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)
I just got off the phone after talking to the half of our people that are in the Miller Range. They are in a fantastic mood, very upbeat and feeling fine. They haven’t posted a blog in a while because they have very limited ability to charge up electronics; all their solar power stuff is at CTAM camp and the small generator they have is being prioritized for the critical satellite phones. Weather is good and they’re hunting for meteorites, but they don’t have enough collection gear to recover the specimens, so they’re just flagging them for now. The area they are in is made up of lots of little odd-shaped icefields rather than a single large icefield, and they’re finding meteorites on these patches, so they really have to concentrate and scour every corner of every patch. They’re also working in local moraines and doing some reconnaissance. They’ve got plenty of food and fuel for the time being and they’re very comfortable, so no worries from a survival standpoint. They feel isolated from the rest of the ANSMET family, however, calling them “the other team”…… but to prove they don’t really feel that way, they’ve decided to put off celebrating christmas until the team is made whole again! I think that’s fantastic.
Meanwhile Jim and the newbies Alex, Morgan and Manavi are still in mcmurdo. The christmas holidays begin right now and so there won’t be any flights. A few LC-130′s need fixing and crews get maxed out on flight hours quickly so delays continue. But they’ll get a very nice holiday out of it- I’ve been lucky enough to experience christmas in McMurdo and it can be a very fun experience.
I hope all our readers will ask Santa for miracle LC-130 cures and a bunch of flight crews that are bored and looking for things to do……
-posted by rph from mcmurdo
Steve Ballou with a meteorite
We woke up today at Miller Range to low clouds and a light dusting of snow. It’s been like this off and on for a few days here. The reason we are getting snow all the way up here is the same reason our comrades didn’t get to fly out of McMurdo today – namely, warm moist air from the ocean is pushing up inland, and precipitation follows. This is unusual for us up on the plateau because of the katabatic winds. The katabatics are cold, dry air that comes down from the atmosphere at the high points of the continent. This cold air is dense and hugs the ground, flowing downhill toward the coasts, much like when you have to cover your garden plants in spring because the colder air pools in the low areas. The katabatics pick up speed as they flow and can really howl, making unpleasant windchill effects, but they do keep the coastal clouds away. In both my previous seasons, we were beset by fierce winds and cold temperatures, so in some ways it’s a treat to be in a calm area. My tent isn’t constantly thrumming and I haven’t had to worry about things like gloves flying away. However, I’d trade some windchill for a full team collecting meteorites! We did take a drive up to a previous camp where we dug up a cache of supplies (including 200 flags) and flagged two meteorites on the way home.
Barbara – Dec 21
Ralph here- got a short update from the gang still in McMurdo- yes, you read that correctly, they are still in McMurdo. I received emails from Jim and Manavi. Jim says that there’s a broken LC-130 at South Pole Station and saturday’s only LC-130 mission (Friday our time) is to send a crew up there to fix and retrieve it. ANSMET is a backup mission to that, with a decent chance to fly. If that doesn’t get us into the field there are opportunities on Monday and Tuesday, but then the Christmas holiday descends and puts things off still further.
Here’s hoping for a quick change to weather /plane issues/ scheduling issues……
-posted by rph from Cleveland
Steve and Barb walking away
Hello World Beyond Miller Range,
The ANSMET 2013-14 forward party is reporting in from the South Miller Range, If you have been following along you know that we spent 5 days from 13 December to the 18th before we moved to our present location, making today our 8th field day. Since the LC-130 meant to bring in the rest of our team and gear was cancelled due to weather, the twin otter crew that had been with us (to transport our goods and comrades here from CTAM) left for the pole to shuttle fuel to various caches.
Despite the weather-thrown curve ball we continue to relish the experience and do our best to search for meteorites. While on a water fetching mission J-rad, Barb, and I found three more extraterrestrial visitors this afternoon. Sadly we will not be able to free them from their temporary blue ice confines until we get the rest of our collection gear, but have marked the meteorite locations with flags, poles, and cairns.
Conditions here are relatively mild with calmish winds and temps from 2 to 16 degrees F, however those calm winds allow moisture from the coast to work its way inland onto the polar plateau thus giving rise to fog, mist, and ice crystals, While beautiful these conditions are not favorable to flight operations.
Our days are used to plan, organize, and prepare for what is to come. This experience helps us to become the people that we desire to be, and we all feel extremely privileged to be here, hundreds of miles from the nearest person or accommodations besides our tiny group of tents and ourselves.
Best wishes to all those not camping out in Antarctica and sleeping on hundreds of feet of ice, especially family, friends, and fellow meteorite hunters everywhere.
Sincerely, Meteorite hunter Steveqa
-posted by Steve Ballou from Miller Range (edited by rph)
It’s December 19, and Jim, Morgan, Alex, and I are still stuck in McMurdo. Maybe it’s time to take those yoga & meditation classes that they offer out here.. because it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep our Zen faces on. We thought today was going to be the day. The runway at CTAM was tested yesterday and everything looked promising. We woke up bright & early, donned our ECW clothing, got packed lunches, and were at the transport center at 6:45 am. We were immediately informed of a weather delay and within the hour our flight was cancelled for the day.
We miss Johnny, Barbara, Jani and Steve. We spoke to them yesterday and got to know that they are already at Miller Range! I’m glad they got out before the weather at CTAM got bad. AND.. they’ve already found 2 meteorites! I’m getting tired of all the terrestrial rocks at McMurdo and keep looking out for meteorites in a sea of dark basalts. All I want for Christmas is a freezer full of space rocks… is that really too much to ask for?
Here’s a picture of Alex on our (2nd) loop hike around Observation Hill. All of us newbies have been pretty confused about directions out here. So Alex decided we needed to figure this out from first principles with a bamboo stick stuck in the ground, on a freezing ridge hike.
And here’s our intrepid leader, Jim, giving the non-geologists the scoop on local McMurdo rocks.
Christmas decorations are up and party plans are in full swing at Mactown. While it’s lovely, warm and fuzzy around here, I want to be freezing in our tent at Miller Range, digging into the 10 lbs of butter (per tent!) we sent out in the field, and doing some serious meteorite hunting. Send good tidings our way. I hope the next post is from all of us at Miller Range.
-Posted by Manavi from McMurdo (editing by rph)
ANSMET camp in Miller Range with Twin Otter
We are at the Miller Range! Well, at least four of us, plus our Twin Otter crew, are here. Yesterday was a flurry of activity, as we got two airplanes at CTAM, the Herc with fuel (but not the rest of our party…) from McMurdo, and the Twin Otter from South Pole. We scrambled to help the Herc crew unload and load gear and to get all of our camp onto the Twin Otter in three flights. Once we arrived at the Miller Range, we set up camp and passed out, we were so tired.
When we finally lifted our heads up today, we saw what a beautiful place our little camp is in. We are just uphill from where a small tributary glacier flows between two mountains onto a larger glacier, with big crevasses that we could see from the Twin Otter. We really love those Otter flights, the planes are awesome and it’s such a treat to see the amazing scenery here in the Transantarctic mountains. This morning we were socked in with thick clouds, so that meant no flights for us today. So instead we went out – and found six meteorites! We searched a little moraine and the blue ice, with the help of the Twin Otter pilots Rodney, Adam and Larry. Here they are with their first find, a nice big rock that looks like chondrites we’ve seen from the asteroid belt, all by itself out on the blue ice. It’s so thrilling to finally be able to be doing what we are here for, and we think the Twin Otter guys caught the discovery bug.
We celebrated by having a cozy group dinner of green curry scallops and hot chocolate in our warm tents. We’ve loved having the Twin Otter crew in camp, and have had such fun hanging out and eating together. Now we want the rest of our group so our family can be complete!
Got one! Twin Otter pilots join the ANSMET team
Posted by Jani from the Miller Range South Camp, Dec 19
John, Jani, and Steve soak up the sun atop the Ferrar dolerite hills
John, Steve, Jani and I are still snugly ensconced at CTAM, surrounded by gorgeous mountains, sparkling glacial plains, and sunny skies. We’ve spent a couple of days grooming – not the personal kind, but using our skidoos to drag a heavy metal contraption behind us, lopping off the sastrugi and filling in ruts, to create a silky smooth, 10,000-foot runway for the LC-130′s to land. Unfortunately not everyone has had as good luck as us, as planes from McMurdo and Pole have been delayed due to mechanical issues and weather, respectively. Even John couldn’t find work for us to do today, so we went over to the old Beardmore camp. It was quite a camp back in its day (1985-86), hosting a conference and boasting flush toilets. Now, the plywood buildings are buried under several feet of snow, and descending into it is a little eerie. However, we were not alone! Scores of other ANSMET veterans welcomed us with notes and names and well wishes. I was especially pleased to find the shrine around an Optimus stove, which immediately brought memories of white gas fires flooding back. After lunch, John creamed us at Scrabble, then more than made up for it by leading us by skidoo up one of the nearest hillsides. The hills are made of everyone’s favorite rock, the Ferrar dolerite, sculpted by freeze-thaw cycles, salt, and wind into fantastic hoodoos. In the distance, we glimpsed the QUE, LEW, and other famous meteorite locales. We are surrounded by history. We are all in good spirits, though anxious to be reunited with our whole team and out collecting space rocks,
Barb adding her name to the ANSMET rolls in Beardmore old camp
-Barbara, at CTAM camp, Tuesday Dec 17
-A post from Morgan……
Jim, Manavi, Alex and I are here in McMurdo, all packed up and ready to join Jani, Barb, Steve, and John out at CTAM tomorrow (hopefully). A friend we made here says the key to coping with constant schedule changes is maintaining a “zen-like detachment” to flight plans. We’re working on that. In the mean time, we’ve found plenty of ways to entertain ourselves! The weather here has been spectacular – 26 to 36°F and almost always sunny – and we’ve taken advantage of it to go on several hikes around town. Here’s a map of the trails accessible from McMurdo and a few pictures from those hikes. The first was taken up near Arrival Heights and shows some of the beautiful rocks of Ross Island, McMurdo, and Observation Hill. The next picture was taken on Observation Hill (Ob Hill, if you’re in the know) looking north towards town and Arrival Heights. It’s great having easy access to these trails being able to hike them any time – a bonus of 24 hr/day sunlight!
We also walked to the New Zealand Station at Scott Base along the Hillary Track, named for Sir Edmund Hillary, the Kiwi mountaineer who is acknowledged as being the first climber to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the first to reach the South Pole overland by vehicle, and the founder of the New Zealand Station at Scott Base. While there, we got a tour and picked up valuable information we hadn’t yet learned here in McMurdo. For example, we learned how to deal with penguin close encounters. We are now well versed in the art of reading penguin body language and can identify an angry penguin from a mile away. We’re optimistic about avoiding the dangerous “flipper bash,” should we happen to come across any penguins! That being said, we have yet to see a penguin here. I heard one was spotted wandering around on the ice right in front of town, but that rumor started late in the evening after the bars had closed so I have my doubts about the veracity of this account.
Cross your fingers, light some incense, and do a pre-emptive victory dance – we hope the next blog post will be from the whole team together again at beautiful CTAM!
-From Morgan, posted by rph