Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Back to the Big City

We arrived in McMurdo on Saturday which was a bitter sweet day.  We had to leave Ray, Renee, and the Valley that has been our home for the past three months for the big city.  The plus side was that upon returning we were able to take a shower and change into clean clothes, which really is an amazing feeling after a while without either.  This week we have been busy returning gear to the work centers we borrowed them from, and storing equipment for next year's team.

Last week we did the annual lake levels trip, which is a whirlwind tour of the Dry Valleys that the stream team looks forward to every year.  One of the Limno teams measures the elevations of the Lakes at the beginning of the season, and Stream Team is in charge of measuring the elevations at the end of the season.  The elevations of the lakes are of interest because these lakes are closed basin lakes (they have no true outlet to the ocean). The input to the lakes is virtually entirely glacial meltwater, and the water outputs are evaporation of the open water on the moats, or sublimation (direct phase change from solid to gas) of the lake ice.  Keeping a record of the lake elevations informs us on how much water is entering and leaving the lakes.  The current trend is rising lake levels (more glacial meltwater in than evaporation and sublimation) and has caused a couple of camps to actually be moved uphill.  The new Fryxell hut that was shown in a previous post is the result of rising lake levels.

This was an amazing day of flying because we got to fly up the Taylor Glacier to Lake Joyce and Lake House (shown below).

Lake Joyce
Lake House
Then we crossed up and over the Western Asgard Range into the Western Wright Valley near the Air Devron Six Icefalls and the Labyrinth.  The Air Devron Six Icefalls are a truly spectacular sight.  I wish I could have captured a picture of them, but it just wouldn't have done them justice throught the helicopter window. The icefalls are an area where the ice from the polar plateau cascades down a massive dolerite and sandstone cliff of hundreds of feet and terminates at the bottom of the cliff to form Upper Wright Glacier.

View over the Laybrinth
Down valley of the glacier there is a system of canyons called the Labyrinth.  These canyons have formed from what is believed to be massive glacial outburst floods.  This is where glacial meltwater pools up over time, usually dammed by ice or sediment, and in one catastrophic event it drains the melt pool.  As you could imagine this process has carved out some amazing canyons through the Western Wright Valley.  This place is reminiscent of photos I have seen from southern Utah.  Here is a photo of us flying above the Labyrinth.  Renee said it might be the prettiest view she has ever seen, and I would have to agree.

Don Juan Pond
After flying through this area we landed at the saltiest body of water in the world, Don Juan Pond.  I asked a geologist what the theory is concerning the high salinity of Don Juan Pond and he basically said that you have water picking up salts from the surrounding landscape and dumping into the pond.  The water evaporates and leaves the salt behind.  It was a strange place.  The water was only a couple of inches deep, the bottom sediment was covered in salt that had precipitated out of the water, and there were large rocks placed about everywhere like a sculpture garden.  I could have gotten really artsy with some photography here and Forrest got a great shot.  Unfortunately this is the best one I was able to take.  Yet another place in the Dry Valleys that feels out of this world.

Mikey and I had a day trip yesterday to another unique place called University Valley.  We weren't on the schedule, but were told to be ready because if they were unable to fly up to Erebus they were going to fly our mission instead.  We were notified around 11:00 AM that we were flying at Noon so we scrambled our gear and headed down to the helo hanger.  The flight out along the sea ice was pretty spectacular.  The majority of the McMurdo sound sea ice has broken up and drifted away, leaving a beautiful open bay between McMurdo and the Dry Valleys.  The helicopters are not allowed to fly over open water, so luckily for us they have to skirt the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (this is extremely thick ice that does not clear out of the sound from year to year) which adds quite a bit of flight time to get out to the valleys.  Also convenient for us is the orcas like to patrol the edge of this shelf hunting for their next meal.  So we got to do a bit of whale watching on the way out.

Sea ice breaking up.  If you look really close and have a super high definition monitor you can see an orca popping up to breathe.  It is 2/3 the way across the photo from left to right and in the little gap of open water amongst the ice sheets.
Once we hit the valleys we cruised up the Taylor Valley and hit some strong headwinds once we got up to the Taylor Glacier.  It was another half hour of flying up the taylor glacier to finally arrive at University Valley.  Once we arrived we went and downloaded some data off of a meteorological station and did a little exploring.  This was probably the most other worldly spot I had been to yet.  It is fitting that the team trying to film shots for a TV series called "Red Planet" is trying to get up there.

University Valley
Ventifact in University Valley
Today has been pretty non-eventful.  We are nearly done with our field work, except for one possible trip to the penguin rookery at Cape Royds which I am really hoping for.  Other than that we have just been cleaning up and trying to stay busy.  Most of us don't leave until February 8, so we have some down time which has been nice.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Home Stretch

Well, I officially have become terrible at keeping this thing up.  I will save the excuses and try to catch up!

Things have been crazy busy here at F6.  Stream team is busy with our usual routine of sampling and gauging all of the Fryxell Basin, Bonney Basin, and Hoare Basin streams in a week.  We have had a bunch of visitors at F6 which has been a bunch of fun, but things can get crowded at times.  We had some folks (worm herders as they are affectionately known) last weekend that are studying soil microbes (nematodes).  And this week we had some geologists, and some scientists studying aerosolized (airborne) microbes.  As someone put it, walking around F6 is like playing that puzzle game where you only have one open space, and you slide the little blocks around to get them to fit.  My solution has been to wake up at 5 AM so I can have the hut to myself with excellent internet access.

We have also been having some weird weather.  It has generally been warm and the stream flows have picked up to maybe three quarters of where they were around Thanksgiving.  There has been a lot in the way of fog and clouds which has limited the helicopter flights.  This has given us some necessary exercise to work off the hundreds of cookies consumed at Lake Hoare.  Last weekend in Renee's cookie lab a peanut butter, chocolate chip, bacon cookie was created.  These are the ultimate field snack filled with calories, protein, and goodness.

This week we have been busy closing all of the gauge boxes for the season.  This means we grab the data storage module from the gauge box that has been collecting data all summer, and swap it with a a blank one to record the rest of the fall and into the winter.  Then we survey the elevations of our instruments and control structures to make sure things haven't moved since the beginning of the season (things do move because of the constant freeze thaw cycle of the ground).  Finally we put a ratchet strap around the gauge box to secure the doors during the winter storms and we wish them luck!

A couple weekends ago we got a chance on Sunday to head out and hike the Matterhorn which was a fantastic hike with a killer view.

View from the top of the Matterhorn looking towards the McMurdo Sound.  That is Lake Fryxell at the end of the valley.
Last week we sampled and gauged the streams in Miers Valley.  On the return flight we stopped to get stream samples and do algal sampling on the Garwood River.  The Garwood Valley never fails to deliver.  Might be my new favorite river.

View looking up the Garwood River towards the Royal Society Range.

Last weekend we got out on Sunday to do the Classic Nussbaum Riegel hike.  It is a fairly mellow day filled with amazing hiking.  Definitely will be included in my book of top hikes to do in the Taylor Valley.

View looking up the valley towards the Taylor Glacier.
Looking up the valley under a ventifact.  My dad liked the photo I took of this spot last year, so I tried to recreate it.
The other morning I woke up and there was absolutely no wind at F6.  No wind!  This never happens so I took the opportunity to snap this photo of the Asgard Range reflecting in the Lake moat.  What a strange little valley we live in.  I swear it is on another planet.

View from F6 towards the Canada Glacier.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy 2016!

This past weekend was a fantastic break that I think all of us on the stream team needed and fully appreciated.  We flew back into Mac Town on Friday to take a little hiatus from the field and enjoy the New Year celebration back in town.

The flight into town was pretty fun.  We were all buzzing on the excitement of heading back to civilization and our pilot was nice enough to fly us by some seals and emperors.  We set down on the helo pad right next to the limno team.  They wasted no time bragging about how they flew down the edge of the sea ice and got to see pods of orcas on the prowl for tasty penguins.  Our jealousy wore off quickly as we took in the commotion of Mac Town, and headed to drop our stuff off at Crary (the science and engineering building in town that houses all of the labs and offices).  In Crary we ran into a bunch of people that we hadn't seen since early November.  We were stoked to see them, however they were hesitant to stand too close.  During our stay in the field we acquired a particular musk that we no longer noticed.  The limno team made sure we were fully aware of this, and we quickly dropped our gear off to head for the nearest shower.  After using a solar shower (once a week) for a month and a half, hot running water is a truly magical thing.  New clean clothes were also a real treat.  I was happy to find that after washing my socks they were no longer rigid.

We took the first night back into town pretty easy because Ice Stock was the next day.  For those of you who aren't familiar with McMurdo, Ice Stock is an annual music festival held on the New Year's weekend on base.  Saturday morning we washed some more stream sample bottles in the lab because it wouldn't be a proper day in McMurdo without doing so.  Then time rolled around to check out the bands.

Ice Stock (photo credit: Forrest McCarthy)
The set up was amazing, there were three flat bed semi trailers parked next to eachother to make the stage, the sound system was huge, and there were even bleachers.  It looked like a legitimate concert venue.  There were some "shops" set up around the perimeter that offered free burgers, dogs, and even coffee with baileys in it.  The bands started playing at around 2:00 PM and didn't stop until about 2 AM.  I really can't say enough about how talented the bands were.  My favorite was a funk band that had an unreal horn section.  The mosh pits for the metal bands were pretty fun too.  It was absolutely amazing to see the musical talent McMurdo has to offer.  This could not have been a better way to take a break and give my brain a break from the field.

We had a lazy day Sunday and enjoyed some of the luxuries that town has to offer, like 24 hour pizza at the galley.  Mikey and I also headed down to the gym to do some climbing on the rock wall.  It has been ages since I had done any actual climbing with a harness, so I was pretty excited.  Turned out I was pretty good at it and it was a bunch of fun!  Guess I will add it to the long list of hobbies I'd like to get into.

We tried to fly out Monday, but our flight was canceled due to weather.  We had finished all of our work in town on Sunday because we thought we were flying out so we really didn't have much to do.  I wandered the labs asking my friends in other groups if they needed help, and was able to kill some time bugging them.  We ended up renting a couple of movies and watching them in this little theater they have set up.  There is a long arched building (called a jamesway) with a big screen at one end and four rows of couches on either side of an aisle.  It is really dark in there and that probably explains why I was unable to keep my eyes open the entire time for each movie.

Tuesday we were put on weather hold again so we went down to the gym to mess around until helo ops figured out our flight.  They finally scheduled us for a 7pm flight.  We went and killed the rest of our day playing monopoly in the galley.  We loaded everything up and took to the skies.  Our pilot was kind enough to fly us along the edge of the sea ice which was an amazing experience.  We were able to see adelie and emperor penguins hanging out on the sea ice, and jumping into the dangerous waters below where the orcas wait.  We were lucky enough to see some orcas on the prowl along the edge of the sea ice.  Such cool animals, I wish we had all day to spend flying around and whale watching.  We landed at F6 and settled back into home sweet home.

Sea Ice Edge
This week has been crazy hectic with more weather delays and more work than time allows for.  That is my excuse for taking so long with this post.  I don't have too many pictures which I apologize for.  I will try to add some to this post once I get to Lake Hoare tomorrow and have a little free time.  I hope everyone had a great New Years back home!  Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Merry Christmas! A couple days late...

Merry Christmas everyone!  Sorry I was a little late in posting that, but I finally found some time to get around to writing again.  Christmas was amazing at Lake Hoare as always.  Rae, and Renee worked so hard baking, cooking, and decorating.  They really do their best to make things feel as close to back home as possible, and we all really appreciate their hard work.

On Christmas we spent most of the day decorating a gingerbread house and setting up decorations with the classic Christmas songs playing on repeat.  Most years I am driven to the point of breaking with the same old Christmas music on every radio station.  However, without hearing these songs for an entire moth prior, I hate to say I actually really enjoyed them.  The gingerbread decoration took a solid couple of hours.

Lake Hoare gingerbread house
Here is a picture part way through the decoration.  I wish I would have taken one later in the night because it looked amazing with all the lights out in the hut and candles illuminating the hard candy stained glass windows.  I wanted to snap a picture of my helicopter before the frosting failed and it fell apart...  You should take note of the carefully placed chocolate chip behind the reindeer.

When dinner time rolled around Mikey and I were responsible for blacking out the hut.  We put black fabric over the skylights, and closed the shudders on the exterior windows to block all sunlight from entering the hut.  It got very dark very quickly, which was a strange experience when you haven't experienced darkness for a couple months.  We lit candles and dished up an amazing dinner.  We had crab legs, ham, salad, some cheesy casserole dish, and mashed potatoes for the main course.  What a harsh continent indeed.  Even with the amazing ham and crab legs, I have to admit, I think my favorite part was the salad.  It was amazing, I haven't had a fresh fruit or vegetable in what feels like forever.  It is funny because 20 years ago if you asked my Grandma Gail if I'd ever grow up to like vegetables she would have laughed at the thought.  She used to encourage me to eat them against my will, but now I would give anything for a fresh carrot!  Thanks Grandma for teaching me to love my veggies.  I wish you could convince the USAP that your grandson needs more fresh vegetables.

Dessert was so delicious.  We had ginger spice cheese cake, and bread pudding.  I wish I could describe these desserts to do them proper justice, but I that is beyond my abilities this late at night.  Just take my word they were amazing!  Thanks Renee and Dave!

We proceeded to the white elephant gift exchange after dinner.  There were some pretty creative gifts.  One of the popular ones was a bottle of nice whiskey, a tumbler to drink it out of, and a glacier berry for ice.  Another was some wool socks and nice coffee, because everyone truly appreciates the value of those two necessities down here.  I ended up with a homemade crossword puzzle, some Baileys, and some great coffee.  The crossword puzzle was quite creative.  Most of the words in it are unique to life down here, so the clues are pretty funny.  I was happy to discover that I was able to make significant progress on this crossword puzzle, because typically I am only able to get a word or two in the Sunday Times before I give up.  Mikey made a stream team t-shirt, he also included some merino wool socks, and a steamy romance novel "The Bride of a Wicked Scottsman." Rae had knit a hat, and included a flask which was a great gift but impossible to keep from getting stolen.  There was a homemade cribbage board, some silly puddy that changed colors, and another gift I can't fully remember.  Oh and mine was a homemade hammock, which included a merino wool beanie, and some cake batter lip balm.  It was pretty awesome to see how creative everyone was, and I think everyone left the game with a really cool gift.  I should have taken more pictures, I just was too caught up in the moment to bother grabbing my phone.

The day after Christmas was pretty rough weather.  It was cold and cloudy with snow flurries.  Not to mention we were all recovering from our overindulgence in sugar the day before, so we didn't have much motivation for a hike.  We ended up just walking down Lake Hoare to Lake Chad and sampling the few streams that run down on that end of the lake.

The next day we were lucky enough to fly back to F6.  The weather wasn't looking much nicer than the day before.  There was a really low cloud ceiling and it was lightly snowing.  So the pilot was not sure if he wanted to fly up the valley to come get us and risk getting stuck.  Lucky for us he decided to take a shot at it and the visibility ended up being a lot better than he expected.  After we unpacked, and settled in at F6, we took the ATV around the lake to check and see if any streams were running.  It turned out that all of the streams in the Fryxell basin had shut off for the time being.  This is pretty amazing considering we just passed the summer solstice, and now the streams that were raging around Thanksgiving have turned off.  I guess it just goes to show how dependent the hydrologic cycle here is on solar energy.

Our new john boat.
Overnight the weather improved so we set out to check for flow again.  When we didn't find any we decided to take matters into our own hands and seek out new streams that were flowing at higher elevations.  We headed up the west side of Commonwealth Glacier, and hiked up a steep ridge to what is known as Falconer's Ridge.  The ventifacts here were out of this world, and the view of Lake Fryxell was really impressive.  However, we were unable to find any new streams up here, so we headed back down.

Crazy ventifact.
Lake Fryxell from Above
Lost Seal Tributary
On the way down we did find one stream flowing that is a tributary to Lost Seal pictured here.  However, when we made it to the Lost Seal gauging station the flow wasn't anywhere to be seen.  I guess we beat it down the hill.  On our way back to F6 we passed McKnight and Aiken and finally found some flow.  So we went back to F6, re-grouped and headed back out to collect some data.

Gaarwood River

Yesterday we flew over to Miers Valley again.  The flow had slowed down significantly since our last visit.  At the outlet of Lake Miers we measured 1.2 cfs, as opposed to 30 cfs two weeks ago.  We also stopped at Garwood Valley to sample the Garwood River.  This was a spectacular valley that was home to a river with a lot of interesting features.

Thawing ice wall on Garwood River
There is one spot on the river where it runs along and under a buried ice wall that is about 60 ft tall.  The ice wall is melting because the river is undercutting it, and the soil overlaying it is being warmed by the sun.  I was on the wrong side of the helicopter to get a good view, but here is a shot of it.

Garwood River with the Royal Society Range in the background

We flew up the river to the point where it runs along the Garwood Glacier.  The river gets pinched between a mountainside and a glacier.  When the glacier wall breaks off and calves into the stream bed, the river pools up and has nowhere to go.  In some spots the river has tunneled into the mountainside, and in other spots it tunneled under the glacier.  I wish I was able to photograph it better from the helicopter.  There is a location where the river has hollowed out an area underneath the glacier, and the ice above collapsed leaving a massive hole in the glacier.  It looked like something straight out of Star Wars.  We landed above the glacier and sampled below Lake Colleen, shown here.  Just an awesome end to a good day of stream work.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Solstice!

Hey Everyone!  As I am sure you are aware, yesterday was the summer solstice down here, or the winter solstice for most of you.  The sun has now reached its highest point in the northern sky.  This is an event of interest for us down here, especially because the sun is the primary control of stream flow.  The days won't be getting any shorter now (still 24 hours of sunlight) but the sun will begin to spin around our heads lower and lower in the sky.

165 cfs flowing at Vanda gauging station.
It was fitting that we visited the largest river in Antarctica on this day, and even more fitting that we measured such a large flow rate.  The Onyx River at the Vanda gauging station (near the outlet of the river into Lake Vanda) was measured with a flowtracker to be flowing at 165 cfs.

Flowtracker Explanation:
If I haven't described what a flowtracker is yet, and if you are just dying to find out, I will explain.  The flowtracker is what we use to get an accurate manual measurement of the volumetric flow rate (volume of water passing a certain spot per unit time) of a stream. The flowtracker is an acoustic doppler velocimeter, which I am sure you all are very familiar with.  Many times scientists, engineers, and others with poor social skills like to come up with big words to make what they are doing seem important or advanced, and this name is an example of that.  This piece of technology sends out sound pulses that bounce off of particulates in the water (small sediment particles) and based on the return of the sound signal it can estimate the velocity of the water at that point.  It uses the Doppler effect to measure the velocity. This is the same phenomenon that makes a train sound different when it is traveling towards than when it is travelling away from you.  So, the instrument determines the velocity of the water at a specific point in the stream.  We measure the velocity of the stream at 20 to 30 equally spaced points across the channel at a cross section that is perpendicular to the stream flow.  The depth of our measurement is simply 40% of the depth of the stream at that point.  For example if the stream is 1 ft deep at a point, we would measure the velocity at a depth of 0.4ft (see figure below).

Where d is depth, and the x-axis represents velocity of the stream at each depth. i.e. a value of zero at the bottom due to friction with the stream bed, and maximum velocity at the top of the stream.  Average velocity is 0.6d from the top or 0.4d from the bottom.
The reasoning here is that, due to friction on the flow from the stream bed, this point is the depth averaged velocity (add up velocities at all depths and take the average).  The velocity, the location across the stream, and depth of each velocity measurement is recorded in the flowtracker program.

Cross section geometry of the stream as measured with the flowtracker.  Each area slice is calculated, the average velocity of each slice is then determined, and the two values are multiplied to yield volumetric flow rate per slice.  The flow rates are then summed to determine a total. 
Using these three pieces of information we can estimate the volumetric flow rate.  The distance between measurements and the depth of each measurement allow us to estimate the cross sectional area of the stream.  The cross sectional area is broken up into little slices that are bounded on each end by a measurement location (see figure above).  The area of each little slice is multiplied by the average velocity of that slice.  Area multiplied by velocity gives us a volumetric flow rate for that little slice.  This is done for all slices across the channel, and the results are summed to yield a total volumetric flow rate.

  We attempted to measure the flow at the upper reaches of the Onyx at the Lower Wright gauging station, but the stage of the river was too high to safely wade across.

Stage was too high to safely wade across the river and gauge flow at Lower Wright Valley gauging station (beginning of Onyx River)
Some weather rolled in last night and has been hanging around today.  I don't think it has impacted the helo schedule too much yet, but it has really affected our streams.  Von Guerard (the stream running by our home here at F6) turned off today, along with Harnish.  It makes our lives a little easier when there isn't any flow present. However, Christa (one of my teammates) has a PhD project to work on that requires a decent amount of flow, so hopefully things turn back on for her sake.

Some nasty looking clouds rolled in over Taylor Valley yesterday afternoon.

I also have been getting some Christmas gifts this year which has been such an amazing surprise!  I feel like a little kid when South Pole Santa (the helicopter pilot) hands you a package from back home.  My mom and Annie sent packages, and I would feature them here if I hadn't already ate all of the contents of them.  Thank you so much guys!  My aunt Natalie sent me the card and zombonis featured below.  These are little wind up zambonis driven by zombies that you assemble yourself.  Mikey and I built one each and raced them.  He had a little bit better craftsmanship, so his drives straight.  I haven't won yet, but I am hoping for a Christmas miracle.  Thanks so much Natalie!!!

Racing zombonis
 I just received a package today from my Grandpa and Grandma Sudman.  I apologize for not waiting for Christmas day, but since nobody is here to tell me otherwise I broke into my presents early... They sent some tasty brownies, and cookie bars, along with a super great letter, and this awesome book.  Mikey was talking about this book earlier in the season.  He said he read it last season and it was really nice to read about someone in a warm climate while you are freezing your butt off.  I thought it sounded super interesting and I was bummed he didn't bring it down.  Well ask and you shall receive!  Sure enough this book showed up along with a large detailed national geographic map of the area to follow along with Teddy Roosevelt's trip through the jungles of the Amazon .  Thanks so much guys this is amazing!!

To all my friends and family back home reading this, I miss you guys and wish I could spend the holidays eating bunches of cookies and drinking too much eggnog with you!  Thanks for all the emails, phone calls, letters, and packages.  It sure helps to make the holidays great even away from home.  Another thing that really helps is that I am surrounded by such great friends down here!

Goodies from Grandpa and Grandma Sudman!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Another Wild Week

On Monday we hiked back from Lake Hoare and hit the streams on the south side of Lake Fryxell.  It was insanely windy, constantly holing at around 40 mph with gusts up to 70 mph.  We were hoping everything at camp was right where we left it, especially our tents.  When we returned we were happy to find everything still in its place.  Some of our tents were a little jostled around, but they fared much better than the tents left up at Bonney.  The Limno team had their tents up at Bonney and we heard a helo pilot announce over the radio that the remaining tents were flattened and one was completely gone (still hasn't been found).

Tuesday we flew south out of Taylor Valley, up over the Ferrar and Blue Glaciers and dropped down into Miers Valley.  It was a beautiful clear, calm day which was especially appreciated after the winds yesterday.  To give you an idea of how harsh the conditions were, we were doing our work in t-shirts.  

Miers Valley has two little glaciers, the Miers and the Adams, which sit at the upper reaches of the valley.  These two glaciers have streams that form at their terminus that share the same names as the glaciers (oddly enough).  On our first visit in late November, there was a trickle of water running through Adams Stream, while Upper Miers was dry.  Now they are both really going at around 30 cfs.  We half expected this because Renee had been in the Miers Valley earlier in the week with the Limno Team, and she had told us that the streams were raging.  She was also kind enough to take a couple of bonus water samples for us which was great!

The Outlet of Lake Miers with the beautiful Royal Society Range in the background.
These two streams flow down valley into Lake Miers, which has an outlet that flows down the valley to the McMurdo Ice Shelf.  The outlet of Lake Miers is also gauged, so we stopped here for our second stop of the day.  Mikey said that last year they never saw more than a trickle at the outlet.  This year, as you can see above, the outlet turned out to be providing a bit more than a trickle.  It turned out to be a killer blue bird day in Miers (which is not always the case), and all of our equipment was cooperating, which makes the day so much sweeter.

The Ferrar Glacier with some melt pools, and super-glacial rivers.
This picture was taken on the return flight to F6.  This is the Ferrar Glacier which consumes the next valley to the south of Taylor Valley.  From this view you can see some really crazy stuff.  Glaciers are often times described as giant rivers of ice.  You can see this description in action by looking at the parallel cracks running along the length of the glacier.  The ice at the outer edges flowing along the valley walls experiences more resistance from the walls, which causes the outside edges of the glacier to flow more slowly.  The ice in the middle of the glacier flows at a faster rate due to less resistance.  The longitudinal, parallel cracks you see are the result of the ice sections flowing at different speeds.  The pattern you see in the different speeds of ice is very similar to the different speeds of water you see in a river (with liquid water).  There are also some really cool super-glacial lakes and rivers on top of the Ferrar that are crazy shades of blue.

I was reading a new book (thanks Annie!) called The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard who was part of Robert Falcon Scott's tragic expedition to the South Pole.  In the intro he gives a bunch of Antarctic exploration history, and history on the McMurdo Sound area.  He gets into who all the geographic features were named after, which is pretty fun to learn while you are sitting in the spot he is talking about.  Anyways, he mentions Scott's first expedition and he says that Scott and a team walked up the Ferrar glacier to the polar plateau.  I just think it is a pretty special experience to be able to read about these unique historical events that unfolded right spot I am sitting.  It also amazes me how recent these events unfolded.  It was only about 100 years ago when Robert Scott reached the South Pole on January 16 1912, only to be beaten by 5 weeks by the Norwegian team lead by Roald Amundson.  I do have to say I think our life down here is slightly more plush these days.  It sounds like the majoirty of their transportation of supplies and gear was in the form of sledging (man hauled sleds).  Why they didn't use helicopters is beyond me.  They also ate a lot of seal and penguin, which unfortunately is not allowed here anymore.  Needless to say, things have come a long way in 100 years.

Gloomy morning outside of F6.
This is the scene I woke up to Wednesday morning.  We were supposed to fly over to the Wright Valley to replace a leaking nitrogen tank, but I didn't think we had a chance of flying in this weather.  About two hours later, the clouds lifted and the helicopters started flying.
View looking up Wright Valley over the Onyx River.
View from the same spot looking down Wright Valley.  If you look hard you can see the helicopter parked down there.  It was a pretty awesome little spot he found to land.  Our pilot flies heli-skiing operations in the off-season, so I don't think he was too sketched out by landing here.
After landing down at Vanda and replacing the leaking nitrogen tank, we flew up to Mt. Loke.  There is a radio receiver and a satellite phone modem here that collects our stream gauge data and met station data from Wright Valley and transmits it back to Boulder, CO.  We had to change a program on the radio because it wasn't working properly.  As you can see the view was pretty terrific.

We finally had to inflate our zodiac for crossing the moat to the ATV.  Mikey is pumped that rafting season is finally here.
The warm weather continued throughout the week.  As a result, our moats only increased in size.  It was finally time to inflate the zodiac.  You know it's been a good day when you get to travel by helicopter, boat, and ATV.  The real trick is pulling the boat up onto the lake ice far enough to step out and not fall in.  I am going to do my best this year not to join the Lake Fryxell swim club.

New double wide trailer at Lake Fryxell.  Should be some pretty sweet digs when it's all done.
Working on the rest of our Fryxell run on Thursday, we stopped by Camp Fryxell where the carpenters were working on moving the camp to a higher elevation as well as building a new hut.  The old hut was a cozy jamesway (you can see what a jamesway is below in the Lake Bonney photo), but this new one looks pretty spacious.  I wish they were completing it in time for us to break it in.
Four balled snowman at Lake Bonney
What people back home picture every day here looks like.
Friday we were planning on flying up to Lake Bonney to complete our work up there, and spend the night at Bonney Making x-mas cookies and hanging out.  The weather had different ideas for us, as it usually does.  The day started off with low dark clouds rolling through the valley.  The hillsides were getting dusted with snow, and every once in a while the valley floor would get a flurry.  We thought there was no way we were flying, so we were suprised when we heard over the radio that our helicopter took off from McMurdo.  We were picked up and flew up the valley to check out the weather.  The clouds were creating a barrier on the west edge of Lake Hoare, so we were forced to circle back and land at Hoare to wait things out.  It couldn't have been better timing because Rae had just pulled out fresh baked bagels from the oven when we landed.  We sat down, enjoyed some bagels and coffee at the local cafe on the way to work, then hopped back in the helicopter to try again.  This time the clouds had cleared enough to make it through to Bonney.  When we landed we were greeted by a four balled snowman, and some suspicious looking friends.  They were all huddled around the heli-pad and had arm fulls of something.  When we exited the helicopter (and were far enough away from it to ensure no damage was done) we were pelted with snowballs.  The snow was so much fun!  I felt like a little kid on a snow day, and it definitely helped things feel a little bit more like Christmas.  It reminded me of when I was a kid at my Grandparent's lake home for Christmas and all the cousins would go out and drive ATV's and snowmobiles on the lake ice pulling sleds and tubes behind.  Of course we would never dream of doing anything like that now that we are mature adults.

The Rhone Glacier
We headed out on the ATV at Bonney to complete our work for the day.  It was amazing how the streams reacted to the recent change in weather.  The snow on the glaciers, and the clouds blocking the sun reduced stream flow significantly, but it wasn't enough to turn them off completely.  All of our work went pretty smoothly, so we headed back to Bonney Camp for dinner and cookies.  It sounds kind of funny but it was pretty great to hang around and make/eat cookies with Christmas music on (as much as that music drives me nuts).  I have to admit I did more eating than decorating as I usually do. Oops.

Yesterday we set out from Lake Bonney and Hiked back to Lake Hoare.  We completed our work on the streams we passed on the hike back.  It was a pretty long hike, especially with a cookie hangover, and all of our sampling gear.  We are pretty beat from a busy week so the three of us are still here at Lake Hoare lounging around at 10:00 AM on a Sunday.  This is kind of unusual because normally we'd be going for a hike, but I think things finally caught up to us.

Right now I am going to get back to reading that book.  Somehow next week is already Christmas.  This season is flying by right before my eyes.  Take care everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mount Ray

Well with C-511's departure on Saturday morning, things were sadly a bit quieter around Lake Hoare this weekend.  Some of us were feeling well rested Sunday morning, so we rallied for a hike to the top of Mount Ray, which is the mountain that Lake Hoare Camp resides under.

Perfect hiking weather.
I was a little nervous about the weather as we headed out.  As you looked up the mountain we were hiking it was socked in about half way up, and there weren't any signs of the weather changing.  It looked like a pretty grueling hike just to get to the top and have 100 yds. of visibility.  I think we all just assumed  that the weather wouldn't do that to us after putting in all the hard work.  The first half of the hike was pretty windy and chilly, and the wind only got worse as we hiked into the clouds.

Forrest contemplates the meaning of life, as we begin to break out of the clouds.

It isn't a very long hike, but it is pretty strenuous, with 4500 ft of elevation gain over about 2 miles.  We hiked and bouldered our way up to the top at around 1:40 PM.  Well I guess it wasn't the true peak.  The true peak was a couple hundred feet higher, and on the other side of a big ice field.  But we still were able to capture a pretty killer view.

Above the sea of clouds.
The way down wasn't as harsh as I thought it would be.  We did however make a slight navigational error.  When we hiked back down and got into the clouds it was hard to see where we were going.  We just followed the ridge line we were on because it was the same one we used to get up.  The only thing is, while we were in the clouds we didn't see that our ridge line split into two separate ridges. The one to the right was the one that we took up, while the one to the left took us to the ice falls on Canada Glacier.  You can guess which one we took.  It wasn't too costly of a mistake, and honestly we may have accidentally shaved some time off of our hike, and almost certainly saved some strain on our knees.

By the time we returned, the clouds that had hung around the mid-section of Mount Ray all day had finally burned off.  All of a sudden I was nice and warm with the sun shining on me.  I felt great after that hike.  I of course was oblivious to the fact that I would remain sore from the hike for what is now going on two days.  All in all it was a great day to be out with some even greater company.

Ice Falls on Canada Glacier.