We had a successful time at Black Island, collecting 20 erratic rock samples which will undergo cosmogenic nuclide dating once they are shipped back to Boston in April. Other than the 3 day snow storm which kept us bundled in our tents, and the occasional fog which created very low visibility, we experienced fairly good weather as the heat of the summer season rolled in.
|Emma and I sunbathing for a few minutes in the "hot" weather.|
|Drew making us pancakes one morning for breakfast, as we couldn't work in the heavy fog. If we strayed more than a few meters from camp we would risk the possibility of getting lost.|
|A mummified seal we named Lucile/Cecilia|
|Exposed bone and skin|
|This mummy is so well preserved that even part of the eyeball is still intact.|
|The Pegasus cargo jet which crashed near McMurdo Station|
|Pegasus on the McMurdo ice shelf with White Island in the background|
|The modern landing site, Pegasus Field.|
With some extra time in town this past week, we have been able to explore more of what McMurdo has to offer. With the heat of the summer comes birthing season and the melting of sea ice, allowing for many seal-sighting opportunities.
|Lots of seals enjoy lounging on the sea ice at the edge of Hut Point, at the edge of McMurdo|
Another popular summertime activity is the "Ob Tube," short for Observation Tube. After a special outdoors training, we were allowed to climb down a ladder in to this tube which is installed each year. It only fits one person at a time, and from the base of the tube you can see the bottom of the sea ice and various animals in the water, if you are lucky. It took our eyes a few minutes to adjust to the darkness, but eventually we could see some zooplankton and a jellyfish. It was very difficult to take pictures that looked like much of anything because it was so dark down there.
|Close-up of ice crystals at the base of the frozen sea surface (photo by Drew)|
|A tight squeeze to the bottom.|
|Taken from the bottom of the tube, looking up.|
|Pressure ridges outside of Scott Base|
|Here you can see Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano.|
|Mount Discovery and the Royal Society Range peek through the background.|
|A frozen pond that formed within one of the structures|
|Close-up of some icicles falling off a ridge|
|Emma and Drew conquer the pressure ridges!|
|Some seals were very content|
|Some were very vocal|
|Some were very tired|
|And some were very poised.|
Saturday morning Emma and I drove out to Williams Air Field, a few miles outside McMurdo, and flew back to Christchurch on a C-130 jet. This plane is smaller than the one we came in on, and lands with skis rather than wheels, because the sea ice is much thinner on the landing field than when we first arrived in the early summer. We flew with only three other USAP participants and a unit of Air Force members.
We arrived in Christchurch 8 hours later, where we returned our ECW, adjusted to the warm temperatures, and saw darkness at night for the first time in two months! I was also excited by our first tree sighting. The next morning we left Christchurch and traveled north to Auckland, with a beautiful view of the Southern Alps during the short flight. From there we re-checked our baggage and flew to Tahiti in French Polynesia. We were greeted with flowers for our hair and serenaded by a man in shell necklaces, singing and playing ukulele, accompanied by two woman dancing in floral-print dresses. Our next flight got delayed so we spent 5 hours in the one room, one bathroom, two terminal, technology-free airport, trying to keep cool in the 90 degree weather. We eventually boarded the plane again, flew to Los Angeles, then to Boston.
We left New Zealand at the summer solstice, and lucky for us, with the crossing of the international date line during our flight, arrived back in the U.S. just in time for the winter solstice.
The following morning I flew home to Philadelphia while Emma traveled with her family to Quebec.
|Our view of Mount Discovery nearby our campsite on Black Island|
I wish luck to the rest of the research team, as Dave and Drew continue with their research and Dan discovers for the first time what an incredible place Antarctica is.
They have now made it out to Mackay Glacier and will continue research there for the next week. After that they will travel through the Dry Valleys until mid-January.