Posted by & filed under 2013/ 2014 Field Season.

…this one from Alex with no comment from him.  What you are witnessing the annual Blessing of the Skandics,  by our Pontiff, Johnny “Alpine” Schutt, D.Sc. (at left).   Meanwhile Steve and Jani are trying to impress someone by taking notes.



-posted by rph from Cleveland.

Posted by & filed under 2013/ 2014 Field Season.


Morgan, Alex and Manavi at Newbie Snowmobile School

The third time did turn out to be a charm – we are all finally in McMurdo!! Our flight down yesterday (December 5) went without a hitch. We refueled at Invercargill and landed on Pegasus airfield by 6:30pm. “Ivan” the Terra Bus took us down to McMurdo where Jim and Johnny were waiting….the 2013-2014 ANSMET team is finally together! We miss you. It’s been beautiful out here – bright sunshine with temperatures hovering between -1 and -5 C.
Today was a hectic but extremely productive day. After ski doo training for the whole group; Alex, Morgan, and I went off for newbie ski doo driving school. We had way too much fun and the guy in charge had to practically drag us off our ski doos after we were done. Can’t wait to get out in the field and ride those things around every single day! We also pulled our non-frozen food for the season.Tomorrow promises to be just as busy!

Here are some pictures. Someone else has a picture of the whole group after we landed. You’ll hear from one of us again soon.


A happy Morgan packing up the groceries with Jani, John and a few others in the background

-posted by Manavi   (with editorial help from rph)

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

The ANSMET team (and a few others) seated aboard an LC-130

  I received several emails last night recording another day of (ultimately) unsuccessful attempts to fly south.  I’ll let them tell the story…..

From Jani:    Delayed again – engine troubles on the LC-130 – we’re just now hearing our briefing at 11 am  - sounds like we’re boarding the bus again at noon, with a drop dead for crew hours at 12:30.

From Barb:   We had some engine problems this morning and are back in the pax terminal. We will try again for a 12 noon flight. if that doesn’t go by 12:30 pm then crew time expires. Hopefully you won’t be hearing from us this evening (emoticon deleted)

From Barb (a little later):       They just canceled the flight for today because of the ongoing engine repairs. They don’t think they can get out before the crew expires today. We’re back to CHC and will try again tomorrow!

From Jani (a little later):      And….. we’re boomeranged. I’m guessing they figured they’d run into crew time at 12:30 before they got it fixed.  Back to Christchurch!


Two boomerangs is not unusual, and maybe third time’s a charm.  The gang does have some chores to do while they wait.  One McMurdo task that takes a lot of time is grocery-shopping;  or more properly, deciding on the food you want for the season, pulling it from shelves and freezers,  and packing it properly.  Jim sent the latest list of available stuff to the team back in Christchurch and asked them to prepare their menu and shopping list, so that the delays getting to McMurdo don’t propagate too far.  In the compressed pre-season we considered doing this,  and even possibly pulling food before they get to McMurdo.  A little risky, particularly if Jim and John decide you like stewed spinach,  but in this season it is the kind of compromise we may be stuck with.


-From Ralph in Cleveland

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Getting underway and going nowhere….


Hi all,   Last night I posted that it seemed like the team was underway, and they were-  sort of.  In fact they got on the plane multiple times, flew part way, and then came home. In the local idiom it’s called a “Boomerang” flight, and it’s a fairly common occurrence. In simple terms, if you’re flying 3000 miles with nothing but cold Southern Ocean below you, and one rinky-dink airport,  you want everything perfect.  I for one am glad our pilots (in this case the NY Air National Guard) are pi-i-i-icky!

But let’s let Morgan and Jani tell the story, shall we?

From Morgan:

Hey Ralph,  Here’s a picture we snapped in front of the LC130 we were hoping to take to the ice today. We got kitted out in all our ECW gear, were briefed on some important safety and environmental considerations and were promptly loaded onto the plane. Then we waited. Then we found out there were issues with the radar so we needed to disembark while they were worked on. A few hours went by, we were given the go ahead to load up again, which we did. After a wee taxi around the airfield, it was decided we would need more fuel and it was already late in the day (~3:30PM) so it would be better to wait until tomorrow to try again. Alas, we are all craving ice and anxious to get out there and find some rocks. The good news is that we are well practiced in donning (and removing, on the airfield, much to the dismay of the Air Force personnel) our ECW gear now! We were also issued so many sandwiches today we didn’t know what to do with them all – a delicious problem to be sure! We are scheduled for a 7AM departure tomorrow so send us some clear weather vibes – we’re getting sick of all this warm weather!! ;o)


From Jani:

Hi Ralph,
We got on the plane, got off the plane while they worked on the RADAR, waited on the tarmac (and got to take pictures, which was fun), got sunburned, then went to the local pax terminal for a few hours while they worked on the RADAR. At 2:30 we got back on the plane, taxied all the way to the runway, then came back. At that point, the weather had worsened in McMurdo to the point that we didn’t have enough fuel, and if we’d stopped at Invercargill as planned (to get more fuel, to enable the carriage of the extra cargo we had on board), then we’d have run out of crew time.

In short, we’re boomeranged until tomorrow morning. :) The plane is fine, so all seems to depend on weather.

I’m glad for a run in the park. Spirits are fairly high. Hasta pronto!


Posted by Ralph,  Tuesday morning (3 Dec)

Two additional notes from the editor:

-You say the sandwiches are yummy?   I think thou must be under the influence of mood altering substances, young lady.  Catering is NOT a tradition in USAP.

-for the families out there-  sometimes when boomerangs are frequent, those at home start to have visions about aged aircraft with too many problems.  You shouldn’t worry; this is probably the single safest fleet of aircraft in the world.  The C-130 platform is probably the single most successful aircraft ever built, with many thousands flying around the world and rivalling the DC-3 family for longevity and durability.  Originally a military aircraft, they have a super-strong airframe and huge redundancy in all their systems (four engines, a dozen separate fuel paths, and I believe 1,345 different radios).  On top of that, the USAP LC-130′s  are maintained and checked out at a level far, far beyond any aircraft flying back in the civilized world, and the pilots from the NYANG are the best trained and least cowboyish in the world. They simply don’t fly unless every system works and everyone on the crew agrees it’s safe.   As someone with nearly 1000 hours on these beasts (a lot of it working with the crews),  I worry a lot more about a commercial puddle-jumper flight between Cleveland and Washington DC than I do about the flight to Antarctica.

Posted by & filed under 2013/ 2014 Field Season.


The women of ANSMET 2013-2014 in their formal wear. From left to right, Jani, Barbara, Morgan and Manavi.

Today got us excited to go to McMurdo, because we got to put on all of our cold weather gear at the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) in Christchurch. As you can see, the four of us women were very cozy in our big reds. Sadly, since the boys weren’t in our changing room, they didn’t make the picture. We also got to watch some little briefing videos about safety and general conduct that were surprisingly inspiring and motivating for getting there soon. Warm and pleasant Christchurch, now headed into summer, was so nice for walking today, so I wouldn’t be sad to have more time here. However, we have a 6 am(!) call, “launching” by nine. Hopefully our next blog post will be from…The Ice.

 -submitted by Jani, Monday 2 December 2013
Added note from the editor.    I can assure you (from personal experience) that you should be glad the boys/men are not shown.  Does the phrase “body beards” say enough?

Posted by & filed under 2013 / 2014 Field Season Preview, 2013/ 2014 Field Season.

the 2013-2014 ANSMET field team, in no particular order

This Friday the remainder of the 2013-2014 ANSMET field team begins their journey southward to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.  John and Jim are already underway, while the rest, a combination of seasoned veterans and newbies,  are getting ready to travel.

ANSMET field teams are made up of a mix of leadership personnel and volunteers, both veterans and new folks.   This year’s team is more veterans than newbies, a purposeful choice given some of the uncertainty we sensed during early planning (note to expeditioners: always trust that sense of foreboding).  As noted earlier, I’m not going with the team this year,  and I’m jealous-  this is a fun group.


The team includes…..


Jim Karner from Case Western Reserve University,  field team leader and veteran of 5 previous seasons;

John Schutt from Case Western Reserve University (and Blaine, WA), our mountaineer and field safety officer since 1980!

Barb Cohen from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, a veteran of two previous seasons (2003-4 and 2006-7);

Jani Radebaugh from Brigham Young University, a veteran of two previous seasons (2005-6 and 2008-9);

Steve Ballou from Beloit College, a veteran of one previous season (2010-11);

Manavi Jadhav from the University of Hawai’i (and soon the University of Chicago), a first-timer;

Morgan Martinez from the University of California San Diego, another first-timer;

Alex Meshik from Washington University in St. Louis, who finally makes it after an invite almost 10 years ago!


These scientists conduct a wide variety of planetary research, from studies of Antarctic (and non-Antarctic) meteorites, the history of the Moon and Mars, processes on icy planetary bodies and the origins of the solar system.  Some even have particular skills we need (like driving cat sleds to the Pole).

Folks interested in volunteering for a future ANSMET expedition should read the blog’s FAQ section on that topic (read carefully….applications are ONLY accepted ON PAPER, no emails please).


-Ralph Harvey,  from Case Western Reserve University



Posted by & filed under 2013 / 2014 Field Season Preview, 2013/ 2014 Field Season.

John Schutt, First Class

As I write this,  John and Jim should be waking up on their first day in McMurdo, Antarctica.   The rest of the team is gearing up for the same trip themselves, with most people leaving the US the day after Thanksgiving.

In early October we published a preview of the coming ANSMET season, unsure how the government shutdown might affect us.  The shutdown ended about a week later, and it took about 3 more weeks of negotiations with NSF and their Antarctic contractor ASC to create a new plan.  Our goal was to preserve as much time on the ice and as many people in the field party as possible, while NSF and ASC needed to reduce impact on McMurdo and a budget already hit by the sequester (which hasn’t gone away).

In the end our season plans didn’t change too much.  We’re still heading to the Miller Range, with the following changes.

-Our season starts as scheduled,  but the preseason preparations in McMurdo (led by John with one other helper) is reduced in length (and increased in intensity).

-We’ve removed the early season work at the north end of the Miller Range from our plans to reduce the number of flights needed.

-Our season ends about 10 days early, with a nominal date of 11 Jan for pick-up from the field.

– Last but not least, I’m staying home.    I had planned to go with John to McMurdo for preseason prep work and then out with the team for the first two weeks of fieldwork.  That’s my normal routine, helping with the preseason prep, the training, initial deployment, and transition to the fieldwork. But Jim is more than capable of that stuff, and my staying home turned out to reduce the number of flights needed and population in mcmurdo enough so that NSF didn’t press for further reductions (initially they had wanted us to drop to 6 field party members).

So there you have it,  the 2013-2014 ANSMET field season, plan B.


-Ralph Harvey,  from Case Western Reserve University

Posted by & filed under 2013 / 2014 Field Season Preview, 2013/ 2014 Field Season.


Meteorite finds in the Miller Range

For the 2013-2014 field season,  ANSMET is planning a return to the Miller Range icefields.  Last visited in 2011-2012, these icefields have been visited six times previously, yielding over 2300 specimens and including many rare types such as martian and lunar meteorites. There are three large blue ice areas informally called the Miller Range “North”, “Middle” and “South” icefields, as well as many smaller peripheral icefields where meteorites have been found.

The main focus for the 2013-2014 field season will be the South icefield, large areas of which remain to be searched. However, as in the 2011 field season, we plan to start at the north end of the Miller Range.  Our efforts to search several of the blue ice areas in the north end were hampered by snow cover in 2011,  so we’ll try again by landing there first.  After about a week we’ll then traverse uphill and southward to the South icefield, and set up camp to spend the remainder of the season systematically searching.

ANSMET is fielding only a single team this year;  some modest reconnaissance flights may also take place both before and after the field season. Currently most ANSMET field party members are 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.

Posted by & filed under 2012 / 2013 Field Season.

One of the star specimens from 2012-2013, a large carbonaceous chondrite

Talk about poorly kept promises!   The 2012-2013 field season has been over for more than 6 months and today,  Long ago I said I’d post a summary of the results from that season,  and finally,  here it is.

We definitely had a successful season,  but not quite what the pre-season plans would have suggested.  Two parties went into the field as planned and on schedule, and you can read their day-to-day exploits in the previous posts.  But to summarize,   a 4-person reconnaissance party went to some promising sites in the most southerly reaches of the Transantarctic Mountains, while an 8-person systematic searching team went to the Larkman Nunataks and the icefields adjacent to Mts Cecily, Emily and Raymond in the Grosvenor Mountains. The recon team recovered meteorites from two previously visited icefields near the Klein Glacier landing site and a previously unvisited site in the Graves Nunatak region; but as they moved to sites along the upper Robison Glacier,  the weather stopped cooperating.  At one stage they endured the longest weather-related work-stoppage in ANSMET’s 37 year history, a full 14 days.  It wasn’t all about snow and wind,  either;  warmer than usual weather in the McMurdo Sound region meant the Pegasus runway was too soft for use by wheeled aircraft,  meaning the US Antarctic Program’s ski-equipped aircraft (LC-130′s and Twin Otters) had to do double duty,  bringing cargo from the civilized world as well as supporting activities in the field and at remote stations.  Together these factors led to a recon season where we managed to visit less than half of the sites we had hoped for,  and the total number of meteorite recoveries was correspondingly low-  only 63 specimens.  In the end, success could be measured in the few new sites we knocked off our list of potential targets,  but much work remains for us in that part of the Transantarctics.

The systematic team had much better luck with the weather.   After a few days of acclimatization at the Mt. Bumstead icefields,  the team traversed to Larkman Nunatak.  The icefields in this area are relatively small, but there’s a challenge hiding at the foot of Larkman Nunatak- a moraine brimming with meteorites.  Previous visits to the site emphasized the desire not only to complete searching of the icefields but also to finish a highly-controlled methodical foot search in that moraine.  Neanderthals that we are, we even went so far as to try a few new things,  like smaller wire-supported flags, battery powered drills for marking paths and finds, and the use of a metal-detector for double-checking.  The payoff appears to have been substantial;  about 331 specimens total for the season , including many that appear “unusual” and contrary to expectations,  of significant size.


The meteorites from the 2012-2013 field season are being characterized right now. First descriptions of ANSMET meteorites are published in the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter, a new edition of which should be out within the month (visit  As usual there is a backlog of meteorites from previous seasons that need descriptions, so we can expect that only the top dozen or two from the 2012-2013 field season will be described.   But often those first few are the cream of the crop, one of which is shown above.  So stay tuned……..


-Ralph Harvey,  PI of ANSMET

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

As of this writing,  all ANSMET personnel have left Antarctica and are on their way home via Christchurch,  NZ.   I will put together a post to wrap-up the season sometime in about a week,  so stay tuned…..


Ralph Harvey,  PI of ANSMET,  Case Western Reserve University.


Chrsitchurch as seen from the Space Shuttle (photographer unknown)