Posted by & filed under 2013/ 2014 Field Season.

Hi,   Alex Meshik sent me the following “photolog” from McMurdo…..

Ralph, we are waiting for Tuesday to fly out of McMurdo. Our present activity is limited to walking around, eating and sleeping.   Today we walked to the Scott Base looking for suspiciously looking rocks on the way.  None of them turned out to be a meteorite:

We saw beautiful pressure ridges with distant view of Erebus

The food was excellent, as usually

Freshly baked bread, we will miss it in the Miller Range.

All that said, we wish we could leave McMurdo sooner.

-From Alex in McMurdo,  posted by rph

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CTAM camp 2013


Yesterday, our first wave (Johnny, Steve, Barbara and I) finally made it out into the field on the big LC-130 aircraft, the same kind that brought us to McMurdo from Christchurch. These are amazing aircraft, run by the New York Air National Guard unit because they also support operations in Greenland in the northern summers. The aircraft are equipped with skis and can carry a lot of gear. This flight had our four skidoos and all of our camp gear for four of us. It took a couple of hours to fly to our camp, which is just uphill from the Ross ice shelf on the way to the South Pole. There is amazing scenery to see from the aircraft on our way across the Transantarctic Mountains, which has some pretty high peaks (we passed one above 13,000 feet) and tons of crevasses. The camp itself, which I remember as Beardmore, is at about 6,000 feet and is very close to our field site, but the weather here is nearly always amazing – tropical, as Johnny says. It has been calm and sunny with a fantastic view of big mountains nearby. That said, it’s still pretty cold at about 24 degrees, so it is a perfect place to get our field legs underneath us. We tore our gear apart from the Herc (LC-130) pallets, got camp set up, and got ready to be taken to our field site in stages to the Miller Range by Twin Otter, which you can see here next to the Herc as it was leaving. Three Twin Otter pilots stayed with us in camp last night, in prep for running some gear out this morning, which was fun. We love those aircraft, they can go anywhere and do anything, as can their pilots.

Jani, Sat 14 Dec

PS – Here’s a shoutout to Mr. Radebaugh’s class! And thanks, Mike Malaska for your text – good luck in the field.

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quick note here from Ralph,  no photo attached.   Just got an email from Jim saying that he and his half of the team (morgan, alex and manavi) are still in McMurdo.  John, Steve, Barb and Jani made it out to CTAM but the plane suffered some insult during landing, and now they want the group there to groom a runway for them.  Jim says the earliest they’re likely to get out of mcmurdo now is tuesday!


We’ll post more information when we’ve got it…….

Posted by & filed under 2013/ 2014 Field Season.


group at wastewater vats

When we listened to our environmental briefing last week, one of the things he said was that here at McMurdo, we’re very disconnected from both our supply line and our waste disposal. We get amazing food from the galley, but we don’t grow it here. We sort our trash, but then it’s whisked away off continent. But it’s an amazing operation here to keep a town of 1000 people functioning in near-complete isolation. Today, we got a little closer to understanding both our supply and disposal by touring the power plant, the desalinization plant and the wastewater treatment plant. Paul, our guide, has been working in these places at McMurdo for nine years after a career teaching science. He showed us the giant diesel engines that generate our electricity and the secondary ethylene glycol heat exchangers – two are always on and a third is there as backup. We get our water straight from McMurdo sound – it is passed through several filters and pushed (at 700 psi!) through a membrane with mesh so small it traps Na and Cl ions but passes water molecules through (reverse osmosis). Paul said that this “cold filtering” process was invented by the Coors company to be able to sell their beer without pasteurization. The water that comes out is so pure that they then have to add minerals back in to prevent the water from leaching things out of your body like calcium. McMurdo uses 55,000 gallons of fresh water a day! When the water goes down the drain, it doesn’t go straight back into the ocean – the delicate ecosystem there can’t withstand a raw sewage input. That’s where the wastewater treatment comes in. Vats of microorganisms break down our waste and bacteria break down their waste. It’s an ecosystem onto itself. The water that comes out is clear and pure and goes back into the ocean. The solids are dried and shipped back to California on the ship. We fill about a triwall per week of solid waste – essentially compost by the time it goes through the breakdown process.

We got the chance to do this today because there is a dense ground fog out on the ice shelf that is preventing all flights from coming and going. It’s a constantly shifting environment down here, so we wait and hope for another chance tomorrow.

Jani steps gingerly over the raw sewage pipe


Paul (McMurdo Engineer) and Morgan at the reverse osmosis unit


-Posted by Barbara from McMurdo (editing by rph)


Posted by & filed under 2013/ 2014 Field Season.

We woke up so excited this morning to a beautiful McMurdo day. Skies were warm and clear. Johnny, Steve, Barbara and I got all of our things together, put our ECW gear on, and marched up the hill to catch our shuttle to the runway. We knew we were in for a long wait when we stopped to pick up our air crew. It was fun to make our way out to the runway, going past Scott Base and the big pressure ridges, out across the ice, past a looming Mount Erebus (a big stratovolcano), today clear of clouds, and out to the Pegasus runway. We waited in the pax terminal, which is a big trailer near the runway, and got to see one of the big, beautiful Basler aircraft up close, seen here from the backside. I was in the ladies room and heard some runway workers talking about a problem with one of the incoming Hercs (LC-130s) that couldn’t get the skis on its landing gear down. They scrambled the emergency landing crew (shown here with the big Royal Society mountains across the ice sheet in the background), and eventually landed just fine on wheels. I emerged from the restroom to see an approaching van, with the driver telling me my flight was – canceled-! – and to get in the van with the rest of my gang. I may have shared my feelings too freely… Well, that’s life in Mactown, flights are canceled all the time for various reasons, there are just so many variables to getting out into the field. We still don’t know why we were canceled, but we’re hopeful for getting out tomorrow. Luckily we came back to taco lunch and cookie Wednesday! And naps…


-posted by Jani from McMurdo

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Dear ANSMET-ophiles,
It is Tuesday (Monday in the US, the day the Bears will lose to Dallas) in McMurdo Station and according to our schedule that means that ANSMET team G-058 is deployment ready and will to start the sequence this evening. We completed the planned frozen food “pull” yesterday, loaded 6 tri-walls (triple layered cardboard container on a pallet) with our gear, and entered all  into the ”cargo stream”. It is amazing to consider the entire supply and delivery chain that starts in the U.S. finding its way to all manner of remote locations allowing groups like ours to operate in Antarctica. Snowmobiles, tents, and sleeping bags all wing their way to CTAM, where we rendezvous with these essential supplies.
Last evening Manavi, Morgan, Alex, and I toured the pressure ridges near Scott Base. The dynamic force of the flowing Ross Ice shelf creates a microcosm of tectonic features as it meets the sea ice and land. The shelf ice folds into an undulating series of ridges as it scrums against Ross Island, while the collision with the sea ice is evidenced by an icy display of subduction, orogeny, and faulting that has an other worldly feel. This fracturing also allows Weddell seals to come to the surface and crawl out on the ice for a nap. Please enjoy Alex’s photo titled “Seal Face” (no that is not a reference to my handsome face)(also the photo was taken with telephoto lens at an appropriate distance for the animal).
This evening half the team performs ”bag drag”, where we present all our hand-carry items, ECW, as well as ourselves to be weighed in preparation for tomorrow’s flight. As mentioned, our put in logistics are complex with John,  Barb, Jani, and I traveling to CTAM where we establish a camp, spend the night, and begin transferring our items into the next transport queue for delivery to our South Miller Range camp. Jim, Alex, Morgan, and Manavi will tag up with us in CTAM, just as we leap toward our “permanent” camp.  All this travel may make for spotty blog updates, so please be patient.
Today we learned the basics of “Meteorite Hunting” and the process by which we collect pristine samples that may unlock the secrets of our solar system and beyond. Our mission is clear, we are ready, and the future will find us keeping with the altruistic ANSMET tradition of, “collection above self” as we venture into the next phase of this fantastic expedition, putting us ever closer to the ”Messis Siderum”, Harvest the Stars.
The team is deeply indebted to all those that toil to make this effort possible…..thanks everyone!
Ice Bound and Down (on behalf of us all Barb, Jani, Manavi, Morgan, Alex, Jim, and John)
-posted by Meteorite Hunter Steve, with small edits from rph

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From the 2012-2013 season; Katie Joy cooking.


Before anyone gets uppity about the title,  I’m allowed to use the word “Fixins” by right of birth-  my father was born in the hills of Tennessee.

The field team is scrambling to get 100 things done today- tomorrow (tuesday our time, wednesday your time) they hope to start flying from McMurdo to the CTAM site, the staging site from where they will fly by small plane up to the Miller Range.  Their cargo is in “the system”,  which means it’s been labelled, cross-referenced and put in the hands of McMurdo’s cargo handlers, who will get it turned into pallets and strapped down inside the belly of the LC-130′s.


The inspiration for this post came when Jani “CC’ed” me a short email aimed at a contractor in the Berg Field Center, that reads…..

“This is the combined frozen food list for the Harvey meteorite group, G-058, for the 13-14 season. The vegetables are the most uncertain here because I’m not sure we know if we pulled the small vs large bags. Let me know if you have questions, I can come by.    Thanks! ”

That list is attached below.   But as I looked it over I realize that many readers of our blog might not fully appreciate ANSMET’s relationship to food,  and I’d like to elaborate.

First on the list is our need for fuel for our bodies.  ANSMET field teams typically spend around 42 days in the field with no guarantee of resupply, which with 8 people means about a thousand meals. And they’re big meals, typically- with high levels of exertion (simply fighting against your clothes takes energy)  and high caloric needs to fight the cold, it isn’t unusual for people to take in 2x what they might normally eat at home.   We also need to add extra food as a safety margin, anticipating delays in getting out of the field, people that are hungrier than planned or develop a serious distaste for something (like the year we found our 20+ lbs of seafood rancid, having somehow been previously thawed).  It is not unusual for an ANSMET field team of 8 to take 4000 lbs of food into the field.

Second,  Food is a major source of entertainment- maybe the biggest.  USAP understands this,  and provides us with enough variety of ingredients that we can pick and choose a menu that suits even the pickiest people.  Of course, everything we take into the field is either dry or frozen, which means some things just don’t work (like mayonnaise and egg nog). And many high-turnover items (like hot cocoa mix) are going to be generic brands. With the need for calories and some fun, meals are a topic of discussion that never gets old.  In most of the field parties I’ve been a part of, social dinners of 3,4, 6 or even all 8 of us are pretty common and always fun.

Finally,  food is a lot of work. While in McMurdo the field team might spend hours planning meals, and many more hours gathering and packing food for shipment. Once we’re in the field, the first step in food preparation is the conversion of ice into liquid water.  We are camped out on the world’s largest and purest fresh water source,  but turning that ice into the 6-8 liters of liquid we each go through each day takes time, from gathering fresh chips to melting it on the stove.  Add in the time it takes to find that bag of frozen carrots, chop up frozen protein, boil pasta or fricassee your grilled-cheese sammich, and we might spend 3-4 hours in some form of cooking every day. The time cost of making liquid water is so high that very little of it is used for washing ourselves or our dishes;  most water is conserved for consumption, and folks learn quickly not to cook things that need 3 pots or rinsing or discarding water.  Most vets are pretty savvy at one-pot meals;  stews and chowders and such where everything ends up in the container it’s cooked in.   On rare occassions someone will get inspired, step out of this mold and do something spectacular, like roast a turkey or bake cookies.  Those people are King of the Camp for at least a day, especially when they share, which they always do.


Jani’s frozen food list for the whole team.

-posted by Ralph from Cleveland, OH

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Hello all,
It was a quiet early Sunday morning in McMurdo Station that allowed me time to quietly drink coffee and write some emails, (I know this is obvious to those that received my emails) before our team visited Scott’s 1902 Discovery Hut for a tour to learn about the ongoing progress of the Antarctica Heritage Foundation restoration efforts. The restoration is being done to stabilize the hut and to install a barrier to keep moisture from forming in and around the framework of the building, that will prevent decay and structure movement. All artifacts are being carefully curated and will be returned when the project is near completion.  Following more personal preparation and brunch (everything here is all you can eat including Frosty Boy soft-serve ice cream, so I struggle), we attended our safety and survival lectures.
One of the fundamental philosophies of effective safety and survival in the field reminded me of the Vulcan precept, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”. To that end we discussed some key concepts taken from the National Outdoor Leadership School and NASA Astronaut Office sources to facilitate team success. “Take CARE, HELP others, Take ACTION, RESPECT your teammates, and serve the needs of the MANY (CHARM). This acronym can be thought of as the guiding mantra for good expeditionary group interactions and governs all that we do. John and Jim shared proven strategies to help handle the hazards and challenges associated with living and working in the coldest, highest (average elevation), driest, most remote location on the planet. Following our discussions John lead us in some hands on practice with rope rescue techniques, which while fun was more difficult than he made them look.
At this point we have “pulled” most of our gear and food, except for frozen food which happens Monday. All our necessaries are or have been packaged and prepared for entry into the logistics network, known as the “cargo stream.” Most of our gear and supplies travel separately before us, except for what we wear and hand carry into the field. The optimum situation then is to reunite with all our essential supplies at transition hubs and our field camp.
Our put in date is tentatively set for this Wednesday, so keep those fingers crossed as field insertion logistics are complex and subject to multiple variables. For our part, we are all eager to get to the business of searching for and recovering extraterrestrial visitors trapped in the icy dimension we call Antarctica.
On behalf of the 2013-14 ANSMET Team (Jim, John, Manavi, Alex, Morgan, and Jani)
Best Wishes to all those we left behind and are not currently laboring in the Frozen Continent,
especially my friends at McNeel Middle School, Turner Middle School, and Loves Park Grade School.
posted by Steve in McMurdo

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Home Inspection time….


Today we put together everything we need to be comfortable and safe in the field, from tents to sleeping bags to kitchen sets. There is an amazing amount of getting things out, moving them over here, trying them to see if they work, putting them back in their bags or boxes, carrying them over there, and packing them into that container. As Jim says, basically Antarctica is a study in moving ‘stuff’ from A to B to A again. The ladies were especially happy to get puffy, down bags this year, though they may expand to fill the entire tents. Speaking of tents, we got out our big, yellow, double-walled, pyramid-shaped Scott tents we will be living in for the next few weeks. They are cozy and just the right size for two. We pulled those out and set them up in the BFC (Berg Field Center). We love being in the BFC because there is lots of awesome camping and field gear all around, there is great music playing, and everyone in there is so cool (much like the rest of McMurdo!). It felt and smelled like home to me when I walked in the door again after five years.


-posted by Jani from McMurdo