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!