Tuesday, January 13, 2015


As I mentioned before, the weather has been a bit erratic here in the Taylor Valley.  Today it got down to 23 degrees and snowed a bit.  Snow isn't very typical for the Dry Valleys if you hadn't guessed that by the name.  All of this weather has caused some major delays with research and camp movement for just about everyone.  Luckily it hasn't impacted our work too much up to this point.

Yesterday I went up to Crescent stream with someone who was delayed leaving and didn't have anything to do.  I took some sediment samples on my stream and he took some algae and moss samples.  He is a professor in evolutionary biology at BYU.  He studied marine biology for a while, and had some insane stories about growing up scuba diving.  Now his research is in microbial biology and he makes Provo Utah sound like an outdoorsman's paradise!  We got back fairly early because he had to catch a helo flight.  I finally had some free time during a decently warm day, so I took off for a run when I got back.  The whole time I was running I was thinking about a study about humans and running that the evolutionary biology professor told me about.

Apparently, humans are insanely good at running long distances, and this has stumped evolutionary biologists for a while as to why we adapted this trait.  Some theorized that it was to escape predators, but if you think of some of your apex predators wolves, lions, tigers, ect. how many can we out run?  None.  Some theorized that it was so that we could catch animals to eat.  So, two researchers in the US took it upon themselves to test this theory.  They headed out to the plains somewhere in the west (maybe Wyoming) and one guy got dropped off near a heard of antelope and tried chasing them all day.  Well as you might expect it didn't work and they were the butt of a lot of jokes for a while.  One day a researcher from somewhere in Africa called one of the guys who did this study and said you guys were right, you just went about chasing them wrong.  Apparently the natives in Africa will run all day long, singling one animal out of a group to chase.  They will chase it hours and hours until it drops dead from exhaustion.  The guy in the US chased the herd and didn't bother singling out the same animal that would occasionally split from the group to take a break.  We can outrun antelope.  Pretty awesome stuff.  I guess Springsteen was right... baby we were born to run!

Today was windy, cold, and snowy.  We went back up to Crescent stream, assembled a ground temperature sensor, and performed a pebble count.  Here is a picture of what it looks like outside right now.  Way different looking than many of my pictures, but I must admit it feels much more like I expected Antarctica to feel like.  

Things are pretty interesting at camp right now.  There are 14 people here, and the main camp building holds about six comfortably.  One of the groups brought a pretty cool tent called an endurance tent which can comfortably sit about six people.  They hang out in there most of the day, and do all of their cooking on a Coleman stove.  I visited them in their tent today to check it out and they showed me some of that great southern hospitality you always hear about.  They had beer, scotch, and even carrots.  Fresh vegetables are nearly impossible to get ahold of down here.  I haven't had one since New Zealand.  They gave me a carrot and my mind was blown.  I have never, and will never have a better carrot in my life.  In the picture you can see their tent it is the red, white, and blue striped tent on the right.

One of the challenges that comes along with supporting this many people at one camp is the fact that all of our electricity is produced from solar.  So, cloudy days like today we don't get much charge on our batteries.  I think right now our battery charge is around 30%.  This isn't terrible, and we have a generator with a little bit of gas that should last us through the bad weather.  But, if this weather keeps up for a couple of days we might be in trouble.  Hopefully the weather clears tomorrow so that one of the groups here can head home, and we can start scanning my stream with the TLS.  I just got done learning how to play some Euchre, and now I am going to call it a day.

I forgot to mention.  The snowflakes today were ridiculous.  I didn't know if it was just me but other people were commenting on them too.  The designs on the flakes were extremely intricate and they fell in perfect condition.  I caught one on my glove and took a picture of it here.

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