery, with huge swells of blue ice, capped with frothy white sastrugi contorted into unreal sculptures, and with high craggy mountains in the distance, we’ve also been able to find a fair number of meteorites. Some of these, especially out on the blue ice, are large, maybe up to 10 inches or more, and we have found at least one achondrite (from a large planetary body). We have to carefully flag them in case we can’t get back to collect them this year, because we are missing two other key pieces of equipment – our collection kits and the solar panels for charging electronics. So we await the rest of our team to be fully operational here. We fired up our emergency generator last night so that we could send a blog, since it’s been awhile – thanks for checking back. We’ve enjoyed being together very much, and have shared some yummy holiday meals, plus music, in our tents. One nightly ritual we love is to hear readings from Johnny each night. We hear poems by Robert Service about the early Yukon days, and he is reading the journals of Amundsen and Scott, compiled by Roland Huntford. Follow along, if you like. We hope to check back in again soon!
Many thanks to Ralph, Zac, Eric and Dad for the texts and to Amber and Summer for the presents!
A wild New Years Eve party
- posted by Jani (dated 1 Jan 2014)
Good News deserves to be repeated verbatim……
Just wanted to let you know that I spoke with Johnny Schutt tonight, and ALL members of G-058 are now happily camping together at South Miller Range. They had a long, successful day moving from CTAM. They were very much looking forward to their dinner!
Hope you can stay warm and safe back there in the States!
Communications Operator, Mac Ops
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
-Posted by rph from C-C-C-C-OLD Cleveland
Hi all, I didn’t hear from the ANSMET folks at Miller Range or CTAM directly, but I did hear from my McMurdo colleagues. The four ANSMET folks at CTAM (Jim, Jani, Manavi and Alex) spent the night there. They are scheduled to start Twin Otter flights up to the Miller Range at about 4 pm east coast time today. It shouldn’t be too long before we get regular news broadcast directly from our studios in the Miller Range!
-posted by RPH from snowy Cleveland
Pic of twin otter shuttle from 2012-2013 season
Hi all, a little third-hand news courtesy of friends in McMurdo. The four ANSMET people who had been stranded for so long in McMurdo made it to CTAM late yesterday after one of the wierdest, longest delays in our 35+ year history of field work. They reported that all is well. Today they are scheduled for a full day of shuttling people and gear up to the Miller Range using our favorite small workhorse of a plane, the Twin Otters flown by Ken Borek Air.
As usual, I’ll update you as I learn more.
-posted by rph from snowy Cleveland
NPR’s Weekend Edition managed to do a story on ANSMET this morning, including a satellite phone call with the gang at Miller Range recorded a few days ago. You can read the story, listen to the broadcast and/or download it HERE (NPR.ORG)
There are a number of errors in the story, including a picture of a cryoconite hole labelled as a meteorite, a windstorm labelled as a white-out, and the most aggregious, giving NSF credit for the work instead of NASA. I’ve let them know these should be fixed.
And sorry for the lack of warning- I got no warning myself.
Whoever said “Life’s good but not fair at all” knew what he was saying. Here’s the perfect example: all of us stuck at McMurdo were on a backup mission to two primary missions flying this morning. One of them got cancelled due to weather early in the morning which made us really optimistic about flying out today. So we hunkered down and waited patiently… ok, slightly impatiently, but only because we had never got such a clear chance in the last 2 weeks. When MacOps finally contacted us we were told we shouldn’t get our hopes high but they were going to transport us to the runway and we were to wait there for more news. It didn’t look good but we were just excited to get out of McMurdo and go someplace new. We were totally ready for them to send us back home from the terminal. When they finally said we were going to fly it seemed very surreal. So, Jim, Morgan, Alex, and I got on the Herc, it took off, and without much ado, it was 1.5 hours into the journey. When it felt like we were about to land, I allowed myself a broad grin – this was really happening, we could be at Miller Range by the end of the day…. Nope – stupid, stupid me! The loadmaster sitting next to me tapped me on my shoulder in answer to my grin (that I swear, no one was supposed to see) and signaled that we were turning back. It took the four of us a few minutes to realize he wasn’t kidding us. We looked out the tiny windows and there was a complete white-out over CTAM. They could not risk landing in such conditions and the plane had to turn back. I wanted to ask them if they were willing to let us parachute out… how could we go back now, we were right above CTAM!? The last 2 hours felt like a cruel joke. Not fair, right? I thought we had done our time. Within 5 hours we were back in sunny McMurdo. Oh well, we’ll try again tomorrow… we are one of 3 backup flights, so it doesn’t look too good but you never know!
Here’s Jim (photo by Alex) with a carton of fresh veggies, all smiles before he gets on the plane. Wish there was an after-photo…
This is what it looked like halfway through the journey… how could this glorious weather not follow us to CTAM?
It betrayed us over CTAM …
Our cargo blew my mind when I saw it all palletized on the plane. This is what the 4 of us need to survive in the field. I now appreciate how complicated the logistics of these flights might be..
Finally, the highlight of our day… a lone emperor penguin by the roadside, on the way to Pegasus runway.
-posted by Manavi from (regretably) McMurdo (edited by rph)
Okay, just got an update from both Alex and Manavi that they’re still in McMurdo but hopeful for today.
Manavi said…….” We didn’t make it out yesterday. We are backup to a Union Glacier and Pole flight today (28th) and the Union Glacier flight just got cancelled about an hour ago because of weather. So it looks good for today, although I’m not sure why we haven’t been activated yet. If you don’t hear from one of us by mid-day today, we will be on our way
Alex said……. ”I attached a screen shot of our favorite TV channel. The good is that they will fly tomorrow, Sunday”.
NOTE from editor- it’s that BDM line for flight P030 and for the Twin Otter KBG that we’re hoping for….
-posted by RPH from Cleveland
No posts from either team in the last two days strongly suggests the mcmurdo group are finally on the move. As noted previously, the folks already at Miller Range don’t have a lot of electrical capacity so they’re not posting, and if they’re on the move, the McMurdo folks are just 100% too busy. I’m taking the quiet as a good sign.
-posted by rph from Cleveland, OH
Christmas dinner is ready.
The McMurdo branch of the ANSMET team: Jim, Morgan, Manavi and Alex.
Manavi has a B-day on Dec-24, Jim on Dec-26. What a coincidence!
Manavi spent a part of her birthday at the beach.
Sunbathing at the McMurdo beach. It is different from Hawaii beaches.
We are pretty far from everything. Miller Range is close, only about 400 miles,
hopefully we will be there soon.
-Posted by Alex from McMurdo (edited by rph)
Greetings from McMurdo, where half of the ANSMET will be spending Christmas! Two LC-130s arrived here yesterday from Christchurch so we were optimistic about getting out to CTAM today. Getting the Herc that’s currently stuck at the South Pole back to McMurdo is the priority for flights on continent so the one flight that got out today was heading that way. Now our flight to CTAM is closer to the top of the priority list, putting us one theoretical step closer to rejoining the rest of the team in Miller Range – unwavering optimism is the only way! Since we can’t learn about meteorite hunting and collection right now, the universe is giving us lessons in patience, resourcefulness, and gratitude. This is an incredibly thoughtful and valuable gift!
We are still finding lots of interesting things to do around town! We were fortunate enough to tour the pressure ridges near Scott Base before they were closed for the summer. These pressure ridges are formed by tension created between the sea ice in McMurdo Sound and the Ross Ice Shelf. Water at this intersection freezes and expands during the winter, making huge chunks and waves of ice pop up and look like ice mountains! The ice is weak there so seals can easily make dive holes in it (which they chew with their teeth!!), which they use to come up onto the ice to sun bathe and relax. Consequently, it’s the best place around McMurdo to see them. It’s difficult to not anthropomorphize them, but they seem to look at you with big, sweet eyes full of curiosity and absent of fear. It’s an incredible experience to be so close to such a large creature you’ve (probably) only ever seen in a zoo and feel like a guest in his house. It’s truly an honor!
Here’s a seal stretching and showing off a cute yoga pose! You can see the pressure ridges, Castle Rock, and part of Mount Erebus in the background.
And another seal, this time snoozing on the ice, clearly NOT bothered by our presence!
This frozen pool of ice has a veritable meadow of what are colloquially known as frost flowers. This block of ice has so many beautiful gifts to give!!
-posted by Morgan from McMurdo (editing by rph)