Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day

Where do I start.  Yesterday was Christmas here and it was about as great as Christmas can be when you are at the bottom of the globe with a bunch of new people!

The day started with some work.  One of the researchers here has a knee that was bothering him because he has gone around and walked over 190 miles (no exaggeration)  of ground penetrating radar transects in the past three weeks.  This distance is only measured while the instrument is on, and doesn't include the hiking to get to these areas.  Needless to say the two guys on this project are animals.  Anyways, his knee was bothering him so he asked if I would be willing to take his place and help out his teammate, and I said yes.  We hopped on the ATV and headed up to the end of Lake Hoare to the Suess Glacier (surprisingly not named after Dr. Suess).  Here we hiked up to a bench on the side of the mountain next to the glacier located about 900m above the valley bottom.  The hike was much tougher than I expected.  The slope we hiked up was extremely steep, and the ground is loose rocks, and sand.  I figured I am 24, I have done some hiking in the Rockies, I should be able to keep up with this 43 year old man.  Not the case.  This guy is a mountain goat, he told us the name for mountain goat in Swedish (his native language) but I forgot.  I asked if he hiked or ran a lot back home, and surprisingly he didn't do anything.  I was amazed, but he has been hiking all over the Dry Valleys for a couple of weeks so I guess he has had time to get in shape.  After the climb we set up his equipment and ran a couple of transects zig-zaging across this bench.  He showed me the results of our scan and it was really interesting.  The point of the ground penetrating radar is to see if there is any massive ice buried.  Sure enough there was a thick sheet of ice ranging from 5-10m buried 25m below the ground surface.  We wrapped up the scans, then hiked back down which may have been even more difficult on the loose stuff.  We passed a mummified penguin and a couple of seals which was fun to see.  I was pretty beat from the hike so I took a lazy photo of the penguin that didn't turn out very well.

We got back to the Lake Hoare Camp and everything had changed inside.  Everyone was inside decorating an elaborate gingerbread house and decorating cookies with Christmas music on.  It was great!  We snacked on some smoked salmon and a bunch of treats all afternoon while we decorated and watched the grinch.  Then it was dinner time.  We began by taking black fabric and blacking out all of the windows to make it dark inside.  Candles were lit and dinner was served, it was an amazing meal.  We had ham, and a couple side dishes.  Needless to say we were spoiled.  After dinner Rae made some amazing drinks called Greenland Coffee.  These were coffee mixed with a bunch of booze, and then she did something crazy with some cream and alcohol by heating it up over the stove top in a ladel and then setting it on fire.  It is difficult to describe when I am this tired, but regardless it was delicious and quite strong!

Next was the gift exchange.  This was a white elephant type exchange where you pick a gift, then people can steal it, you know the drill.  It was pretty great there were some awesome gifts.  Some of the ones I remember: a whittled penguin figurine, two beers disguised in a scotch sleeve and some brownies (mine), a handmade slingshot, a handmade field toilet for number 2, a beautiful drawing of Canada Glacier, a hand knit hat,  some mad libs, a bucket full of coffee with a coffee mug, some coffee syrup (which I still don't know what this is), I think I am forgetting some but oh well.  The game was fun.  I picked the coffee syrup right away so nobody traded with me for a while, but the rule was you can only trade for the same gift twice, so when options started running low, I got into the trading game.  At the end of it all, I ended up with the whittled penguin figurine which I was pumped about!

Then the dance party started.  We put on some music, moved all of the tables and chairs, kept the windows blacked out, and danced the night away.  It was a blast and a Christmas that I won't soon forget!

Oh I forgot to mention.  On Christmas Eve, the weather was amazing.  Almost no wind, and probably close to 40 degrees.  We walked out to what is called the beach.  This is a sand dune out on the lake ice that is located up against the Canada Glacier.  It was amazing and felt just like a beach.  We kicked off our hiking boots and played frisbee barefoot for a couple of hours.  Such a weird, fun experience on a beautiful Christmas Eve.

Today we lounged around, snacked, watched movies, and recovered from the festivities the previous night.  Christmas day, and the day after (today here) are no fly days so we didn't have any work.  Tomorrow we fly out at 1:00 pm.  We will go up the valley and sample what streams we can.  Unfortunately, the past two days the clouds have been covering the valleys, so there likely won't be much for flow to measure.  I am getting tired and should probably get some sleep.  I hope everyone back home had a wonderful Christmas!!!


  1. Wow this sounds so fun, Zach! Glad you had a good Christmas! At our gift exchange I did some Antarctic science artwork - it and two crystals from Mt Erebus were the hot trade items, and I got the crystals (remind me to show you sometime). Your exchange sounds like there was lots of good stuff! Love the frisbee on the beach - those 40degree/no wind days feel like the perfect 75degree day, eh? Beautiful.
    I wonder how big the underground ice was that you found - a big lake or a pond. That's interesting!

  2. I will have to see those crystals they sound amazing, so does the artwork! Yeah the frisbee on the beach was so surreal it was great! The size of the underground ice is part of what we are trying to determine. I think this season is more focused on finding the general areas of the underground ice, and then in following seasons they will more accurately estimate the volumes and spatial extent of these features. I am curious to figure out how they were formed as well. I will have to ask the scientist the next time I am at Lake Hoare.