Betty's Blog
Betty teaches 4th grade at Husmann Elementary School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Crystal Lake is about 60 miles northwest of Chicago. She has also taught "Science Methods for Elementary Teachers" at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois.

Whenever possible, Betty enjoys the outdoors and the wonders that the natural world has to offer. She enjoys backpacking, skiing, orienteering, kayaking, gardening, travel, and photography.

Share the ANDRILL experience with Betty, and use the form above to email questions or comments. Join the journey to Antarctica and be part of this life-long learning experience.

Entry Index
An Introduction to ANDRILL October 20th, 2006
The Waiting Game October 21st, 2006
A Quiet Day in Crary Lab October 22nd, 2006
An Introduction to Porewater Cheochemistry October 23rd, 2006
Field Safety Training October 24th, 2006
Sounds of Silence-October 25th, 2006
Introduction to Geology of McMurdo Sound-October 26th, 2006
Fifty Years of Antarctic Research-Profile on Peter Webb- October 27th, 2006
Our First Core Tour-October 28th, 2006
A Busy Sunday in McMurdo-October 29th, 2006
ARISE Teachers On The Go! - October 30th, 2006
From IGY to IPY-50 Years Later - October 31st, 2006
Fun and Games - November 1st, 2006
No Dogs Allowed - November 2nd, 2006
A Tour at Scott Base - November 3rd, 2006
The Heavy Shop - November 4th, 2006
General Hospital - November 5th, 2006
The Berg Field Center - November 6th, 2006
The Food Room Goddess and Ob Hill - November 7th, 2006
Thin Section Slides and a Walk To Hut Point - November 8th, 2006
A Trip to the ANDRILL Drill Rig - November 9th, 2006
Meet the Micropaleontologists - November 10th, 2006
Processing Sediments to Look For Forams - November 11th, 2006
A Visit to the Fire Department - November 12th, 2006
Working Overtime…The Builders Extraordinaire! - November 13th, 2006
Helicopters Supporting Science - November 14th, 2006
Meet the Co-Chiefs - November 15th, 2006
A Timeline of Antarctic Exploration - November 16th, 2006
Scientific Balloons Over Antarctica! - November 17th, 2006
Penguins on the Ice Runway - November 18th, 2006
Grazie to the Italians! Well Done! - November 19th, 2006
Stepping Into The Past - November 20th, 2006
The Historic Huts...Cape Evans - November 21st, 2006
A Core Tour….What’s It All About? - November 22nd, 2006
A Core Technician’s Assistant For The Day! - November 23rd, 2006
Women in Science - November 24th, 2006
Thanksgiving Celebration at McMurdo Station - November 25th, 2006
Science in the Kitchen - November 26th, 2006
An ANDRILL Acrostic - November 27th, 2006
Core Processing - November 28th, 2006
What’s Paleomagnetism ? - November 29th, 2006
Seismic Data and ANDRILL Drilling - November 30th, 2006
A Visit To The Weather Station - December 1st, 2006
First You See It, Now You Don’t - December 2nd, 2006
The View From Mt. Erebus - December 3rd, 2006
The Hottest Place in Town - December 4th, 2006
Jim Cowie-ANDRILL Project Manager - December 5th, 2006
The National Science Foundation Chalet - December 6th
Checking Out The Crary Lab Aquarium - December 7th, 2006
The Scott Base Pressure Ridges - December 8th, 2006
ANDRILL Drilling Update - December 9th, 2006
Night Shift at the Drill Site - December 10th, 2006
Antarctic Escapades - December 11th, 2006
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - December 12th, 2006
A Room With A View Please - December 13th, 2006
Recreation…McMurdo Style! - December 14th, 2006
The “IT Bubba Show” - December 15th, 2006
Christmas Came Early This Year! - December 16th, 2006
A Record Breaking Weekend - December 17th, 2006
A Voice of Experience…Colleen Clarke - December 18th, 2006
Meet Richard Levy…ANDRILL Staff Scientist -December 19th, 2006
ANDRILL Quiz Night - December 20th, 2006
What Will I Miss? - December 21st, 2006
A Last Visit to the Drill Site - December 22nd, 2006
Night Shift at Crary Lab - December 23rd, 2006
Merry Christmas From McMurdo - December 24th and 25th, 2006
One Final Blog - December 26th, 2006

An Introduction to ANDRILL October 20th, 2006

            Scientists and educators involved with the ANDRILL Program will meet each morning during the drilling season to talk about the progress and results of the project.  Co-Chief Scientists Tim Naish (New Zealand) and Ross Powell (U.S) are responsible for leading these meetings.  We started our day today with such a meeting.  It was important to get the background information on the drilling system, in order to understand the logistics behind the drill rig and what the scientists and drillers hope to accomplish this season.  Remember that for more information, you can refer to the ANDRILL website and go to:

(or from the home page of click on “Science and Technology” and then “Technology Behind the Drill Rig”)

October 20-1

Approaching the ANDRILL drill site

October 20-2

The ANDRILL drill rig

            Lots of progress has been made so far.  The drillers used the hot water drill system to melt their way through the McMurdo Ice Shelf, which in this location was 85 meters thick.  This was done by making a progressively larger and larger hole in the ice shelf.  At this moment there is a 600 mm (millimeter) hole that’s been opened up.  The diameter is close to the width of a school desk.

 October 20-3

     The ocean floor lies about 940 meters below where the drill rig sits.  At this point, the drillers are deploying (installing) what’s called the sea riser, which is a pipe they hang from the drilling platform to the sea floor.  A sea riser has not been deployed to the sea floor from an ice shelf before, so this is exciting new technology to follow.  The team has to be extremely careful as they hang this pipe with a winch.  They clamp it off and add new sections as the drill rig takes the weight.  By the time this is lowered to the sea floor, they estimate that the weight will be 20+ tons.

October 20-4

     The team will need to get a feel for the tidal movements to track the effect of ocean currents on the sea riser.  Also, they must be sure that the sea riser stays away from the sides of the hole in the ice shelf, so they pump hot water through a reaming tool that surrounds the sea riser to keep it free from the ice.  I found it interesting to learn that sea level is 20 meters below the surface of the ice shelf.

   October 20-5

This is the hot water reaming tool.                                 

     Once the sea riser is in place, drillers use what’s called a P core barrel (P refers to the size of the barrel) which is a tube ahead of the sea riser.  A push-coring tool inside the P core barrel takes the first core sediment samples.  The push-coring tool is taken out and a new tool is inserted--a hydraulic piston corer (HPC).  The HPC will force a core barrel into the sediments to take up to three samples--each about 3 meters in length.  Eventually the sea riser is cemented into the sea floor at an approximate depth of 2-5 meters below the sea floor, and the rotary drilling takes place. 

 October 20-6     Each day scientists and drillers will retrieve cores from the drill rig and process them at the lab site at the drill rig.  Those cores will be transported from the drill site to Crary Lab, where the ANDRILL geoscientists will examine them.  I’ll be sharing much more on what individual science teams do….stay tuned!


(Photos by Ross Powell)





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The Waiting Game October 21st, 2006

            At our daily meeting Ross and Tim gave us the latest news from the drill site….things are going well and the sea riser is within 4 meters from the sea floor.  At the moment the hot water reaming tool is attached to the guide wires and is reaming the outside of the hole to be sure it is clear.  The sea riser is hanging and getting used to the tides.  Everyone’s excited about the progress, and I can’t wait until the first core is brought into Crary Lab.


            After this briefing many of the ANDRILL team members had to stay around for the “Outdoor Safety Lecture” being held at Crary.  This meeting is required if you are planning on leaving McMurdo for a recreational activity.  This includes some of the more local hiking routes such as Castle Rock or Cape Armitage…both places I’d like to explore when I have some free time.  Basically a new electronic system called “E-foot Plan” has streamlined the process of checking out in McMurdo.  People fill out the online forms that will notify the Fire House that they’re headed out of town.  They still have to report in to the Fire House, and they have the final say on weather and conditions.  Also important…checking back in with the Fire House once you have arrived back in town, to avoid the launch of a search and rescue operation. 


            Our speaker gave us lots of information on the prevention and recognition of cold weather injuries.  All of these facts would directly apply to the ANDRILL team at the drill site.  The following is a list of critical points to remember:


**what are the ways we lose heat                

**what are some ways to preserve heat

**wearing layers of clothing                          

**drinking lots of water



 Oct. 21-1

            Our instruction went over the various stages of hypothermia, giving us information on what to do if we notice a partner showing signs of this condition. 

 Oct. 21-2

            Also important…stay on the flagged paths that have been checked out and established for recreation and public use.  Black flags on bamboo poles mean danger.  Red and green flags mean it is safe to proceed.  ANDRILL scientists and drillers know these rules as well…because they will be using various modes of transportation to go to and from the drill site.

            Ross and Tim were part of our ARISE meeting this afternoon.  This was very helpful because they were able to answer our questions about the drill rig, sea riser, and the initial phase of the drilling process. 


One of the big questions a couple people asked about was how much concrete will be poured into the sea riser to cement it into the sea floor in order for the rotary drill to begin working.  There is actually a huge technology in cements, and the type they use for this sort of project cures (hardens) in sea water.  They will pour the concrete down the sea riser and the cement oozes out of the bottom.  Once it hardens, they drill through the cement and back into the sea floor. 


The team at the drill site expects that about 30 meters of core will be brought up each day once the rotary drill bit is working.  The goal of the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) Project is to recover over a kilometer of sediment cores from the Ross Sea floor.  Once the drilling is completed for the season, the team sends explosives down the sea riser and they blow it to disconnect it from the sea floor.  The sea riser is removed to the surface.  I wonder how many of those parts can be re-used for future drilling projects?


              Oct. 21-3               

These are pipes that will go inside of the sea riser to collect soft sediments.

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A Quiet Day in Crary Lab October 22nd, 2006

          Today was a very quiet day around the lab…but that’s okay because I still needed time to catch up on my journals and meet with my science discipline team.  Sunday is generally a quite day around McMurdo Station and it’s also the day that a wonderful Sunday brunch is served.  What a great treat that was today!

            For my first science research assignment, I’ll be working with the micropaleontology team.  Next week I’ll do a feature article on the team and their role in the overall ANDRILL picture.  Today we had a brief meeting to work out lab space, equipment, and just get to know each other as a group.   

            I’ve got a question for you… What does a micropaleontologist study?   If you know, write me a message through the ANDRILL blog and let’s see how many people come up with the correct answer. 

            One of my errands from yesterday was to pick up three packages at the post office.  I had mailed myself some snacks and other items that I didn’t want to take in my luggage.  Visiting the McMurdo post office was very interesting.  You wouldn’t believe the volume of mail that travels through that post office.  Here are some incredible statistics given to me by Kathy, the Postmaster:

Oct. 22-1

                        Kathy is the McMurdo Postmaster.


** on Thursday alone there was 16,000 pounds of mail…that’s three full cargo pallets of about 3,700 to 4,200 pounds each!

** from August 2004 through February 2005 there was 108,954 pounds of mail sent to McMurdo…that’s including packages and flat (letter) mail 

** the amount of mail dispatched (leaving McMurdo) totaled 88,351 pounds

** the post office here sold $5,597.72 of stamps 

** there was $63,140.90 of money orders sold through the post office

** the labels printed to mail packages (called PVI’s) totaled $61,009.01 of postage 

** total cash sales:  $129,747.63 – isn’t that amazing?!

            Kathy asked me if I wanted to cancel the stamps for the postcards I was sending to my students back home.  This was appropriate because I’m the person in charge of our Husmann Elementary School “Wee Deliver” postal system.  For all the kids back home…today I was a “Nixie Clerk.” 


 Oct. 22-2

Oct. 22-3 

                           Carol works with packages and flat mail.

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An Introduction to Porewater Cheochemistry October 23rd, 2006

                Today I met one of the scientists on the ANDRILL team, Chieh Peng.  She gave me an introduction to porewater geochemistry.  I’ll be working with this team later in the ANDRILL project, but since Chieh is only around for another week I was happy to have the chance to work with her.  She is based at Texas A & M University and works for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program—otherwise known as IODP.  Chieh has been working on porewater geochemistry for many years, and is currently an assistant lab officer for IODP.


She’s made 40+ scientific cruises as part of IODP….with each cruise lasting 2 months.  International scientists from many different disciplines propose ocean drilling projects that take place in oceans all over the world.  Teams of 25-30 scientists participate on each cruise.  There are also approximately 20 technicians on each expedition.  Add the drilling and engineering staff, and the workers that run the ship, and there’s a total of about 110 people on board each IODP cruise.  For more information on the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program go to:

Oct. 23-1 

     Chieh Peng working in Crary Lab

            Today’s lesson focused on doing what’s called an alkalinity titration.  LuAnn Dahlman, another one of the ARISE participants is currently working with this team, and she had invited me down to be a part of the demonstration and learning process.  We started by learning how to measure the pH of our sample.  By doing this you find out how much hydrogen ion is in the sample. In this case, we practiced by using seawater, but if we were doing this for real…we’d use the water squeezed out from the pores in the sediments.  That’s how it gets the name porewater geochemistry.  The soft sediments are more porous.  Because the first soft sediment samples were taken from the drill rig, this team has already been very busy.

            Before we started the measurement process, we had to rinse off all tools and beakers with distilled water.  This step was repeated every time we tested a new sample or used a tool.  To measure the pH of our sample we had to use something called a pipettor (also called a pipet) which is calibrated to measure out an exact volume (amount) of the fluid… which in this case was our seawater. 

Oct. 23-2


 Oct. 23-3

            LuAnn is shown using the pipettor to measure out the seawater and gently squirt it into the small beaker.  Our next step was to measure the pH by placing a measurement device into the small beaker.  This device spins rapidly and we press a button on the measurement device that records the initial pH of the sample.

Oct. 23-4


Oct. 23-5

The next step is titrating alkaline compounds with an acid that you already know the concentration of.  This tells you what chemical compounds are in the sample.  This serves as an initial indication of what biological and chemical reaction is going on in the sediment sample.

Oct. 23-6

     This is very interesting and I know I have a lot to learn!

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Field Safety Training October 24th, 2006

             In order to go out into the remote field camps or leave McMurdo Station for any length of time, scientists need to have the proper field training.  They must be instructed in safety procedures and learn to use the types of equipment that might save their life, and at the very least protect them from a sudden change in the weather.  It’s important to know what to do if stranded in a remote location.   Even though we won’t leave McMurdo for very long, each person on the ANDRILL project must attend the “Field Safety Training Program” otherwise known as “Happy Camper School.” 

            Happy Camper School is a unique experience…that’s for sure.  It is a two day/one night course that’s held no matter what the conditions might be…simply because we can’t choose the conditions in Antarctica.  We need to know how to handle many different types of difficult situations.  This morning…off we went to the Science Support Building to begin the course. 

            It started inside with a couple of hours of briefings on several topics.  Our instructors, Eric and Matt gave us information on hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and snow blindness.  One of the main themes was describing how we lose heat and how we can gain heat.  These are important lessons to keep in mind when out in the field.  The body looses heat through evaporation (sweat), convection (wind chill), respiration (breathing), and conduction (contact and touching something cold).  We can gain heat by adding layers of insulation, eating and drinking to fuel our body, exercising to build heat, and by providing a wind screen –such as an outer shell (jacket) or clothes that block the wind.   

            We learned that the body pulls blood from extremities (like fingers and toes) and sends that blood to warm the core of your body…to protect the vital organs.  Knowing how to gain heat and stay warm is critical, but also knowing the signs of hypothermia is a must.  Hypothermia is a lowering of the body core temperature.  It can be fatal.  Prevention is the key.  People who plan to work and live in extreme environments must be proactive and anticipate getting hot and cold, stay well fed, hydrated and rested, and PLAN AHEAD!  Always use the buddy system and look out for your buddy.  Watch for signs of hypothermia and get help if needed.  For more information on hypothermia, visit: 

            Frostbite is another common problem--even a few minutes of exposure to the cold in Antarctica can cause frost nip….the beginning stages of frostbite.  We learned about the stages of frostbite and how to recognize them.  The buddy system is important here as well….maybe a person can’t see that their nose is turning white….a buddy can make the difference.  Being protected (covered) from the cold and wind is so important. Our ECW gear provides layers of clothing to cover every single inch of our body if needed.  Again, prevention is the key. 

            Matt shared the contents of a survival bag…the food included is to support two people for three days.  Other contents of that bag include sleeping pads and bags, a tent, portable shovel and ice pick, and lots of different anchors for holding down the tent.  Hopefully I’ll never have to use one of these bags!

Oct. 24-1

Oct. 24-2

            We left the Science Support building and traveled by Delta to an area past Scott Base (the New Zealand base about 2 miles away) used for snow survival training.  A vehicle called a piston bulley transported all of our bags/gear and we walked quite a while to get to the instructor hut.  It was a very nice day….sunny, about -20 with the wind chill factor…but if you kept moving you certainly stayed warm.  Eric used the snow mobile with a sled hooked on the back to shuttle people back and forth to the hut more quickly.

 Oct. 24-3

           The delta…                                               

Oct. 24-4

                                            and a piston bulley

Oct. 24-5

                Transport by snow machine….                               

Oct. 24-6

                                            the instructor hut

Learning how to use the camping stoves was the next task, and this was nothing new for me, since I’m a backpacker.  We practiced inside, in the semi-warmth of the instructor hut…before having to perform those same tasks with cold hands outdoors.  Eating lunch was also important because we had to stock up on calories before we headed outside for the next 20 or so hours.  The next time we’d be inside of this hut was tomorrow morning at about 9:00 AM.  Everyone had to pitch in to help organize the sleeping bags, fleece liners, and pads for each duffle bag.  It was an assembly line…and very organized.

Oct. 24-7 

                                              The camp stove….                

Oct. 24-8

                    and organizing the sleeping equipment

            When we left the shelter of the instructor hut, we had to walk back about a half mile or so (remember, we are in full ECW gear and the bunny boots) to an area referred to as “snow mound city.”  It got its name because of the various mounds and blocks of snow that are built during snow survival training.  Check out what it looked like before we got started—it was a barren landscape…..that’s Mt. Erebus in the background.  It’s a beautiful sight that dominates the landscape.

Oct. 24-9 

            Our group got to work immediately and here’s a list of what we accomplished in the next 5-6 hours:

**learned how to set up a Scott tent (named after famed Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott) and anchor it down to keep it in place


 Oct. 24-10

Setting up the Scott tent..      

Oct. 24-11

anchoring it…                

Oct. 24-12

and Vanessa sawing blocks


**saw snow/ice blocks out of a flat area and use these to build a wall around our camp to block the wind (By the way, I counted the blocks at the end of our task….we had 90 blocks on the bottom of the wall, and the wall was 4-5 layers high all the way around…if we just used 4 blocks high  as an average, what would be the total number of blocks?)


Oct. 24-13         

            I am hauling snow blocks to the wall and helping to build it.

 Oct. 24-14

**set up five expedition tents for members of our group to sleep in; these had to be anchored down as well

Oct. 24-15

Oct. 24-16

**learned how to build a quinzee snow shelter (see sequence of photos below

            which shows this process)


 Oct. 24-17      

        First you pile your bags high…                

Oct. 24-18

then you cover them with snow. 

 Oct. 24-19

     You pack down the snow…                                      

Oct. 24-20

check for thickness…


Oct. 24-21              

                    tunnel in to find the bags….

Oct. 24-22

and drag them all out!


Oct. 24-23

            A finished quinzee….                            

Oct. 24-24

and a look inside—beautiful!


**started several stoves to heat water for our instant dinners and hot drinks

**learned how to dig a snow trench to sleep in…and that includes cutting

            additional snow blocks to cover the trench

Oct. 24-25 

 Tim Paulsen from ANDRILL is shown here digging his trench...and below, he's testing out the size by laying inside of it. 

Oct. 24-26              


**drilling holes for the bamboo flag poles…to mark a safe route to the different parts of our camp in case of a white out

Oct. 24-27 

            (these two photos were taken by Alexander Siegmund)

Oct. 24-28


**establish radio contact with our instructors who LEFT US out there all night!

            We went to bed about 11:00 PM and as I climbed into the quinzee I wondered how or if I would sleep, how cold I’d be, and I thought about my cozy, warm bed at home!  Stay tuned to find out what happened over night! 

Do you think YOU would like to try snow survival training?   



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Sounds of Silence-October 25th, 2006

            The silence inside the quinzee was amazing.  The only sound I could hear was the occasional crunching in the snow of someone making their way to the outhouse.  Snow Mound City was a very quiet place, and inside each structure, whether it was a Scott tent, trench, expedition tent or quinzee, people were in varying stages of sleep or restlessness….and I’d say pretty much everyone was cold. 

I was no exception…I was awake ALL night and freezing cold.  The zipper on my sleeping bag was malfunctioning and every time I moved even a little bit, the zipper would come down—causing an icy blast of cold air to creep into the bag.  I also wrestled with the two foam pads we had been given…they had been rolled up and were a bit frozen, so flattening them out was quite an adventure.  Just getting into the sleeping bag had been “interesting” and I found that the fleece liner was twisted around me, also contributing to my inability to sleep.  I had the hot water in my large bottle and instead of using that for my feet, I slipped it into my shirt to warm the core of my body.  NOTHING seemed to make me comfortable, and I flipped over and over again all night.

            I kept checking my watch…one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock, and finally at five o’clock I gave it up and just decided that in order to get warm I needed to get dressed, get outside of the quinzee and move around.  I put on my frozen snow pants, managed to slip on my freezing cold bunny boots and big red parka and I slid out of the doorway into a bright new day.  My Husmann School banner was still hanging outside of our doorway in honor of my class back in Crystal Lake.

            First stop once I left the quinzee…..the outhouse.  What do you think?      

Oct. 25-2   

 Oct. 25-1

            I got to work immediately, knowing that all the movement would warm me up.  My feet and hands felt so much better when I was active….taking down the bamboo flags poles I had put up the night before, using the sled to move equipment like shovels and ice picks back to the storage shed, and packing up my sleeping duffle and ECW bag and transporting those to the pick up spot for our 8:30 AM meeting with Eric and Matt.

            Soon everyone was up and helping to break our camp down and pack things up to leave.  Each and every item needed to be stowed away in its proper place….back into the storage shed, into duffles, or back into orange ECW bags.  Matt and Eric arrived promptly at 8:30 AM and we were either shuttled back to the instructor hut or people elected to walk all the way back (this helped in staying warm).  Here’s what I looked like just before the 8:30 pick up time….very dry skin and icy hair and eyelashes.  Holy cow!

 Oct. 25-3



Oct. 25-4

            There was a de-briefing session in the instructor hut…where everyone talked a little about their night’s sleep (or no sleep in my case and I certainly wasn’t the only person), and what they did to help themselves or could have done differently.  It was a good learning experience for our group.  I was struggling to stay awake now…in that warm hut, sitting in a chair…finally feeling thawed out.


            We had two training exercises left…two scenarios we needed to practice.  Our group was back outside again in no time, practicing some search and rescue procedures for a white-out situation.  This scenario is often referred to as the “bucket head” activity.  I bet you can see why!  Basically we are pretending that a member of our group has gone outdoors to the outhouse during a white-out.  In order to search for that person, our group had to come up with a plan.  We were given one long rope to use for the search and rescue operation, and our instructor gave us three minutes to come up with a plan.  The rope was tied off to the doorway of the building, so we could find our way back.  Everyone had to wear a white bucket on their head to simulate a white-out.


Each member of our group spread out a short distance away from one another and made a sweeping circle through the area…hoping to stumble upon the missing person.  Remember, we had white buckets on our heads, so we couldn’t see where we were going.  It turns out that our group split up too much and we were extremely lucky to find the “body” (a duffle bag!) just by chance.  I think we learned a lot about this type of rescue and how we would modify our plan if this was a real search situation.

 Oct. 25-5


Oct. 25-6

  (buckethead photos by Cristina Millan)

            The second scenario was set up as follows:  our vehicle had caught on fire and we had to abandon it quickly and save whatever we could.  We had one emergency survival bag and one radio box.  Weather was closing in rapidly, and we had 20 minutes to set up the expedition tent, build a wall around it, set up the radio equipment and establish radio contact to get help.

            Our group worked so well together that we accomplished all of these tasks in the time allowed.  It takes team work to make things happen not only in emergency situations, but in life.  I am thinking of how the large group of scientists involved in the ANDRILL project have to work together to accomplish their goals.  I really like the way the international teams of scientists have come together to make new discoveries, record data, and work for a common goal.  It’s a great model for us all.

            Back at the instructor hut, we all pitched in to clean it up, store the supplies and ready the hut for the next snow survival class in a few days.  Eric and Matt shuttled people to the “bus stop” to wait for the Delta, and soon we were making the 20 minute ride back into McMurdo.  I got a real treat…I got to ride up in the cab of the Delta, which gave me a much better look at the road and Scott Base.  I also looked inside the cab and found some cool information about the Delta. 

**Gross weight= 43,300 pounds

**Height= 141 inches    **Width= 130 inches    **Length= 400 inches long

Oct. 25-7

            Back at the Science Support Center we watched two additional videos on helicopter safety and also life in the Dry Valleys.  I could barely stay awake!  Finally at about 4:00 PM we were dismissed from class.  Vanessa and I stayed around to interview Matt and Eric to find out a little more about them. They are really knowledgeable and friendly guys. 

 Oct. 25-8

Eric (on the right) is from the state of Washington and this is his second year on the ice.  He teaches courses and leads guided trips in the Cascades Mountains of the Pacific Northwest and also the Alaska Range. He’s worked for the American Alpine Institute and also Alpine Ascents International. 

Matt has lived in Alaska for 15 years.  He is a teacher and guide for Kennicott Wilderness Guides and the Alaska School of Mountaineering. He lives in the heart of  Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, (a huge national park in eastern Alaska) in the small town of McCarthy.  He’s worked in Denali National Park (home of Mt. McKinley—the tallest peak of North America), the Alaska Range, and has taught glacier and ice climbing.  The experience of these two men adds a lot to the both the Search and Rescue operations and the Field Safety Training in McMurdo.  I’d like to thank them for a great experience in Happy Camper School. 

Oct. 25-9 


Oct. 25-10

                        Our snowy home for the night and our mascot…a penguin!



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Introduction to Geology of McMurdo Sound-October 26th, 2006

            During our morning briefing Terry Wilson and Phil Kyle, two of the ANDRILL scientists gave us some background of the geology of the Victoria Land Basin.  The McMurdo Ice Shelf Project of ANDRILL is currently taking place in this area.  I am starting to make sense of the complicated geology of this region, but I met with Terry later on to ask her some questions.  I am just a beginner in geology compared to the scientists working on the ANDRILL project.  Here’s a tiny bit of what I learned.

            This diagram shows the tectonic setting of the Antarctic Plate, which is one of seven major plates on Earth.  Scientists are interested in understanding how much movement there has been and when it occurred.  They look at active volcanism, active glacial movements and deposits, and uplift or faulting of the Earth’s crust.

 Oct. 26-1


            The diagram below shows how the East Antarctic and West Antarctic regions are spreading apart, which is called rifting.  Scientists study the timing and magnitude (amount) of this rifting.  They want to know about the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains and this West Antarctic Rift System.  Earth’s crust is thinner in rift areas and as a result it slides down along the faults (cracks), forming a basin.

Oct. 26-2 

            The following diagram shows the areas where the basins are located in McMurdo Sound. 

 Oct. 26-3

            As sediments are eroded off by river systems and glaciers, they are deposited in the basin and gradually the basin fills with these sediments.  Layer after layer accumulates, preserving an archive of geologic history and a climate record through time.  When scientists retrieve the sediment cores from this region, they will analyze these sedimentary records which provide evidence of ice shelf collapse during past times of global warming.  The stratigraphic records help scientists understand Antarctica’s role in the past, present, and future global climate system.


            Some of the things ANDRILL scientists hope to learn more about include:

** how the sediments deposited in the Victoria Land Basin were transported and about the volume of sediments deposited

**the timing of glacial events in relation to the erosion of the Transantarctic Mountains

**the timing of rift events and the relation to the uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains

**ages for seismically-defined layers and fault patterns

**sediment thickness, age, and properties

**forces that shaped this area…both paleo (back in geologic history) and modern

 **the geochemical evolution of volcanism

            This is by no means a comprehensive list….there is so much more.  Just wanted to give you a bit of background on this region, and what ANDRILL scientists might be interested in. 



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Fifty Years of Antarctic Research-Profile on Peter Webb- October 27th, 2006


This morning I took some time to sit down with Peter Webb, someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for as a scientist.  Peter was one of the Co-Chief Scientists for the Cape Roberts Project when I worked with that geologic drilling project eight years ago.  He has a long history of geologic research in Antarctica and is currently celebrating 50 years of being involved in geology research on this continent.  He is truly an amazing (and rather humorous) man. 

            I asked Peter how he actually became interested in science and geology, and what inspired him to take this path in life.  His first exposure to geology was through his father’s work as a petroleum engineer for an oil company.  Peter’s father worked more on the drilling/mechanical side of the business.  Occasionally the oil company sent paleontologists from the United States to work in New Zealand.  This was Peter’s initial look at microfossils.  He says that he stored that information away for later in his life.

            During his late elementary years, Peter and his mom ran a dairy farm.  “Farmer Webb” as he calls himself, spent time breeding milk cows and he became convinced that he wanted to become a veterinarian.  Peter would have had to attend a university in Australia to go to vet school and the money just wasn’t there for that, so he went to Victoria University in New Zealand…totally confused about what career he was going to focus on.  He decided to be a teacher.

    Oct. 27-2

            During his university education Peter randomly chose a geology course as an elective…the connection back to his Dad’s work was re-established and suddenly geology seemed more exciting than teaching.  In addition, at the time it was very difficult to find a teaching position in New Zealand.  Peter made the shift to geology and it was during this time that he first had the opportunity to travel to Antarctica. 

His first experience was on a U.S. ship as a cargo handler during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957.  This was New Zealand’s first Antarctic expedition, with only thirty people at most being chosen for the trip.  There was a big application process, and of course the selection became very political.  Being 19 year old undergraduate students, Peter and his friend Barrie McKelvey found themselves at the bottom of the list of possible participants.  Peter shared the following story with me:


“The head of the geology department at Victoria University conspired to move us up the list of people going on the expedition.  He made a deal that we’d be called cargo handlers.  When we arrived we did the cargo unloading as fast as possible.  When that was over we got into the geology routine.  We had absolutely no precise plans, and we got help from Admiral Dufek (U.S. Admiral in charge of the Williams Air Facility) and Sir Edmund Hillary (who had helped establish Scott Base in 1956).  In those days we were children to all these people…they were greatly amused by two kids organizing an expedition here.  Everyone thought it was rather adventurous to send two undergrads into the Transantarctic Mountains.”

Oct. 27-3 

Peter and his friend Barrie McKelvey on Ross Island in 1958.  First three photos are courtesy of Peter Webb.


 Oct. 27-1

            The following year Peter returned to Antarctica to continue research that was part of IGY.  He became one of the first people to explore the Dry Valleys and is shown in the photo above in Beacon Valley during the 1957-58 field season.  When Peter and others in his party were dropped off in remote areas, they set up field camps, and back then walked between areas they wanted to study.  Today it’s so much different as helicopters fly in and out of the Dry Valleys providing transport for scientists and their gear/equipment on a regular basis. 

            While he was the New Zealand representative on the steering committee for the Dry Valleys Drilling Project in the early 1970’s, Peter met Antarctic researchers from Northern Illinois University.   Peter was recruited to move to the U.S. to not only become Chair of the Geology Department but help develop their doctoral program.  Peter had worked for the New Zealand government as a researcher for thirteen years and now he found himself back in the role of teacher…facing his first classes of geology students.  He stayed at NIU until 1980, at which time he moved to a position as a teacher/researcher at Ohio State University.  He’s been there ever since.

            He considers himself a broad geologist and remarked that now people in geology are more specialized.  As they specialize they get back to fundamental areas of science like biology, chemistry, etc.  Peter told me that “the geologists of the last 50 years were unique and it was a great time to be a geologist.  My generation of geologists probably had more scientific breadth.”

            When I asked him how it feels to be here 50 years after that first experience in the Dry Valleys during IGY, he remarked that it was more relaxed and unrushed, particularly since he’s not in charge of ANDRILL or any other major project.  He’s also “quite happy to see some of his former students here doing their thing” for ANDRILL.  At least two of the scientists involved with ANDRILL, were students of Peter’s.  Peter says “One of the most satisfying things as teachers is to have some impact on the lives of our students, and have their respect and they still discuss things with you.” 

            It’s important to “re-charge mentally for a few hours or days, etc., otherwise you become boring,” laughs Peter.  He enjoys the theater, music, and he and his wife, Joan, (a 1984 Antarctic field assistant) raise/breed German Shepherds.  One of my favorite comments from Peter from our interview:  “Life’s been a meandering experience.”  He’s certainly left his mark on Antarctic science after 21 trips to the ice, and I feel privileged to have met and worked with him.  He leaves the ice next week, but more importantly, he leaves a legacy of geology research and ALWAYS leaves quite an impression on those people whose lives he touches. 

 Oct. 27-4



            (photos by Megan Berg, ANDRILL Media Specialist)



Oct. 27-5


For a great article about Peter written back in 1999 for the McMurdo newspaper, the Antarctic Sun, go to:
















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Our First Core Tour-October 28th, 2006

            Today our discipline team leader for the sedimentologists, Larry Krissek, gave us our first core log update.  He explained what characteristics we could expect to see in the core samples brought into the lab and processed for today’s sampling.  Scientists are using a new method to log the core….a computer program called PSICAT.  I’ve attached an example of what the core log might look like.  Each notation has a very specific meaning and scientists work very carefully to take accurate notes.

 Oct. 28-1

              After Larry’s introduction everyone headed downstairs to the core lab to actually view the boxes of core. Lionel Carter is the person who takes over from here, giving us the introduction to the sediment cores each day.  Scientists from the various discipline teams are given the opportunity to place small flags into the core boxes, to indicate to the curators exactly where they would like to take a sample.  Sampling requests are filled throughout the rest of the day.  Here’s what it looked like in the lab this morning.

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            Notice the meter stick provided to show scale, and the blue marker that also shows the 20 cm depth below the sea floor.  These soft sediments are the ones closest to the top of the sea floor.  As the drill proceeds deeper into that sea floor the sediments will be harder.  Also notice the pebbles, (called clasts), that are found in the sediments.  There is a team, led by Italian Franco Talarico, that is devoted to studying these clasts and their properties. 

     Oct. 28-6       

Oct. 28-7           

Percy Strong (micropaleontology team) is selecting a spot to sample.  Boxes of core are laid out on the tables in order of depth below the sea floor.  It was exciting to see the core boxes for the first time.  As the rotary drilling begins to happen, soon we’ll be very busy in Crary Lab.

Here’s the order of events from the time the drill brings up a section of core, just to give you an idea of how this all happens:

1.  The core is immediately brought into the on-site lab located adjacent to the drill rig; it is cut into one meter lengths, and sediments are roughly described by the lab technicians.

2.  The core is scanned for its geophysical and geochemical properties; this includes the velocity of sound through the sediment, how much natural radioactivity it has, and its density and porosity.

3.  Another team does a solid core scan which means the core is slowly rotated while a photo is taken of the entire 360 degree surface; this provides a flat picture of the core; scientists look at the orientation of the fractures in the core.

4.  The cores are put into boxes and clearly labeled with depth below the sea floor; boxes of core are carefully transported back to Crary Lab in McMurdo.

5.  Cores are split in half; one half becomes an archive and is stored for transport to a core storage facility at Florida State University; the other half is the “working” half and is what we see each day in the lab on the core tour.

6.  Sedimentologists prepare a core report which is presented at our daily meetings.

7.  A core tour is given each day; scientists mark where they want the curators to take samples; curators take these samples and bag them individually to give to each science team.

            8.  Scientists on each team perform their tests and                 collect data.


            There was a bit of recreation tonight as McMurdo Station prepared for the annual Halloween dance.  Clever people donned a myriad of costumes…and paraded down to the gym for this event.   People used a lot of recycled items and there are also things to borrow from the recreation office.  It is crazy to think that here at the bottom of the world people are still celebrating Halloween. 

  Oct. 28-8    

Oct. 28-9





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A Busy Sunday in McMurdo-October 29th, 2006


            Today was filled with many different activities.  Megan Berg, the ANDRILL Media Specialist filmed us (the ARISE team of educators) outside, talking about our experiences from Happy Camper School.  Each day Megan works on tons of different projects, and the video journals are just one part of her job.  I hope that you are taking a look at these video journals as they are being added to the ANDRILL Project Iceberg website.  They really do give a close-up look at the ANDRILL Project and what’s involved in traveling to and being in Antarctica.

 Oct. 29-1A

     Matteo Cattadori during his interview

Oct. 29-1B

    (photos by Alexander Siegmund)

            I saw my first Weddell seal today!  One lonely seal had come up through a crack in the ice and was lounging on the ice in the sun. 


 Oct. 29-1

Oct. 29-2           

                    (photos by Davide Persico)


            Fast facts on Weddell seals:


**scientific name:  Leptonychotes weddelli


**southernmost pinniped in the world (a pinniped is


**estimated that over 800,000 Weddell seals live in the waters surrounding the continent of Antarctica


**males are generally smaller than the females


**predators include leopard seals and orca whales


**the peak season for females to give birth to pups is from September through November; average gestation period is about 10.25 months


**they give birth to one pup at a time; pups are born with a thick layer of fur which is shed in the first month as they develop thick layers of blubber


**pups nurse from the mother and the milk is high in fat…up to 60% fat

**pups learn to swim at about 3 weeks old


**Weddell seals eat fish, invertebrates, squid and octopuses; they will sometimes eat krill


**these seals are incredible divers and can dive to 2,000 feet; they can also hold their breath for more than an hour


**adult seals can weigh over 1,000 pounds


Information retrieved from:


            This afternoon Alexander and I took the shuttle over to Scott Base for a quick visit.  Scott Base is about 2 miles from McMurdo and is a much smaller station.  Approximately 75 people live and work there during the austral (southern hemisphere) summer.  A group of 6-10 individuals lives there during winter-over.  It’s a cozy place with lime green buildings all around the site. 


 Oct. 29-3


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          Alexander and I visited the small store on base….it was filled with great Antarctic items and we had a little shopping spree!  This was a fun way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon at the bottom of the world. 

 Oct. 29-7

One minute we were inside enjoying the warmth of the Scott Base store, and the next minute we were looking at the cool pressure ridges of ice and snow outside.

 Oct. 29-8

            When we arrived back in McMurdo, I noticed a group of men practicing for a rugby game.  It’s great to see what people do for recreation here in McMurdo.

 Oct. 29-9

     Our shuttle to/from Scott Base… 

Oct. 29-10 

          and rugby players on the streets of McMurdo.


            I ended my busy day with an interview during dinner.  I met with Samantha East, a navigator with the 109th Air Wing, 139th Airlift Squadron of the New York Air National Guard.  Sam is part of the Active Guard Reservists (AGR) unit that is hired specifically to provide air support to the United States Antarctic Program.  There are 12 crews of the AGR’s and 6 people per crew.  There are also traditional National Guardsmen, but they are part time and have other jobs.  Sam is full time…this is her job.   

            As navigator, Sam has many responsibilities.  She’s the map reader…she tells the pilots how to get where they are going. She programs the navigation computers and also uses celestial navigation as a back-up.  This unit is the only unit in the Air Force that still flies using celestial navigation.  She explained that this can be important when flying in Antarctica, since the landscape is lacking color and can have little in the way of distinguishing features if on-board navigational systems failed.  She uses a sextant, an astronomical instrument that has been around for centuries.  It determines the latitude and longitude at sea by measuring angles and distances, especially the altitudes of the sun, moon, and stars.   

            Sam’s husband, Lloyd, is also in the Air National Guard. He is a pilot of a LC-130, a ski-equipped Hercules.  That is the same type of plane that Sam flies on as navigator.  This plane has four people in the cockpit…a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and a flight engineer.  There are also 1-2 loadmasters on each flight and can be up to 4 of them.  They are in charge of everything behind the bulkhead of the plane (behind where the cockpit is).

            The LC-130’s that are used in Antarctica for the summer season left the base in Schenectady, New York on October 11th and they will be here until the season closes out in February.  An AGR’s average deployment to Antarctica is about 9 weeks  during the season. They rotate on and off the ice, but the total amount of time spent here is approximately 9 weeks.  In the off-season Guardsmen in this unit spend time training in Greenland, giving science support to camps, and practicing take-offs, landings, and approaches.  Sam says that all three of these things present different challenges in snowy/icy places like Greenland and Antarctica. 

            LC-130’s are the workhorses of the United States Antarctic Program.  They transport people to the South Pole Station, Siple Dome, and other remote areas around the continent. Each plane can carry 65,000 pounds of fuel and cargo.  For example, when coming to Antarctica from Christchurch, New Zealand, an LC-130 typically carries 10,000 of cargo, since the rest of that weight is dedicated to the fuel the plane must carry to make the trip.


                    Sam is the person on the far left in this photo

          Currently many workers headed to the South Pole are stuck here in McMurdo waiting for the temperature to cooperate.  The LC-130’s have a minimum operating temperature of -56 degrees.  The hydraulic fluid and fuel gel at that temperature.  The crews of the LC-130 have backed off the minimum operating temperature to -50 degrees to give a little leeway.  I know there are a lot of scientists and workers who are anxious to get to the Pole, and hopefully that can happen this coming week.  Thanks to Sam for an enjoyable dinner and for taking the time to talk with me.

Oct. 20-12 

        This is Sam's husband Lloyd...but it's hard to tell!

Oct. 29-13

     In the cockpit of an LC-130 cargo plane                                                         (photos provided by Samantha East)





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ARISE Teachers On The Go! - October 30th, 2006

            It was a really busy day for the ARISE educators.  We had the usual 9:30 AM ANDRILL science meeting…Matt Olney, one of the curators gave a presentation on how the samples will be bagged and labeled.  This provides consistency in how every single team receives their samples.  Each label contains information such as the number of the core box, depth below the sea floor, the scientist’s name, the institution (possibly a university or research center) where the scientist works, and the date.  Boxes are set aside for each science team and bags are sorted as the sampling process takes place. 

 Oct. 30-1A

 Oct. 30-1B


             Later in the day our entire team met with Peter Webb for a question/answer session.  The focus of the conversation was science education and changes throughout the past 50 years in terms of science research, and inspiring students to become scientists.  Peter asked us as many questions as we asked him, which made for a great exchange of ideas and information.  As a professor at Ohio State, he’s had an influence on many students.  Always interested in learning more, he really valued our own feedback on the students we teach.  It was very inspiring to me as an educator, to sit with the ARISE team and Peter to discuss methods of teaching and the issues we all face—no matter what country we are in. When I have the chance to sit with outstanding educators and share ideas, it is the best professional development I can ask for. 

 Oct. 30-1

 Oct. 30-2A


            After dinner tonight several of my ANDRILL colleagues decided to go for a walk out to the ice runway.  What a great evening for a walk…and the hour-long hike was just what I needed after a day of working indoors.  As long as we bundle up around here, being outside is invigorating and getting some exercise is essential.

Oct. 30-3

The view back toward McMurdo Station

Oct. 30-2

 Oct. 30-4

 Lionel Carterand Richard Levy with Ob Hill in the background…

Oct. 30-5

                and a LC-130 plane.

 Oct. 30-6

        The McMurdo Airport...                              

Oct. 30-7

Cargo waiting for transport

    What a great way to end our day! 






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From IGY to IPY-50 Years Later - October 31st, 2006

            I’ll start you off today with a beautiful photo by Cliff Atkins.  It was taken out at the ANDRILL drill site the other day.  The ring, called a Solar Halo, is caused by the sun shining on tiny ice crystals hanging in the air.  The two bright spots at the 3:00 and 9:00 positions are called Sun Dogs.  I just love this image.


Oct. 31-1 

            Now, many of you are probably wondering…”what are IGY and IPY and how does this relate to Antarctica?”  IGY stands for the International Geophysical Year, which took place in 1957-58.  IPY stands for the International Polar Year, which is going to take place from 2007-2008.  But that’s not all.  The very first International Polar Year was way back in 1882-83 and the second IPY was in 1932-33.  So what’s this all about?

            These are landmark events in the history of science.  During these periods scientists have collaborated on expeditions to make new discoveries, develop theories and collect data, debate issues in science, broaden public awareness and interest in polar regions, publish their work, and left a legacy for the future of science.  The upcoming International Polar Year will involve many scientists from around the world in exploration and discovery.  Proposals for scientific research have been submitted and are projects underway.  ANDRILL is an important contribution to IPY. 

            Peter Webb has been giving us all a bit of a history lesson this week.  He’s talked with us at our morning meetings, with the ARISE educators, at informal gatherings here at Crary Lab, and tonight he spoke with the McMurdo community during a presentation at the galley (where we eat our meals).  Peter has a unique perspective compared to most people, since he was in Antarctica during International Geophysical Year.  His experiences spanning over 50 years of science research are invaluable as we approach the next IPY in early 2007.

            As a young research scientist from New Zealand, Peter was able to talk with scientists who were part of the Shackleton and Scott expeditions of the early 1900’s.  He also knew the key players in the 1957-58 IGY and his presentation was filled with personal anecdotes about what it was like to be part of a threshold in the history of science.  Peter shared stories of what he called the “polar all-stars,” people who many of Antarctica’s geographical features are named after:  Griffith Taylor (Valley and Glacier), James Clark Ross (Sea and Ice Shelf), Charles S. Wright (Glacier), Sir Douglas Mawson (Cape, Coast, Corridor, Escarpment, Glacier, Peak, and Peninsula), Alfred L. Wegner (Mount and Range), Frank Debenham (Glacier, Islands, and Peak), Raymond E. Preistley (Glacier), and many more.            

            The IGY of 1957-58 had an impact on both polar and global science.  Cooperation between participating nations encouraged exchanges between not only different cultures, but different scientific cultures. It led to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and new organizations for operations in Antarctica, and helped promote larger scientific research expeditions on the continent.  Scientists collected a vast amount of data, and solved scientific problems.  Views changed and new theories such as the Plate Tectonic Theory emerged.  A new generation of young scientists, like Peter Webb and Barrie McKelvey stepped forward.  It was an exciting time that set the stage for the future. 

            IPY 2007-2008 is planned to be an internationally coordinated effort that will mark a new era in polar science research taking place in both the North and South Polar Regions.  Many science disciplines will be involved, and the approach is aimed at being interdisciplinary.  International participation will include not only science researchers, but will involve educational outreach and will impact the public.  As with IGY, this international effort will help train the next generation of scientists and leaders.  A major goal of IPY is to bring to the forefront the solid links that polar regions have with global systems.

            Another thing I learned today…when people say “put your name on the map” they are usually just dreaming or joking.  Peter Webb DOES have his name on the map, and thanks to Jess Walker (the GIS map specialist here in McMurdo), I was able to get the map zoomed in on this feature. Enjoy!

 Oct. 31-2

            The Webb Glacier is just north of Mount Bastion and Gibson Spur.  It flows southeast into the head of Barwick Valley, in Victoria Land.  It was named by the Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition (VUWAE) of 1958-59 for Peter-Noel Webb.  In 1957-58 Peter and his friend Barrie McKelvey did the first geological exploration of this region (notice the McKelvey Valley also shown on this map).  Both Webb and McKelvey were in Wright Valley as part of the VUWAE of 1958-59.






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Fun and Games - November 1st, 2006

    Today I'd like to introduce you to a couple of new things.  First off, I'll be having little contests for students from time to time, and there are small prizes that I will mail to the winner of each contest.  The first person to respond to my question will be sent a small prize such as a patch, key chain, etc.  The answers to the questions can be found in my journal entries.  Here's the first prize shown below:

USAP Patch

    When students respond to the question, PLEASE include your full name and address, so I can mail you the prize.  I will send them from McMurdo to anywhere in the world.  Have fun searching for the answer!

QUESTION:  Who are the two Co-Chief Scientists for the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf Project this season, AND which countries do they represent?

Here's another fun activity for you.  I've designed a word search using words that have to do with ANDRILL.  Good Luck!




































































































































































































































 Words can go up, down, frontward, backward, but NOT diagonally.


TOOLS                                                         ICE SHELF

GLACIER                                                     SEDIMENTS

SCIENTISTS                                              CRARY LAB

CORE                                                            NANOFOSSILS

ANTARCTICA                                            FORAM

GEOSCIENCE                                            SEISMIC

MUD                                                              HYDRAULIC

TECTONICS                                               DIAMOND BIT

DIATOM                                                      FRACTURE

RISER                                                           ROSS SEA


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No Dogs Allowed - November 2nd, 2006

            Sled dogs are an important part of the history and exploration of Antarctica.  Roald Amundsen used sled dogs to reach the South Pole in 1911.  Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton both tried using sled dogs in Antarctica, but met with less success than Amundsen.  Hundreds of other expeditions have used sled dogs here throughout the years.  But, many people do not know that sled dogs are no longer allowed in on the continent.  Back in 1984 the Madrid Protocol called for all non-native species, except humans, to be removed from Antarctica.  That was certainly the end of an era. 

Several people involved with ANDRILL have years of Antarctic experience, and have tales to tell.  Today I sat down with Peter Cleary, acting ANDRILL Operations Manager at Scott Base, and we had a chat about his experiences with sled dogs on the ice.

            Peter first came to Antarctica during the 1978-79 season.  He had a strong mountaineering background along with experience in search and rescue operations.  His official role at Scott Base that season was Base Field Assistant and part of that job was being the dog handler for Scott Base.  The Scott Base sled dogs were a breed called West Greenland Huskies.  They were larger dogs, with males weighing about 120 pounds.  Most of them were a mixture of black, white, and light tan, and they had a hackle of fur that sort of stood up on their spine.  Peter told me that they chose dogs with straighter coats of fur because the curly hair would get matted down and then freeze to things and when the dog got up…big chunks of fur would get ripped out.  The coat had longer guard hairs and a thick undercoat...and these layers provided warmth.  I couldn’t believe it when Peter told me that the dogs slept outside, even in the winter.

With strong broad shoulders, these dogs were bred for strength, not necessarily speed.  This was important…for the dogs would carry heavy loads on all sorts of  expeditions.  Peter recalled his first dog trip, which was out to Cape Evans. The sun was still setting at around midnight and it was a really good trip.  Well, that is until some of the dogs got into a fight and he got bitten on the hand while trying to break it up.  He said that fights were a regular occurrence with the dogs, and that selecting dogs to work together was a tricky ordeal.  Often the first mile of a trip was insane, and the handler needed to ride the sled.  After that the handler would often ski to the side of the sled.


 sled dogs1

 (A dog driver's view...tails up on the sea ice.  Winter 1979)

            During the summer season, the huskies were fed scraps of food from Scott Base and McMurdo.  One time there was 20 tons of reject meat and they used it to feed the dogs.  When winter came, they shot seals to feed the dogs.  They would gut the seals, and let them freeze.  Then they’d come out with chain saws and slice the meat into huge chunks.

            Teams of nine dogs pulled sleds weighing 1,100-1,200 pounds.  All of the dogs were attached to a guideline and fanned out like the photo above.  There was a lead dog out in front which was not the strongest of the group, but one that could listen and follow voice commands.  The other dogs were in pairs across from one another.  The dogs behind the leader were also good listeners and sharp dogs.  The rest of them were strong dogs, with the very strongest toward the back of the group…closest to the sled.  Scott Base had 17 or more dogs…enough for 2 teams. 

            Each month the dogs were checked thoroughly.  They were weighed, had their nails trimmed, and the hair on their pads was trimmed to prevent it from freezing and causing problems for the dogs.  Dogs were monitored very carefully for breeding purposes and litters of pups were born and raised at Scott Base.  Peter shared the photos in this journal entry with me, but by far, my favorite is this one of some young pups meeting people at Scott Base for the first time.  Up until this moment, they were taken care of only by the handler.  Peter says they were timid for about a half hour, and then were running all over the place getting into trouble!  Aren’t they adorable?

    (Below:  First time inside...pups not long born brought into dining room so they can get used to a lot of different people...very shy for now.)

sled dogs2

   sled dogs3

    (Scott Base dog lines, September 1979, approximately -40 degrees; the dogs lived outside.)

 sled dogs4

    ("Muff"...waiting to be fed.)            

            When they fought, the West Greenland huskies would go for the dog on the bottom.  Peter told a hilarious story about one of the dog fights…there was one dog that wasn’t so smart, even though he was a good worker.  One time a fight broke out and they could hear this particular dog whining and crying on the bottom of the pile.  When they removed all the other dogs, they discovered that the dog had his OWN foot in his mouth.  Can you believe it? 

It’s important to remember that these weren’t pets, they were working dogs.  Peter said that when you patted one on the head, you had to pat them all.  There was a pack mentality.  He laughed when he told me that the dogs were also training the handlers…not just the handlers training the dogs.  The handlers worked on two shifts and left each other “dog notes” each day.  They recorded quite a bit about group dynamics…which dogs worked better with each other.  He also noted that some dogs worked better for some handlers.  It’s all personality.

 sled dogs5

    ("Betty," Muff's sister)

  sled dogs6   

In 1986 Peter was at the dock when the dogs left Antarctica were unloaded off a ship in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Those dogs were immediately put on a plane bound for the United States.  One of the dog food companies paid for the transport and the dogs’ new home was with Will Steger.  Steger would later use some of these dogs on an expedition crossing Antarctica in 1990.  Read all about this expedition and others at:

Peter shared a lot of other stories with me, since his experiences in Antarctica are quite varied and span the years since 1978.  He’s been to Antarctica seventeen times…at Scott Base (New Zealand), Terra Nova Bay (Italian base), Rothera (British-two seasons as the dog handler there) and with other programs as well.  He also works for Antarctic Logistics Expeditions and has truly traveled the world.  He’s done all sorts of jobs, mainly in the field, but now more often in logistics. 

When I asked him about station life back in the 1970’s Peter commented that he had been at Rothera for two and a half years straight.  There were two mail runs per year, and they were allowed 200 words per month on the teletype.  When phones were introduced, it was so expensive that no one could really afford it.  It was five NZ Pounds per minute!  Communication is quite different now, with email, video conferencing, fax, and phone calls…all in an instant. 


It is obvious that Peter looks back on his time with the sled dogs with fond memories.  As Scott Base celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, you can be sure that Peter has made significant contributions to the operation of Scott Base and Antarctica New Zealand.  I would like to thank Peter for the great photos and a wonderful conversation today.  I not only learned a lot, but was totally entertained by his stories of a bygone era. 

 sled dogs7

    (Blue Glacier, October 1979...the wind is blowing and it's in the -30's)

 sled dogs8

    ("Thumper"...a lead dog...Rothera {British Station}, 1984).

(All photos and captions by Peter Cleary)






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A Tour at Scott Base - November 3rd, 2006

             Last night some of the ANDRILL team was invited to the Kiwi (New Zealand) base…Scott Base, for dinner and a tour.   Peter Cleary was our host for the evening…and we were in for a real treat.  I shared the outside of the Scott Base buildings with you in my October 29th journal entry.  What I didn’t tell you was that Scott Base was established in January 1957 on Pram Point, on the southeastern tip of Hut Point Peninsula.  The spot was chosen for its clear access to the ice to the south, the level land, and for being a good location for scientific observations.  It is about 4 km from McMurdo Station.  It’s time to take a little tour inside the Kiwi base. 

            For starters, Scott Base is so much smaller than McMurdo, and all of the main buildings are connected…you don’t have to go outside.  We started off at the store, but since I had just been there a few nights ago, I went right into the dining room to take photos.  It’s so cozy and more like home…including the fact that diners at Scott Base wash off their own dishes before putting them into the dishwasher!  It was an excellent dinner and I enjoyed having some time with friends who live at Scott Base. 

 Nov. 3-1

Nov. 3-2

            Immediately after dinner Peter Cleary gave us the deluxe “behind the scenes tour” at the base.  Their usual maximum capacity is around 80 people, but currently they’re busting at the seams with over one hundred people on base.  That will change quickly as science groups move into the field to do their work.  It still puts a bit of a strain on the small station though…even finding beds for all of the people.  In some cases, there are ANDRILL scientists living in the old refurbished ship containers used for the Cape Roberts drilling project back in the late 1990’s.  These containers are equipped with bunk beds, and electricity, and are pretty cozy, but you still have to go outside and back into the main station to use a bathroom.

            One of my favorite places was the Transantarctic Expedition hut (called the TAE hut), built back in 1957.  It was a prefabricated hut built at the Wellington Airport, disassembled to be loaded onto a ship, and then taken to Antarctica.  Putting the hut together again at Pram Point was easy because there were numbers stenciled on the plywood-clad panels.  There were long steel tie rods inserted into the construction for strength.  The building had to be anchored to the ground with guy wires.  The outer shell, roof, walls, and floor were assembled in one working day.

 Nov. 3-3


Nov. 3-4

Nov. 3-5

            The main living and dining area is shown above, along with one of the stoves/ heaters.  There was a separate little kitchen on one end of the building.  Like most kitchens, it was probably once the hub of action in the building.  Check out some of the original pieces of equipment in the kitchen, and some examples of the food.

  Nov. 3-6     

 Nov. 3-7

    Nov. 3-8

 Nov. 3-9

            Below you’ll find two posters giving details on field rations and trail recipes for the men who went out into the field camps…simple meals compared to what’s prepared in field camps today.  Next week we’ll be visiting the Berg Field Center in McMurdo and I’ll be able to show you what current field camps select from for their meals.

 Nov. 3-10


Nov. 3-11


            This hut is currently preserved as a living history museum, sharing life at Scott Base in the early days of its existence.  Radios and other communication equipment, emergency first aid boxes, and an old typewriter give clues about what life in the TAE hut was like.  Even the clothing once worn on those early expeditions is on display. 

 Nov. 3-12

Nov. 3-13

            Back inside the main part of Scott Base, Peter took us through the various operation centers of the base.  Like McMurdo, Scott Base stores a major amount of field equipment…as seen below.  Remember to compare the amount of supplies here to my next journal entry which will show the Berg Field Center at McMurdo Station.

 Nov. 3-14

  Nov. 3-15

            There is a small machine shop and repair facility that is part of a new addition to Scott Base in the past few years.  When a Pisten Bully, Hagglund or other vehicle needs to be repaired, it’s much easier to do this inside. 

 Nov. 3-16

 Nov. 3-17


            Scott Base was originally built for a maximum period of three years.  As the New Zealand government realized the significant scientific potential of the continent, it was decided that they would continue with research in Antarctica.  More buildings were added to the site throughout the years, and the TAE hut became more of a museum… and was moved to its present location in 1989.  In addition to preserving this slice of history, there is a nonprofit organization called the Antarctic Historic Trust.  This New Zealand based charity is responsible for preservation of the historic huts of the British Antarctic expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.  They also educate the international community and seek to inspire others through the “timeless qualities of discovery, endurance and adventure.”  (information gathered from   I’ll be visiting the historic huts on one of my field trips…so stay tuned for more information and photographs.

            Our group stayed on for “American night” at Scott Base…a time when the folks from McMurdo Station are welcome to visit the base.  I’d like to thank Peter Cleary once again…what a great dinner and tour.  The Kiwis always make us feel welcome and being connected through the ANDRILL project demonstrates the international cooperation that’s taking place in order to make new scientific discoveries here in Antarctica.






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The Heavy Shop - November 4th, 2006

            What on Earth is a “heavy shop” and how does that relate to science?  Well, here in McMurdo there has to be a way to fix all of the vehicles, many of which are used when scientists have to be transported from one place to another, or even brought into the field. For example, ANDRILL scientists based in McMurdo have to be taken to/from the drill site every day.  The site is about 9km from Scott Base, so it’s not feasible to walk there.  Various vehicles are used to provide the transport needed to move scientists and the drillers from both McMurdo and Scott Base. 

            What happens when the 300+ vehicles used in McMurdo break down or need routine maintenance?  They’re taken to the heavy shop…otherwise known as the VMF or Vehicle Maintenance Facility.  We took time today to visit Jim Story, VMF Supervisor, who gave us a tour of the facility.  The big vehicles here are essential in keeping McMurdo and the science research that takes place here running smoothly. 

            The heavy shop also takes care of things you that don’t normally come to mind such as generators used at Pegasus Airfield, Willy Field, and the ice runway.  It also has a well stocked library of technical manuals for vehicles dating back many years.  The parts department has over 50,000 parts available, some of which might not be found in any shop but the McMurdo VMF. 

 Nov. 4-1

                     Jim Story, Supervisor of the VMF                    

Nov. 4-2

                    Sampling of available tools


            Jim’s in his second season in McMurdo and says “I’ve got a lot more to do.  You have to be creative because there’s something new every day.”  He works full time for Raytheon Polar Services.  When not in McMurdo he orders parts and hires the crew that will come down both during the summer and winter over seasons.  Jim told us that his crew comes from a varied background…farm mechanics, from the mining industry, marine engineering, and the aviation community.  Jim was in the Coast Guard for eleven years and his training was as an engineer working on big ships and with diesel and turbine engines.   He traveled all over with the Coast Guard and saw many new places.  When he was writing an article about icebreakers he learned about the US Antarctic Program in Denver, and decided that Antarctica was another place he’d like to work. 

 Nov. 4-3

 Nov. 4-4

            The variety of vehicles in the heavy shop and around McMurdo is incredible.  There are lots of track vehicles like those shown above.  The red truck with triangular tracks is used to take scientists back and forth to the drill site.  So is the vehicle below, which is a Hagglund.

 Nov. 4-5

 Nov. 4-6

            The fork lift is used to move supplies all over town, including supplies that go to field camps. 

 Nov. 4-7    

            Many of the vehicles are huge and the tires are almost as tall as I am. 

            Each and every vehicle needs to be kept in good shape, because they cost a lot of money to replace.  For example, a new delta costs about $500,000, and Ivan the Terra Bus costs $800,000.  Even one of the smaller track vehicles can cost about $380,000.  Emphasis is placed on keeping the equipment in good shape and everywhere we looked we saw people working hard to make that happen.

 Nov. 4-8

            We asked Jim about the type of fuel these vehicles use.  The larger ones use a type of military grade fuel called JP5.  It’s an older aviation fuel which is a fine grade of diesel fuel which burns better. 

 Nov. 4-9

            We stepped back into the machine shop and found out that this part of the heavy shop is used for three reasons:  to help make science equipment that researchers need in the field or in town, to help the water plant and other facilities in McMurdo, and machining anything and everything to make parts to help keep McMurdo going. 

It is obvious that the VMF is a place that scientists and McMurdo count on. 

Nov. 4-10 

P.S.  I asked Jim why so many vehicles in McMurdo have names stenciled on them.  He told us that that’s a leftover from the Navy days.  Check out some of the names in this photo above!





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General Hospital - November 5th, 2006

           McMurdo General Hospital that is… 

            Let’s say someone from the ANDRILL team (or anyone else in McMurdo or a nearby field camp) has a minor medical problem.  Every community needs some sort of medical care facility…and McMurdo is no different.  A summer season staff of nine people provides the medical care for the station, which is housed in a small building adjacent to the galley. 


            Inside it’s got an old fashioned look, but don’t let that fool you.  The medical staff here is well trained and ready to provide care in many different ways.  For example, one of the ANDRILL scientists had a slight dental problem after he arrived in McMurdo.  The dentist on staff was able to fix that problem immediately.  Now when we spoke with the dentist he mentioned that he cannot do more involved procedures such as crowns, root canals, or oral surgery, but he can help with the minor dental problems that might arise. 

            What makes a dentist decide to come to work in Antarctica?  Our summer season dentist this year is spending his first season on the ice, after retirement from his long-time practice.  He heard about the opportunity, thought it sounded like an interesting situation and applied for the job.  Not only does he provide the summer dental care, but he also trains the winter-over doctor in dental procedures.  There is not a dentist on staff during the winter-over period of February through August.  

            The medical staff at the hospital works with the 109th Air Wing of the New York Air National Guard, which provides the medivac support. Teams of doctors and nurses from this Air Wing rotate in and out of McMurdo during the summer season.  Georg Bakker, from Vermont, is spending his third season as the nurse manager-administrator for the civilian support side…hired by Raytheon for this position.  He took us on the tour of McMurdo General Hospital.   

            Georg told us what comprises the full staff:  2 doctors, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant, 2 nurses (a clinical nurse and a flight nurse), a physical therapist, and x-ray technician, and a lab person.  Like Georg, the others on staff work in the same sorts of jobs back home.  Georg works as an emergency room (ER) nurse and has had years of experience. 

            When we met one of the doctors, Harry, he told us that he has worked around the world, many times in third world settings.  Although it’s Harry’s first season in McMurdo, he brings with him a wealth of experience with working in remote settings such as Tanzania, and also brings his enthusiasm for what he does.  He has also done team building, conflict resolution, and rural clinical work.

 Nov. 5-2

                  Meeting Harry Owens                           

Nov. 5-3

Georg Bakker  giving Alexander a quick check-up 

            Georg explained that McMurdo General is there as a “contingency plan” due to the fact that McMurdo is far away from the next facility.  They are a sort of “just in case” in many ways, ready to provide care in an emergency situation.  Their role in a disaster situation is to try to stabilize patients and evacuate them to New Zealand as soon as possible.  There are no surgeries done in McMurdo…they are not equipped for that with either staff or facilities. 

60-70% of the medivacs from McMurdo are not related to injuries IN McMurdo.  Many of these medivacs are from the South Pole, field camps, or smaller summer stations around Antarctica.  Basically there are two types of medivacs…does the patient need it right away or could they take the first available flight that’s planned.  You could say that this hospital and the military provide the only air ambulance service of Antarctica.  People really do rely on them.

            The number of patients at the hospital depends on the time of season and the number of people currently at the station.  Things treated here:  everything from minor colds and flu; respiratory illnesses (sometimes called the McMurdo Crud); someone who slips on the ice and sprains or breaks a bone; camp injuries; and repetitive motion injuries.   

 Nov. 5-4

 Nov. 5-5

 Very basic, but comfortable overnight accommodations—just in case.

            There is even a hyperbaric chamber (shown below) used to treat divers who suffer from decompression sickness.  It might not be used that often, but trainings are held regularly to make sure everyone who is responsible for using the machine knows what to do.  The hyperbaric chamber is checked by experts each year, to be sure it’s in good working order.

 Nov. 5-6

            There is only a small supply of medicine that is stored here.  Anyone who participates in the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) whether it be a scientist or the support personnel  in McMurdo or beyond, is told to bring their prescriptions with them or have medicines mailed to them here.  There is no way to fill those prescriptions in McMurdo.  I remember that we were reminded of this fact over and over again when we were preparing to come to the ice. 

 Nov. 5-7

            It made me feel great to visit  our small McMurdo medical facility.  As I thought about the support they give to scientists and Raytheon employees, I realized once again, that it takes everyone working together to provide the facilities and services needed to run a large science research program here in Antarctica. 




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The Berg Field Center - November 6th, 2006

            Everyone around town kept talking about a place called the BFC, so I finally decided to investigate what this place was all about.  The full name of this building is the Berg Field Center, and the people who work there have a big responsibility.  They are in charge of making sure that all of the gear and equipment used in the field is safe and ready to go.  Now, I keep saying “in the field” (or “field camps”) but what is that exactly? 

            A field camp is a place where scientists work outside of McMurdo.  It might be a small camp set up on the sea ice or ice shelf.  It could be on the side of Mt. Erebus.  The Dry Valleys is a location used for a lot of science research.  Or, it could be one of MANY other locations around the continent where science research is taking place.  Take a look at the map below.  It shows the current season’s field camps…located all over the place.  What do you think…are you ready to find out what scientists need to take with them to survive at an Antarctic field camp?  Come along and I’ll show you!

 Nov. 6-1

            It’s hard to know where to start.  I was absolutely amazed at the amount of equipment housed here…and that only seven people make this all work. Rachel Murray was our guide today and she says that even though people have their special areas of expertise, “everyone just jumps in at everything.”  They all share the jobs and responsibilities at the BFC.

Nov. 6-2

Rachel Murray (in green on the left) sharing info with our group


            When science groups come to McMurdo, many are preparing to head into the field to do their research.  They come here to get set up.  Every piece of equipment must be examined carefully beforehand, and receives a rating of RFI (ready for issue).  Things might need to be patched, sewn, repaired, or dried out.  This inspection is taken very seriously.  It could save someone’s life.  What if you had to set up a tent in an emergency and realized that it was full of holes?  This is just the type of thing that the folks at the BFC are going to prevent.  As a matter of fact, the tents are rated for certain conditions and locations, based on the wear and tear those tents are showing and the different things the tents might be used for. 


Nov. 6-3

Tents are stored in a vertical position                 

Nov. 6-4

Setting up a tent to check it out

 Nov. 6-5

We stopped in to see the sewing room…many repairs are made here

Nov. 6-6 

 Nov. 6-7

Nov. 6-8 

            There were so many sleeping bags, pads, small expedition tents, etc.  Rachel told us that some of the more expensive sleeping bags might cost $700 each.  When I started to add up the amount of equipment here I couldn’t begin to estimate how much money has been invested in equipment for science research field camps in Antarctica. 

 Nov. 6-9

            We stopped into the cooking area.  There were pots, pans, dishes, silverware, pot holders, coffee pots, utensils, and so much more!  Take a look…

 Nov. 6-9

 Nov. 6-10

            They even had coffee bean grinders!

 Nov. 6-11

            There are saws, hammers, other tools, crampons (for a firmer grip on the ice and snow), sleds used to carry equipment, and items like an ice ax or a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) unit.  Whatever you’d need in an outdoor, remote situation…you can find it here at the BFC.   

            I’m sure that the many scientists who come through McMurdo on their way to remote field camps each season are grateful to the folks at the Berg Field Center for making sure their gear is in great shape.  Safety is so important in Antarctica because of the extreme weather conditions that scientists need to work in.  It might be summer here, but even an Antarctic summer is often brutal when it comes to weather.  I know I’d feel a lot better, knowing that Rachel and her staff worked hard to make sure our gear was RFI…ready for issue.




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The Food Room Goddess and Ob Hill - November 7th, 2006

            Peggy Mallory is spending her 11th season on the ice in McMurdo.  She started out in charge of the Crary Lab stockroom and worked there for five seasons, moved to the Heavy Shop as the materials person, and for the past four years has been the food room coordinator at the Berg Field Center.  She joked when she called herself the “food room goddess.”  Peggy says she’s someone that likes to organize!

            Peggy’s job is a vital one for the scientists going out to field camps.  When scientists make arrangements to head into the field for research, they submit a plan and food order to Peggy and she makes sure the items are ordered and in stock once the new season is underway.  This takes a great deal of careful planning, and the food orders take about six weeks to complete.  Everything she orders in May gets delivered in the following January, and doesn’t get used until October of that year.  Talk about planning ahead! 

 Nov. 7-1

Nov. 7-2

Peggy also does the science ordering for the researchers, which includes any supplies they might need in the field.  For example, Peggy did a lot of work for the ANDRILL project. She worked with Alex Pyne, Drilling Coordinator, to order the supplies Alex would need at the ANDRILL drill site.  Peggy’s organizational skills are really valued by scientists in the field…whether it’s the food or the supplies.

            Just before ice breakers make their way into McMurdo Sound in early January, Peggy is taking inventory of all of her food items left at the BFC.  Once the re-supply vessel follows the ice breakers into McMurdo, everything she’s ordered the previous May shows up and is unloaded, brought to the BFC and restocked.  Damaged items are put on her “free” shelf and the McMurdo community is able to take what they want. 

            By the time science teams are ready to pack up and head into the field, Peggy has already given them a complete list of what food is available.  Teams make an appointment to view the food, stacked high on shelves in Peggy’s own little grocery store.  Scientists get together with their teams to plan out meals and identify what they need.  Peggy won’t really pull stuff until they fill out this list, and dehydrated food is added for emergencies.  Peggy says some teams tend to go overboard, and sometimes she jumps in to make suggestions.  She keeps groups on track by monitoring amounts of food.  My favorite thing is that she even has a cookbook…”The Antarctic Field Camp Cookbook.”  It’s full of recipes and tips for menu planning and helpful camp cooking tips.  In the introduction of the cookbook, Peggy writes that “this publication is designed not only for the first timer, but the seasoned veteran with years of ice experience.”  What a wonderful personal touch and I sensed a great deal of enthusiasm when speaking with Peggy.  It’s obvious that she loves this job!

 Nov. 7-3

 Nov. 7-4

            If science teams are out in the field and need additional food supplies, they radio Peggy and she pulls their orders.  Often these are sent by helicopter, since many science teams do not come back into McMurdo until their research is completed. 

 Nov. 7-5

Nov. 7-6

Look at all the spices you can choose from!

            ANDRILL scientists are primarily living and working in McMurdo this season.  But recently when David Harwood, Co-Chief Scientist for ANDRILL’s 2007 Southern McMurdo Sound Project had to go into the field to check out next year’s site, he visited the BFC to get the food and supplies he needed.   Peggy’s job is quite important to the success of science research projects in the field.  Staying healthy is critical, and keeping morale up with great dinners and other meals can make all the difference.   After I fueled my own body at dinner…I set off on my next adventure of the day.

            I’ve been gazing up at Observation Hill (otherwise known around here as Ob Hill) for just about three weeks…waiting for some of the snow to melt, and for a sunny day/night with little wind.  Tonight was the night.  I set off at 8:00 PM to hike up Ob Hill.   Volcanic in origin, it stands about 750 feet above sea level and is a frequent climb for McMurdo summer residents.  The 360 degree panoramic view at the top lures people to the climb to see the surrounding area.  Also at the top….a large wooden cross erected in memory of Robert Falcon Scott and his men from the fatal South Pole expedition of 1911-12.  Inscribed on the cross are words from an Alfred Tennyson poem “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

            The trail to the top was still icy in spots, and I always had to be careful of the loose volcanic rock.  It was a tricky climb, but worth the effort.  My reward on top…spectacular views of Mt. Erebus, the Transantarctic Mountains, Mt. Discovery across McMurdo Sound, Scott Base  down on Pram Point, and McMurdo Station far below.  Luckily I had met people on the way up who offered to take my picture.  I definitely wanted to document the fact that I had made it to the top of Ob Hill. 

 Nov. 7-7

            Climbing down was even more tricky and I took my time, stopping often to enjoy the view.  It was a brilliant way to spend an evening in McMurdo.  Enjoy the photos and think of me here at the bottom of the world.

 Nov. 7-8

            A view of McMurdo Station far below


Nov. 7-9 

                        Mt. Erebus off in the distance

Nov. 7-10                   Scott Base down on Pram Point









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Thin Section Slides and a Walk To Hut Point - November 8th, 2006

            At our morning science meetings I’ve been hearing about something called a thin section slide and I’ve been wondering how those are made.  This morning I spent some time with Brent Pooley, from Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Brent’s making all of the thin section slides for the ANDRILL Program.  He actually teaches geology students at Otago how to make thin section slides, and I’ve got to say that he made this look easier than it probably is. 

Basically a thin section slide is a regular slide that it used under a microscope to find the minerals that compose (make up) the piece of rock or sediment sample.  Scientists can use thin sections to determine the type of rock…sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic; potentially the source of the rock….where it came from; and whether the chemistry of the rock has changed.  The scientists who will use Brent’s thin section slides the most are the igneous petrologists and sedimentologists.

            Brent walked us through the process step by step.  Let me share the same with you. 

First he slices off a small piece of the rock, which is then glued onto a slide.  He carefully labels each sample to document it.  That is an important part of every science discipline team involved with ANDRILL.  They must know exactly where their samples came from in the sediment cores and record all details carefully.

Nov. 8-1


 Nov. 8-2

Nov. 8-3  


 Notice how each sample might have different characteristics?  These samples are from Mt. Terror here on Ross Island.  They are not part of the cores from the McMurdo Ice Shelf Project.

            The next step is to cut the rock section even more thinly…which is done on another one of the machines in the lab. Water is used to cool the blade and remove rock dust as the rocks are sliced.   There’s a hood over the blade because things get messy. 

 Nov. 4-5

Ready to slice the rocks even thinner…  

Nov. 4-6

pulling down the protective hood

 Nov. 4-7

Can you see the difference in the rocks on the slides?  Now they are much thinner than when Brent started.  Another way to grind them down further is to use the machine below.  Brent squeezes water on the surface of the grinding stone and he also sprinkles a half teaspoon of grinding grit made of silicon carbide onto the grinding wheel.   This would be similar to the texture of sandpaper.  This gritty material helps to gently grind down the rocks on the slides.

 Nov. 4-8

 Nov. 4-9                

            Putting the grinding grit and water on the grinding lap (wheel) helps make a thin mud mixture.

Nov. 4-10

Nov. 4-11

            Another way to grind several samples at once to the precise thickness is to use the Logitech lapping (grinding) machine shown below.  Every sample must be within the 30 microns range.  This is 30 micrometers, which is the same as saying 30 thousandths of a millimeter (mm).  Take a millimeter (the thickness of your fingernail) and divide it into 1,000 parts, then you take 30 of those parts.  That’s VERY thin!

 Nov. 4-12

  The Logitech lapping (grinding) machine



Brent has to calibrate (set exactly) this monitor which will keep track of how flat the grinding plate is. 

 NOv. 4-14

He is setting the jig that holds the slides so that it will grind the thin sections to 30 microns.

                Nov. 4-15

                                  Putting the slides on the vacuum jig…

 Nov. 4-16

            Normally you fill up the surface with six slides…and you can fit three jigs on the machine at once.  That means Brent can grind eighteen slides at one time, and the process takes about 30 minutes. 

 Nov. 4-17

                Brent is explaining the process to Matteo…

 Nov. 4-18

            Checking the slides and showing us how the process works

Hundreds of thin section slides will be made for ANDRILL scientists, which will no doubt keep Brent really busy in the coming weeks.

Later on today I took a walk to Hut Point for a good view of a C-17 landing on the ice runway.  The cross at Hut Point is in memory of George T. Vince, from Robert Scott’s “Discovery” expedition in 1902.  Vince died near Hut Point…close by the hut from the expedition.  I haven’t had the chance to get a tour of Scott’s Discovery Hut, but plan to before I leave McMurdo in December.  It’s a slice of history, important to this region. 

   Nov. 8-19

                        Vince’s cross           

Nov. 8-21

      A C-17 on the approach to land in McMurdo on the ice runway 

This hike also gave me the chance to look back on the town of McMurdo Station, and to get the feel for the surrounding area. It’s always nice to get a total sense of where you are.  Because we spend a lot of time indoors each day, it’s also nice to get outside for a walk.                                           

Nov. 8-20

Scott’s Discovery Hut from 1902 with McMurdo in the background

Cheers for today…


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A Trip to the ANDRILL Drill Rig - November 9th, 2006

            Before I forget, here’s the next question you can answer to win a prize.  Today’s prize will be an ANDRILL logo patch.  Here’s the question: When making a thin section slide, what is the range of thickness that the rock must be ground to?  Please include your name and address (and check your email address VERY carefully) when responding to the question.  Good luck!

            Yesterday afternoon I got the chance to do something I’ve been waiting for…visit the ANDRILL drill rig.  Richard Levy, Staff Scientist for the ANDRILL Program took us out to the site by mattrack vehicle.  It’s slow going in a mattrack….a truck boosted up on triangular-shaped tracks.  It took about 45 minutes to make the trip out to the McMurdo Ice Shelf, with one quick stop at the “bus stop,” which is a meeting point for people going to/from the drill site.  We were lucky to have a clear day with little wind, making this a great time to take in some of the spectacular scenery that surrounds us--the Transantarctic Mountains, Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror, and a sweeping view of McMurdo Sound.

 Nov. 9-1

  The “bus stop”                                                              

Nov. 9-2

Watch your speed!

As we approached the drill site I started thinking about my visit to the Cape Roberts Project drill site back in 1998.  That time we approached by helicopter which was exciting, but this was just as exciting to me.  I like knowing how things work, and I’ve been closely watching the video footage that Megan (ANDRILL Media Specialist) has been editing and sharing with the team.  It was great to finally get to the site myself, meet some of the drillers and mechanics, and learn more about the drilling process.

Nov. 9-3

  Approaching the ANDRILL drill site…

            We were met by Tamsin Falconer, who has many responsibilities at the drill site as assistant to Alex Pyne, the drill site manager.  This includes welcoming visitors to the site and giving tours.  We spent about an hour with Tamsin as she explained each and every part of the drilling operations. 

Nov. 9-4 

  The ANDRILL rig                                  

Nov. 9-5

Tamsin Falconer and Julian Thomson 

The drill rig, owned by ANDRILL, was purchased from Australia.  It is a mineral exploration drilling system typically used on land.  With a minerals exploration drill continuous cores are retrieved, which serves the same purpose as the ANDRILL geologic drilling projects.  The drillers work for a company called Webster Drilling and Exploration Limited, based in New Zealand.  Webster Drilling is a general drilling company with extensive experience in seismic drilling, coal and mineral drilling, environmental well, landfill gas extraction, water well drilling, and drill project management.  Their experiences also range in location, for example Southeast Asia, Antarctica, New Zealand, and Australia.  They have recently completed projects in difficult locations such as Oman, Brunei, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands.  Webster Drilling was the company which worked on the drilling for the Cape Roberts Project when I was in Antarctica in 1998.  They bring a wealth of experience to the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) Project.  

            Our first stop was inside the on-site laboratory, where the core is first brought after it’s extracted (recovered) from the sea floor. 

 Nov. 9-6

A look at the on-site lab                                 

Nov. 9-7

Grant Brotherston, one of the drillers,  is sliding new core into the

lab from a small window outside


  Nov. 9-8

            A first look at a section of core that Grant brought into the lab

Nov. 9-9

            Part of the core was stuck in the core catching device, so Alissa had to push it out

Nov. 9-10

Nov. 9-11 

 Alissa Quinn, one of several core technicians, does some preliminary measurements, cleans up the core sample, takes it out of the tube and prepares it for some on-site scanning equipment.

Nov. 9-12 

  The core is sawed into 1 meter lengths               

Nov. 9-13

Boxed and ready to be transported back to the Crary Lab in McMurdo                                                                                             

            As we get more and more core, I’ll go through the scanning process.  For now we were headed outside and off to the drill rig itself.  Tamsin explained the various buildings used at the site.  They are containers once used for shipping, and they’ve been refurbished (renovated) to be used here in Antarctica as temporary buildings.  Different containers house the on-site lab and eating areas; supplies needed for the project,; the power supply which includes the hydraulic systems which supply the drill rig and the electrical system (two generators) supplying the drill fluids and other systems); the hot water reaming system to keep the hole open around the sea riser pipe to prevent pressure from the ice shelf; and the work/staging areas of the lower level of the drill rig.

We met with Bill Nye, Drilling Fluids Specialist, whose job is to mix the fluids (called mud) used to cool the drill bit and lift the drill cuttings from the base of the hole.  The fluid is cleaned and reused when possible.  Bill’s job can be tricky because he needs to be aware of the viscosity (thickness) of the mud to be sure it is the correct consistency needed for each stage of drilling.

Nov. 9-14 

  Bill Nye explaining the drilling fluids system             

Nov. 9-15

a look at the mud mixture

Nov. 9-16        

This is the catwalk sledge and rod ramp area which is the staging area for the sea riser and drill pipe as they go into and come out of the hole.  Below, I’m looking up to the drill platform, which was our next stop on the tour.

Nov. 9-17

The drill platform supports and encloses the drill rig, which is covered by a thick white cover, specially designed for the ANDRILL drill rig.  Underneath the main platform is the location of the tide compensation and hot water drilling systems.  It’s here that we met up with Tony Kingan, Drilling Supervisor for the project. 

Nov. 9-18

  Looking up the mast, which hoists the drill string up and lowers it down each time new lengths of pipe are added or taken off

Nov. 9-19 

Tony Kingan, Drilling Supervisor for the ANDRILL MIS Project

Nov. 9-20 

A look at the drilling system                         

Nov. 9-21

The long pipe is the P string (that refers to its size) drilling rod


            We couldn’t stay up on the drilling platform that long since it’s a working operation. It is not that big of an area and work continued throughout our visit.  I’d like to see new sections of pipe being added, a core being brought up, and lots of other aspects of the drilling operations.  It was extremely interesting to see the drill rig in action.  Perhaps later on I’ll get another opportunity to visit the drill rig again. 

            Several innovative parts or systems have been specially designed for the ANDRILL drilling operations.  There is a compensating beam system to help with fluctuations in the ice shelf movement due to tidal action.   A sled design has all components mounted on large sleds, making transport to drill site much easier.  There is a jack-up system that raises the drill platform and provides a cellar area under the drill floor.  The hot water reaming system was also specifically designed and constructed for ANDRILL by Alex Pyne and German colleagues.  It keeps the hole open and pressure from the ice shelf to a minimum.  And, there’s the huge white cover that protects the workers and equipment on the drilling platform and provides a warm environment for equipment and workers.  All of these special adaptations/innovations are important pieces in the huge puzzle of how to operate a geological drilling system in Antarctica.

 Nov. 9-22

            Alex Pyne, Drill Site Manager, has been to Antarctica over 30 times.  His years of Antarctic drilling experience date back to the 1970’s and Alex was also the drill site manager for the Cape Roberts Project.  Alex helped design and construct the geological drill in collaboration with Webster Drilling.  (photo by Megan Berg)

Nov. 9-23           

            Protective cover                                                  

Nov. 9-24

Hot water reaming system

 Nov. 9-25

  The compensating beam system to offset ice shelf movement by tidal action

 Nov. 9-26

            Matteo’s hand shows you the size of the sea riser pipes 

            We had just enough time for Tamsin to show us various drill bits and pieces back in the lab.  It is very cool how everything fits together “just so” and each piece is part of the overall scheme of the operation. 

 Nov. 9-27

   An example of a drill bit                              

Nov. 9-28

see how they nest inside each other 

When I stopped to think of the thousands of parts and pieces that had to be ordered and organized and double-checked, it was mind boggling. And, just think of how much thought and effort went into getting this all shipped to Antarctica on time…how much time it took to transport it to the drill site, assemble each part, and make sure it was ready to go in time for drilling to begin in October.  This is a brilliant operation.  Thanks to Tamsin, the drillers, and the other people who make things run so smoothly at the drill site, for making our visit an informative afternoon. 



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Meet the Micropaleontologists - November 10th, 2006

             It’s time to introduce the science discipline team that I’ve been working with…the micropaleontologists.  Micropaleontology is the study of the fossils of microscopic organisms which are found in the sediment cores.  Scientists on this team look for single-celled fossils that are either plants (diatoms) or animals (forams).  Diatoms are single-celled algae that need light for photosynthesis.  They are the bottom of the food chain in the ocean or fresh water.  They are like the grass of the sea.  Forams (foraminifera) are microscopic animals that eat the diatoms.  Diatoms are also eaten by copepods and krill, tiny shrimp-like animals favored by everything from little fish to huge whales.  Diatoms make tiny shells out of silica, which is natural glass.  Scientists use the diatoms and forms to help them date the sediment core.  This is because they know when certain diatoms and forams existed. 

 Nov. 10-1

    Reed Scherer--Discipline Team Leader

 Nov. 10-2

This is a Pleistocene diatom from beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

called Thalassiosira tumida. It is less than 1/20th of a millimeter in


            Reed Scherer is the team leader for this group.  He told me that he has “considered himself a scientist since day one.”  As long as he can remember he was interested in science, particularly the ocean. He liked dinosaurs when he was young, but was more interested in other fossils, and was intensely curious as a child. We talked a lot about the fact that many young people think of science as something that other people do, when in fact it is not.  Science is something that anyone can take part in.   

            Reed’s undergraduate background is in geology with a marine science concentration.  He initially worked as a lab technician in micropaleontology, then went into research.  He worked at Columbia University in New York, earned his Master’s Degree from the University of South Carolina studying the diatoms in the Okefenokee Swamp, and has also worked for an oil company doing basic exploration in Madagascar.  Reed got his PhD from Ohio State University with Peter Webb as his advisor. There are many such connections among the ANDRILL scientists.  During his doctoral studies, Reed looked at samples of sediment recovered from under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.  His first time on the ice was in 1986 while studying at Ohio State.

            After teaching for a short while at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Reed took a position in Uppsala, Sweden. He stayed there for over five years, and made the move back to the United States to Northern Illinois University in 2000.   Reed says that his favorite thing about being a scientist is “the freedom to think—in a lot of jobs you don’t really have that freedom.”  Reed currently teaches and devotes time to research. 

 Nov. 10-3 

            Diane Winter (in the green shirt) originally wanted to be an archaeologist.  She’s always liked biology and physics.  She says she’s into classification.  After earning her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL), she randomly took a paleo-ecology course taught by ANDRILL scientist David Harwood.  He was an enthusiastic teacher and was the influence to switch to geology.  Diane got her Master’s Degree in geology at, and has been a technician running a scanning electron microscope.  She started her PhD, worked for a while at the Academy of Natural Sciences-Patrick Center for Environmental Research in Philadelphia.  She came back to UNL two years ago to finish her doctoral degree and is here with ANDRILL looking for diatoms.   

            Diane told me that one of the fun things about geology is the travel.  She likes being outdoors and also enjoys the field work associated with geology.  She says “if you see an opportunity and you’re drawn to it, don’t pass on the opportunity—don’t second guess yourself.”   

            Charlotte Sjunneskog (looking into microscope) grew up in Uppsala, Sweden and went to the university there.  She has a degree from Uppsala as a lab technician in biochemistry.  This was combined as a degree and professional training.  She worked as a lab tech for fifteen years in Uppsala and also in Tromsoe, Norway.  When she moved back to Sweden, she worked for the equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration…testing food, looking at the nutritional content and determining if food declarations were correct.   

Charlotte earned a PhD in geology at Uppsala, finishing in 2002.  She’s had post doctoral research experiences in Canada, and at Northern Illinois University.  Charlotte says that she has a keen interest in science and a sense of curiosity.  She is another one of the micropaleo scientists interested in diatoms.

 Nov. 10-4

            Percy Strong grew up in the US and earned his geology degree from The College of Wooster, in Ohio.  He told me that geology wasn’t taught to any degree in high school, so when he took a random geology course in college he thought “hey, this isn’t bad.”  Percy’s been a geologist since 1964 and his enthusiasm hasn’t disappeared, that’s for sure.  He works on finding and identifying the foraminifera (forams) that might be present in the sediment cores.  I’ve included a couple of foram photographs below.

 Nov. 10-5

            This foram is called Trifarina. It lives in the sediments on the sea floor, and is a commong Antarctic foram.

 Nov. 10-6

            The foram above,named Neogloboquadrina pachyderma, floats near the sea surface.  Its shell is often used for geochemical study.

            Percy moved from Ohio, where he taught at the college level, to New Zealand in 1975 and has lived there every since. He worked for the New Zealand Geological Survey which was within the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.  He now works for Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), which replaced the New Zealand Geological Survey.  GNS is a state-owned enterprise and is similar to our Geological Survey.  Percy has also been a consultant for oil companies.  His favorite thing is the variety of work he completes.  He is always working with something new and he sees an immediate contribution to the economic development of New Zealand. 

Nov. 10-7 

            The last member of the team is Paola Maffioli.  She is a researcher from Milan, Italy who also specializes in diatoms.  Paola’s role with ANDRILL this season is a technician who prepares slides for the scientists studying diatoms.  Paola got her undergraduate degree in natural science, and has a PhD in environmental science from the University of Milan-Biococca.  She lives in northern Italy in a small village called Buguggiate. 

            Paola says that the things she enjoys most about her job are being able to participate on research cruises, being a part of international science teams, attending national and international conferences, treating sediments in the lab and working at the microscope, and having the opportunity to better understand the history of our planet.  She first got interested in this science discipline because she was intrigued with the possibility of watching the invisible face of nature by studying diatoms, which are not visible to the human eye.

            This team has so much experience, and I am already learning a lot about micropaleontology.  I’m working primarily with Percy on the forams, so stay tuned for an up-close look at the method of processing sediments to look for foraminifera. 







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Processing Sediments to Look For Forams - November 11th, 2006

             I love getting into the lab and working with the ANDRILL scientists. Percy is a great teacher, and today he spent a lot of time teaching me how to process the sediments to prepare samples that will be looked at very carefully under a microscope.  It’s a step-by-step process that takes quite a bit of time, but I really enjoy being part of the process.  Let’s take a look at Percy preparing the sediments. 

            He needs to know the exact weight of each sample. The first step is to weigh a sample bag when it’s empty, then weigh the bag with the sample inside.  He uses a tare scale, which is a special scale that remembers the value of the empty bag and subtracts that weight automatically when you place the actual sample (inside the bag) on the scale. 

 Nov. 11-1 

            The tare scale 

            Next Percy carefully pours the sample from the bag into a stainless steel bowl.  He covers the remainder of the sample with tap or milli Q (distilled) water and lets that stand for a few minutes.  He works to gently disaggregate (break apart) the sediments using his fingers. 

Nov. 11-2           

Pouring the sediments out…                                      

 Nov. 11-4

Sediment sample…. 

Nov. 11-5

Covered with water…

 Nov. 11-6

Gently disaggregating the sediments

            Once the sediments are loosened, they are washed through at least three successive sieves (screens), each one with a finer screen than the previous one.  The sizes Percy uses are 500, 125, and 63 microns.  So, the top screen is the one that will trap grains greater in size than 500 microns, and allow the smaller grains to wash to the 125 micron screen.  Anything that is greater than 125 microns will be trapped by this screen, with only the tiniest bits of sediment washing through to the final 63 micron screen. 

 Nov. 11-7

Nov. 11-8         

            As he finishes with each sieve, Percy carefully empties the contents into a stainless steel pan that reminds me of a small pie tin. He uses the milli Q water to rinse every grain he can out of the sieve and into the small dish.  Each dish is labeled with the sieve it represents, the sample bag number, and the original weight of the sample.  The little slip of paper with this information is clipped to the side of the pan.  Percy gently pours off any excess water and leaves the sample for several hours to dry out.  The excess water evaporates.  What remains are the grains of sediment that will be used under the microscope.  Percy uses the middle-sized grains (greater than 125 microns sample) for his microscope work.

 Nov. 11-9A

            This sample is drying out.  We can also use the oven in the lab or a hotplate if timing is urgent, but not if this sample will be used for geochemistry.  In the case of a geochemical sample, the water must evaporate on its own, and that’s when using milli Q water to prepare the sample is essential.

 Nov. 11-9

            When the sediments are dry, they are gently brushed out of the pan onto a piece of paper, carefully poured into a tared (pre-weighed on the tare scale) clear plastic bag, weighed and recorded.  Each single sample will produce three of these smallish bags of residue (the grains of sediment) which are kept together in a larger Ziploc bag (as shown below), labeled with the same depth below the sea floor.

 Nov. 11-10


It’s important to keep all of our supplies clean, so Percy showed me how to clean the screens and bowl using a shot of dishwashing liquid and a small brush.  Those steps are followed to process the sample, but there’s much more to share.  Once those samples are bagged, they come back into the micropaleontology lab.

            Tiny amounts of the sample are poured onto a sheet of paper and gently distributed onto a small metal dish that is divided into sections.  The sections help spread the grains out into parts that are easier to look through than trying to scan the entire tray at once.  It’s easier to identify where the forams are.  Once found, they are dabbed with a fine, damp paintbrush and transferred to the slide storage container for later use. 

Nov. 11-15 

Pouring the sample onto the tray   

Nov. 11-16 

A close-up view of the metal tray…notice how it’s divided into small square sections

 Nov. 11-17

I'm looking for forams under the microscope

 Nov. 11-18

The slide with numbered sections—used to store the possible forams for later identification and verification 

            It is very slow going, looking at the tiny grains under the microscope.  You can’t hurry and must be visually alert at all times.  This morning while I was working in the lab I was lucky enough to find a very special foram used in dating the sediment samples.  I was really excited to help contribute to the micropaleontology team in a very meaningful way.  It made my day!  

Nov. 10-6  

This is a picture of the Neogloboquadrina pachyderma…the type of foram I found today.




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A Visit to the Fire Department - November 12th, 2006

Nov. 12-1 

     Chief Sharon DiGiacomo and Captain Trent Myers met a group of us this afternoon and gave us a tour of the McMurdo Fire Station.  Sharon is spending her 9th year in McMurdo and has been the Chief for 4 years.  She is only the 18th woman to be named a Fire Chief in the United States.  Trent is spending his 6th season on the ice this year and has also done two winter-overs.  All together there are 44 firefighters based at two stations.  Station #1 is the main station in McMurdo, while station #2 is out at the airfield.  When planes are on deck there are 6 people at the airfield.  The combined experience of all of the firefighters in McMurdo is quite impressive.

Nov. 12-2 

Some of the gang at the fire house…Sharon is in the middle

Nov. 12-3 

Trent Myers….giving us the tour

            Even though this is not an extremely busy firehouse, emphasis is placed on training drills and staying sharp.  Fires can spread very quickly with the dry conditions and strong winds in McMurdo.  When they have free time the firefighters are either training or cleaning the equipment.  They do special training with the Search and Rescue (SAR) team, and at times they might be required to work with SAR out in the field.

 Nov. 12-4

There is always a dispatcher on duty…24 hours a day.

            Timing is everything.  If a 911 call came in to the firehouse, it would take only 2-3 minutes for the fire truck and ambulance to reach dorm 201…that’s where I live.  We watched as Sharon set off the alarm…before she could even announce that it was not a real situation, three men came running down the stairs and out the door…ready to jump into their clothing and equipment.  In 6-7 minutes they can be at Scott Base to assist if needed.  Sharon remarked that Scott Base does have their own well-trained fire brigade. 

 Nov. 12-6

We had a demonstration of how quickly a firefighter could put on all the gear they need to wear.  I think it took less than 2 minutes to put all of the gear on.

 Nov. 12-5

            Inside the firehouse they store two trucks and one ambulance.  Each one of the trucks can hold 750 gallons of water. When the trucks are outside of the garage, they are always running. They also leave the pumps on, which keeps the water moving.  At the air field they use a special type of foam which has a -40 degree rating. 

 Nov. 12-8

            There are tons of compartments for gear storage.  You can see how much gear is needed for just one person.  

 Nov. 12-9        

I was happy to see an Illinois license plate on the fire truck that was at the station today.  Firefighters will bring down expired plates to put on the trucks…to represent their home states.  There is no registration for a station like McMurdo…it’s just for fun and a good reminder of home.  I even met someone who lives close to Crystal Lake…my home town…Matthew Siegel (far right in the group photo).

            Sharon says that she loves coming down at Winfly.  There are great storms and she sees lots of extreme weather.   She enjoys the change of season. Sharon was happy to share the fact that she likes to train her staff so they will get hired by the larger fire departments back in the States.  About one third of her staff returns each year, and currently there are six women at the firehouse.  Sharon is extremely proud of her fire department and I feel safe knowing that they are here in McMurdo in case of emergency.  Thanks to the staff at the McMurdo Fire Department for sharing their station with us. 

 Nov. 12-10

  Patch designed by a firefighter in McMurdo

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Working Overtime…The Builders Extraordinaire! - November 13th, 2006

            Ever since I came to Antarctica back in 1998 with the Cape Roberts Project, I’ve been fascinated by how a project like this comes together.  It has certainly been no different with ANDRILL, and I think I’m even more interested now in how the drill rig, camp, and site are set up.  The amount of planning for a project of this magnitude is astounding.  What has to be built, ordered, transported to Antarctica by ship, and then off-loaded and assembled adds up to a massive amount of supplies and equipment.  Who took care of all of it once it arrived in Antarctica?  How does it get to the drill site, and how on earth did it all get put together in time for the drilling to begin?   

            Tonight I was lucky enough to spend about three hours talking with Jonathan (Johno) Leitch and Jeremy Rigden (JR).  They are part of a four-man team that flew down here on Winfly (winter fly-in) on August 26th, and spent weeks assembling the drill site, drill camp, and staging things to be ready for the drillers to help with final set-up of the drill rig in early October.  The other members of the team were Hedley Berge and Steve Plant.

Nov. 13-1 

Johno and JR at their “summer” home…Scott Base 

(photo by Betty Trummel; all other photos in this journal entry are by JR if there’s a date stamped on them or Steve Plant…photos without a date)

            Between the two of them, they have many years of Antarctic experience.  JR estimated that he’s been to Antarctica about seven times (since 1993), with one winter-over at Scott Base, and a total of probably 1,000 days on ice after this season.  Johno’s been coming down here since 1997, has done four winter-overs, and has a total of about 1,900 days on the ice.  He’s spent the past three years working in Christchurch, New Zealand on projects related to ANDRILL.  Both of these men are from Canterbury, New Zealand (South Island) and they have a wealth of knowledge about engineering, construction, and mechanics.  Hedley is the electrician and usually spends most days and nights at the drill site.  He often lives in the temporary living quarters out there…since he’s “on call” to solve any problems that might come up.  Steve is also an engineer, but I won’t get to meet him because he’s recently gone back home to New Zealand.

            Johno was part of the group that came down here last year to test the hot water drill.  He was here when the ANDRILL equipment and containers were unloaded from the re-supply vessel in McMurdo.  He had worked on many of those pieces of equipment and containers back in Christchurch.  He helped stage all of these items at Scott Base last February.  When they flew in on Winfly the team all got to work getting things sorted out, finishing up projects, and checking all of the equipment to be sure it was in good working order.  This took about three weeks.  Johno had seen all of the ANDRILL equipment before, but not all of it had ever been put together.  That was about to change….fast! 

            One of the first things they had to do was dig everything out.  It had been left during the winter-over period and was now filled with snow and ice with much of the equipment buried in drifts. 

Nov. 13-2           

 Nov. 13-3

On September 13th the Americans came over from McMurdo and gave JR, Johno, Hedley, and Steve a hand towing many of the large items (such as containers, generators, and fuel tanks) out to the drill site.  Every container or piece of the ANDRILL operation is on skis, which makes them easier to transport. 

Nov. 13-4 

The sleds lined up at the Scott Base transition area

 Nov. 13-5

Towing the containers out to the drill site

 Nov. 13-6

One of the fuel tanks…notice how it’s on skis for easy transport 

Fleet Ops (the heavy equipment department in McMurdo) had been grooming the drill site during the winter months…rolling it out and leveling it.  Now they helped transport the camp from Scott Base to the drill site location.  In total 26 pieces/items were transported that day.  It would have been quite a sight to see all of that lined up and towed out to the McMurdo Ice Shelf.

Nov. 13-7 

 Looking out the back hatch at the containers being hauled out to the site 

            I found it really interesting when JR and Johno explained how much the ice shelf would move each day…making it critical as estimations were made for this season.  The ice shelf moves about 1.03 feet per day.  So, when they figured out where the drill site would be, everyone needed to factor in that ice shelf movement.  They needed to be sure that the drill site would be over the correct location after the ice had shifted during the winter.   

            First things first, they surveyed the site and since they knew where the drill hole would be they worked their way out from that point.  They had to orient the camp and drill rig to be in the right position for the wind conditions.  The drill rig had to face south, so the white enclosure would shed the wind.  They also had to orient the buildings to minimize the way snow drifts would form.  Assembly of the kitchen and living accommodations took place right away.  Even though no one is really living at the drill site camp this season except Hedley, it is essential that temporary living quarters are provided in case of bad weather moving in.

Nov. 13-8 

 Nov. 13-9

The kitchen and dining areas at the drill site

 Nov. 13-10

 One of two bunk rooms at the site…there is bunk space for six people 

                 When JR, Johno, Hedley, and Steve went back out to the drill site on September 18th they were in for a surprise.  A storm system moved in rapidly, preventing them from returning to Scott Base.  They spent the next five days stuck in the containers they had just assembled at the site.  With plenty of food and a generator they were perfectly safe, but quickly got bored because they couldn’t get their work accomplished and they didn’t exactly have tons of things to do for entertainment.  They did get outside a couple of times, but the weather didn’t clear for several days.  Both men told me that it was like “being in a milk bottle.”   The wind was blowing at about 40 knots…snow was swirling everywhere…drifts were as high as the containers. 

 Nov. 13-11

 Nov. 13-12

The storm moves in…

            Johno and Steve did get back to Scott Base on the fifth day, but JR and Hedley had to stay out at the drill site because generators were running.  Johno and Steve didn’t stay away for long.  Not only had the storm put them a bit behind the schedule they had laid out before their arrival in Antarctica, but now they had to dig everything out once again in order to do their work.   

Nov. 13-13 

 Nov. 13-14

 Nov. 13-15

Nov. 13-16

Nov. 13-17 

Digging out from the storm…

            They got busy finishing with camp preparations, and next set to work on clearing the pad for the laboratory space.  The pad had drifted over during the storm, so they used a bulldozer to clear it and level it again.  Seven containers had to be connected to form the lab.  Each was gently pushed by the bulldozer to its correct spot in the building plan.  At one point they realized that one of the doors had been open just a crack…snow had drifted in, making it impossible to open the door.  They had to carefully cut a small hole in the side, Steve climbed in through the hole and then he shoveled the snow out.  The challenges of working in this harsh environment are incredible.

Nov. 13-18 

The hole Steve crawled through


 Nov. 13-19

A beautiful early season view…

 Nov. 13-20


Early days of working at the drill site…frosty faces after hours of work

 Nov. 13-22

Early days of assembling the lab and kitchen/dining/accommodations containers

            The next step was towing the drill rig out from Scott Base.  They were a bit apprehensive because the drill rig had never been towed before.  Everything went very well, and soon they were assembling the rig.  It was leveled, the catwalk was put in place (floor when you walk in), the whole jack-up drilling system was raised up about four meters off the ice (that’s why it’s called a jack-up system), and the rod ramp (for sliding pipes and rods up to the drill floor) was installed.  Johno and JR both commented about what a long series of events that was.  The four men were all putting in long days of hard physical work, in a very cold and windy environment.  With temperatures in the -30 degrees Celsius range, I can’t imagine working outside for 12-14 hours a day.

Nov. 13-23 

 Assembling the catwalk…

 Nov. 13-24

 Side view of the catwalk…

Nov. 13-25 

 Starting to jack the rig up…

 Nov. 13-26

 The rig when it was fully jacked up…

 Nov. 13-27

 Temporary cover over the catwalk area…

            Other tasks that had to take place included putting a cover around the bottom of the drill rig to enclose it, setting up the generators, assembling the three containers that would become the mud huts (for the drilling fluids), fitting the winch for the hot water drill, placing that hot water drill, and fitting the powerpack (engine that drives the hydraulics for the rig) umbilical duct (which connects it to the drill rig).  On September 29th the electronic controls for the hot water drill were retrieved from Scott Base.  These controls had been left there because they would have frozen.  It was time to hook those up at the drill site.

 Nov. 13-28

 Mounting the drill rig enclosure…

 Nov. 13-29

 Putting the cover around the bottom of the rig to enclose it…

            September was rapidly coming to a close as they dug out and placed their outhouse, dug out four containers…two for mud storage, one for the small bulldozer, and one for warm storage of parts of pieces of the operation that need to stay warm. As October rolled in they cleared out snow on the rig floor (AGAIN) where the drillers would stand.  They towed one of the fuel tanks to Willy Field to have it refilled with about 15,000 liters of lightweight diesel fuel.

 Nov. 13-30

Moving containers to the correct position…

 Nov. 13-31

 Storage area for the small bulldozer… 

            On October 3rd Alex Pyne, Drill Site Manager, arrived in Antarctica with several of the drillers.  Tony Kingan, Conrad Rains, Sam Woodford, Murray Adams, Grant Brotherston, and Paul Wallace all headed out to the site to hook-up the hydraulics that would raise the mast of the drill rig.  It took a lot of people to help with putting on the protective white cover that is prominent in any photo of the drill.  Teamwork was critical in order to finish up many tasks that needed to be completed in order to start drilling operations. A couple of days later they were joined by the remainder of the drilling crew:  Luke Goodwin, Chris Sinclair, Malcolm Clemence, Tristan Bennett, Bill Nye, and Luke Rutland.  Tamsin Falconer, assistant to the drill site manager, also arrived on that flight.  They were inching closer to the start of drilling operations. 

 Nov. 13-35

Preparing to raise the mast…

 Nov. 13-35

The mast is up!

            The weather had been one of the most challenging things for JR, Johno, Hedley, and Steve.  It was very windy from Winfly until early October.  They had only three days of sunshine between September 18th and October 3rd.  Still, when I asked Johno and JR whether they liked coming down at Winfly, they both enthusiastically responded “Yes!”  Even though it’s a hard working environment, they like this time of year in Antarctica.  The colors are beautiful and you can see the sun coming back to this icy continent. Scott Base has a smaller number of people in the early days of each austral (summer) season and it’s nice to be there when it’s less crowded. 

            Johno says he likes the challenge of working down here.  He also enjoys meeting new people and the variety of his work.  JR remarked that he likes the variety of the work as well, and the people are interesting.  JR really summed it up when he said, “It’s quite satisfying when it all comes together.” 

 Nov. 13-34

 The drill rig as operations began in October…

(photo by Ross Powell)

            I personally find it absolutely incredible that such a massive project was built from the ice up by four people in such a short amount of time, under less than perfect conditions.  Hats off to these guys….the builders extraordinaire!




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Helicopters Supporting Science - November 14th, 2006

            The sound of helicopters is a familiar one around McMurdo Station.  When I first arrived it seemed a bit unnatural to hear them so close all the time, but I’ve grown accustomed to the sound of helos taking off and landing at all times of the day or night here in Mactown.  Helicopters play an important role in supporting science that takes place in Antarctica.  They provide a way for scientists to get into remote field locations to do their research.  Helos also transport much of the special cargo and equipment needed for that science research to take place.

 Nov. 14-1

A Kiwi Air Force helicopter delivering cargo for the Cape Roberts Project back in the 1990’s  (photo from Cliff Atkins)

            A company called PHI, Inc. from Lafayette, Louisiana has been responsible for the helicopter operations in McMurdo since 1996.  With seven pilots, five mechanics, and six heli-tech’s (along with two Raytheon employees scheduling and dispatching), the helo hangar is a pretty busy place.  A few of the industries PHI, Inc. supports are the petroleum industry, emergency rescue operations, and science support in Antarctica. They not only fly internationally in Antarctica, but also in Africa.  The company co-exists with the New Zealand helicopter pilots and they also take the Italians to their base at Terra Nova Bay.

            At the conclusion of last season, all four aircraft were taken home to the United States.  They were stripped to the bare metal and refurbished.  A paint job made them look nearly new.  They were all brought back at the beginning of this season…. transported down here by cargo plane.

 Nov. 14-2

            Jack Hawkins, a senior pilot with 33 years of experience, sat down to talk with us about flying helicopters in Antarctica.  He told us that the total number of flight hours for all of the pilots here adds up to 40,000 to 50,000 hours of flight time, and 100 years of flying helicopters.  That’s incredible!  Two of the pilots have been flying in Antarctica since the original contract eleven years ago.  Two of the pilots have between 8-10 years of Antarctic experience.  Three pilots have between one and three years of experience with flying in the Antarctic, but lots of experience with flying in general.  Each pilot flies between 300-400 hours per season.  Jack mentioned that they rotate the pilots through the aircraft, meaning each pilot doesn’t just fly a specific helicopter.  All of the pilots also have full-time jobs back home, and all have military training except one. 

            Each morning the pilots run up (start up) their aircraft to see if there are any maintenance issues.  Their days are long…sometimes coming back between 5:00 to 7:00 PM at night.   They fly everywhere from the Dry Valleys to the top of Mt. Erebus, and also do a lot of work on the ice shelf.  There is a lot of activity in Taylor Valley (in the Dry Valleys) and around Lake Hoare.  Jack’s favorite places to fly are in the Dry Valleys….Finger Mountain and Turnabout Valley. 

 Nov. 14-5

            Planning out a helicopter flight takes careful precision.  Pilots look at the temperature and altitude to plan the loads they will take.  The A-Star helo can carry 1,400 pounds total….passengers, fuel, and cargo.  It can carry a sling load hanging down below.  Once the crew is in the Bell 212 helo can carry 3,600 pounds.  Remember, that’s fuel, people, their ECW gear, and payload (cargo).  Each and every piece of cargo and passenger is weighed before the helicopter is loaded.  Weight is balanced inside the helo and things are readjusted to balance the load if necessary.  The heli-tech’s work with both preparing the passengers and organizing or loading cargo.

 Nov. 14-4

Wagons for hauling organizing the cargo and hauling it out to the helicopters

Nov. 14-3 

 Space for passengers and cargo in the Bell 212 

            When flying, pilots must check in every 30 minutes with Mac Ops communication center.  If they do not report in, a search and rescue operation is launched.  They must notify Mac Ops if they will be returning later than scheduled.  No exceptions!  This is for everyone’s protection.  If there was an emergency, valuable time for search and rescue would be wasted if there was more time between check-ins.  And, in case there is an emergency in the field, helos can be diverted in the field to help.

 Nov. 14-5

 Helicopter operations are vital to support of polar science 

            There are certain weather limitations for various locations, for example if a helo is flying into the Dry Valleys, there must be no less than a 500 foot ceiling (cloud cover) with three miles minimum visibility.  For flights across the sea ice there’s a 1,000 foot ceiling and minimum of three miles visibility.  On the Polar Plateau, the ceiling is 1,500 feet and visibility requirement of five miles.   They have duel GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) systems on board and everything they do is relative to true north.   

            Incredible scenery and remote locations that many people can only dream of are part of the pilots’ job each day.  Jack says that “No doubt that we have the best job on station.”  I think I’d have to agree. 





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Meet the Co-Chiefs - November 15th, 2006

I am long overdue in introducing the Co-Chief Scientists for the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf Project...Ross Powell and Tim Naish.  Ross and Tim share the responsibility of running the MIS Project by: 

**leading daily science meetings with science discipline team leaders

**leading daily science meeting with the entire ANDRILL group at Crary Lab

**posting weekly reports

**preparing the Scientific Logistics Implementation Plan (SLIP)

**making sure the Science Plan is carried out

**preparing budgets for the project

**keeping the science team functioning and running smoothly

**reporting back to their home country’s funding agencies

**working with Alex Pyne, Drill Site Manager, to make drilling science decisions

**being responsible for media, education, and outreach

 Nov. 15-1                      

    Ross Powell (United States)                                  

Nov. 15-2

    Tim Naish (New Zealand)

            The ARISE educators meet with the Co-Chief Scientists on Saturdays to ask questions, learn more about the ANDRILL science, keep updated on specifics of the drilling process, and discuss any other topics that come up.  Both Ross and Tim are very keen to share information with our group, and they are dedicated to educational outreach as a key goal of the ANDRILL Program.  Their commitment to education is a very important part of the Scientific Logistics Implementation Plan.

Nov. 15-3 

Ross is originally from New Zealand.  He was very interested in math and science in high school and knew that he wanted to pursue science in college.  While attending Victoria University in Wellington he took a first year course in geology and loved it.  He had always enjoyed hiking around New Zealand…that fit with the field experiences which are a big part of geology.  Ross earned both his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in geology from Victoria.  He moved to the United States to complete his PhD in geology at Ohio State University.  For his doctoral work he focused on glacial marine sedimentation.  He got a teaching position at Northern Illinois University in 1980, where he splits his time between teaching and research. 

Ross’ first Antarctic experience was in 1974 as part of the Dry Valley Drilling Project.  His research is not only in Antarctica though.  He is currently doing research in on glacial marine processes in the Arctic on an island called Svalbard and in the southern part of the Gulf of Alaska.  Research on Baffin Island (also Arctic) has included the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which is the one that covered part of North America and came down into Illinois about 20,000 years ago.  Ross’s travels have also led him to South America where he studied the glacial marine processes of the San Rafael Glacier in Chile.

            One of the new projects Ross is currently working on is developing an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) that will go underneath the Ross Ice Shelf.  Ross wants to investigate and gather data on when the grounding line (where the ice shelf starts to float) retreated back underneath the ice shelf.  He has designed an ROV that will be sent through a hole that’s melted in the ice shelf.  It is tethered to cables that control it from up above.  The ROV will take videos and photos, gather other information, and obtain short sediment cores which eventually get sent back up to the surface.  Ross has used ROV’s before…in Antarctica, Alaska, and Chile.  He is excited about new possibilities for research using this new model. 

            Ross told me that his favorite things about being a scientist are “finding out new things, discovery, and being creative.  People thing of artistic people as being creative, but to be a good research scientist you have to be creative.  You have to formulate the right questions and conceptualize how to answer those questions and what technique you will use to get the data.”  Ross is very enthusiastic about the challenges of new things and says he’s “tended to go to new techniques and new environments where no one has been before.”  No doubt Ross will continue to search for new projects and research…and share that with educators, students, and people all over the world.

Nov. 15-4 Tim, waving the ANDRILL flag on top of Ob Hill

Tim has always loved the outdoors and had a specific interest in geography in school.  After high school he started out with a scholarship for engineering, but quickly decided that he didn’t want to pursue this option because of the heavy focus on math.  He loved earth science and decided to make a switch.  Tim attended the University of Waikato for his undergraduate, Master’s degree and PhD.  For his doctoral work he studied the shallow marine stratigraphic record of Wanganui Basin on the North Island of New Zealand.  He told me that this area is famous for its world-class record of global sea level change since about 2.5 million years ago.  Tim did a post-doc in Australia for two and a half years.  During that experience he did research while based at James Cook University, in Townsville, (Queensland). 

Arriving back in New Zealand in 1998, Tim began a new job at Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) in Wellington.  Later that year he was asked to join the Cape Roberts Project and traveled to Antarctica for the first time in October, 1998.  At that time he also won the Royal Society of New Zealand’s “Hamilton Prize” for being an Outstanding Young Scientist.  Tim also mentioned that Peter Webb and Barry McKelvey won that same prize after returning from Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY).  It was during the Cape Roberts Project that Tim and Ross met for the first time. They teamed up a few years later as preparations for a new drilling program, named ANDRILL, were underway.

Tim loves the field work in geology as well as the traveling that goes with projects like ANDRILL.  He’s made connections all over the world, and I believe that the international nature of the ANDRILL Program is something that makes it even more interesting and special.  Watching scientists like Ross and Tim work together demonstrates the international cooperation that takes place in the world of scientific research.   They make a great team!



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A Timeline of Antarctic Exploration - November 16th, 2006

            Today was supposed to be a big field trip day for about twenty of us from the ANDRILL Program, but the weather had other ideas!  High winds and stormy weather moving in didn’t bode well for our afternoon trip to the historic huts of early Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.  Soon after lunch our trip was postponed and everyone returned to the dorms to change out of their ECW clothes. 

            I thought today would be a good day to give you some background on early Antarctic exploration up through the IGY in 1957.  Notice how many of the names on the list are connected with names of places in Antarctica.  I’ll be listing it in chronological order…the order in which it happened.  All information for the timeline was taken from the following book: 

Branwell, Martin.  Polar Exploration-Journeys to the Arctic and Antarctic.  Dorling Kindersley, New York, NY.  1998.

            Let’s get started…  Some of the world’s greatest explorers came to this polar region starting with James Cook back in 1773.  We’ll pick up the timeline there…


1773:  James Cook (from the United Kingdom-UK) crossed the Antarctic Circle with two ships, Resolution and Adventure.


1819-1821:  Fabian von Bellinshausen (Russia) sailed around Antarctica.


1819-1821:  Edward Bransfield (UK) mapped part of the north coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.


1820:  Nathaniel Palmer (US) discovered part of the Antarctic Peninsula and later (1821-1822) the South Orkney Islands.


1823:  James Weddell (UK) reached latitude 74 degrees south with the Jane and the Beaufroy in what was later named the Weddell Sea in his honor.


1830-1832:  John Biscoe (UK) was one of several sealers and whalers who made Antarctic discoveries.  He discovered parts of the Antarctic Peninsula (Graham Land and Adelaide Land).


1837-1840:  Dumont d’Urville (France) mapped part of the north Graham Land coast and is offshore islands, and Adelie Land.


1838-1842:  Charles Wilkes (US) discovered and mapped a long section of the Antarctic coast.


1839-1843:  James Clark Ross (UK) located the position of the South Mafnetic Pole and made many important discoveries in the Antarctic.  (The Ross Sea is name after him).


1898-1900:  Carsten Borchgrevink (Norway) was one of the first to land on the Antarctic mainland, in 1895.  In 1898 he returned as leader of the British Southern Cross Expedition.


1901-1904:  Robert Falcon Scott (UK) spent the winter onboard the Discovery, in McMurdo Sound.


1903-1905:  Jean-Baptiste Charcot (France) mapped the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, then returned in 1908-1910 to look for a sea route to the South Pole.  


1907-1909:  Ernest Shackleton (UK) attempted to reach the South Pole. His party got to within 100 miles of the Pole.

Nov. 16-1

Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds from the 1907-1909 expedition


1910-1912:  Roald Amundsen (Norway) built his camp on the Ross Ice Shelf and named the hut “Franheim” after the ship Fram he had borrowed from Fridtjof Nansen.  Set out to reach the South Pole on October 20, 1911 and arrived at the Pole on December 14th, 1911. 


1910-1912:  Robert Falcon Scott (UK) returned to Antarctica to attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole.  Scott and his men built a prefabricated hut at Cape Evans and wintered over in preparation for the journey to the South Pole.  Scott and the four men who accompanied him left Cape Evans on November 5th, 1911 and reached the Pole in mid-January, 1912.  All five men perished on the return trip to Cape Evans.

 Nov. 16-2

Scott's hut at Cape Evans 

1911-1912:  Wilhelm Filchner (Germany) discovered and named the Filchner Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea.


1911-1914:  Douglas Mawson (Australia) who had accompanied Shackleton on the 1907-1909 expedition returned as leader of and Australian expedition. When he went out to explore with two companions, things turned disastrous when one Lieutenant B.E.S. Ninnis fell into a crevasse with the sled, dogs, their tent, and most of their food.  A second companion, Xavier Mertz fell ill and died on the return trip to Cape Denison.  Mawson barely made it back alive. 


1914-1916:  Ernest Shackleton (UK) planned to cross Antarctica (2,025 miles) and meet up with another group of explorers who would start from the Ross Sea region.  The tale of the Endurance is an epic journey of survival.  Shackleton’s ship was stuck in the pack ice and drifted north for about 600 miles, eventually crushed by the sea ice.  All had to abandon ship.  The crew camped on the sea ice for six months in two camps they named Ocean Camp and Patience Camp.   

When the ice broke up they sailed to Elephant Island, where Shackleton left all but five of his men to wait.  Shackleton and five companions sailed about 800 miles through some of the world’s stormiest ocean to reach South Georgia Island.  The trip took 17 days and when they reached the island, more disappointment came when they realized they were on the wrong side of the island…separated by tall mountains from the whaling station, Stromness, they were trying to reach.  Shackleton and two men Worsley and Crean climbed over the mountains in 36 hours to get help.  He rescued his men after four failed rescue attempts.  Not one of his men died on this expedition.


1921-1922:  Shackleton’s last expedition, to sail around Antarctica, was cut short when he died on board the ship.


1928-1930:  Hubert Wilkins (Australia) was the pilot who made the first flights in Antarctica.


1928-1934:  Richard Byrd (US) flew over vast areas of Antarctica.  In 1929 he made the first flight over the South Pole, flying there and back from the base “Little America.”


1935-1936:  Lincoln Ellsworth (US) made the first flight across Antarctica in a Nothrop monoplane.


1946-1947: Operation Highjump was under the command of Richard Byrd and Admiral Cruzen.  Four thousand US servicemen began mapping Antarctica using aerial photography.


1957-1958:  Vivian Fuchs (UK) and Edmund Hillary (NZ) led the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition during the International Geophysical Year (IGY).  The men used track vehicles as well as dog teams.  Aircraft on skis flew food and fuel to supply dumps (called depots) along the route.  Fuchs led the party from the Weddell Sea toward the Ross Sea, while Hillary crossed the polar plateau from the Ross Sea to the South Pole.  They had achieved Shackleton’s dream of an Antarctic crossing.


Cheers to all of those Antarctic explorers!



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Scientific Balloons Over Antarctica! - November 17th, 2006

            Can you imagine seeing a giant helium-filled balloon floating over Antarctica with a payload dangling from the bottom of it?  In early December this will become a reality as the National Scientific Balloon Facility and the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility here in McMurdo launches three high-altitude, unmanned scientific research balloons and payloads out near Willy Field. 

The LDB facility has been launching scientific research balloons at Willy Field since 1998.  Our guide for the tour, Dave Sullivan has been working in Antarctica on balloon projects for 15 seasons.  This is his fifth or sixth season as Antarctic Campaign Manager of the facility.  He also worked at a facility in Alice Springs, Australia for over 17 years.   

Headquartered in Palestine, Texas, the National Scientific Balloon Facility  ( the operations services and engineering to support the United States and foreign scientific communities with the following: 

** engineering support with design of balloon systems

** research in balloon materials, electronic design, gondola design, thermal analysis

** inflation and launching of the balloon

** tracking and recovery of the payload

** telecommand and data retrieval with reliable electronic systems 

            Balloons are often used to conduct scientific research.  Balloon capabilities are constantly improving and they not only offer a low-cost method of conducting science investigations, they can be readied for flight in as little as six months.  Research balloons can also be launched from many locations world-wide to support scientific endeavors.  Research balloons can carry scientific experiments from NASA and universities all over the world.

            I was surprised to learn that the balloons are made of a very thin polyethylene film which is the same that is used to construct plastic bags.  The film is only 0.002 centimeters thick (0.0008 inches)…similar to the sandwich bags we use every day.  Once they make the film, it is cut into pieces referred to as “gores.”  These are banana-peel shaped sections which are later heat sealed together to form the actual balloon.  The balloons can have 26 miles of seams and up to 16 acres of fabric.  They are open at the bottom, which helps equalize the pressure.  The entire balloon “system” includes he balloon itself, a parachute used to bring the payload safely to the ground (or ice in this case), and the payload. 

            So what’s the payload?  It’s the equipment that holds the instruments which collect the data during the balloon flight.  Scientific equipment can be gathering data used in a wide array of physical science studies in cosmic rays, gamma ray and x-ray astronomy, optical and ultra-violet astronomy, infrared astronomy, micrometeorite particles, and more.  Scientific experiments vary in size and design, and payloads can weigh up to 8,000 pounds if the larger balloons are used. Typically, payloads deployed in Antarctica are about 3,900 pounds.  They payload includes a solar power system, computers, batteries, radio transmitters and receivers, and systems used for the science experiments.  Check out two of the payloads for this season below:

 Nov. 17-1

Nov. 17-2            

This is the payload for the “ANITA” Project.  ANITA stands for Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna.  “The balloon-borne payload will circle the continent of Antarctica at ~35,000 meters, scanning the vast expanses of ice for telltale pulses of radio emission generated by the neutrino collisions.”  (retrieved from the website below) For more information on this project go to:

Nov. 17-3

 Notice the solar panels on the top which charge the batteries for telemetry.  Batteries located on the lower part of the payload charge the science instrument batteries.

 Nov. 17-4  

Nov. 17-5

These instruments run the telemetry system for sending commands to the balloon, as well as control the data collection for the scientific experiments.

Nov. 17-6 

This payload is from BLAST.  Their experiment has to do with sub-millimeter wave length and the scientists conducting the research are called cosmologists.

            NASA long duration balloons are filled with helium gas, the same gas used for party balloons.  The balloons are launched by partially filling them with the helium, and suspending the payload underneath.  At first the balloons look long and thin, but the helium expands as it rises…giving it a more rounded appearance of up to 500 inches in width.  In two to three hours the balloons reach their float altitude, which can be up to 26 miles high.        

Nov. 17-8

Nov. 17-9

Nov. 17-10

Photos retreived from

Once the balloons are launched, they can make a revolution around Antarctica in approximately 8-15 days.  Duration of the balloon flights can be up to 42 days.  The diagram below gives some basic dimensions of the balloons.

Nov. 17-7 

The balloons and payloads are launched by this huge vehicle called “The Boss.”  It’s named after legendary Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton, because the men on his expeditions called him the Boss.  The vehicle weighs 115,000 pounds!

Nov. 17-11 

Dave Sullivan and LuAnn standing beside “The Boss”

Nov. 17-12           

These are the huge garages that store the payloads until launch.  Scientists are currently working to put those payloads together and prepare the scientific equipment. 

After the balloons are launched they circle Antarctica by following the prevailing wind circulation around the continent.  Commands are sent to the “brains” of the payload and help control the science measurements and data being gathered.  Once experiments are completed, a radio command is sent by the flight controllers.  The location of the balloon decides when they take it down.  Avoiding obstacles is critical.  This command separates the balloon from the payload and parachute.  The payload floats back to the ground and is retrieved.  The balloon is torn when payload separation occurs, and this releases the remaining helium.  Although the balloon recovered, it is discarded. 

Nov. 17-13 

I was being shown how the balloons circle Antarctica

Nov. 17-14 

Part of the control room for the LDB projects

The data vault is recovered first, along with other valuable items such as the transponder.  A short time later a full recovery mission is planned.  When that mission takes place, the bits and pieces of the payload must be taken apart to fit inside of a twin otter airplane. 

            Scientists work together to design the payload and scientific experiments.  The responsibilities of Dave’s team includes:  the balloon launches, control of the flights, termination of the balloon flights, and recovery of equipment.  NASA selects the science teams that will fly their experiments on the balloons.  It is obvious that a lot of thought and planning goes into these projects and the flights here in Antarctica.  I hope we’ll get to see a launch while I’m here.  They will select a clear day for the launch….so it might be possible to watch from Scott Base or Ob Hill.   I’m not sure at this point, but one thing’s for sure….this was an amazing opportunity to see other science projects around McMurdo.  Thanks to Dave Sullivan for a great tour and the extra photos below.

Nov. 17-15

The ANITA Project

 Nov. 17-16

The BLAST Project

 Nov. 17-17

The SBI Project







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Penguins on the Ice Runway - November 18th, 2006

             The word spread quickly….penguins on the ice runway!  Emperor Penguins!!  Everyone rushed up to the telescope in the library on the second floor of Crary Lab.  We couldn’t get out to the ice runway in time…and the site is restricted because of the runway location.  We sure enjoyed our first glimpse of penguins near McMurdo Station and I know you will, too. 


            Crew from the Firehouse who were on duty at the ice runway today got a real treat…they were “shooing” the penguins off the runway.  It was quite comical to watch, even through a telescope.  They ever so slowly walked toward the penguins….forcing them out of the way so planes could take off and land.  It would be a thrill to see the emperors that close…but for now, enjoy these photos.  Thanks to Dan Duncan and Dave Breitenfeld from the Firehouse for posting these on the McMurdo intranet. 

 Nov. 18-2


It looks like they’ve come to check out the LC-130’s on the runway…

Nov. 18-3 


Or could they perhaps be looking for something in McMurdo?

Nov. 18-4 

Fast Facts on Emperor Penguins:

** scientific name:  Aptenodytes forsteri

** are largest of the penguin species

** can weigh up to 90 pounds; averages around 75 pounds

** can stand almost 4 feet tall; averages 2 feet, 9 inches

** spends entire life in and around Antarctica

** feeds mostly on crustaceans (such as krill) but will also eat small fish and squid

** can dive 490-820 feet underwater

** on land can either wobble along walking or slide on their bellies propelled by their feet and flipper-like wings

** when it is really cold Emperor Penguins stand in huddles (groups) of ten to hundreds of birds…they lean on the neighbor in front of them and push their way inward…creating a churning action that gives each penguin a chance to be in the huddle

** Emperor Penguins travel about 90 km inland to reach their breeding site

Nov. 18-5

Nov. 18-6 

 Nov. 18-7

            For more information on Emperors visit:

Nov. 18-8

Nov. 18-9

Hill with penguins in the foreground…a great sight!

     Nov. 18-10



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Grazie to the Italians! Well Done! - November 19th, 2006

             Members of the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf Project form a small community within the broader McMurdo community, due to the fact that we are such a large scientific research project.  A sense of community is important to the success of any project, large or small.  Recreational events bring people together and promote a sense of camaraderie (friendship). 

There was a buzz among the ANDRILL team yesterday afternoon.  Fabio Florindo and Matteo Cattadori had taken a trip to Mario Zucchelli Station, in Terra Nova Bay.  This is the home base of the Italian Antarctic Program.  Upon their return to McMurdo, they planned to have an Italian dinner for all of ANDRILL…with fresh foods they had gotten at Terra Nova Bay.  This caused a great deal of excitement among the members of the ANDRILL Program.  Anyone who knows our Italians knows that they love good food and they have some of the BEST ingredients or foods on the continent.  Everyone was ready for our very own “Italian Night” dinner at the galley. 

People pitched in to do the work necessary to hold such a large event.  After all, cooking for a group of sixty isn’t easy.  First there was the kitchen help…our Co-Chief Scientists and Fabio Florindo were spotted making the bruschetta.

Nov. 19-1 

 Ross Powell, Tim Naish (Co-Chief Scientists for ANDRILL) and Fabio Florindo, (from Rome, Italy).

 Nov. 19-2

 Richard Levy was busy peeling garlic and chopping parsley


Nov. 19-3

Paola Maffioli (Milan, Italy) was keeping the boys busy in the kitchen!

            Others helped out in the kitchen as well…and at long last (9:00 PM) we gathered in the small back room of the galley for a DELICIOUS meal. We ate later so that the night shift workers and drillers and everyone else who works at the ANDRILL drill site during the day could join us.  Paola even made sure that some of the food was transported to the drill site for the guys out there on night shift. 

            We had pasta served with several types of sauces, proscuitto (a cured ham), another type of ham, plates and plates of bruschetta and crostini (toasted bread with a tasty topping), and heaps of real parmesan cheese.  It was awesome!

Nov. 19-4

Bruschetta and proscuitto…

Nov. 19-5 

The plates were heaped with food…

 Nov. 19-6

Some of the men were waiters for the dinner…

Julian took this job very seriously…

Nov. 19-7 

As did Christian…

            Another group of people helped with clean up, dishes, and putting away the food.  Everyone pitching in made it more fun!

Nov. 19-8           

            Thanks to Fabio, Matteo (for bringing the goodies back from Mario Zucchelli Station), Paola, Massimo, and the other Italians for making last night a special event for ANDRILL.  Bringing everyone together (well, almost everyone) was really fun and I know I appreciate their thoughtfulness in making this happen. 




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Stepping Into The Past - November 20th, 2006

            Incredible and inspiring…those are words I’d use to describe today’s field trip. 

            Leaving McMurdo Station at about 1:30 by pisten bully track vehicle, Co-Chief Scientist Tim Naish at the wheel, headed out on the sea ice toward Cape Evans and Cape Royds…excitement building as we prepared to peek into the past and visit historic huts of early Antarctic explorers.  When I read through the National Science Foundation (NSF) tour guide booklet Tim had, I saw something I’d not thought about.  Antarctica is the only continent where the original structures built by man are still standing.   

            Riding in a pisten bully is bumpy and loud, but getting out of McMurdo and into the wide open expanse of the sea ice was fantastic.  I rode up front in the beginning of the trip…so I got a great view of the surrounding area.  Ross Island was on our right, with Mt. Erebus looming high above us…clouds swirling around the top today, creating a mysterious look about the mountain.  To our left, across the sea ice…the Transantarctic Mountains…majestic and so beautiful.  Winds kicked up and snow blew sideways across the flagged “road” on the sea ice.  We were off for adventure!

Nov. 20-1

Today’s view of Mt. Erebus was rather cloudy compared to some of the views we’ve had since our arrival in McMurdo.

Nov. 20-2 

Megan and I in front of Mt. Erebus…  (Photo by Cristina Millan)

Nov. 20-3 

The Barne Glacier is behind me in this photo  (Photo by Cristina Millan)

 Nov. 20-4

Julian and Tim setting up a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) unit to track our progress on the trip

            With a couple of stops along the way to get out and take photos, the trip to Cape Royds took us about two hours.  We knew we were close when we spotted a lone Adelie penguin wobbling back toward Cape Royds. 


Nov. 20-5 (Photo by Megan Berg)

It was SO windy when we got out of that pisten bully that at times we could hardly walk a straight line.  A climb up and over the volcanic hill brought Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut into view. 


NOv. 20-6

Nov. 20-7

Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition hut (1907-1909)

            Stepping inside the cabin is stepping inside history.  Eyes adjust to the dim light, senses pick up subtle hints such as the musty smell of old clothing and sleeping bags. Textures appear….hardened fabrics, smooth metal, rusted objects rough with age, hard wooden floors and walls, glass bottles, waxy candles, rough rope hanging from nails.  It’s all so much to take in….I had to pinch myself to believe that I had gotten the chance to come back here again.  When you hear the term “frozen in time” it certainly applies to the historic huts…in more ways than one.  First things are preserved because appear as the men on Shackleton’s expedition left them.  Currently, the historic huts and their contents are protected by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.  But, the cold temperatures and dry conditions also helped “freeze” things in time.  Not much has decayed compared to what would happen in other climates around the world.

 Nov. 20-8

           Once we had spent a few minutes inside, we realized that there was quite a bit of light in this hut….which now seemed to be streaming in through just two small windows.  It’s funny how your eyes can adjust.  But, I want you to know that I had to use my flash to get these photos….there was not enough light without using that feature on the camera, even though it looks much brighter in my photographs. 

            Soon everyone in our group was taking photos….one after the other in rapid succession, eager to take it all in during our short visit.  I tried to photograph every little detail so that I would always remember how special it is to visit such an incredible place.  In some way I don’t think I even needed the camera.  Something about a place like this makes an imprint in your mind and you remember it forever.  I’m fascinated with the expeditions of the early Antarctic explorers—tales of adventure, danger, discovery and at times, tragedy.  Their determination to leave their mark in history brought out amazing personal characteristics that were instrumental in meeting and surmounting the many challenges that came their way during the Heroic Age of Exploration in Antarctica.

            Shackleton had joined Robert Falcon Scott on an earlier expedition to Antarctica…the Discovery Expedition from 1901-1904.  It was to be the first of four Antarctic expeditions for Shackleton.  Determination led him back to Antarctica for the Nimrod Expedition in 1907, for a second try at reaching the South Pole. 

 Nov. 20-9 

The prefabricated (premade) hut was constructed at Cape Royds and Shackleton and his men.   

In terms of records, this expedition was a big success. Shackleton and three other members of the team sledged toward the South Pole and reached 88 degrees south latitude…a new record for farthest south.  They ran short of food and were forced to turn around, only 150 kilometers from the Pole.  Of course they were disappointed, but a second group from his party had set off to reach the South Magnetic Pole.  This had been a goal of James Clark Ross back in 1841.  T.W. Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Forbes Mckay accomplished this goal on January 16, 1909…sixty-eight years later.  In another “first” T. W. Edgeworth David and five other men made the first ascent (climb) to the top of Mt. Erebus.  This feat took them five days.  Just look at Erebus in my photos and I think you’ll agree that even today with modern equipment and better clothing….it’s still a formidable mountain.

 Nov. 20-10

Supply boxes and an old doghouse outside of the hut 

            Another momentous “first” was that Shackleton had planned all along to not just write papers while he was on this expedition…he wanted to publish a book. In fact, the book “Aurora Australis” (Southern Lights) was indeed published inside of this hut at Cape Royds, during the long winter months of the expedition.  Expedition members Wild, Joyce (both responsible for printing), Marston (illustrator), and Day (who manufactured the covers), with Shackleton as editor, had completed the first book printed in the Antarctic. 

 Nov. 20-11

 Nov. 20-12

            While in Tasmania in 2005, Andie Smithies from the Australian Antarctic Division shared an original copy of “Aurora Australis” with me.  Only 25-30 copies of the book were printed, sewn and bound, which makes this an extremely rare book.  Notice how the cover is made from one of over 2,500 provision boxes, in this case one that had previously held butter.  We had to handle the book carefully and wear gloves.  It is an extremely valuable item in their collection of Antarctic artifacts.

            Take a visual tour of inside the hut with the following photographs….but don’t go away because there’s more to Cape Royds than this historic hut.  There’s an Aedlie penguin rookery which I’ll share later in this journal entry.

Nov. 20-13 

Old sledges (sleds) stored high in the hut to keep them out of the way

Nov. 20-14 

             I turned this photo upside down so you could read the words:  “British Antarctic Ship Nimrod” and the “Lyttleton” refers to their point of departure…Lyttleton Harbor in New Zealand.

Nov. 20-15

Amongst the boxes and tins of supplies  (Photo by Megan Berg)

 NOv. 20-16

 Quite a supply of candles….

 Nov. 20-17

 Notice the date on this provision box…the box is used for a storage shelf

Nov. 20-18 

 Motor fuel used in the first car in Antarctica—an Arrol-Johnston

 Nov. 20-19

 A canvas curtain used to partition (close off or separate) areas of the hut

            Cape Royds is not only known for Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition hut, but it is also the site of an Adelie penguin rookery.  A rookery is where penguins gather in groups to breed and lay on their eggs.  This particular rookery has thousands of Adelies, which makes it a busy, noisy, and smelly place!  What a treat to have the chance to see the Adelies in their own habitat.  Watching from a distance, I was able to zoom in with my telephoto lens….giving me a closer look.  Many of the penguins were nesting at the moment, and pesty skuas (sea gulls of this region) would swoop in trying to steal an egg or two.  Free roaming penguins took the opportunity to chase the skuas off…but they never got too far.

Nov. 20-20 Nov. 20-21

 Notice how many are laying down…nesting on eggs

 Nov. 20-22

(Photo by Megan Berg)

 Nov. 20-23

 Headed out on the sea ice…

 Nov. 20-24

 It was so windy on the hill that Megan and I both blew over…really!

            Our field trip was far from over after leaving Cape Royds, but since this is a marathon journal entry, I’m going to continue it tomorrow…so stay tuned!  And, look for a new question in that blog…an Antarctic patch could be on its way to you in the mail.














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The Historic Huts...Cape Evans - November 21st, 2006

Continued from yesterday...

After about an hour and a half we were loading the pisten bully again…leaving Cape Royds and Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition hut behind.  We were off to Robert Scott's hut, from his Terra Nova expedition in 1911.

Nov. 21-1  


It was during this expedition that Robert Scott and four companions reached the South Pole.  On January 16, 1912  after a grueling journey, they arrived at the Pole, only to find that they weren't the first ones there.  Roald Amundsen, from Norway, had beaten Scott’s group by just a few weeks…arriving at the Pole on December 14th, 1911. Scott and his men were extremely disappointed and as they started their long trek back to the hut on Cape Evans their spirits were dampened.


Scott and his men were hungry, suffered from frostbite, and they were slowed down by deep snow.  On the return trip Edgar Evans died, and Lawrence Oates (suffering from extreme frostbite) walked outside of the tent to his death one night in a blizzard, so he wouldn’t slow down his companions.  Robert Scott, Edward Wilson, and Henry Bowers died in their tent in late March, 1912. They were about 11 miles from one of their supply depots, called One Ton Depot, but had been trapped in a blizzard, exhausted and running out of food and fuel.  The remaining men were waiting for Scott and his companions back in the hut at Cape Evans…and wait they did…all through the long Antarctic winter of 1912.  

Nov. 21-2 


The hut was occupied by 25 men (it was a crowded place) during this expedition and it still stands as a piece of living history… a fabulous place to learn first- hand how these men lived and survived in Antarctica during early exploration.  I felt like I was going back in time and I could imagine what the hut would sound like, filled with voices of men sitting around the long wooden table that was placed in the center of the main part of the hut. I could have stayed here for hours…I wasn't sure where to look first.

Nov. 21-3 

I just stood perfectly still, trying to take it all in. It took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the dim light, but soon things came into focus. Boxes of food, tins of biscuits, hot cocoa mix, and many other food items were neatly stacked around the hut. Dishes sat on shelves, cups hung from hooks, scattered on beds were furs and items of clothing. Scientific equipment sat out on tables…books lay open, tools were hung on the wall. Wooden ski equipment, and other items used for traveling on the continent were visible in several locations.

Nov. 21-11 

 The dining area and some bunk space…

(Photo by Brent Pooley)


When first entering the main part of the hut, you'd be standing in the galley (kitchen area) and living quarters of the men (not officers) on the expedition. The officers occupied the back section of the hut…more living space was allotted for officers. Scott divided his men based on Royal Navy practice. Near the very back of the hut is where Scott slept…his bunk area is separated from those of two other men by a work table…which had a faded stuffed Emperor penguin laying on it, as well as a weather-worn open book. It is amazing to me to see these things…preserved by the cold, dry Antarctic climate…since 1911!


One of my favorite little corners of the hut is the science area.  Many of the men on Scott’s expedition were acting in a scientific research role, in addition to their roles of adventurers and explorers.  An epic adventure and scientific journey within a journey is described by Apsley Cherry-Gerrard in his book “The Worst Journey in the World.”  Cherry-Gerrard, Wilson, and Bowers made a trek to Cape Crozier to observe the breeding of Emperor penguins during the winter of 1911.  Also from that book is the following passage written about Griffith Taylor, one of many that describe the science that was taking place:


“His diary must have been almost as long as the reports he wrote for Scott of his geological explorations.  He was a demon note-taker, and he had a passion for being equipped so that he could cope with any observation which might turn up.  Thus Old Griff on a sledge journey might have notebooks protruding from every pocket, and hung about his person, a sundial, a prismatic compass, a sheath knife, a pair of binoculars, a geological hammer, chronometer, pedometer, camera, aneroid and other items of surveying gear, as well as his goggles and mitts.  And in his hand might be an ice-axe which he used as he went along to the possible advancement of science, but the certain disorganization of his companions.” 


I can just imagine Griffith Taylor decked out with all of those items, making observations and taking notes to record the scientific information from the expedition.  Other men gave lectures on topics such as meteorology, biology, ice problems, medical issues like scurvy, geology, wildlife, sketching and surveying.  Can’t you just picture the scientists bent over the table below, working on some experiments?  I certainly can. 

Nov. 21-4

One of several science tables in Scott’s hut at Cape Evans

This all reminds me that Antarctica has long been a place for science research.  Many research expeditions came before ANDRILL, and many will come after it.  Through the Antarctic Treaty, this wonderful continent is protected for peaceful scientific purposes.  There is a lot to learn about every area of science from studies taking place in Antarctica.


Nov. 21-5

Penguin eggs…


I also took a look in the stable, which was attached to the main hut and accessed by a slim corridor as you came in the main entrance. In the corridor, tools were neatly hung on the walls, a pile of seal blubber sat on the ground…frozen in time. I glanced around to see penguin eggs, (stored in a box), horse grooming tools and supplies, and countless other little reminders of the life these men made for themselves during the expedition. The ponies didn't survive the expedition, and were shot as they became weaker and unable to perform their duties.  Yet, their names survive on the walls of the stable…a reminder of the early attempts at exploration in Antarctica.

 Nov. 21-6

Seal blubber…

Nov. 21-7 

 Tim was checking out the old stable area… 


I climbed a hill to get a good view of McMurdo Sound and the hut below. On top of the hill, a cross was a silent reminder of three of Shackleton’s men from the Endurance-Aurora Expedition who lost their lives traveling in Antarctica. It was a lonely view Scott’s men had from this vantage point…beautiful but very remote and isolated from the rest of the world.

Nov. 21-8 

Stepping back outside, out of history…and into the reality of present-day Antarctica, I had been greeted by a brisk wind.  As we walked back to our pisten bully, I think most people were in a contemplative mood….you just cannot visit a place such at Scott’s hut and not have your head swimming with thoughts about what it would have been like back then.  This is a special piece of history that I will always be grateful to have seen. 

There are so many wonderful books that detail life and exploits during the Heroic Age of Antarctica Exploration.  Check one out…learn all you can…I guarantee it will be interesting reading.

            Enjoy a few more photos below. 


Cheers From The Ice,


Nov. 21-9 

 Notice the date… 1910, Capt. Scott’s Antarctic Expedition…

 Nov. 21-10

 Check out the ketchup bottle….almost the same label as today…

 Nov. 21-12

 Some of the food left in the galley…



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A Core Tour….What’s It All About? - November 22nd, 2006

             This has been a huge week for core coming into the Crary Lab.  Out at the drill site they switched from the PQ drill string to the HQ drill string.  That means they are using a smaller drill bit that fits inside of the PQ drill string.  The HQ drill bit drills right through the PQ bit.  Cement was sent down the drill hole to hold the old string in place, and then the drillers went straight through that cement.  They’re using a 6 meter core barrel which is a bit narrower…and the lengths of core brought up on each run are now double what they were.  Everyone’s working hard to keep up the pace….from the drillers, to the core technicians, to the curators, and on down the line in every science discipline team.   

            The cores we look at each day can vary so much…and I’m slowly learning the words that describe the different features.  Things like pebbly sandstone, volcanic ash, claystone, diamictite, bioturbation, and lamination are just a few examples of characteristics the cores might have.  All of these words will make great additions to the ABC’s of ANDRILL book that I’m working on.

            Each morning, after our general meeting, Lionel Carter serves as the “tour guide” for our core tours.  Lionel is part of the sedimentology team, which is headed up by Larry Krissek.  Larry and his team work hard all night to log the core, taking notes on every single centimeter. They also make smear slides for use with a microscope.  Larry and his team put information in to PSICAT, a new software program designed for logging sediment cores.  Larry gives his report and shows us the latest PSICAT diagrams each morning.  High resolution photographs of the core are entered into a program called Corelyzer which allows a visualization of the core spread across more than one large monitor.  Right now we are getting close to 48 meters of core in each 24 hour period….that’s 4,800 centimeters! 

Nov. 22-1 

 Larry Krissek, pointing out unique features of the core using Corelyzer

 Nov. 22-2

 A close-up look at Corelyzer

Even though I’ve shown this diagram before, I’m going to include it again…just for those who might not have seen it.  This is an example of a page from PSICAT.

Oct. 28-1 

    One of Lionel’s jobs is to review the characteristics of the core with scientists after Larry’s introduction.  Everyone heads to the curator’s lab and Lionel takes us on a visual and geological “tour” of every box of core. 

 Nov. 22-3

 Nov. 22-4

 Boxes of core in the lab…notice that there are three cores in the box…with the HQ drill bit and core barrel, we’ll have four cores in every box.  Also note the big differences in what the cores look like.

Nov. 22-5 

 Lionel goes over the PSICAT diagrams with the group…

Nov. 22-6

            Lionel describes the general features and also the more specific features that might interest the scientists as they prepare to mark where they’d like to take a sample.  He tries to interpret what the sediments are telling us about how the Ross Ice Shelf operated in the past.  The PSICAT data is checked over carefully, making sure it’s consistent.  After the core tour Lionel makes a summary of ideas that came up during the core tour as well as what scientists speculated on ideas from their own area of expertise.  Lionel keeps his own log book, in addition to the logs kept by the other sedimentologists and the log from PSICAT. 

 Nov. 22-7

            One thing Lionel is starting to work on is putting together a first draft of interpretation of the core to make what’s called lithostratigraphic units. Those are general descriptions of the basic rocks we’re seeing in the core.  He groups everything into units based on similar characteristics.  This is the start of Lionel’s contribution to the initial report of the ANDRILL MIS Project science, which is completed by all science teams before leaving the ice in January.

            This is Lionel’s third time in Antarctica.  He came down in 2003 and twice in 2006 for the site surveys for the ANDRILL Program.  Lionel’s a Kiwi, but spent time in Canada at the University of British Columbia, for his PhD.  He has also worked for an oil company, spent 33 years with the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute (which is now called the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere.  Currently Lionel is a professor of marine geology at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.  He says his favorite thing about being a scientist is that “we get to learn how the planet operates and to do that we have to visit some of the neat places in the world.”   

            Lionel remarked that he “is here to link the results of the ANDRILL core to the ocean…what affects do we see when we see the changes in the Ross Ice Shelf and how that affects the oceans around the world.”  His interest lies what’s called the ocean conveyor, because the ocean is a big distributor of heat around the planet.  All of the heat in the atmosphere is equal to the heat contained in the upper 3.2 meters of the ocean.  Take a look below at a diagrams Lionel gave me of the ocean conveyor and the Antarctic circumpolar current.

 Nov. 22-8

 Nov. 22-9

            Antarctica, the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea are major areas that produce dense water that sinks in the ocean and fuels the ocean conveyor.  Because of this, the amount of warm water transported in the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe keeps Europe warm. 

              Enjoy some additional “core tour” photos below:

 Nov. 22-10

Reed Scherer is using a magnifier to get a close-up look at the core…which is a familiar site in the lab

 Nov. 22-11

Teams talk about where they might want to sample the core

 Nov. 22-12

Sometimes they make measurements before they place their flags to mark their spot

 Nov. 22-13

They might take a small bit of the core with a toothpick…

 Nov. 22-14

 And put it on a slide to be used later in the lab

            One thing’s for sure….the core sampling lab is a very busy place…24 hours a day.  Everyone has shifted into high gear at this point and it will be nonstop until drilling ends at the end of December. 

Now, can you answer the question below?  Since this was a week of penguins, I have two penguin patches for the first two people to answer correctly.  Make sure you include your name, address, and carefully type in your email address so I can reach you.  Thanks and good luck!

 Question:  What is the name of the special program that allows us to see a visualization of the core on more than one huge monitor (screen)? 



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A Core Technician’s Assistant For The Day! - November 23rd, 2006

          Today I had the great opportunity to help Alissa Quinn as a core technician out at the drill site lab.  I got the notice at about 11:30 that I had an hour to be dressed in my ECW gear and ready to go.  Richard Levy, Staff Scientist, and I drove out with Leslie Blank, the Raytheon liaison with the ANDRILL Program.  It was a great drive out on a skidoo…and Rich even let me drive!  Yay!

Nov. 23-1 

 Rich…firing up the skidoo for the trip to the drill site

            As soon as I arrived I jumped right in to help Alissa in any way possible. I had  a lot to learn about how to process the core as it comes into the lab…but she was great at sharing the process with me…and very patient!  I got the chance to be up on the drill floor to see a core barrel brought up, which really helped me make sense of the entire process from start to finish.  Let me share that process with you.

 Nov. 23-2

 Conrad Rains getting ready for the core barrel to be brought up

 Nov. 23-3

Drilling mud and excess water returning through the drill pipe

 Nov. 23-4

 Conrad is sliding the core barrel down the ramp…

 Nov. 23-5

 Now the core, in its liner, is pushed out of the core barrel…Tristan Bennett is using water to force the core out.

Nov. 23-6

Here’s a close-up of the core in the liner…if the core catcher (that traps the core so it will stay in the core barrel) is stuck on the end, then that also gets brought into the lab.  In this photo the catcher had already been removed…that’s why you see a piece of core sticking out the end.

Nov. 23-7 

 Alissa heads out the door, but the core is so long, it takes three people to carry it to the lab window and slide it in…

 Nov. 23-8

 Luke Rutland and Tristan are helping Alissa carry the core to the window…

Nov. 23-9 

 Tim Paulsen (ANDRILL scientist) removes one half of the liner…

 Nov. 23-10

 After half of the liner is removed, the core is cleaned before it’s examined by anyone in the lab…Alissa is wiping out the top of the liner so it can be used again on the next run.

Nov. 23-11 

Tony Kingan (Drilling Supervisor day shift) is measuring the core as Tim gently scrapes the excess mud from the core…

Nov. 23-12 

 I’m carefully spraying the core to clean it up…

 Nov. 23-13

 A red pencil is used to scribe the top of the core to orient it…

            Later the core is rolled over and this whole process is repeated except a blue line is scribed on the core instead. 

            After the fractures (cracks) on the core are noted by Tim Paulsen and Alissa makes some initial observations on the general characteristics of the core, Alissa saws the core into one meter lengths.  She carefully labels each section with the top and bottom levels of depth below the sea floor.  It is critical to keep the core oriented in the right direction throughout this process.

Nov. 23-15

Alissa is sawing the core into one meter segments…

Nov. 23-14 

 Cliff Atkins and Dene Carroll (night shift core technicians) are labeling the top and bottom depths below the sea floor. 

Nov. 23-16

    Once the core is cleaned and split into segments, it goes to two other stations for various scanning and logging activities.  I’ll talk more about those next week.  As a final step, the cores are bagged and sealed for transport back to Crary Lab in McMurdo.

Nov. 23-17

I’m putting one of the wrapped core segments into the aluminum box used for transport…

 Nov. 23-18

 Dene Carroll and Matt Olney (one of the curators) leaving the lab with a box of core…

            The core technicians at the drill site work twelve hour shifts and at this point in the drilling, work is nonstop all day or night because of the volume of core that’s being brought up.  I can really appreciate what hard work this is after spending about seven hours on the job with Alissa.  I really enjoyed the chance to get out to the drill site, see core being brought up, and learn more about the process of preparing the core for transport to Crary Lab. 





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Women in Science - November 24th, 2006

            I’m not sure of the actual statistics, but I’d have to say that the number of men working on science research projects in McMurdo is much higher in proportion than the number of women.  I am always looking for the chance to meet other female scientists and today was a fantastic opportunity.  I accompanied Diane Winter a scientist/graduate student from ANDRILL, who won a “guess the number of jelly worms in the jar” contest in the galley last week.  The prize….a field trip where winners would not only get to see an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) deployed, but drive it themselves.   The trip would turn out to be so much more! 

            The great thing about this particular ROV is that it was designed by two high school girls…Ryan Garner and Amanda Wilson from Lompoc, California.  These two seniors from Cabrillo High School spent months…after school and on weekends, building an ROV that could be used here in Antarctica.  A year ago they were members of a four-person team, made up of themselves (juniors) and two senior boys.  Their ROV not only won awards locally and regionally, the team ended up being flown to Texas for the national event…and they placed seventh in the country.   

A challenge to build a new ROV for use in Antarctica came about as a result of their amazing finish last year.  The girls spent hours on research and design issues…here was the chance to build something for a real-life situation.  It had to navigate under the ice, around rocks, in cold water temperatures.  A liaison from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Jessie Dutton, tracked the girls’ progress and gave support for the project.  Diane and I rode out halfway to Cape Evans with Jessie and I had the chance to talk with her more about the research they’re doing in Antarctica and working with the girls on the ROV.  She had nothing but enthusiasm and praise for the talents of these young scientists in action.  We were about to see their talents for ourselves.

Nov. 24-1 

Here’s Jessie…hanging on to the bottom of the world!  We really are upside down here…just kidding…she’s doing a handstand and I flipped the photo!

Jessie is part of a team from UCSB here in Antarctica to study several species of fish in this ocean region.   Jessie is a PhD student working with Gretchen Hofmann, who is a professor of ecological physiology of marine organisms, at UCSB.  Gretchen is the PI (Principle Investigator) studying the protein in cold-adapted Antarctic fish that enables them to survive in the icy cold water.  Gretchen has a wealth of experience in teaching, research, publications, and awards/grants for scientific research.  She has been a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Oregon State University; a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University; and Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Currently she’s an Associate Professor at UCSB.  In addition to being all of these things….she is tons of fun!  She welcomed the winners of the contest out to her fishing hut for the day, provided lots of great experiences, and really showed us her enthusiasm for science.  I loved it.

Nov. 24-2          

Gretchen Hofmann near the Barne Glacier 

Jessie explained some of the research to us by breaking it down by species.  There are three species of fish that they work with on this project.  “Bernies” live in the shallow waters of the area….about 30 feet deep.  “Bork” live right underneath the ice in what’s called the brash ice, which is a good habitat for small creatures.  The Bork eat the creatures that eat the algae living on the brash ice.  Talk about a food chain!  They fish for both of these species by drilling holes in the ice and using a simple fishing pole.  “Eelpont” live in deeper water and to catch them they drop bait bags to 500 meters in depth.  They often bring specimens back to the aquarium at Crary Lab for further study.

Nov. 24-3

Nov. 24-4 

Photos from the aquarium in Crary Lab 

            At the halfway point on the trip out to Cape Evans, Diane and I got to switch places with the other winner, Bill and his friend Sandwich.  We had the chance to ride on the back of skidoos…which was great.  Fresh air and it was a beautiful, sunny day.  The road on the sea ice was bumpy, but it felt great to be out in the crisp air riding along with views of Mt. Erebus, Big Razorback Island, Tent Island and other small islands nearby.  All in all it took about one and a half hours to get out to Cape Evans…to fish hut #1. 

Nov. 24-5 


A lonely little fish hut on the sea ice near Cape Evans

Nov. 24-6  

Diane got busy fishing right away….and caught two fish in about 10 minutes!            

Nov. 24-7 

            I walked over to the fish hut to see if their friendly Weddell seal had decided to come up through the ice hole inside the hut today.  Jessie told me that last week they tried to get into the hut and a Weddell seal was blocking the door.  It had come up through that hole and was lounging on the floor around it.  No such luck today!

 Nov. 24-8

 Steve Gaines, a professor at UCSB and Tim, another one of Gretchen’s graduate students, started to work on unpacking the tether of control cords that would be attached to the ROV while being deployed under the ice.

Nov. 24-9 

 They unpacked the ROV unit and readied it for the “dive”

 Nov. 24-10

 Amanda and Ryan, ROV designers/builders had signed their names on the top, and put their school location as well

 Nov. 24-11

 While they worked on the equipment, I took a look inside the hole in the ice.  We could see tiny sea creatures swimming close to the surface and it was very cool to watch them.

Nov. 24-12 

 Finally, the ROV was lowered into the hole…

Nov. 24-13 

 But…it turned out that too much styrofoam had been added to give the device more buoyancy.  Some of that styrofoam needed to be removed so the ROV would sink toward the bottom of the ocean.

Nov. 24-14 

 Tim is removing some of the styrofoam before trying again…

 Nov. 24-15

 Down it went, and it was finally under the ice…

Nov. 24-16 

 Diane was at the controls…driving the ROV….and she watched carefully as it descended farther and farther into the hole.

Nov. 24-17 

 In just a few minutes we could see from three different camera angles…this one shows the underside of the ice, with algae growing on it.

Nov. 24-18 

 In this photo you can see two sea stars…one large white one, and a smaller one in the bottom left-hand corner.  We saw sea urchins, clams, large ocean worms, sea anemones, and just a couple of fish.  It was incredible to see the life right underneath us.  Video cameras recorded what the ROV cameras were seeing.  The whole process was awesome! 

Nov. 24-19

Bill was next to have a turn at driving the ROV…followed by Sandwich…and then it was my turn!  I loved having the opportunity to maneuver this ROV in all directions, switching cameras to get different perspectives underwater and capturing the sea life on film.

Nov. 24-20 

 The driving team…Sandwich, me, Bill, and Diane!

 Nov. 24-21

Our next activity was a short hike over toward Robert Scott’s hut at Cape Evans.  We carefully crossed over the cracks on the sea ice, using an ice ax to make sure each place was safe to cross.  By sticking the tail end of the ax into the snow, you can determine how deep or wide the crack is.  Soon we were on the rocky coast of Ross Island and off to see a lone, wandering Adelie.

 Nov. 24-22

 The penguin was rather comical as it waddled around the sea ice…hurrying along like it was late for an appointment.

Nov. 24-23 

 We spotted a nesting skua that really blended in with the rocks…

Nov. 24-24 

 Our last little excursion was a skidoo ride over to the Barne Glacier not far from Scott’s hut …the edge of this glacier is a massive cliff of ice.

 Nov. 24-25

                By the time we realized it, time had flown by and it was nearly 5:00 PM…time to head back to McMurdo.  We did the half Mattrack-half skidoo trip again, which was great because Diane and I ended the trip driving the skidoos to McMurdo.  It was the perfect way to end a wonderful field trip.   

What impressed me most about today was the fact that Diane is a woman scientist, deploying an ROV built by two young women scientists/students.  Jessie is an enthusiastic female scientist, working under the guidance of an accomplished female scientist…Gretchen.  It was a women’s world of science today.  Young female students out there take note…careers in science are fun, interesting, and can lead you to places around the world that are exciting and full of wonder. 






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Thanksgiving Celebration at McMurdo Station - November 25th, 2006

            Many people have asked about when and how we celebrated Thanksgiving in McMurdo.  It felt strange to let the real date pass by (both here and at home) but we celebrated today, Saturday, at McMurdo Station. Many people have Sunday off, so they always have the big Turkey Trot 5km race and Thanksgiving dinner on a Saturday.

            As runners and walkers gathered for the Turkey Trot, Megan and I geared up to take photos and video footage.  I started with just photos, but as the race was beginning I did a short video clip on my camera.  ANDRILL had several representatives running or walking in this event…so it was great to be out there watching the start of the race.  The course was through McMurdo and out to the ice runway and back. 

 Nov. 25-1

Runners and walkers assemble for the Turkey Trot 5km race

            The rest of the day was business as usual around here.  We still had a core tour, scientists took samples, the curators worked all afternoon, and science teams worked on their samples and research.  There’s not time to take a day off right now….core is coming to us faster than we can process it.  And, even though most of McMurdo gets Sunday off, ANDRILL is a seven day a week project and the show must go on! 

            The ANDRILL group went to the third seating for dinner at 7:00 PM and there was a huge line waiting to get in. It was worth the wait though…check out some photos below.

Nov. 25-2 

 Nov. 25-3

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 Nov. 25-5

 Nov. 25-6

 Nov. 25-7

 Nov. 25-8

 The Thanksgiving dinner was delicious and certainly the chefs and kitchen staff outdid themselves. 

I did some checking with the Executive Chef, Sally Ayote, and she gave me some incredible statistics on the dinner.  This is how much food was consumed tonight: 

1,200 pounds of Turkey

400 pounds of Roast  Beast

2,000 dinner rolls

60 pumpkin pies

40 pecan pies

40 apple pies

1,000 pieces pumpkin cheesecake

1,000 pieces chocolate cake

4 gallons of real whipped cream       


500 lbs. of mashed potatoes

350 lbs. of root vegetables

300 lbs. of Asparagus

75 lbs. of lettuce

80 lbs. of cucumbers

50 lbs. of cherry tomatoes

16 gallons of salad dressing

100 lbs. of cheese

350 lbs. of shrimp for cocktail

            Tomorrow I’m meeting with Sally to find out more about her job, and about the kitchen staff and chefs here in McMurdo.  Stay tuned for more information.





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Science in the Kitchen - November 26th, 2006

             I started my day with a trip to the galley, to interview Sally Ayote, Executive Chef for McMurdo Station, South Pole, and Palmer Station.  Sally has worked in Antarctica for eleven years.  She started off at the South Pole Station as a production cook, someone who helps prepare the food.  She was the food service supervisor at the Pole for five years, before being promoted to her job in McMurdo.  She’s been a full time employee of Ratheon Polar Services for five years, working for NANA Service who is subcontracted by Raytheon to hire the food service supervisors.  Sally’s been a registered dietician for twenty years, which means she has a solid background in nutrition.  More recently, Sally graduated from Johnson and Whales Culinary School in Denver, which gives her even more experience to bring to McMurdo’s kitchen. 

 Nov. 26-1

Sally Ayote, Executive Chef for McMurdo Station

            So why “science in the kitchen?”  There’s a lot of science behind nutrition for one thing.  Sally had to study a lot of biology and other science courses during her training/schooling.  There’s also chemistry involved in baking…which ingredients will have the correct reaction to produce delicious baked goods.  There are recipes that use precise amounts of each ingredient…leave something out and you might not get the right result.  Think of all the math that Sally uses, too.  She must total up the orders, figure out how much food is consumed and what needs to be ordered, and everyone uses math when they use recipes.  Sally told me that they take large quantity recipes for fifty people and multiply those to get the amounts they need.  What would you multiply 50 by to equal enough for 1,000 people?

 Nov. 26-2

You can get an idea of the large quantities of food being prepared from looking at this photo and the big cookers below…

Nov. 26-3 

            There are sixty-one people working in the Food Services Department in McMurdo, which includes Sally.  Thirty-one dining attendants do everything from wash dishes, scrub pots, wipe tables, and restock service ware.  The dining attendants work very hard with over one thousand residents in McMurdo at the moment….and four meals served each day.  Of course there’s the regular breakfast, lunch and dinner…but we also have something called Midrats (midnight rations) which is served at midnight as a lunch for those on night shift.  Sally also takes one intern student from Johnson and Whales Culinary School each year.  What a great experience for an intern….working in Antarctica!  How many people can put that on their resume? 

            Twenty-nine cooks range in responsibilities from being head chefs, sous chefs, production cooks, and prep cooks.  Everyone in this department works ten hour shifts, which is very demanding.  They must be trained in a four hour sanitation class and there are monthly health inspections by the Army flight surgeon on duty in McMurdo and also other inspections one to two times per year.  The kitchen follows USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) food code requirements. 

 Nov. 26-4 

Some of the bakers….busy at work!

 Nov. 26-5

 Preparing the sliced meat for lunch sandwiches…

 Nov. 26-6

Making the grilled cheese and ham sandwiches for today’s lunch…

            Sally has been here since Winfly  (late August) and will be leaving McMurdo in mid to end-January to return to Denver and her work with Raytheon.  She plans out the orders for next year’s food supplies, which are placed in June—and transported to the ice by ship in February of the following year.  There is SO much planning ahead.  Using historical data about amounts of food were used helps Sally plan for the year ahead.  She also looks at the budget as well as hiring staff for the following season.  When I asked her what she liked best about her job she mentioned that she likes giving sixty people the chance to come to Antarctica each year.  She says “my friends are here,” and that there are hard-working people on her staff. Judging by all the activity we see in the galley each day, I’d say that’s very true.  Everyone’s constantly active and the food and service has been great. 

            I was able to get a few more statistics from Sally about food consumption in McMurdo per year:

beef:  70,000 pounds

poultry:  50,000 pounds

pork:  25,000 pounds

frozen and dried veggies:  a rough average order would be 4,700 pounds per week

eggs and freshies (fresh fruits and vegetables):  7,500 pounds per week

Nov. 26-7 

 Lots of meat in the cold storage area…

 Nov. 26-8

 Nov. 26-9

 Nov. 26-10

Nov. 26-12 

            Each week Sally places an order to Christchurch, New Zealand for freshies… items like eggs, cheese (we use all New Zealand cheese), potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, and many other fresh vegetables.  Sometimes those items don’t make it on the plane if there are too many people or too many other science research items ready to be loaded onto the plane.  Remember, those cargo planes can only take so much weight, and each flight’s load is calculated very carefully.  There are always priorities.

            Enjoy these photos below as you tour the kitchen in the McMurdo Station galley. 




Nov. 26-13 

Items in cold storage…

 Nov. 26-14

 Evidently we must use a lot of Tabasco Pepper Sauce here in McMurdo!

 Nov. 26-15

 Nov. 26-15

 Nov. 26-16

 One of the dishwashing areas…

 Nov. 26-17

 People coming in from the drill site on both day and night shift have meals saved for them in this heated compartment.  We have our own storage area because we have so many people going back and forth to the drill site on a daily basis.

Nov. 26-18 

 One section of the McMurdo dining area…











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An ANDRILL Acrostic - November 27th, 2006

             Today I decided to make up an acrostic poem on ANDRILL, which I’ve included below.  I challenge you to make up a similar type of poem…using SCIENCE words or things that have to do with ANDRILL (go back to my journal entries for ideas…and think about using information on the drill site or what we’re doing here at Crary Lab for examples).  

You can use phrases like I did, or just a word on each line.  If you send me (in an email) your acrostic poem on ANDRILL, I’ll send you an ANDRILL patch in the mail.  Make sure you put your address and email address in the message you send me…that way I know where to send your patch.  I’ll also share your poems with the scientists and others working on the project.  Good luck! 

Nov. 27-1 

A         ANDRILL is an international geological drilling project

N         now taking place

D         drilling into the sea floor

R         recovering sediment cores

I          interested in what those cores tell us about

L         lithology (the physical characteristics of rocks) and

L         logging the results

M        McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) Project is looking at the

C         climate history of this Antarctic region  

M        major US funding comes from the National Science Foundation

U         U.S., New Zealand, Italian, and German scientists have

R         recorded digital images, scans, and

D         data that can be examined, discussed and interpreted

O         over time…to tell that geologic story


I          Involves science discipline teams

C         concerned with various studies in geology

E         examining different characteristics of the sediment cores


S          Sediment cores recovered as of last night:  over 600 meters below the sea floor

H         HQ drill string will soon be changed to the NQ (smaller) drill string  and it’s

E         expected that soon the downhole

L         logging (instruments sent down into the hole to take measurements) will

F         find even more useful data for the science teams


P         Polar science is the

R         research focus for the International Polar Year (IPY)

O         organized to take place from 2007-2009

J          Join in the science and

E         educational outreach at

C         Create questions to ask us about ANDRILL

T         Take time to write to us and learn as much as you can!

 Nov. 27-4

NOv. 27-3

       I hope to hear from you soon with an acrostic poem!






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Core Processing - November 28th, 2006

            Since early last week I’ve been working on core processing with the curatorial team.  The curators have many responsibilities, from splitting the core once it arrives in McMurdo, to scanning the core, taking photos, or sampling the core once scientists have marked where to take those samples.  Today I’ll share what happens with the core before it’s brought into the Crary Lab.

NOv. 28-1

The core is unloaded from the carrying cases and placed on shelves in the cooler outside of the core splitting/RAC tent area. 

Nov. 28-2 

 The small blue building is the core splitting area, and the tan building houses the cooler where we store the MANY boxes of core…both the archive and working halves.  The archive half will not be sampled by the scientists and will go to a core storage facility at Florida State University.  That’s where head curators Matt Olney and Matt Curran (as well as many others in the curatorial group) also come from.  The working half of the core is what’s sampled each day by science teams, and the remaining sections of core are carefully packaged and stored to be sent to a facility in Bremerhaven, Germany.

 Nov. 28-3

 The piles of boxes are starting to take over the cooler!

 Nov. 28-4

See the labeling on the side of the boxes?  It also shows whether it’s archive or working segments of core, depth below the sea floor and run numbers.  Everything is labeled several times to be precise. 

Nov. 28-5

You might remember from an earlier blog that the core technicians at the drill site lab put two halves of PVC (plastic) pipe around the core to package it for transport.  Each half is clearly labeled with the depth below the sea floor, the run number (in this case that’s the 156) and whether this side is the working or archive half of the core.

Nov. 28-6

This photo shows how one half of the PVC comes off the core, and what it might look like just before it’s split.


 Nov. 28-7

Steve Petrushak is taping the split PVC together so that it doesn’t come apart when the core is split by the saw.

 Nov. 28-8

 LuAnn is placing the core on the tray to feed it through the saw….which splits it in half. 

 Nov. 28-9

 A close-up photo…

Nov. 28-10 

 The halves of core are put into separate boxes and sent next door to the RAC tent. 

 Nov. 28-11

The RAC tent is just a type of temporary structure used as an extra building around McMurdo. You might see them being used for many different reasons. 

Nov. 28-12 

 The first stop for the working half of the core….the scanner.  This Geotek scanner takes high resolution photographs of the core, which are later put up on the two huge monitors used to show images in Corelyzer.  Each one meter length of core takes seventeen minutes to scan.  This machine is running practically 24 hours a day, as are the others in the RAC tent. 

Nov. 28-13 

After scanning these sections of core sprayed with milli-Q distilled water…

 Nov. 28-14

 covered with plastic wrap, are re-boxed and put into the cooler…waiting for the sedimentologists to describe their characteristics and for our daily core tours.

Nov. 28-15 

 The first stop for the archive half of the core….the XRF scanner.  Gerhard Kuhn is working on using x-ray fluorescence to look for traces of major elements.  The machine sends out an x-ray beam that picks up different elements (for example iron or aluminum), since they fluoresce with different energy levels.  Scientists can identify roughly which elements are present in the core and how much of each element is present.

Nov. 28-16

Gerhard prepares a section of core to be put into the XRF scanner…

Nov. 28-17

The one meter lengths of core are snapped into this position automatically by the scanner….and when Gerhard opens the door…the clamps automatically release.

 Nov. 28-18

 The core is transferred to me for the next step…

Nov. 28-19

which is using the photospectrometer (notice the ruler placed along the core).  This camera is used to take a photo of the core every 1-2 centimeters.  If there are nice layers in the core we take photos every centimeter, but otherwise every 2 centimeters.  This camera can detect different color variations in the core and logs precisely how the color changes, which would indicate a different sedimentary layer in the core.  

 Nov. 28-20

 After the photospectrometer….I place a second layer of plastic wrap on the archive sections of core and tape this down in several places. The core is put back into the boxes and stored in the cooler….awaiting transport back to the United States.

 Nov. 28-21

Currently, my two jobs are usually to use the photospectrometer and the scanner, since the curators need so much help processing the core.  We’re busy all the time in the RAC tent, keeping the core processing moving along.












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What’s Paleomagnetism ? - November 29th, 2006

            This afternoon I had the opportunity to work with Christian Ohneiser, one of the members of the paleomagnetism (paleomag) team.  I have some familiarity with paleomag, since this is the team I worked with during the Cape Roberts Project.  Paleomagnetologists study the history of Earth’s magnetic field.  They know the behaviour of the Earth’s magnetic field reliably back to 145 million years ago.  Christian’s team will us what they learn about these samples to help date the core that is being recovered from the sea floor below the McMurdo Ice Shelf.

Christian needed an extra person to help with the daily sampling.  The paleomag team marks their samples like everyone else does during the core tour, but they have to drill their own small samples from the cores each day.  There’s a small drilling hut just outside of the core sampling lab, giving the paleomag team easy access to the core while making sure that everyone has enough room to work.

Nov. 29-1 

 Julian (ARISE) also helped out this afternoon by marking each section of core that we’d use and making sure it was kept in the correct direction…oriented to the top of the drill hole. 

Nov. 29-2 

 He placed each section on a tray, which I carried back and forth from the lab to the drill hut.

            Christian operated a small diamond drill bit which cuts through the sediment core and cuts out a small, cylindrical sample.  Water flows through the drill while it’s running…keeping it cool.  The whole process is documented below.

Nov. 29-3

 I hold the section of core in place while Christian does the drilling…

 Nov. 29-4

 Christian slowly moves the drill bit into the sediments and guides it through the width of the core.

 Nov. 29-5

You can see the hole left by the drill…

Nov. 29-6 

 And see the small cylindrical sample in my right hand…

Nov. 29-7 

 Christian scribes (marks) the sample so it’s oriented to the top of the drill hole.

NOv. 29-8 

He places the sample in a small saw to cut it to a precise length…

nov. 29-10 

He has to close the lid because water would spray out all over the place…

 Nov. 29-11

The sample is placed in a small plastic bag, labeled and linked (for easy reference) to a corresponding depth below the sea floor.  Today Christian drilled his 500th sample since the ANDRILL MIS Project began.   

            Now, that’s just the sampling part of the paleomag team.  There’s a lot of work to do back in their office.  Below you’ll see Christian using a machine called a spinner magnetometer. This measures how magnetic a sample is.  By spinning the sample scientists can find out the orientation of the magnetic field the sample has. 

Nov. 29-12

Nov. 29-13

See how the sample fits in the spinner magnetometer just perfectly?  That’s because of the special drill used to take the sample and the saw that cuts it to the proper length.

Nov. 29-14

 This machine is called a magnetic susceptibility meter.  It measures the magnetic mineralogy of the sample…not how magnetic it is, but the concentration of magnetic minerals it contains.

             Back in the core sampling lab, Matt Curran and Charlie King work to take the sample for the other science teams.  They might have to saw a section of the core or it could be dug out…in every case the sample is bagged up and stored in a clearly labeled bag…and given to the scientists later in the day.

Nov. 29-15 

Matt’s sawing out small samples…look for the white chalk mark on the core!

 Nov. 29-16

Charlie is digging out small pieces of the core for a science team…

 Nov. 29-17

As parts of the core are removed, Matt and Charlie replace those empty spaces with styrofoam…to keep things tightly packed in the core boxes.

 Nov. 29-18

Matt is getting ready to place a sample in the bag…later this sample goes to the scientists.

Just to give you an idea of how the drilling is progressing…the drill bit is currently over 650 meters below the sea floor (mbsf).  Every team is busy analyzing their samples and working in their labs.  Thousands of smear slides have been made, Brent’s made over 400 thin section slides, Christian and the paleomag team have 500 samples, Franco has logged and described thousands of clasts (pebbles/stones of varying sizes and compositions) and the micropaleontologists have hundreds of samples as well.  It’s all busy here with ANDRILL, whether you are working at the drill site or in Crary Lab.  Stay tuned for more news tomorrow. 



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Seismic Data and ANDRILL Drilling - November 30th, 2006

            Last year ANDRILL scientists and other personnel spent part of October and November in Antarctica to do the seismic surveys for both this season’s McMurdo Ice Shelf Project (MIS) and next year’s Southern McMurdo Sound Project (SMS).  Information gathered during the seismic studies is critical in determining the best placement of the drill rig.  What are scientists looking for as far as best placement?  Having the correct thickness of sediments is important, but also they want to find the spots where they can drill into rocks that are going to give them the best record of geologic history, those that will fill in the gaps that currently exist.  If the drilling is expected to be about 1,200 meters below the sea floor (mbsf) then they want to obtain the most complete geologic record possible. 

            Dhiresh Hansaraj, a graduate student working with Stuart Henrys from GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) in Wellington, New Zealand, spent some time today explaining how they set up the seismic survey and what he hopes to accomplish as far as gathering more seismic data as part of the ANDRILL MIS Project.  He was part of the ANDRILL team that came down last season.  The Kiwis (New Zealanders) headed up the MIS Project seismic survey, while the US ANDRILL scientists headed up the SMS survey.

Nov. 30-1 

Dhiresh Hansaraj, a Masters student in Geophysics at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand

 Nov. 30-2

 Some of the ANDRILL team preparing for the seismic surveys last season

Doing a seismic study involves measuring seismic (sound) waves travelling through the Earth.  It is not always possible to drill a hole to see what’s underneath, so a better way to gather data is to conduct seismic studies.  Many of you probably know that an earthquake is a natural source of seismic activity.   

The ANDRILL teams used explosives to generate these waves for the MIS survey, although you can also use an air gun (used for the SMS Project survery) or a compressional vibrator to generate the sound waves.  A long cable was rolled out on the ice and something called a geophone was attached to this cable at regular intervals of 96 meters apart.    

A geophone is an electronic receiver/sensor that is designed to measure the seismic vibrations.  The geophones were in a straight line, directed toward the source, (which in this case was the explosion)The basic idea is to generate seismic waves, and measure the time it takes for the waves to travel from the source back to the geophones. Scientists can record how the layers of rocks affect the waves.  The illustration below gives you a better idea of this scenario.   


Nov. 30-3


            A reflected path is one where the waves travel downward and encounters a layer and is reflected back to the surface.  This layer is the reflector.  Because the waves are reflected back to the surface, we can say that they have more of a vertical path.

NOv. 30-4 

 Here is a geophone…probably not what you thought it would look like…at least it’s much different than I thought it would be.  The ANDRILL team dug holes, placed the geophones down into the ice, and buried them.  The next step was to hook the red and black attachments into the cable that was strung out on the ice (see below).

 Nov. 30-5

 Rolling out the cable for the seismic line…

 Nov. 30-6

 Setting up the geophones…

 Nov. 30-7

 A view along the seismic line…

 By gathering data about the travel times from source to geophones and the velocity (speed) of the waves, scientists can reconstruct the path of the wave.  Travel time for the sound waves will depend on the physical properties of the rocks, for example the density of the rocks.  The diagram below is an example of the data collected from one shot (explosion), measured by 48 different geophones set up along the cable.

Nov. 30-8           

 Nov. 30-9

 Explosives are buried at a depth of about 17-18 meters under the ice.  When the explosives are ready to go, the people have to be at a safe distance away.  This photo shows what’s called the “shot box” and it’s where the explosives are armed.

Nov. 30-10 

 Nov. 30-11

Stuart Henrys, a geophysicist with the ANDRILL MIS Project, is shown here in the “dog box.”  The recorder and other equipment is set up inside the dog box (which is this case was one compartment of a Hagglund track vehicle).  The explosives are detonated (fired) from this location as well.  Once the data is recorded, scientists make a geological interpretation of the information and make their best choice for placement of the drill rig.

            During our morning ANDRILL meetings Tim and Ross have been talking about Stuart’s predictions based on the seismic surveys last year.  It was nice to sit down with Dhiresh and have him explain this with more detail.  Any additional ANDRILL drill holes that will be planned for the future will be chosen using the same method.   

            One thing Dhiresh will be working on with the current ANDRILL drill hole is to gather additional seismic data and tie in this year’s information with what the team found out last season.  He has 60 shots (explosions) that will be used in a slightly different fashion.  In this case one geophone will be dangled inside the drill hole…down far enough to be inside the layers of rock.  They will set off the first explosion in the vicinity of the hole (but not too close) and record the data.  They will move away from the drill hole in 30 meter intervals, making new explosions (shots) as they go.  This type of work is called vertical seismic profiling.  In this way, scientists like Dhiresh can look deeper in the hole and sample more thoroughly.  These seismic samples will be conducted at the conclusion of the drilling.

             Thanks to Dhiresh and also Julian Thomson for the photos!









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A Visit To The Weather Station - December 1st, 2006

             So many of you are asking me about the weather in McMurdo, so I thought I should give you some details about the season so far. Right now, the weather here is warmer than the weather back home in my hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois.  Twelve + inches of snow fell on today in the Chicago area, and weather predictions say that soon the temperature will drop to about 5 degrees F (about -14 degrees C).  It’s hard to believe that our weather here at McMurdo Station, Antarctica is more pleasant than the weather at home!

            I stopped in to see Joanne at the McMurdo Weather Station today.  She gave me some information about her job here in McMurdo.  She’s enjoying her fifth season on the ice as a weather forecaster.  There are four forecasters here, and four back in Charleston, South Carolina which is her home base.  In addition, ten weather observers spend the season in Antarctica.  These observers spend their time at one of three active airfields, outlying field camps, and McMurdo itself.  They work for a private contractor called the Scientific Research Corps.  Joanne came down on Winfly and will stay until mid-February…when the summer season officially ends.  She is a full time weather observer. 

            Each day two upper air weather balloons are launched in McMurdo.  These balloons are attached to the device shown below, which gathers data on wind, temperature, dew point, and air pressure and transmits that information back to the weather station. These devices are disposable….meaning they are not recovered.  But, it’s important to have the best weather information possible because the weather station works with the active airports, helicopter travel, field camps near McMurdo, and the airport/Antarctic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.

 Dec. 1-1A

This device is attached to a weather balloon…it can gather data and send it back to the weather station…

 Dec. 1-2A

 Another machine used in the weather station…a Marine Barograph, which shows air pressure.

 Dec. 1-3A

This is what that data looks like after it’s taken off the cylinder.  It contains a record of the air pressure.  Air pressure can tell weather forecasters what kind of weather to expect.  If a high pressure system is on its way, often you can expect cooler temperatures and clear skies. If a low pressure system is coming, then look for warmer weather, storms and precipitation.  We’ve had only a trace of precipitation since I arrived in Antarctic.  Most of the snow we see around McMurdo has blown in from other places.

 Dec. 1-4A

Sensors on top of the weather station building gather data that is transmitted to computers back inside. These sensors measure temperature, dew point (helps to figure out the relative humidity…which is how moist the air is), wind speed and direction, air pressure, and more. 

            Since my arrival in October the weather here has changed dramatically.  We started with October’s lowest temperature being -29 degrees Celsius (-20 F) which is without considering the wind chill factor.  The high temperature for October was -9 degrees Celsius (16 F).  There was a great warming trend in November…with our highest temperature reaching +4 degrees Celsius (39 F).  Lowest temperature:  -21 Celsius (-6 F).   December is off to a great start….currently the high temperature has been +4 degrees Celsius (39 F) and the low -10 Celsius, (14 F).

            Streets in McMurdo can be a muddy mess this time of year.  The snow has melted all over town and there are little streams of brown water running everywhere.  People are wearing light-weight parkas…a big difference compared to “big red” (which is a nickname for our heavy polar parka) which was worn every day when we first arrived.

 Dec. 1-5A

The street in front of the Crary Lab is pretty much dry now….a lot different than the ice and snow when we first arrived.  Ob Hill  is also clear of a lot of snow and ice.

 Dec. 1-6A

It is typical to see many little streams of water running through McMurdo during this time of year…as well as pools of water as shown below.

Dec. 1-7A

            Joanne said that the coldest recorded temperature in McMurdo has probably been about -50 degrees Celsius, but the coldest temperature when taking into account the wind chill factor, has been -120 degrees Celsius.  I’m enjoying the warmer weather now and hope this trend continues throughout the remainder of my stay here in McMurdo.

            One more thing to tell you…we have three weather “conditions” here in McMurdo that dictate what kinds of outdoor activities and movements to and from field camps can take place…as well as certain restrictions and precautions that go with each condition.  They are:


Condition III

~~ sustained winds less than 48 knots

~~ wind chill higher than -75 degrees F

~~ visibility greater than 1/4 mile

During Condition III routine safety precautions are to be exercised.


Condition II

When one of the following criteria is forecast to occur within one hour:

~~ sustained winds of 48-55 knots

~~ wind chill of -75 to -100 degrees F

~~ visibility 1/4 mile to 100 feet

During Condition II pedestrian traffic is limited to McMurdo town complex (downtown and industrial area). Traffic outside of McMurdo requires approval. All travel must be in radio equipped vehicles. All vehicles must check in/out with Firehouse Dispatch.


Condition I

When one of the following criteria is forecast to occur within one hour:

~~ sustained winds exceed 55 knots

~~ wind chill lower than -100 degrees F

~~ visibility less than 100 feet

During Condition I, all personnel shall remain in buildings. Any essential or emergency travel requires approval. All approved travel must be in radio equipped vehicles. All vehicles must check in/out with Firehouse Dispatch. All travel must be with a minimum of two persons.


***I liked the "extra" condition that was handwritten on the notice I found in Crary Lab: "Condition 4: Too nice to work--go skiing!"










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First You See It, Now You Don’t - December 2nd, 2006

             Three different runways are used for the planes that bring people in or out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica.  The planes are not only important for moving people…they are critical in moving science cargo or other supplies to or from the ice. 

When I arrived in October, we landed on the sea ice runway which can be seen from McMurdo Station.  This runway is built annually (each year) and is most often moved out of this location by mid-December.  It supports both wheeled and ski-equipped aircraft here in McMurdo.  

Dec. 2-1 

Here’s a view of the ice runway from early days of my experience here…first you see it…

Dec. 2-2 


Now you don’t…  Here’s a photo taken today…the ice runway has been moved…

            In mid-summer the ice runway is no longer safe for planes to land.  Sea ice starts to break up and melt.  At times storms might break out the ice completely, revealing the Ross Sea which has been hidden from us.  I’ve also seen huge changes in the quality of the road out to the ice runway. Sections of the ice look like they are melting rapidly and becoming very slushy.  Not only is the runway abandoned for other air fields, but all of the support buildings and fuel trucks need to be brought to those other locations.  We’ve been looking out at the sea ice runway from the windows upstairs in Crary Lab for weeks…it looks so empty out there now! 

            Williams Field (otherwise known as Willy Field), is named in honor of Richard T.  Williams.  He was a U.S. Navy equipment operator who drowned in 1956 when his D-8 tractor broke through the ice.  Willy Field is a groomed snow surface on the permanent ice of the Ross Ice Shelf.  It’s located about 10 miles from McMurdo.  Willy only supports ski-equipped aircraft landings, which is why the LC-130’s that we’ve seen on the sea ice runway have been moved over here.  Williams Field is in operation from December through the end of the summer season in February.

Dec. 2-3 


This is a close up of the skis on a LC-130 airplane.  See that it has skis to take off and land in Antarctica, and wheels to land back in Christchurch.  Remember those penguins that decided to visit our ice runway a few weeks back?

A skiway like Willy Field is a bit different from a runway because it's constructed on compacted snow.  Heavy-equipment operators groom, smash, and roll the snow until it is practically ice-hard.  This is a never-ending job….a lot like maintaining the roads out to the air field.  Ivan the Terrabus and other airport shuttles are used to move passengers to/from both Pegasus and Willy Field.  This means that a groomed road must be in place for both wheeled and tracked vehicles.  A long fuel line extends from McMurdo out to Willy Field and it is all well-marked so vehicles know exactly where that is.  I heard that there’s enough fuel in that line to be compared to all of the fuel they use at Scott Base for one season.  I wonder if that’s true? 

The third air field in the McMurdo area is called Pegasus.  Pegasus Field is about 15 miles from McMurdo, out on the blue ice section of the Ross Ice Shelf.  It’s used for wheeled aircraft…like the C-17 that I flew down here on.  Here’s a photo of “downtown Pegasus” from a couple of years ago.  I retrieved the photo from which also has some great information and additional photos of Pegasus Field.

Dec. 2-4

            Pegasus is a small air field, which is staffed only when a flight is coming in…then things jump into action.  There is no tower, so it’s considered an uncontrolled air field.  An emergency hut is left out here in the winter in case an emergency flight is needed.  A winter flight from McMurdo is a huge deal, but could be arranged if need be.  

            So how did Pegasus get its name?  Years ago there was a crash of a Navy Super Constellation plane named Pegasus over at Williams Field.  Severe weather hampered the landing, but thankfully the skilled pilots were able to land with only minor bumps and bruises to the passengers.  The starboard wing broke off the plane…it wasn’t as lucky as the passengers.  The Navy salvaged all they could of the Super Constellation, and moved the wreckage of the plane away from Williams Field.  Perhaps they thought it would be bad for morale if people saw a crashed plane on the air field they were flying into.

Dec. 2-5

            Here’s a photo of the C-17 I flew down on…planes like this will be used at Pegasus.  I remember how cold it was that day….now people are getting off the planes without even zipping up "big red."  Boy, how things have changed in 7 weeks.  I wonder which air field I’ll fly out of in three weeks?

 Cheers From The Ice,




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The View From Mt. Erebus - December 3rd, 2006

             For weeks I’ve been getting great views of Mt. Erebus.  Whether I’ve been out to the ANDRILL drill site, Happy Camper School, our field trip to Cape Royds and Evans, the day of the ROV deployment, or just on a hike up Observation Hill…Mt. Erebus seems to catch my eye.  It dominates the landscape here and is quite beautiful…with its plume of gas rising up and surrounding the top of the volcano with what looks like billows of soft, white clouds.

Dec. 3-1

 A view from out on the sea ice near Cape Evans…

 Dec. 3-2

 This one’s taken near the ANDRILL drill site…

             But what would it be like to study Mt. Erebus and spend time on the mountain, looking back at what lies below it?  Or, what about climbing up to see the lava lake in the crater at the top?  Today I talked with ANDRILL scientist Phil Kyle, who is taking part in his 35th field season in Antarctica.  As a matter of fact, Phil told me that he has spent 32 birthdays ON Mt. Erebus.  Phil started coming to the ice as a graduate student from New Zealand, so he spent his first six seasons at Scott Base.  He moved from New Zealand to the US to do a Post Doc at Ohio State University, but he didn’t leave Erebus behind.

            Phil is currently at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, in Socorro, New Mexico.  He teaches graduate students only, and also does research in geochemistry and volcanology.  Antarctica isn’t his only repeat performance….for example he’s spent ten summers in far eastern Russia and studied Mt. Etna in Italy.  He says that “being an academic is freedom to pursue questions that come to mind.”  He was interested in the outdoors as a high school student and found that this was a profession that allowed him to be outdoors.  I’ve heard that from so many of the scientists here with ANDRILL. 

             I learned that the plume rising from Mt. Erebus is made up of about 50% water and 50 % carbon dioxide…which is very unusual for a volcano.  Fundamentally volcanic eruptions are driven by gases, which are between 80-95% water and 2-20% carbon dioxide.  Mt. Erebus is also unique because it is one of few volcanoes in the world that’s a model volcano, not a hazard.  Scientists who study volcanoes are continually making predictions and evaluating the hazard potential in studying them.  Erebus does not present the same hazards as other volcanoes, and as a result it is easier to study. 

            With its lake of molten lava inside the crater on top, Phil says it’s like “a window into the guts of the volcano.”  It is changing all the time…making it a very interesting volcano to study.  However, it is not entirely free of danger…Phil was once knocked unconscious by a lava “bomb” that was ejected from the volcano. 

            Phil says that he always tries to give the “what, where, why, when” of Mt. Erebus.  It’s the 18th largest volcano in the world.  It has similarities to Mt. Kilamanjaro and Mt. Kenya, in Africa because the east Africa rift system can be compared to the rift system under the sea here in Antarctica.  Mt. Erebus is the southernmost active volcano in the world, and Phil and his team are here to do experiments to understand the eruptive activity of the volcano.  They also look at the effect Mt. Erebus has on the environment.  Looking at changes in the gas is important…what does Erebus do to Antarctica’s atmosphere?

 Dec. 3-3

 The Mt. Erebus crater…  (Photo by Phil Kyle) 

            The Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory website  is great because you can see webcam coverage of the volcano, look at live eruptions, get tons of information, and there’s an image gallery.  I found a quick list of facts on Mt. Erebus that I thought was worth sharing: 

Mt. Erebus Synopsis

 ** discovered by James Ross and crew in 1841

** the first ascent (climb) up to the crater rim took place in 1908, by members of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition

** the geographic location of Mt. Erebus Ross Island, Antarctica

** latitude and longitude of the summit:  77 degrees south latitude and 167 degrees east longitude

** elevation is 3794 meters above sea level

** average summer temperature is about -20 degrees Celsius

** average winter temperature is about -60 degrees Celsius

** type of volcano:  Stratovolcano

** notable features:  has one of Earth’s few long-lived lava lakes, has persistent low-level eruptions, and is the most active volcano in Antarctica

**prehistoric eruptive style:  large volume lava flows

**historic (more current time) eruptive style:  frequent Strombolian eruptions, (incandescent cinder, lapilli -- rock fragments or tiny ash grains stuck together, and bombs to heights of a few tens or hundreds of feet or meters), infrequent ash eruptions, and rare lava flows confined to the inner crater

 Here are photos taken by Phil Kyle (with many more on the website…check it out!)

 Dec. 3-4

 An A-Star helicopter landing at the E-1 seismic station on the Erebus side crater…

Dec. 3-5 

 Phil Kyle on Erebus…

Dec. 3-6 

 Looking DOWN from Erebus from the GPS monument at the Nausea Knob site, with the Transantarctic Mountains in the background…


Here are my own two favorite shots of Mt. Erebus so far on this trip to Antarctica…

Dec. 3-7

 The view from Happy Camper School….taken from Ross Ice Shelf

 Dec. 3-8

 A view of Mt. Erebus from atop Observation Hill

            Every view of Mt. Erebus is a real treat….from close up or far away, this southernmost active volcano helps demonstrate just how special this place is.








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The Hottest Place in Town - December 4th, 2006

Some people might argue that our dorm is the hottest place in town…we all can’t figure out why the heat is turned up so high.  But…today I visited THE hottest place in McMurdo…the greenhouse!  It was like an explosion of color and smells…much appreciated after the lack of those things in the past few weeks.  The first thing I noticed when I turned the corner….yellow marigolds and multi-colored pansies.  Seeing real flowers down here is such a morale booster.  I couldn’t help thinking of my parents, the master gardeners, while I was visiting the greenhouse today. 

Dec. 4-1

Dec. 4-2

Dec. 4-3 

           I met Adam Lucke, who is a first timer here in Antarctica.  He is a dining room assistant who volunteers at the greenhouse in his spare time.  It was great to have him show me around the place…and he had lots of information to share.

            Adam explained that the method of growing things here is a form of hydroponics called the nutrient film method.  There’s a balance between the water and three different chemicals added to give the plants the nutrients they need—no matter what stage of the growth cycle they’re in.  The plants are always getting a trickle of water, so a film of the nutrients is over the roots at all times.  No soil is used here….it would be a violation of the Antarctic Treaty to have nonnative soils, so they use troughs made of PVC pipe…with little pockets in some layers of rubber…to hold the plants firmly in place. 

Dec. 4-5 

              We started out with the seedling beds…I wanted to know how the plants get started.  Adam showed me something called “rock wool” that is heated up and spun like cotton candy.  What you see below is a small piece of the rock wool…and I think you will be able to see that it is in little sections, each with a small indentation for placing the seeds inside. 

Dec. 4-6

Dec. 4-7

Dec. 4-8

Dec. 4-9 These seedlings are a little bit larger…


Dec. 4-10 

The three chemical mixtures put in the water add nutrients usually found in soil.  They stimulate structural and vegetative growth; add things such as manganese, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, cobalt, iron, and molybdenum; and stimulate flower and fruit development.  One of the biggest environmental challenges other than not using real soil is the lack of humidity in Antarctica.  Plants need humidity for photosynthesis… the process of making their own food.  The humidity created in the greenhouse was such a change from the dryness we experience everywhere else around here.  Artificial light is used throughout the greenhouse, as shown below.

 Dec. 4-11

            Eleven different water systems keep things going here in the greenhouse.  Each system has items used in fish tanks…an aerator, pump, and heater.  As water is pumped through each system, it returns to tanks similar to the one in the photo below.  The main water supply is stored in a huge tank that is re-filled one to two times per week. The greenhouse uses about 60 gallons of water per day.

Dec. 4-12 

 One of the eleven water systems used in the greenhouse…

Dec. 4-13 

 This tank holds 900 liters of water… 

            Another important part of the process is the release of carbon dioxide into the overall greenhouse environment.  This raises the ambient carbon dioxide levels to provide optimum growth levels.  Plants need carbon dioxide to grow.

Dec. 4-14


            Adam lifted up the layer of rubber so I could see the root growth underneath some of the plants growing in the troughs.  It was incredible to see such healthy root systems. 

Dec. 4-15

Dec. 4-16 

 Root system of the bibb lettuce…

 Dec. 4-17

Flowers from a cucumber plant….

 Dec. 4-18

Cucumbers growing on the vines…

Dec. 4-19 

 Cherry tomatoes…I like the way they ripen from the top of the stem to the bottom… 

            Of course all of the vegetables and herbs grown here are consumed by the residents of McMurdo Station.  People can also call up and order things like fresh basil for homemade pizza.  Herbs such as cilantro, chives, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and basil add a lot of flavor. 

 Dec. 4-20

Dec. 4-21

Here’s some Swiss chard that’s ready to cut and eat…

Dec. 4-22 

 It’s great to get fresh lettuce with our meals…

            One thing I really liked about the greenhouse is that there are two hammocks and one comfy old chair that anyone can use.  I didn’t know this until today, but you can go up there to hang out, read, talk on the phone, and even bring your lunch or dinner.  That sounds like a nice change of pace.   

Next time I need a boost of color, I know where to come…the hottest place in town.





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Jim Cowie-ANDRILL Project Manager - December 5th, 2006

            Putting together a project like ANDRILL involves numerous people with many areas of expertise.  It takes the scientists writing the comprehensive proposals to their funding organizations.  Each country’s Antarctic program has responsibilities as far as planning projects…large or small.  Teachers like our ARISE group have the job of education and outreach…spreading the word about ANDRILL science.  There is also a Project Manager, Jim Cowie, who has many different responsibilities before, during and after the summer science season. 

            Jim works for Antarctica New Zealand, and his role with geologic drilling projects began with ANDRILL’s predecessor, the Cape Roberts Project, back in 1994.  Jim’s been to the ice over 20 times though, since 1974.  His first experience was with the New Zealand Antarctic Research Program, he’s been Base Leader at Scott Base, and he came to Antarctica as part of the New Zealand Air Force.  After Cape Roberts, Jim was hired to be the Operations Manager at Scott Base for two years…he was running the whole science field program going out from Scott Base. 

            Planning for ANDRILL started about five years ago, but things really kicked into high gear in 2004, when many big components of the project needed careful planning by the Co-Chief Scientists, the McMurdo-ANDRILL Science Implementation Committee (an overall planning committee), logistics personnel, Webster Drilling, and Jim.   

            While talking with Jim, he mentioned three key points that are critical in his job, timing, budget, and resources.  If we just look at timing first, you will see how many parts are included here.  There’s the timing of purchasing supplies and equipment, getting the drill ordered and built, hiring personnel, organizing what’s being transported by ship and by cargo plane and making sure that EVERYTHING is in place to be transported on schedule.  If the deadline for the ship transport was missed, it would mean a year’s delay.  The ship is one of the seasonal and uncompromising deadlines that can’t be moved for any reason.  Many people involved with the project ask Jim for more time, and he has to juggle the people, equipment, and timing constantly.

Dec. 5-1 

 Things like this container that houses the drill site kitchen had to be ready for transport last December by ship...

 Dec. 5-2

Think of all the parts and pieces for the drill rig that had to be ordered and shipped to Antarctic well ahead of time…

            The budget is also difficult at times.  He has to work around skyrocketing prices for things such as equipment that is made of steel, which has really increased in price.  Also, building the drill rig specific for Antarctic geological drilling took lead time, delays were inevitable, and prices went up, up, up as time went on.  Jim’s the financial controller of the project….responsible for everything from every spoon or fork for the drill site kitchen, each piece of sea riser, the hot water drilling system, or the refurbished ship containers used as onsite labs or buildings.

            Resources…both people and physical things…are so important.  Getting the right people to work together is a significant part of any project.  Jim has to help put the drilling crew together, hire other people involved, and make sure that they can all work together.  During our talk he often mentioned how great this group of drillers and others at the drill site worked together.  He’s got people he can count on!  Physical things that make up the camp structure, drilling rig and all that’s involved there, and everything in between has to be ordered, built, or tailored for this special type of project.  No wonder the planning for ANDRILL has to begin so far in advance.

Dec. 5-3 

Working closely with Alex Pyne, Drill Site Manager, was (and still is) an important piece of the project…

 Dec. 5-4

 Hiring the people like Johno, JR, Steve, and Hedley to come down here on Winfly and assemble the drill site buildings and rig was a critical part of the project.  Knowing you can count on the people you’ve hired is important.

 Dec. 5-5

So many things had to come together prior to the start of drilling… 

            Once ANDRILL was underway and the project was executed, Jim assumed a role of collector or disseminator of information.  He’s one of the liaisons between the drill site and the Co-Chief Scientists, and gives us a morning update concerning drilling operations.  Jim looks out for everyone involved and listens to what they need.  For example we needed more drilling mud from New Zealand and he made sure that it was purchased and sent here on a cargo plane.   This job does not slow down just because we are here working on the project.  In fact, Jim’s already doing the ordering for next year’s Southern McMurdo Sound (SMS) Project, since many of the items have to be put on the ship that will head into McMurdo Sound in January.  An entire field camp and drill site camp will be put together for SMS, which is quite a bit different from this year’s McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) Project. 

            Building up and keeping a program of this magnitude running smoothly is a mammoth job.  With many years of Antarctic experience, in a myriad of different roles, it is obvious that Jim is working hard to ensure the success of the ANDRILL projects…this year and in the future.   




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The National Science Foundation Chalet - December 6th

             Today I took a short walk over to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Chalet, which is located next to the Crary Lab.  When I snapped a photo, I realized that it looked quite different than 7 weeks ago when we arrived.  The first photo below was from October…compare it to the second photo, taken today.

Dec. 6-1 

October 22nd, 2006

 Dec. 6-2

 December 6th, 2006

            The National Science Foundation is an independent government agency that is responsible for promoting science and engineering through research programs and education projects.  Many opportunities exist for funding in terms of the research and educational communities.  Scientists submit proposals for research projects, which are reviewed by committee members at NSF and then a determination is made whether to fund each research project and how much funding will be provided.  Grants for millions of dollars are awarded to scientists every year.  Geoscience (ANDRILL is in this category) is just one of numerous areas funded by NSF.  Scientists here in McMurdo represent many different fields, research projects, universities and/or research institutions.  For more information you can go to: .

            I stopped in to see my friend Myrna Gary, who works for Raytheon Polar Services (RPSC).  RPSC exists to meet the needs of the Office of Polar Programs, a division of the National Science Foundation.  They provide support to the U.S. Antarctic Program.  Myrna’s job with Raytheon is to arrange grantee travel.  A grantee is a person who is part of a science research project.  Everyone in ANDRILL is considered a grantee, so right now Myrna is working on their travel arrangements for the cargo planes leaving Antarctica.  She also makes the plans for U.S. participants traveling from New Zealand to their final destination. 

 Dec. 6-3

 Myrna Gary…hard at work in the NSF Chalet… 

            There are many challenges in this job.  For example, today she was dealing with outbound (leaving Antarctica) flights using wheeled Hercules aircraft that had been booked for next week.  Two flights were cancelled because all of the wheeled Hercules had to leave the ice because it’s not safe to use those planes on the sea ice runway any longer. 

Myrna had to figure out how to juggle the rosters for other flights to include those people bumped off the manifest of the cancelled flights.  Other times people themselves make travel changes, and Myrna tries to accommodate their requests.  Each one of those plans or changes is called a “transaction.”  Last year the person in Myrna’s position recorded over 5,000 transactions during the summer science season.  Myrna estimates that she’s done thousands since she started her job this season (in October).  Hotel accommodations in Christchurch are also arranged through Myrna’s office.  She mentioned that there are hardly any grantees who have left the ice without changing either their travel date or travel arrangements. 

Dec. 6-4

Myrna has to type in tons of information for each and every grantee who is here as part of a science research project 

We also talked about the “Air Services” department that handles flights and arrangements for all of the other employees of Raytheon and contractors here working in McMurdo.  Air Services also keeps track of all flights, puts the information on the local television channel 7 to note flight arrivals, departures, and bag drag times (bag drag is what you do when you are leaving to fly to/from Antarctica or to another  destination on the continent).  Bag drag is done the day before departure and involves weighing all luggage and bags, weighing each person, and figuring out the logistics of each cargo flight.   

I took a look around the Chalet and wanted to share that with you.  Much of the building can be used as a gathering spot for small groups, as shown in the photos below.  There are also offices for NSF representatives, the RPSC station site manager, and Raytheon employees like Myrna.

Dec. 6-5

Dec. 6-6

Dec. 6-7

Dec. 6-8

From the deck of the NSF Chalet…

Dec. 6-9

A statue of Antarctic explorer Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd






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Checking Out The Crary Lab Aquarium - December 7th, 2006

             I wandered down to the aquarium in Crary Lab today…just to see what new creatures had been added to the tanks.  My favorite is the touch and feel tank…with its crazy looking marine life.  I stuck my hand in the tank to pick up a sea star and realized just how COLD the water is for these creatures.  I’m used to tidepooling (looking in the little pools of water on a rocky shore during low tide) in New England or the Pacific Northwest (Washington; Oregon; British Columbia, Canada), where the water is significantly warmer than Antarctica. 

            Take a look at the interesting shapes and adaptations of these marine critters.  Write and tell me which ones are your favorites.

 Dec. 7-1

 A sea star…

 Dec. 7-2

A much larger sea star, a species of clam in front of it, and sea spiders…

Dec. 7-3

"Sea spiders" or pycnogonids, are members of Phylum Arthropoda, along with land spiders. Besides living underwater, sea spiders differ from their land cousins in other ways-- they don't spin webs, and may have from four to six pairs of long segmented legs, versus four pair for land spiders. Of the 600 or more species of sea spider most are very small, ranging from 1/100 inch to about 20 inches across.

(Information retrieved from .)

 Dec. 7-4

 The yellow creature is a sponge…the other is an isopod.  Isopods are crazy looking things…they are crustaceans which are common inhabitants of nearly all environments.  Their body is divided into three distinct parts:  head (called the cephalon), thorax, and abdomen (called the pleon).

 Dec. 7-5

 The three creatures that look like flowers are really sea anemones.  They come in many sizes, shapes, and colors.  They are carnivores (eat other animals) and catch their food using their tentacles…which have poisonous stingers.  Anemones have no skeleton at all; they attach themselves to firm objects in the sea.  Notice how they are attached to the rocks in this touch and feel tank.

 Dec. 7-6

 This is a nudibranch….a carnivorous sea slug…a soft-bodied snail.  Although some nudibranchs are quite colorful, this one almost seems translucent. 

Dec. 7-7 

And yet another species of sea star…this one is strange looking compared to other sea stars I’ve seen before…

Dec. 7-8 

It’s amazing to see so many different creatures in one little tank…

Dec. 7-9

In this photo you can see a creature on the very bottom of the picture that is long and has bony armor on its shell.  This creature is called a chiton.  A chiton is a mollusk that most often lives near the edge of the ocean.  They move along very slowly on their muscular feet and cling to rocks as shown in the photo.  They have really interesting shells made up of eight overlapping plates. 

            If you live near an aquarium at home, I would encourage you to spend time there and learn all you can about ocean life.  I know my class will be joining me at the Shedd Aquarium when I get home in January, and we’ll see examples of many of these creatures.  I’ve always loved studying ocean life, and having a small aquarium here in McMurdo is great.  Have a great day!







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The Scott Base Pressure Ridges - December 8th, 2006

            What a brilliant day to hike out to the pressure ridges near Scott Base.  I met the night shift drillers and core lab gang for dinner (my breakfast time) and later several of us took time to enjoy a beautiful morning outdoors.

            Pressure ridges form when sheets of ice collide and push up, out, sideways, etc. forming unique structures at the point of collision.  Collisions are caused by pressure exerted on the ice by tidal action or the force of the wind, movement of ice by underlying ocean currents, or thermal (heat) expansion.  Pressure ridges are relatively weak in strength when they first form, and they usually form in newer ice because it’s the most salty and flexible.  Since areas with pressure ridges can be dangerous, we had to follow the flagged trail at all times, check out with Scott Base, and carry a radio. 

            Enjoy these photos from a perfect morning hike…

Dec. 8-1 

 Looking back toward Scott Base through the pressure ridges…

 Dec. 8-2

 Following the trail through the ridges…

Dec. 8-3 

A spectacular view of Mt. Erebus…

 Dec. 8-4

 Cristina (US), Catalina (Germany), myself, Colleen (NZ), and Terry (US) in front of one of the ridges…

 Dec. 8-5

 Look at the different shapes and sizes…

Dec. 8-6 

Seeing Cristina in the photo gives you a sense of scale…

Dec. 8-7

 Dec. 8-8

Cristina and I with Mt. Erebus in the background…

Dec. 8-9

 Ob Hill has hardly any snow on it now, compared to when we arrived 7 weeks ago…

 Dec. 8-10

 Dene, Cliff (both NZ) and I in front of a really cool pressure ridge…

 Dec. 8-11

 Another incredible view of Mt. Erebus….it’s hard not to keep taking photos of this mountain…even though all of us have tons already!

Dec. 8-12 

Heading back to Scott Base…

            Thanks to Colleen Clarke for arranging this hike!  What a great way to start our day.










Pressure Ridges



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ANDRILL Drilling Update - December 9th, 2006

             A couple of days ago the drillers changed over to the smallest of our drill bits and pipe…what’s called the NQ size.  We’ve already gone from PQ to HQ, and you can see the difference in size with the photo below.  Each drill bit gets progressively smaller and fits inside of the one before it.  This makes it easier to change from one bit to another. 

As the switch was made from HQ to NQ, cement was sent down the drill hole to keep the HQ drill pipe in place.  The new NQ pipe and drill bit were installed, and the NQ bit drilled right through the cement.  A similar procedure was used when we changed from PQ to HQ a couple of weeks ago.

Dec. 9-1 

From left to right:  examples of the PQ bit, and HQ bit, and the one they just inserted (with the red bottom section)…the NQ bit.  These are professional grade diamond cutting tools.  They have tiny bits of industrial diamonds on the drill bit surface, and as each layer of that surface is worn away a new layer of diamonds is exposed.

            As these bits have gotten smaller, so has the diameter (the width of a circular or cylindrical object) of the core that is brought up and processed for sampling in the lab.  Take a look at the various sizes of core we have seen during the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf Project: 

 Dec. 9-2                      

PQ…two lengths of core in each box…

Dec. 9-3 

HQ…three lengths of core in each box…

 Dec. 9-4

NQ…four lengths of core in each box…

            Currently, the drill bit is at 752.79 meters below the sea floor (mbsf), and drilling continues 24 hours a day.  Time was taken out this week to change the wireline, shown wrapped around a spool below.  The old wireline was worn out and badly frayed, and was changed earlier in the week.  For some reason the new wireline got twisted and ruined, so another had to be installed.

Dec. 9-5 

The new wireline…ready to go…

Dec. 9-6 

Chris Sinclair…holding the wireline that was twisted and ruined…

            As with any large project such as ANDRILL, there are always unexpected changes in the schedule or equipment, but the drillers and engineers at the drill site are great at trouble-shooting and determining the best course of action to keep things running smoothly.  We are over halfway to the target depth of 1,200 meters below the sea floor.  With nearly three weeks left in the drilling schedule, things will remain very busy at the drill site until well after Christmas.  Even after drilling is completed, there are special geophysical measurements that will be taken, and at some point all of the drilling and lab equipment will be taken down/apart and stored for next year’s Southern McMurdo Sound drilling project.  There’s still a lot more in store for us to learn.  Stay tuned…





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Night Shift at the Drill Site - December 10th, 2006

            I was really lucky to have the chance tonight to head out with the ANDRILL night shift crew from McMurdo.  Terry Wilson, Cristina Millan, Catalina Gebhardt and I crammed into the front seat of a mattrack (truck with tracks, not tires) and drove over to Scott Base.  We met up with the Scott Base crew of drillers and core techs and jumped into their Hagglund for the ride out to the drill site.   

Being on night shift is so different than my schedule in McMurdo…these guys were all just getting up to start their day, having breakfast and beginning their twelve hour work day at 8:00 PM.  Many of them slept all the way to the drill site.  As we approached the ANDRILL rig, we could see the day shift gathering their belongings and getting ready to depart for Scott Base and McMurdo.  The same Hagglund is used to drive back to Scott Base, which makes transport pretty efficient.  People also take skidoos back and forth if they are not on the regular shift change schedule.  Every twelve hours there are 6-8 people working in the lab, 6 drillers working on the rig, and others who work as engineers, electricians, etc.  To keep things running smoothly, this place runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

            Let’s meet the night shift drillers…

 Dec. 10-1

 Sam Woodford…Drill Supervisor (in charge of night shift operations)

 Dec. 10-2

Malcolm Clemence and Chris Sinclair

 Dec. 10-3

Murray Adams

Dec. 10-4

Luke Goodwin (also the night shift Fluids Engineer)

 Dec. 10-5

 Paul Wallace 

            In the drill site lab, there are two core technicians, Cliff Atkins and Dene Carroll. They share the duties of processing the core like I described in my November 23rd journal when I helped out Alissa Quinn as a core tech on the day shift.  Cliff and Dene were busy cleaning and preparing the core; cutting it into one meter lengths, scribing the two sides of the core, and labeling the plastic splits that show the archive and working halves of the core.   

            Cliff is about to start a teaching position in the Geology Department at Victoria University (VUW or also called Vic) in Wellington, New Zealand.  Dene is also associated with Victoria University as a former graduate student.  Cliff got his PhD from Vic about two years ago and has recently been working as a geologist for the New Zealand railroad.  He’s been to Antarctica several times for research while doing his PhD and is happy to have returned this season to be a part of ANDRILL.   

Dec. 10-6 

Cliff Atkins, (above) and Dene Carroll (below), both cleaning the core…

Dec. 10-7 

Next stop for the core…Terry Wilson and Cristina Millan, who are the structural geologists on night shift.  I wanted to know more about this topic, so I took time to talk with Terry about how she got interested in geology and arrived at this specialization. She told me that basically, structural geology is like studying the architecture of the Earth.  She’s interested in tectonics, which includes the history of mountain building and the history of continents breaking apart and coming together through geologic time.  The structural part of the discipline deals with physics…the forces causing the change and historically when did these things happen?  How long did the process take place? 

Terry traveled a lot with her Mom while growing up and although her first thought was to pursue marine biology as a major, she took an Earth Science course while at the University of Michigan and loved it.  Being outdoors and traveling really suited Terry, and she loved plate tectonics.  She was so interested in how the pieces of the puzzle came together.  By her sophomore year in college, she was hooked on geology.  Terry pursued her Master’s Degree at Columbia University in New York City, followed by her PhD.  She got a contract to teach at the University of Zambia (Africa) and spent two years not only teaching, but doing research on ancient mountain belts… mountains worn down over time.   

In 1985 Terry came to Ohio State University and has taught a wide variety of courses throughout her time there.  She teaches structural geology and field geology to undergraduate students and advanced structural geology and tectonics to graduate students.  She also teaches an introduction to geology course for non-science majors, and historical geology on an introductory level.  Her research has always focused on looking at the history of rifting and formation of the Transantarctic Mountains.  She’s been to Antarctica fourteen times and was also part of the Cape Roberts Project, which is where I met her eight years ago. 

Terry’s favorite thing about being a scientist…”There’s always something that’s interesting and I can learn about.  In life my big criteria was not being bored.  As a scientist you are active.”  Her favorite things about being a geologist in particular are being outdoors and hands-on.   

Cristina Millan is one of Terry’s graduate students, currently pursuing a PhD at Ohio State University.  Her favorite thing about being a scientist…”Not knowing what’s coming next…when it does come, trying to figure out what’s going on, how to explain it.  I’m a curious person and have always loved how the Earth works, how it worked in the past.”

 Dec. 10-8

 Terry Wilson

Dec. 10-9

           Cristina Millan  

            Terry’s team (including Tim Paulsen and Andreas Laufer on day shift) photograph the fractures (cracks) in the core, scan the core while it’s still whole, and measure the surface features on the fractures.  The whole core scans done at the drill site lab are part of what scientists can view on Corelyzer.  This special photograph is another record of the physical properties of the core.

            Catalina Gebhardt is originally from Switzerland, but currently works in Bremerhaven, Germany at the Alfred Wegener Institute.  She and Frank Niessen (day shift) are both geophysicists who study many different properties of the core using a special scanning machine shown below. 

Dec. 10-10

Dec. 10-11

Catalina…preparing to scan a length of core…

 This multi-sensor core logger measures the following:

 ** gamma ray absorption:  the less dense the core is, the less gamma rays is lets through, so the machine is used to calculate density

 ** sonic velocity:  the speed of sound in the sediments is measure by finding the travel time of an acoustic pulse through the core

 ** measure electrical resistivity:  an electric current is sent through the core; if there’s a solid piece of rock and no pore space (pores like the pores of your skin) anymore, it acts as an insulator…no current travels through it.  This measurement tells something about the porosity of the sediments and about what the pore space it like

 ** magnetic susceptibility:  used to find out where the material in the core comes from and the content of magnetic minerals in the core

            Cristina and I spent a bit of time on the drill floor and watched as a new six-meter inner tube of core was retrieved from the drill hole.  It is kind of mesmerizing to watch the process, and I’m still learning about how it all works…from the core catcher that traps the sediments at the bottom of the barrel, to the over shot (which is a tool) that is sent down to hook onto the inner tube inside of the core barrel…everything fits together like a puzzle, which I’m continually putting together in my head.

Dec. 10-12

Dec. 10-13

           Just looking at this little piece of the puzzle tonight…I asked Sam about this gray part that actually clamps up against the pipe to steady it in place.

 Dec. 10-14

The over shot…

Dec. 10-15           

The aluminum splits inside the inner tube were stubborn tonight and didn’t want to come out using water pressure, so Malcolm had to try using a pump to push air through the tube.  Eventually that worked, and slowly the splits emerged…as shown below.

 Dec. 10-16

 Dec. 10-17      

Dec. 10-18 

 The six-meter length of core gets transferred to the core processing lab…and another round begins… 

            At about 5:00 AM I couldn’t stay awake a moment longer.  Thankfully there are two bunk rooms at the drill site and I was able to sleep for two hours until just before the shift change was going to occur.  It wasn’t nearly enough sleep, but carried me over until the afternoon when I could take a nap.  I’m really glad I got to experience a night shift at the drill site.  It’s much quieter than during the day when so many visitors are coming/going.  I hope I get out there one more time at night…we’ll see.



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Antarctic Escapades - December 11th, 2006

            I thought it would be fun to share a few events that have taken place during the time I’ve been in McMurdo.  Work hours are long and intense, and people need a way to kick back after a long day or week.  With 24 hours of daylight, that means events can take place just about any time of the day or night.   Some events are just crazy fun, while others have had a focus on raising money for charity.   

            Back in November when temperatures were still far below zero, Scott Base organized a “beach party” and people in McMurdo were invited.  The ANDRILL-Scott Base connection is strong because of the international nature of our program, so any party at Scott Base is always well attended by the McMurdo contingent of the ANDRILL MIS Project.  Everyone enjoyed a time to dress in beach wear or Hawaiian shirts, play brief moments of volleyball outdoors, dance, and do the limbo to a bit of Bob Marley music. 

Dec. 11-1

Dec. 11-2

Dec. 11-3

Dec. 11-4    

            December rolled around and so did the annual Scott Base “skirt party.”  It is reminiscent of a time of early Antarctic explorers who spent long months during the Antarctic winter cooped up in their huts…and who would on occasion, for entertainment, dress up and dance to break the monotony of the same old daily routine.  This event was well-attended by ANDRILL scientists and drillers…who were enthusiastically dressed in outfits, makeup, and wigs that were shockingly hilarious. 

 Dec. 11-5

Dec. 11-6

            Just a couple of days later, ANDRILL hosted the “UNDRILL 700” to commemorate reaching the 700 meter depth in the drill hole.  The race, held at 10:30 at night, consisted of running 700 meters (or a distance around that mark) in your underwear.  Now, underwear was open for interpretation…most chose LONG underwear or shorts.  Good thing 700 meters isn’t a very long distance, and we had a night that was around freezing…not below zero!

Dec. 11-7 

The start of the UNDRILL 700 race…

 Dec. 11-8

 Coming into the finish line…

 Dec. 11-9

            Late last week there was a fund “razor” (raiser) at Scott Base to benefit a charity for children’s cancer research.  Over $4,000 was raised by auctioning the privilege of cutting people’s hair off to the highest bidder.  Several ANDRILL team members were brave enough to take this challenge…with Tamsin Falconer (Drill Site Assistant) being responsible for raising over one fourth of the money collected that night. 

Dec. 11-10 

 Drill Supervisor Tony Kingan prepares to shave Tamsin’s hair off for the price of $1,050 to go to the children’s cancer charity.  She was the person whose bidding raised the most money for charity.  TK also had his head shaved that night

Dec. 11-11 

 Grant Brotherston is just about to start shaving Luke Rutland’s long hair…Grant's head was shaved later on...(both are drillers with ANDRILL)

            Stay tuned for another journal entry this week that will tell more about recreational events and activities that take place in McMurdo. 







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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - December 12th, 2006

             Just like the old song says….”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…” even in Antarctica.  Of course having a “white” Christmas won’t be an issue here…we’ve still got plenty of snow around, although not so much in McMurdo anymore.  Many students have asked what we’ll do for Christmas here…I can’t say that I know for sure, not having spent a Christmas here before, but I’ve heard rumors about the McMurdo Christmas Party on December 23rd.  I know we’ll have a special meal…but not sure if that’s going to be on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see when the time gets closer. 

            Meanwhile, little signs of the holidays have crept into town. It’s a far cry from the rampant commercialism that takes hold back home, and I can’t say that I miss that part of the holidays that much.  Sure, I miss hanging the wreath on the door, putting out the nutcrackers, and decorating a tree with familiar ornaments and trinkets.  I miss time with family and friends, holiday parties and reading holiday cards—although I’ve gotten some from family so far and that’s pretty nice.  I do not miss wrapping all the presents (with a big family it takes forever) and shopping…fighting the crowds all the way.  I know I’m in for a different sort of Christmas here in McMurdo, but I feel surrounded by many great people involved with ANDRILL and even some who aren’t, and that will be my “family” for this holiday season. 

            I thought you might enjoy a look at some of the decorations around town.  It’s not overwhelming, but still gets you into the holiday spirit.  And, my daughter-in-law to be, Dianne, sent me some great decorations for my room…which I’m going to put up this weekend. 

Dec. 12-1

Dec. 12-2

Dec. 12-3

Dec. 12-4

Dec. 12-5 

The tree in Crary Lab…

 Dec. 12-6

 Some offices have decorations up…

            Happy Holidays to everyone around the world who is reading my blogs….I’ll write about more holiday events right around Christmas Eve…a few days before my departure.






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A Room With A View Please - December 13th, 2006

            SO many emails from students ask me where I’m staying and if I’m warm.  Well, we can’t actually request a room here, but the housing department has the enormous job of figuring out who does get placed where and who roommates will be.  For a project the size of ANDRILL, that could be pretty tough…but it has all gone very smoothly.  We are the sole residents of dorm 201 at the moment, which is bound to change as more people from our project start leaving before or just after Christmas.  During the project, we have all been living in double rooms…two twin beds, a desk, a refrigerator, two closets for clothing, and a couple of lamps.  It’s not the Marriott or Hilton, but it’s comfortable.  My only complaint is that the building is too hot…which seems like a funny complaint for being in Antarctica. 

            Today I stopped into the housing office to get some statistics to share with you.  When this season began in August, there were 204 people that had wintered over.  When the first Winfly (winter fly-in flight) flight came down in August, 300 new people were on board, and 100 of the winter-over crew flew back to New Zealand.  That brought the population of McMurdo up to about 400 people…double what it had been during the winter months. 

Dec. 13-1 

            During winter-over, dorms 208 and 209 (starting at left of photo) are used, as well as building 155 which houses the galley (kitchen and eating area) and a lot more basic facilities.  During the summer season building 155 houses the most people, and some rooms can hold 4-6 people, although they try not to fill those rooms with 6 people because it gets pretty crowded.   

            There are 1,300 beds on station, but Raytheon likes to keep a 1,100 cap on the population when possible, to avoid the strain on McMurdo Station in terms of water use and the kitchen staff preparing the food and cleaning up after an additional 200 people.  Busiest times of the season…early mainbody (first flights in October), when there’s an influx of people heading to the South Pole, field camps, and to McMurdo; and when the re-supply vessel docks in McMurdo in early February.  At that time there are cargo handlers and long shore men who come down to help with the vessel offload and that can add another 90 people to the population here.   

            Last plane out this season will be on February 24th, 2007.  One hundred and twenty-six people are set to winterover, which is a sustaining number for the station.  There are also projects that get taken care of during the winter months, as well as a thorough inventory and cleaning up of Crary Lab.   

            Below are photos of other dorms in town.  Some have names instead of numbers.  There’s a fairly wide variety of housing available to those people passing through or staying in McMurdo.  Take a look…

Dec. 13-2 

This one’s called the Hotel California...

 Dec. 13-3

 The Mammoth Mountain Inn…

 Dec. 13-4

 ANDRILL home sweet home (at least for most of us in McMurdo)…Dorm 201










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Recreation…McMurdo Style! - December 14th, 2006

             McMurdo Station is a unique place indeed…with scientists, pilots, the Air National Guard crew members, and a huge amount of support staff in the mix.  Many of the support personnel don’t get out much past the base, unless there is a special recreational trip they can sign up for to the huts, the pressure ridges, etc. and ANDRILL even had a drawing to give several visitors at our open house the chance to visit the ANDRILL drill site.  In this regard, I know how lucky I am to be a part of ANDRILL and have these opportunities presented to me while I’m here in Antarctica.  If you’ve kept up with my blogs, you know how many field trips and events we’ve been a part of… it’s been incredible.  Even Happy Camper School isn’t an option for most support staff.  Sometimes I have to remind myself just how lucky I’ve been to be a part of this project.

            Recreational activities and events are an important part of life in McMurdo.  These things keep people active, involved, and part of the community.  A sense of community makes the working environment more productive and keeps everyone more positive.  I stopped into the Recreation Department today to get a summary of events for this week and some special events coming up for the holidays.  The bulletin board across from thief office is a key place in the hallway that’s referred to as “Highway 1” in building 155.  Since everyone goes down this hallway on the way to the galley…it’s a great spot to display information for all to see.  Check out some of the photos below…sharing info on events and activities around McMurdo.  There’s everything from cosmic bowling to salsa dancing. 

 Dec. 14-1

 There are activities and events every day of the week here in McMurdo…

 Dec. 14-2

Dec. 14-3

Here’s a photo from cosmic bowling…

Dec. 14-4

Dec. 14-5

Dec. 14-6 

In the next couple of weeks, here’s a sample of what McMurdo has to offer:

** pressure ridge tours, hikes to Castle Rock and along the ridge trail

** a race up Ob Hill on Christmas Day

** McMurdo town Christmas party on December 23rd

** making gingerbread houses

** climbing classes at the gym (there’s a climbing wall there)

** travelogue presentations on many different locations

** kite building

** bingo

** karaoke night

** borrowing movies or television series from the store (free of charge)

** checking out books in the McMurdo library

** bowling, soccer, dart, dodge ball, and volleyball leagues

** tap dance, salsa, and swing dance classes

** movie nights (and afternoons)

** yoga and Korean Sword Art (Kum-Do)

** geography bee

** Ice Stock (musical performances on New Year’s Day) and chili cookoff

** McMurder Mystery

** McMurdo Marathon

** McMurdo Film Festival

** and SO MUCH MORE!

 I watched some of the ANDRILL scientists play soccer during a break before lunch.  This will give you an idea of what the gym looks like.  Many of the classes and leagues are held in this larger gym.

Dec. 14-7

It was pretty much Italians vs. Kiwis in this game…



    I also went around town to check out other forms of recreation…

 Dec. 14-8

There’s a nice little workout gym…

Dec. 14-10

They’ve got quite a bit of equipment considering this is a small town…

 Dec. 14-11

Dec. 14-12

People can go out skiing, running, walking, and EVEN BIKING!  We rented bikes to ride to Scott Base for American Night…I’ve got to say I never thought I’d be riding a bike in Antarctica!

Dec. 14-13 

 Brent, Megan, and Christian…on the way to Scott Base…

Dec. 14-14

A quick stop at the top of the hill above the base…         

            Just because we’re way down here at the bottom of the world taking part in science research doesn’t mean we don’t need some recreation.  It’s up to each individual to decide what events or activities interest them….but know that there’s plenty to choose from.













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The “IT Bubba Show” - December 15th, 2006

Dec. 15-1 

            Meet Holly Troy…IT (information technologies) man by day, guest radio disc jockey on Friday nights.  Holly has been a huge help to everyone at ANDRILL (the whole IT department has been great!).  Holly was one of the people who made sure we got set up to be on the McMurdo network.  He helps with any computer problems, sets up video conferences for the educators and ANDRILL Co-Chief Scientists, teaches classes on using photo editing programs, and probably does other jobs I don’t even know about.

            But, on Friday nights Holly takes on a volunteer role as a guest DJ (disc jockey) for the McMurdo radio station.  He calls it the “IT Bubba Show.”  Holly said he enjoys being able to select the music and be a part-time DJ down here.  He sends out songs dedicated to certain people, plays his favorites and also at times goes with a certain theme for his show.  With thousands of songs to choose from…I’m sure Holly never runs out of music to make his show interesting and different each week.

 Dec. 15-2

 Just some of the hundreds of CD’s Holly chooses from….

 Dec. 15-3

 He sets up several CD’s at once, so he can easily go from one song to the next…

 Dec. 15-4

 There are even a couple of old turntables that are still used to play vinyl records…

Dec. 15-5 

I loved seeing the different labels from radio stations around the U.S.

Dec. 15-6

The “IT Bubba” in action… 

            The McMurdo radio station might not have a wide geographic audience, but it’s a slice of life here in Antarctica.  As I was riding back from Scott Base the other day, Colleen had the radio on in the truck and it was playing tunes from the station…it was like a little touch of life back home.  It reminded me of some of the things I’ve missed…for one, my favorite radio station in Chicago.  In about two weeks I’ll be home blasting "WDRV-The Drive" 97.1 FM in my car and thinking about a tiny radio station thousands of miles away in McMurdo. 

Cheers From the Ice,


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Christmas Came Early This Year! - December 16th, 2006

I’ll always remember that Christmas came early in 2006, because today I was given the most incredible gift.  Even if my camera had broken down and I never got one photo from today, the memories would be seared into my mind forever and I would be able to imagine each scene quite clearly.  I know the photos I’ll include can not possibly do it justice, but I think you’ll agree that the field trip I went on was quite spectacular. 

 Dec. 16-1

Loading up the helo and getting ready to go…

After a series of delays, I boarded a helicopter that left McMurdo at 1:00 PM… bound for several destinations around Ross Island.  Our Kiwi pilot, Rob, flew up the coast of the island, past places I recognized such as Big Razorback Island, Cape Evans, and Cape Royds.  The was sun shining brightly, Mt. Erebus was constantly in view from my side of the helo, and sea ice stretched out far and wide below us.  After Cape Royds it was all new territory for me, as we continued north to Cape Bird.  Total flying time from McMurdo to Cape Bird…about 30 minutes.

Dec. 16-2

 As we started to descend near Cape Bird, the scenery below us became more and more beautiful.  Open water, icebergs ranging in all sizes, and penguins everywhere… all waiting to greet us as we touched down.  We landed just south of McDonald Beach, which you can find on the contour map above.  Stepping off the helicopter…it was one of the moments in my life where I just wanted someone to pinch me…to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.  

Dec. 16-3

Dec. 16-4

We walked from the landing area to the edge of Ross Island…far down below from where I’m standing in the photo above.  As we headed toward the open water, the sights, sounds, and smells of penguins surrounded us.  There were thousands of Adelie penguins as far as we could see.  Some were in small groups, huddled on eggs, others were busily moving around land or ice…always moving with a sense of purpose.  What that purpose is…sometimes you just can’t figure it out.  They waddle, toboggan (slide on their stomachs), and hop, seeming to always have enthusiasm for the task at hand.  They are comical creatures, and being able to observe them in their natural habitat is really a treat.

 Dec. 16-5

Dec. 16-6

What a surreal scene…using a telephoto lens helped us get an up-close look at the penguins laying on eggs and moving about.  These Adelies were not bothered by our presence…they just carried on like usual.

 Dec. 16-7

At times the Adelies were eager to check us out…wandering closer and closer to take a look at what we were doing. 

Dec. 16-8 

Dec. 16-9    

Our group headed north up McDonald Beach, past Keys Point and north to Caughley Beach.  This is probably one of the top three hikes I’ve ever done…and coming from a person who’s hiked a ton…that’s saying a lot.  We followed the shoreline, penguins weaving all around us, spotting a Weddell seal swimming by, and with skuas dive-bombing us to force our group away from their nests.  It was so warm out that I took off big red and carried it almost the entire way down the shoreline.  What a fantastic day to be outside and hiking.

Dec. 16-10

Dec. 16-11

That’s a Weddell seal swimming by gracefully as I watched from the ice edge/ shoreline.

Dec. 16-12

One of many nesting skuas….they have such great camouflage that they are hard to spot…until they start making a racket and diving at you!  Their eggs are also well hidden because of their color.  It would be easy to step on a nest if you didn’t have the adult birds chasing after you making noise.

Dec. 16-13

This little guy was taking a look at that crack and trying to figure out how he’d get across…

Dec. 16-14

Dec. 16-15

Some of the penguins in this small group had decided to hop into the water…

 Dec. 16-16

Matteo and I stopped with our group for lunch near the helicopter…and pretty soon…we had a visitor!

Dec. 16-17 

An Adelie checking out our helicopter….making sure all’s well

 Our two hours at Cape Bird had elapsed in a heartbeat and it was time to head inland toward Mt. Erebus.  We were headed to a feature called a “saddle” or low point of a ridge connecting two mountain peaks.  The Erebus/Terra Nova Saddle is the location of Nancy Bertler’s ice coring field camp.  Nancy’s a Kiwi who works jointly with the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University in Wellington and GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) in Lower Hutt, New Zealand.  She is also an Assistant Research Professor with the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

 Dec. 16-18

Dec. 16-19

Dec. 16-20


A first look at Nancy’s camp…set up just yesterday on the saddle

 The temperature dropped considerably  from the coast at Cape Bird to the Erebus/Terra Nova Saddle and it was time to put our bunny boots and ECW gear back on to jump out in the snow.

 Dec. 16-21

 Nancy’s explaining her work to Matteo and Stefan…


Dec. 16-22

Dec. 16-23

Glenn Kingan (ANDRILL driller TK's brother) and another member of Nancy’s team are preparing the pit where they’ll do their ice coring.  Nancy’s work relates to ANDRILL because two of her locations are in the immediate vicinity of ANDRILL drilling locations.  The ice core record that Nancy’s drilling for will provide data on terrestrial (land) climate and give scientists the opportunity to compare present-day onshore and offshore records. 

 Dec. 16-24

 Using a plastic sled to move the ice/snow blocks they saw out with the chainsaw…

Dec. 16-25

Tim Naish and I with Mt. Erebus in the background…

We were on the ground less than an hour at Nancy’s camp…when it was time to move to our last stop….Cape Crozier.  The flight to Cape Crozier took another 30 minutes or so, and we landed on a little rise near Post Office Hill.

Dec. 16-26

Flying in was incredible….icebergs out in the open water, the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, it was one fabulous view after another. 

Dec. 16-27


 Dec. 16-29

Tim on the top of Post Office Hill…we hiked up top to get some fantastic 360 degree views of the area…just spectacular!!

Dec. 16-30

Down below us….thousands of Adelie penguins and some pretty awesome scenery…that's the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in the background.

Dec. 16-31


On the way back to McMurdo….one more place to flyover….the ANDRILL drill site!!

Dec. 16-32

 Crevasses on the slopes of Mt. Erebus…

 Dec. 16-33

 Observation Hill in the distance, and Willy Field in the foreground of the photo…

Dec. 16-40

 The ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf drill site…

 Dec. 16-41

Our helo pilot, Rob, circled around the drill site twice…which gave us a chance to get some great photos…


Dec. 16-42 

Flying by Scott Base on the way to McMurdo… 

Dec. 16-37 

A great aerial view of McMurdo Station…notice the lack of snow in town

 Dec. 16-38

Dec. 16-39

Thanks to Rob, for providing safe transport all day!   Thanks Tim for being our tour guide, and thanks to ANDRILL for making this trip possible.  It was the field trip of a lifetime and one I’ll never forget. 





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A Record Breaking Weekend - December 17th, 2006

Dec. 17-1ANDRILL reached several milestones with drilling this weekend…

Dec. 17-2 

On Friday night, the drilling surpassed the Cape Roberts 3 (third season) record of 939 meters below the sea floor.

 Dec. 17-3

Night shift crew from left to right:  Cliff Atkins, Terry Wilson, Paul Wallace, Chris Sinclair, Malcolm Clemence, Sam Woodford, Luke Goodwin, Cristina Millan, Catalina Gebhardt, Dene Carroll, Murray Adams

Today, drilling went beyond the 1,000 meter mark.  This not only breaks the Antarctic record for drilling, but also means that the ANDRILL drill hole is over a kilometer below the sea floor.  Add to that the fact that there’s an additional 900 meters of drill string passing through the McMurdo Ice Shelf and the ocean, and they are nearly 2 kilometers from where the rig sits on the ice. 

Dec. 17-4

Front row:  Tristan Bennett and Alissa Quinn

Back row left to right:  Luke Rutland, Tamsin Falconer, Grant Brotherston, Bill Nye, Alex Pyne, Conrad Rains, Tony Kingan

Now, it’s drilling onward toward the 1,200 target depth.  Drilling will continue through Christmas, so I’ll keep you updated on our depth below the sea floor as the days go by. 




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A Voice of Experience…Colleen Clarke - December 18th, 2006

             I’ve met some really interesting people involved with ANDRILL, from scientists, to drillers, engineers, builders, project leaders, graduate students, to educators.  Colleen Clarke, Assistant to ANDRILL Project Manager Jim Cowie, has a myriad of different experiences that fit in well with the ANDRILL Program. 

Dec. 18-1 

            Colleen’s background as an emergency room and intensive care nurse, work with the ski patrol and with an ambulance service in New Zealand was perfect for her role as a paramedic and Camp Manager with the Cape Roberts Project.  She spent two seasons of the Cape Roberts Project (CRP) in this position.  But, it’s what she’s been doing in the mean time, both before and after CRP that most impressed me.   

            Colleen works with the Red Cross, as part of medical teams helping to set up field hospitals in refugee camps around the world.  These three to five or six month postings have brought her to Cambodia (she was just inside of Thailand) starting in 1987-88; to Rwanda (on the border of Zaire) in 1994; Bosnia in 1996; Afghanistan (helping to set up the Kabul Ambulance Service) in 2003; northern Sumatra/ Indonesia after the tsunami in 2005; and Pakistan after the earthquake that same year.  Colleen remarked that she enjoys learning about the cultures in the different locations, and would love to go back to some of the places she’s worked.  Her work in rugged areas, field camps and difficult living conditions gives her a world of experience she can transfer to an Antarctic field experience. 

            Although there was no field camp for ANDRILL this season, there was a lot going on with the drill site lab and kitchen facility.  Colleen always seems to be running back and forth from Scott Base to the drill site or McMurdo, and organizing about a hundred things at Scott Base.  There will be a field camp next year when the Southern McMurdo Sound (SMS) Project gets underway out on the sea ice.  The commute will be too long each day for scientists and drillers, so a field camp will be set up near the new drill site.  What goes into managing a field camp with 40 some people living there? 

            Back during the third season of the Cape Roberts Project, Colleen came down to Antarctica on Winfly and helped set up the field camp. She was the cook for the first six weeks, set up the accommodations (housing for people living there), organized the kitchen, showers, and set up the dining/recreation area inside of the Jamesway (a type of temporary shelter used in Antarctica).  She says Winfly was her favorite time to come down, even though it was a two day trip across the ice to Cape Roberts and the temperatures were in the -40’s.  She mentioned that it was hard to get water at first… they had to chip ice from an iceberg and melt it, which takes hours.  They had their water system up and running pretty quickly though and had hot showers after only ten days in the field. 

            Colleen mentioned that being in a field camp is more of an Antarctic experience, especially while setting it up and roughing it a bit.  It took about six weeks to set up and prepare the camp, before the drillers and scientists arrived.  As camp manager during the field season, she gave safety briefings to visitors, helped with logistics of shift changes and helicopter transport to/from the drill site, did water testing, helped the chef, went back and forth from the camp to the drill site and was in charge of all medical supplies.  She says (and it’s true) that a lot of little (and big) things add up to keep her pretty busy.   

            Colleen’s leaving the ice this Thursday, to head home for the holidays and prepare for a new job on an oil drilling ship that’s going to be headed from Singapore to just off the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, near a place called Taranaki.  She’ll be a paramedic onboard the ship, and also arrange helicopter flights to/from the mainland.  I’m sure that she’ll also be working on tons of other jobs…something she’s done quite well for ANDRILL.  Safe travels, Colleen...wherever you go around the world!

 Dec. 18-2



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Meet Richard Levy…ANDRILL Staff Scientist -December 19th, 2006

             For the past few years, many people have worked hard to get the ANDRILL Program up and running.  Whether it’s the technology and design of the new drill rig, designing and planning of the drill site lab, ordering supplies needed for core processing, or organizing the science teams for the project…so much goes into a huge science research project such as ANDRILL.  A group of individuals, committed to the project, worked long before we set foot on the ice this season…and will continue to work beyond my time here in Antarctica. 

Richard Levy, Staff Scientist for ANDRILL, is one of those key people in terms of planning and implementation of this season’s McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) Project.  He is essentially here to assist the Co-Chief Scientists implement the science plan for the ANDRILL MIS Project.  Rich says, “We come up with a plan of what we want to do, what we want the science team members to do and I need to help make sure that it happens.  Everything from organizing logistics before we come down here, to making sure the supplies we need are going to be here, and once we get here making sure that everything’s working the way we hoped it would work.  I’ve been interacting with the Raytheon Polar Services Company people to make sure that our project is successful;  to help the scientists if they have problems...and helping them address those problems with the CO-Chiefs.  I spend time interacting with the drillers from the science side of things, trying to bridge the gap between the engineering and the science.  I’m a “Jack of all trades” for the program at the project level, to be sure that what we want to achieve for our program at the science level is actually achieved.”

Dec. 19-1

Richard, early in this season…working on a seismic survey for ANDRILL…


            Richard’s based at the ANDRILL Science Management Office, (SMO) located in Lincoln, Nebraska.  His work on ANDRILL has included making sure the Crary Lab was functioning so scientists could do their jobs.  Rich worked with Raytheon to be sure what they had planned in terms of labs and space was ready when they arrive in October. Some areas were not ready, so he had to work with people here to do a bit of problem solving.  He’s worked with Leslie from Raytheon on coordinating logistics like transportation to/from the drill site for scientists and visitors, helicopter schedules for ANDRILL field trips, transportation to visit the historic huts, setting up the rac tent and core splitter containers here in McMurdo, and he made sure the labs had the right gear. 

            Spending time with the different science discipline teams helps Rich understand their needs and the scientific process of each team.  He wants to know what each team needs to meet their science goals for the ANDRILL MIS Project.  In addition, Richard has spent time with Josh with the data visualization systems such as Corelyzer and PSICAT, to be sure they were up and running correctly.  Rich acts as the liaison between logistics and science.  

            Our ARISE team has appreciated Richard’s input at many meetings and with activities that involve working with the ANDRILL scientists.  He was one of the people responsible for getting the ARISE program off the ground, insuring that educational outreach would be a vital component of the ANDRILL Science Implementation Plan (SIP). 

Dec. 19-2 

 Richard and Drill Supervisor Sam Woodford, when the night shift broke the Cape Roberts drilling record last week…          

            Sometimes Richard will fill in where needed…for example picking up the core at the drill site, or working on core scanning in the rac tent.  He also has a science role and is part of a team that’s working on the task of developing age models for the rock, which is called chronostratigraphy (chrono=time, stratigraphy has to do with the rocks). He’s working with the paleomagnetism group, the micropaleontologists, the Co-Chiefs, and those who date the volcanic ash using radiometric dating.  Together they will interpret the environment and how it changed through time. 

            Once most of the scientists have left Antarctica in early January, Richard and the Co-Chief Scientists will stay on a bit longer to pull the initial reports together.  They have a lot to wrap up in the next few weeks.  Drilling continues…and the target date for completion is December 26th.  Not long now!  Stay tuned for more updates about the drilling and science process. 



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ANDRILL Quiz Night - December 20th, 2006

             Tonight there was a party for the ARISE teachers and other “Andrillians” (as we’re often called around here) who are leaving the ice tomorrow.  Megan designed an “ANDRILL Quiz Night” as part of the celebration of the work these people have done for the ANDRILL MIS Project.  She set up the game similar to Jeopardy, only we didn’t have to answer in question format.  I thought it’d be fun to set up a little quiz game for you today…even though it might be a bit hard to do in a blog.  Answers will be at the end of the blog (but if you’ve been reading my blogs all along you should do a great job).  Good Luck!


        The categories will be: 

** ANDRILL Acronyms

** Name that Andrillian

** Who’s Who at the Drill Site

** The Science of ANDRILL

** All About the ANDRILL Drilling


ANDRILL Acronyms:

100 pts.        What does ANDRILL stand for?

200 pts.        MIS

300 pts.        SLIP

400 pts.        mbsf

500 pts.        ARISE


Name That Andrillian:

100 pts.        Name the Staff Scientist for ANDRILL

200 pts.        Name the Co-Chief Scientists for the MIS Project

300 pts.        Name the scientist who studies forams

400 pts.        Name the Italian educator with ANDRILL’s ARISE Program

500 pts.        Name the night shift structural geologist at the drill site lab


Who’s Who at the Drill Site:

100 pts.        Name the Drill Site Manager

200 pts.        Name the core technicians on night shift

300 pts.        Name the two guys I interviewed who helped set up the drill site and lab

400 pts.        Name the day and night shift Drilling Supervisors

500 pts.        Name the drilling company heading up this project


The Science of ANDRILL:

100 pts.        Name the science discipline team that studies forams and diatoms

200 pts.        Which science discipline team studies the magnetic properties of the rocks

300 pts.        Who gave us the core tour each day in the lab? (until he left in early December)

400 pts.        What is the thickness of a thin section slide?

500 pts.        What data visualization systems do scientists use to record and study the core?


All About the ANDRILL Drilling:

100 pts.        How many hours per day does drilling take place?

200 pts.        What is the target depth for the MIS Project?

300 pts.        What are the three sizes of the drill bits used to retrieve the core?

400 pts.        What’s the tool called that is sent down to hook to the inner tube inside of the core barrel?

500 pts.        What cable had to be changed twice in the first ten days of December?





ANDRILL Acronyms:


100 pts.        ANDRILL stands for Antarctic (geological) DRILLing

200 pts.        MIS stands for McMurdo Ice Shelf

300 pts.        SLIP stands for Science Logistics Implementation Plan

400 pts.        mbsf stands for meters below sea floor

500 pts.        ARISE stands for ANDRILL Research Immersion for Science Educators

Dec. 20-1

 The ARISE team…I’ll be the only educator still here after Julian, Vanessa, Matteo and LuAnn leave tomorrow.


Name That Andrillian:

100 pts.        Staff Scientist:  Richard Levy

200 pts.        Co-Chief Scientists:  Ross Powell and Tim Naish

Dec. 20-2

Tim Naish (New Zealand)

Dec. 20-3

Ross Powell (United States)

300 pts.        Scientist studying forams:  Percy Strong

400 pts.        Italian educator:  Matteo Cattadori

500 pts.        Night shift structural geologist at drill site:  Terry Wilson

Who’s Who at the Drill Site:

100 pts.        Drill Site Manager:  Alex Pyne

Dec. 20-4 


200 pts.        Night shift core techs:  Cliff Atkins and Dene Carroll

Dec. 20-5

Dene (left) and Cliff and I in the core processing lab


300 pts.        Guys I interviewed that set up the drill site and lab:  Jeremy Ridgen (JR) and Jonathan Leitch (Johno)

Dec. 20-6 

Johno (left) and JR…


400 pts.        Day and night shift Drill Supervisors:  Tony Kingan (day) and Sam Woodford (night)

Dec. 20-7 

Tony Kingan

Dec. 20-8

Sam Woodford


500 pts.        Name of the drilling company:  Webster Drilling


The Science of ANDRILL:

100  pts.       Which team studies forams and diatoms:  Micropaleontology

200 pts.        Which team studies magnetic properties:  Paleomagnetism

300 pts.        Who gave the core tours:  Lionel Carter

400 pts.        Thickness of a thin section slide:  30 microns

500 pts.        Data visualization systems used with ANDRILL:  Corelyzer and PSICAT


All About the ANDRILL Drilling:

100 pts.        How many hours per day:  drilling operations are 24 hours per day

200 pts.        Target depth:  1,200 meters below the sea floor

300 pts.        Three sizes of drill bits:  PQ, HQ, and NQ

 Dec. 20-9


400 pts.        Tool that hooks to inner tube inside of core barrel:  the overshot

500 pts.        What cable was changed:  the wireline

 Dec. 20-10


Onward to that target depth…

Dec. 20-11




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What Will I Miss? - December 21st, 2006

             Saying good-bye to my fellow ARISE participants got me thinking about leaving next week and the things I’ll miss once I’m gone.  Many people have written to me and asked me what I’ve liked about being down here in Antarctica and whether I’ll miss being here when I return to the United States.   

This has been an incredible experience in many ways.  I’ve learned so much about science (especially geology) and technology…particularly through watching this process from start to finish.  Starting with the drilling -- to core processing; on to splitting and scanning the core; the core tours and sampling; and finally working with the scientists on various discipline teams to help them prepare samples, find microfossils, or take measurements.  I’ve had the chance to participate as a member of this ANDRILL team and in the process not only have I learned a great deal, but I’ve been able to share it with so many people around the world as part of our educational outreach.

I have also met so many fantastic people involved with the ANDRILL MIS Project…whether it’s those staying at Scott Base or our larger group here in McMurdo.  There are many hard-working people who have helped make this project successful.  I’ve tried to share those people with you through my blogs.  I’ll miss the people I’ve gotten to know really well on this project.  

               Finally, the opportunities for field trips and a little bit of exploring Ross Island have opened my eyes to more of this special place, and I’ll miss some of the views I’ve grown accustomed to seeing regularly.

            Tonight was one last Thursday night dinner at Scott Base.  As part of the weekly invitation extended to the ANDRILL team, twelve Andrillians go to Scott Base for dinner.  It’s been a great way to meet more people over there and spend time with the day shift drillers and drill site lab crew once they get back from their shift.  Because the drill bit was being changed today, I had the chance to catch up with Cliff Atkins, (usually on night shift) who I’ve known since the Cape Roberts Project.  As we were walking back to McMurdo, we decided to climb Observation Hill…something we wanted to do together before heading home.  Cliff’s staying a bit longer than I am…he’ll be on the flight out on January 4th…which many Andrillians are booked on.

            My first climb up Ob Hill was completed alone, and early in the season.  Not only was the path icy and slippery, but the scene down below showed a lot of snow still in McMurdo.  It’s great to do these types of climbs or hikes at two different times, so a comparison can be made.

Dec. 21-1


These photos were taken on November 6th

Dec. 21-2

Dec. 21-3

The view looking back toward Pram Point and Scott Base…

Look at the difference between early in the season and tonight… our path up was completely free of snow, but still a bit tricky because of loose rocks and soil.  Snow flurries greeted us at the top, but we still had the same great 360 degree view to Scott Base and McMurdo down below.

 Dec. 21-4

Dec. 21-5

            It wasn’t a super clear night in terms of visibility, but you can definitely see the difference in the amount of snow on the ground from early November till late December.  At this point in the season, the roads are usually dusty, although at times they can be very muddy if rivulets of water cascade down from the hills above.  

 Dec. 21-6

Dec. 21-7

The top of Ob Hill is almost entirely free of ice and snow at this point. 

What a difference seven weeks has made.  It’s sometimes hard to believe I’ve been here nine weeks already, because time has flown by.  I’ve got to say I’m feeling a bit sad that I have only one week left.  There’s plenty to do, with the ANDRILL drilling going strong and inching (or should that be “centimetering” because we’re using the metric system?) ever so close to that target depth of 1,200 meters below the sea floor.  That could be just a few days away now.  There will be some celebrating when that happens! 

Scientists back at Crary Lab are working steadily on gathering data about the cores, taking samples to process back in their labs at their home research facilities, and meeting together to discuss results so far.  It will be full on with drilling until “Boxing Day,” (the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in New Zealand).  If all goes as planned, the last core will be brought up sometime on the morning of December 26th.  



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A Last Visit to the Drill Site - December 22nd, 2006

Dec. 22-2 

           Remember this photo from the very first time I was out at the ANDRILL drill site?  That was back in early November.  Tonight was probably the last time I’ll get out to the site before I leave Antarctica.  I rode out late in the evening with Matt Olney to pick up the containers of core for the day.  It was a beautiful day today, and tonight there was still blue sky and lots of sun.

            Currently the drill bit is at about 1,153 meters below the sea floor.  Only 47 meters to go before reaching the target depth of 1,200 meters.  Drilling resumed during the nightshift, after the drill bit was changed yesterday evening.  Remember, when they have to change the drill bit, the whole wireline is brought up, and the entire NQ pipe is taken up (called tripping the line).  The whole NQ pipe taken out…three sections at a time…so that makes 9 meter lengths of pipe.  The process of taking this out takes about 12 hours (at this depth).  Once the bit is changed, the whole process is reversed and the NQ pipe is lowered back down the hole. 

            I was thinking that by a month from now the entire drill rig will have been taken down and stored for next year’s ANDRILL drilling project in Southern McMurdo Sound.  All of the containers that house the core processing lab, hot water system, kitchen/dining/bunk areas, and are used for storage will be hauled back to Scott Base and stored there till Winfly, August 2007.   Things are cleaned, repaired, and prepped for the next austral summer science/drilling season.  Preparations happen long in advance of the next season. New containers and supplies will be offloaded from the re-supply vessel, which will arrive in McMurdo Sound sometime in February.  It’s another massive job…and all the prep work will make next year’s project get off to a good start…so it’s important to get the job done.

            We were at the drill site just long enough to get a few last photos…in the core processing lab and up on the drill floor. 

Dec. 22-3 

Structural geologists Cristina Millan and Terry Wilson…

 Dec. 22-4

 Core techs Dene Carroll and Cliff Atkins…

Dec. 22-5

Sam, Paul, and Chris…3 of the 6 night shift drillers…


Dec. 22-6

Flags of the countries collaborating on ANDRILL…Germany, the United States, Italy, and New Zealand…

Dec. 22-7

On the way LC-130 (Hercules) was getting ready to take off…

 Dec. 22-8

 One last view of Castle Rock from the sea ice….notice the rugby field and goal?

Dec. 22-9 

A final shot of Mt. Erebus from the sea ice…what a beautiful night to be out here!

            As we left the drill site and headed back toward McMurdo, I thought again about how lucky I’ve been to be part of the ANDRILL Project.  Six days till I leave the ice.



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Night Shift at Crary Lab - December 23rd, 2006

There is a very dedicated group of scientists who work all night, every night…to log the core, describe it, and prepare the notes for our meetings every morning with the ANDRILL team.  They come to our meetings, after working a 12-hour shift, ready to share their findings and lead part of the meeting.  With very few breaks in their schedule for the past 8 weeks, they often miss out on many of the social events that take place around McMurdo and Scott Base…including things like our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together.  Let’s meet the sedimentology team and others on the night shift with ANDRILL…and find out what they do.

Dec. 23-1

 Matt Olney (Florida State University) is the curator for the night shift…and one of his responsibilities is to drive out to the drill site and pick up the boxes of core from the day/early evening.   I’ve been lucky enough to ride out to the drill site with Matt a couple of times.  (thanks again, Matt for that opportunity)

 Dec. 23-2

Davide Persico (Italy) is also on the curatorial team…and at times he shares that job of picking up core.  He’s also helped Matt with splitting the core once it’s back in McMurdo, getting it ready for the next step…the rac tent.

Dec. 23-3

Kelly Jemison is a graduate student from Florida State University.  Her job is to do the Geotek core scanning…this machine takes one long continuous photo of each length of core and it is posted on Corelyzer…(more on Corelyzer later).  This is the machine that I’ve been working on as well…only during the day shift.

Dec. 23-4

Donata Helling (Germany) is also a graduate student. Her responsibilities include the XRF scanner and also processing that data on the computer.  She is basing her doctoral research on the results/data collected by this machine on the ANDRILL core. 

Dec. 23-5 

Discipline team leader for the sedimentology team is Larry Krissek,from Ohio State University.  Larry was also involved in the Cape Roberts geological drilling project in the late 1990’s. 

Dec. 23-6

Larry and his team spend each night describing the core in terms of its physical characteristics…things like the size of the pieces, colors of the sediments, and the patterns of the layers seen in each length of core.  They describe about 30 meters of core per day and Larry presents this information to us at our morning meetings.  He uses PSICAT (which stands for Paleontological Stratigraphic Interval Construction and Analysis Tool) to log these characteristics and presents them using these PSICAT logs.


Dec. 23-7

Larry’s team…Ellen Cowen (Appalachian State University, NC); Gavin Dunbar (Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand); and Tom Wilch (Albion College, Michigan)… shown working on core descriptions in both the photo above and the one below.

Dec. 23-8

Dec. 23-9

Ellen Cowan      

 Dec. 23-10

Ellen is making a smear slide by using a very small amount of the sediment, mixing it with water, and letting that dry on the slide.  The smear slides are examined under the microscope for characteristics such as mineral content, shape and size of grains, and fossil fragments.  All of these things help tell the story of those sediments being examined, and help the sedimentology team describe the core.  Vanessa Miller (ARISE) worked with this team on the night shift…making smear slides for.

Dec. 23-11

Tom is looking at a smear slide under the microscope…

 Dec. 23-12

Gavin’s talking with a member of the team…there are a lot of important discussions as the sedimentology team describes the core each night.   

Dec. 23-13

Franco Talarico’s (University of Siena, Italy) area of research is petrology.  This means he studies how the rocks were formed, particularly those in a mountain chain. He logs the clasts he sees within Corelyzer and then compares that to the actual core in the lab.  He categorizes the clasts into groups based on their characteristics.  A clast can range from small granules up to pieces larger than 4mm, which are then referred to as pebbles.  The largest pebble found in the ANDRILL cores was 40 cm. 

Dec. 23-14 

Dec. 23-15 

Matteo Cattadori (ARISE teacher from Italy) was helping Franco with the clasts as his science immersion within the ANDRILL Project.  He’s shown below working with Tom on sorting the clasts by their characteristics.    

Dec. 23-16 

Matteo also developed this system for logging the clasts…dividing the core into smaller sections which were easier to describe.

Dec. 23-17

This log sheet shows the notes that Franco and Matteo take to show the location and properties of each clast. Franco told me that they have logged over 50,000 clasts so far within the ANDRILL cores.  Holy cow….that’s a lot of clasts!

Dec. 23-18

Here’s a closer look at different types of clasts.  You can see the various sizes, colors, and shapes.

Dec. 23-19

Franco also has Brent Pooley make thin section slides that they examine under a microscope.  Here are a few examples below.  By looking at these thin sections, they can determine how that rock was formed and what minerals make up the rock.

Dec. 23-20 

Dec. 23-21

 To me this is almost like looking into a kaleidoscope…with the mixtures of colors and textures you see in the thin sections.

Dec. 23-22 

Josh Reed is working with the visualization data – PSICAT and also Corelyzer.  He is our IT (information technologies) expert…making sure that the Corelyzer images get loaded up, and working with Larry to make sure the PSICAT data is captured. 

 Dec. 23-23

Most people learning about ANDRILL don’t realize that so much goes on  “behind the scenes” during night shift.  I know how much the work this team does each night is appreciated.  We’re on the home stretch now, with only a few more days of drilling.  It takes time for the curators and sedimentology night shift team to process and log the core, but by the end of next week this process (and our daily core tours) will be a thing of the past.  Not long now…



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Merry Christmas From McMurdo - December 24th and 25th, 2006


            During the night shift, the 1,200 meter target depth was reached (just before midnight on Dec. 23rd), and the drill crew and night shift in the lab celebrated this achievement. 

 Dec. 24-1This was a great Christmas present for ANDRILL!


Quite a bit of celebrating was done at the shift change (8AM) when all of the drillers and people from the core processing lab gathered up on (or near) the drill floor to watch a special “event.”  Drill Site Manager, Alex Pyne, had agreed to have his hair cut off when they reached the 1,200 meter target depth.  He hasn’t had his hair cut for years, and this was one of those moments everyone out at the drill site had been waiting for.  Tony Kingan (TK) is getting ready to shave Alex’s hair off…

Dec. 24-2 

            I started my day on Christmas Eve with a short visit to Scott Base.  Friends here become your surrogate family when you celebrate a big holiday such as Christmas away from home.  I wanted to deliver some gifts and spend a few minutes with friends before my work day began.  I think I even converted some rugby-playing Kiwis into Chicago Bears football fans…as seen below!

 Dec. 24-3

The newest Chicago Bears fans in Antarctica!


            Later today, Tim, Richard and Ross went out to the drill site to meet with Alex and TK to take some photos and also talk about the remainder of the drilling schedule.  It seems we’ll be done either late on Christmas Day or early morning December 26th at the shift change at 8 AM.  I’ll give you the final depth below the sea floor in my last blog, which will be tomorrow, December 26th.


Dec. 24-4 

Tim, Richard, Ross….at the drill site on Christmas Eve… 

            After the usual day of work, the ANDRILL team based in McMurdo went to Christmas dinner in the galley at 7:00 PM…what a great meal.  We had everything from shrimp to lobster tails, duck, beef Wellington, and all the accompaniments.  There was a huge table of desserts, similar to Thanksgiving.  It was a delicious meal, shared among friends.

Dec. 24-5 

            Believe it or not, I went back to work for a while…there’s a lot to be done before I leave on the 28th.  I worked until about 11:45 PM, then walked over to the Chapel of the Snows for the midnight church service. 

 Dec. 24-6

Walking to church on Christmas Eve in McMurdo…

 Dec. 24-7

This is the end of the service before ours… it’s a lovely little church…


Dec. 24-8

Father Phil Cody, from New Zealand…delivering the Christmas message…



Dec. 24-9

Christmas Day was business as usual…a 9:30 ANDRILL all-hands meeting like every other day since I arrived in October.  Everyone worked in their labs, at the drill site, and in the core processing departments…it’s not time to let up…yet!  There were bits and pieces of celebrations throughout the day though…after all, it is Christmas!  One thing I didn’t get to see (because we were in that morning meeting) was the “Ob Hill Up Hill” race.  They started at 9:30 this morning with a race UP the hill…I wonder who won and how long it took them to run up the hill? 

            Late in the day I took time to watch one of my favorite Christmas movies, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It was also showing at the Coffee House where they had a Christmas movie marathon today which included other classics like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  I wish I had had time to see them all…maybe another year.

            Merry Christmas to everyone out there reading my blogs.  Happy New Year as well.  Stay tuned till tomorrow for my final blog…end of the ANDRILL drilling, a wrap up of my part of the project, and final thoughts on this time in Antarctica.













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One Final Blog - December 26th, 2006

Consider these general statistics for a moment…

Sea riser:                 943 meters to the sea floor,

plus an additional 17 meters pushed into the sea floor

PQ drill pipe:        238 meters below the sea floor, plus 943 meters to top

HQ drill pipe:       700 meters below the sea floor, plus 943 meters to top

NQ drill pipe:        1,284.87 meters below the sea floor, plus 943 meters to top

Wireline:                over 2 kilometers of wireline being used at this depth


            Add all that pipe up and you have about 6 kilometers in one drill hole…and that’s not including the wireline.  I find that just incredible!

            The ANDRILL drilling has been completed.  Final depth below the sea floor is 1,284.87 meters.  That doesn’t mean operations are I explained in my December 22nd blog…there is still much to be done before everyone goes back home.

But, new drilling records have been achieved and the ANDRILL MIS drill hole is the deepest geological drill hole in Antarctica. 

 Dec. 26-1


The end of the last core… 1,284.87 meters below the sea floor!!

 Dec. 26-2

      Thanks to Cristina Millan for these first two photos from the drill site.

Dec. 26-3

            I leave in two days, and much of today was spent trying to get organized and packed.  I’ll have my “bag drag” tomorrow night….I’ll have to bring all of my bags (one personal and two orange ECW bags) to the MCC (movement control center) to have them weighed.  I’ll only have my one carry on ECW bag left to take back to the dorm, so anything I need will be placed in that bag.  On Thursday, December 28th, I’ll report to the MCC again and be transported by Ivan the Terra Bus to Pegasus Field, 45-60 minutes away from McMurdo on the ice shelf.  My flight to New Zealand will be about five hours, and once I arrive in Christchurch I’ll have to clear Customs, go to the CDC (clothing distribution center) and hand in all of my ECW gear.  It’s hard to believe this is all coming to a rapid finish…and I’ll be leaving this icy continent and returning to winter in Illinois.  That won’t seem so bad now…I’m certainly used to winter.

            I’d like to thank Ross and Tim (Co-Chief Scientists), Richard (Staff Scientist) and so many other people, for the support they’ve given me as an educator with the ANDRILL Program.  There are so many other people that helped make this experience something special to remember.  I can’t wait to get home and share the experience with family and friends, students and colleagues. 

              I have great admiration for everyone involved in ANDRILL…the Co-Chiefs and Staff Scientist, Media Specialist Megan Berg, all scientists and core technicians involved, Alex Pyne(Drill Site Manager), Tamsin Falconer (Alex's assistant), all of the drillers, Project Manager Jim Cowie and Assistant Colleen Clarke, fellow ARISE educators, graduate students, and support personnel.  You are all great!  We’ve worked hard, and everyone has a lot to be proud of.  Thanks for everything!

 Dec. 26-4

 Thanks Tim and Ross….I appreciate your support of educational outreach!


Dec. 26-5

Thanks Richard…after your hard work and years of planning, the ARISE program was a great learning and sharing experience for me.  We all had a lot of laughs, too....thanks for that!

Dec. 26-6




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October 19, 2006
Excitement Builds As We Depart Christchurch!

Hello from McMurdo Station, Antarctica! I can’t believe was one of the MOST EXCITING days of my whole life. I don’t know where to get ready! I was out of bed like a shot from a cannon when the alarm rang at 3:00 AM. I was wide awake and totally read to go. I threw on my clothes and drove LuAnn, Vanessa ,and I over to the CDC building near the airport for our 4:00 AM check-in time. As all of today’s passengers for the flight arrived, they filed into the dressing rooms and began the process of layering up in their ECW (extreme cold weather) gear. I carefully re-packed what I didn’t need into my large suitcase~~for storage at the CDC until my return to Christchurch in December.

I made sure that I had the necessary required items either on me or in my orange duffle I’d carry on the plane. The next step was to haul, drag, or otherwise carry ALL of my bags to the building next door for check-in. This was no small huge yellow duffle (even though it had wheels) was very heavy. I received a boarding pass on a chain that I had to hang around my neck. I had to put both check-through bags (the huge yellow one and one orange duffle) on a large scale and they checked to see that I wasn’t over the baggage weight limit of 75 pounds, plus my excess baggage allowance of 50 pounds. Next, I had to stand on the scale holding my other orange duffle and my computer case. They add all of the weight together because it is VERY important to know how much weight the plane is carrying. It helps them determine how much cargo can be loaded on the plane, too.

48 4950

The check-in process took a while, since there were over 100 people on our flight today. Vanessa, LuAnn, and I waited outside, in the dark until just before our flight briefing at 6:10 AM. We enjoyed the light breezes of a cool spring morning in Christchurch one last time…knowing that the temperatures we’re going to experience will be much colder, and winds much stronger. People in ECW gear wandered to/from the Antarctic Centre, where many people enjoyed breakfast before our flight.

At that briefing Air Force officials talked about safety and today’s flight, and we were required to watch a video on Antarctica and weather conditions. The information passed along is very important to making your stay in Antarctica a safe one. Before too long we were in line, having our bags x- rayed and passing through a security check just like a regular airport. Everyone boarded shuttle buses that took us from the CDC, across the street to the airport. We passed through several chain-link security gates and soon we parked right by the C-17 cargo plane.

51 52

I knew these planes were big, but I’d never been on a C-17 before. It is absolutely HUGE! The engines are gigantic. It took a while for everyone to board and get settled in. We had the choice of sitting on bench-type seats on the sides of the plane, or regular seats that had been installed just for this journey to Antarctica. No frills on this monster though...bare walls, wires and pipes visible, cargo on pallets in the back of the seating area, and HUGE sack lunches. First class it was NOT, but exciting it WAS!

When they started the engines it was an exciting moment for me. The plane had to taxi over to a nearby runway, not really stopping as we rounded the corner -- all of a sudden we started to move...quickly...very quickly...and we were taking off! Yikes! Soon we were at cruising altitude and were able to unbuckle our seat belts and move around a bit. People got up to stretch, while others read, slept, or ate their sack lunch. It was pretty easy to have a conversation, even though it was a bit loud and everyone had their ear plugs in or head phones on.

Not only did the C-17 carry over a hundred passengers today, it carried several huge cargo pallets and also some pretty big machinery headed for Antarctica. I checked out some facts about the C-17 as noted below:
  • The C-17 is powered by four fully reversible engines.
  • The C-17 is operated by a minimum crew of three (pilot, copilot, and loadmaster).
  • Maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 lb (77,500 kg), and its maximum gross takeoff weight is 585,000 lb (265,350 kg).
  • Cargo is loaded onto the C-17 through a large rear door that accommodates vehicles, trailers, helicopters, etc. and cargo pallets.
  • The C-17 is designed to operate on short and narrow runways.
(information retrieved from: )


I spent a lot of time talking with some of the Air Force personnel onboard. They’re stationed at Ft. McChord, in Washington. I was also able to go up into the cockpit of the plane and take some photos, but the cloud cover made it impossible to see down below. Just before we had to take our seats for landing, I got to peek through the small porthole near the front of the plane and the view was outstanding. It was so bright...I couldn’t believe the views below me of snow and ice, and mountains. AWESOME!


The trip took about 5 hours and as we approached McMurdo we were told that we’d be making two attempts at the runway…the first one was for practice. It was strange to make the approach and then loop around again, but when our plane finally landed it was so smooth….I barely realized that we had landed. We had to taxi for quite a while before coming to a complete stop. Everyone gathered up their gear, put all ECW clothing on, and stepped off the C-17 onto the ice runway.

As the hatch was opened and the stairs brought down, the cool air streamed in and the bright light of the sunny Antarctic day came pouring in. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to set foot on the coldest, windiest, driest, and highest continent in the world…for a second time! So many months of planning and anticipation for me. Wow! What a thrill to be back in Antarctica! It is an indescribable feeling to set foot on the sea ice and gaze at the Transantarctic Mountains in the distance. It is a mesmerizing experience and one I will never forget.


Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to enjoy the views or take photos…we had to board "Ivan the Terra Bus" to be transported to McMurdo Station. Ivan is a huge vehicle that holds over 50 passengers. It’s used to move people from the ice runway to the town of McMurdo…about 2 miles away. Within minutes we were in McMurdo and herded into the galley (where we eat our meals) for a short arrival briefing and a late lunch. We were given some instructions, our housing information and keys, and watched a number of short presentations about life at McMurdo Station.

Everyone from ANDRILL went to our dorm to drop off their orange duffle bags and carry-on luggage, then we headed over to the Crary Lab to have a quick meeting. I’ll describe Crary Lab later on…but for now, I’ll just tell you that’s where I’ll be spending a lot of time for the next two months. A couple of hours later we were able to hike uphill to the large warehouse/building that houses the post office and staging area for incoming/outgoing flights in terms of cargo and luggage. All of our bags were unloaded from the cargo pallet and ready to go. Thank goodness they provided a shuttle to take us back to the dorm….it would have been really awful to carry those heavy bags through town.


I’m rooming with Vanessa, another one of the ARISE teachers. Our room is pretty small, but it has all we need... twin beds, one desk, two cabinets for our clothes, and a small refrigerator. We unpacked and tried to get settled in a bit before dinner. Our day ended with a trip by shuttle to Scott Base….the Kiwi (New Zealand) base about 2 miles away from here. Every Thursday is "American Night" at Scott Base, and residents of McMurdo are welcome to visit the base. Since a number of ANDRILL team members are from New Zealand, this was a great chance to catch up with people and relax after a LONG travel day.

It’s just great to be here….strange to have 24 hours of daylight now, but incredible to think that I’m at 77 degrees south latitude—at the bottom of the world.

October 18, 2006
Countdown to Antarctica!

If all goes well, we should be on a C-17 cargo plane tomorrow…headed for Antarctica.

We spent the day visiting schools and it was just fabulous. Our day started with Christs College, a private boys school just steps away from the Canterbury Museum. It is a beautiful little campus, with historic buildings and lots of character. The college, started back in 1850, has rich traditions. I felt very welcomed by our host, Paul Rodley, who has also traveled to Antarctic before. Paul gave us a tour of the campus which included the library, chapel, dining hall, auditorium, and many of the other buildings. The dining hall reminded me of a scene out of a Harry Potter movie.


We visited two classes at Christs College….a year 9 physics course and a year 11 geography class. Both classes had excellent questions and I certainly enjoyed this visit. To top things off, Paul loaned us a special camera that takes 360 degree panoramic photographs. Julian is shown with this camera below…you actually get the best photos if you hold it over or on top of your head. We can’t wait to try this out once we arrive in Antarctica.


The other photo is of students at Ilam School. We went back for one more presentation to the 5-7 year olds. They were very excited about the gear and learning more about Antarctica. I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting classes while in Christchurch and would like to thank Ali Whitaker from Antarctica New Zealand for arranging the presentations.

Later today I went to the Antarctic Centre near the CDC, to check out the exhibits and bookstore. I was lucky enough to see the Little Blue penguins being fed and to learn more about Antarctica through the many displays and dioramas.


A real treat tonight was an invitation from Vera, who teaches at Christs College. She and her husband, Ian treated Matteo, LuAnn, Vanessa (two of the other ARISE educators) and myself to a home-cooked meal and a sort of bon voyage before our departure tomorrow morning. Other friends interested in ANDRILL joined us as well, and it was a fun evening of sharing stories and ways to promote educational outreach.

It was great to spend our last night in New Zealand with such wonderful people. We knew we’d have an early wake up call tomorrow, so we didn’t stay out too late. I hope that tomorrow’s journal will be written from McMurdo Station, Antarctica!

October 17, 2006
Christchurch, New Zealand: Gateway to Antarctica

Today was really fun because I was able to visit several local schools and meet with teachers and students who will follow the ANDRILL Program. Joining me for the presentations were two of my ARISE colleagues….Matteo Cattodori and Julian Thomson. Our first stop was an elementary school called Ilam School and our host class was a group of 5/6 level students.


As we spoke with the students at Ilam School, we gave information on how we are preparing for our expedition and talked about the differences between the Arctic and Antarctic. Matteo used the cold weather gear issued to him in Italy as part of a demonstration on using layers to keep warm. The children loved trying on the special gear.

31 We were invited to tea with the teaching staff at Ilam and felt very welcome in this lovely school. There was no time to linger though, because our next stop was just moments away at the Christchurch College of Education. At this college we talked with two classes of science teacher trainees about the ANDRILL Program and how they can encourage students to follow the work of geoscientists and educators.

Our last school for the day was Waimairi School and a wonderful group of year 6 students. In addition to what we covered earlier today, Julian shared the emergency supplies provided by Antarctica New Zealand. Members of their Antarctic program are required to take these emergency bags with them every time they leave Scott Base to go into the field. Similar equipment is available to those people stationed at the U.S. base—McMurdo Station. That’s the station I’m headed to very soon.


Julian and Matteo enjoyed having a bit of a race to see which person could get the cold weather gear on more quickly. Everyone was so excited and we had FUN!


One of the neatest pieces of equipment is the tractor that was used by Sir Edmund Hillary on the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1955-1958. That expedition was the first successful crossing of the continent of Antarctica. To learn more about that expedition, visit:


Julian, Matteo, and I wandered around Christchurch for a while, visited the local Arts Centre and stopped into a small, cozy restaurant called "Oscars" for dinner. Everyone here is so friendly and Christchurch is a beautiful city. We won’t have much time here, but if you would like to learn more about it, go to:

October 16, 2006
Crossing the International Dateline... Arrival in New Zealand

It’s strange to think that Sunday, October 15th didn’t really exist for me this year. I left Chicago and flew to Los Angeles, California on Saturday the 14th. Next, I boarded a plane bound for Auckland, New Zealand. I left California at about 10:00 PM and spent about 13 hours on that flight. Since we crossed the International Dateline, we moved ahead one day…making it Monday morning when I arrived in New Zealand. I’m now 18 hours ahead of the time in my hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois.

There were a lot of people on my overseas flight who are also going to be on the ice this season. I sat next to Stanley, who works for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and I enjoyed hearing about the work he’ll be doing in Antarctica. Stanley and his team test the navigational systems to be sure everything is running smoothly. Everyone plays a part in making the environment safe and supporting the science that takes place.

Our group transferred one more time, to a flight to the south island of New Zealand and the town that’s considered the gateway to Antarctica…Christchurch. We were met by a representative from Raytheon Polar Services, who provided information on which hotels we were booked into and also when to report in to the Clothing Distribution Center (otherwise known as the CDC) to try on our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear. I immediately called for my rental car and was picked up right at the curb outside and outfitted with my vehicle. You might not know that people drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand, and drivers sit on the right side of the car. I can’t tell you how many times I turned on the windshield wipers instead of my turn signal. I had to pay close attention to where I was driving, that’s for sure.

I immediately drove back toward the CDC to see if I could be outfitted with my gear a couple of days early, due to the fact that I had school presentations scheduled for the following two days. It was all a "go" and I spent the next two hours trying on EVERY single piece of clothing and outerwear to be sure that it fit properly. No chance to exchange these items once you get to McMurdo. Here is a series of photos showing the various layers of clothing that we are issued.


We start with basic long undies, add a 2nd layer of long undies, then snow pants and bunny boots. Oh yes, wool socks would also be an important first layer for your feet.


Add a fleece jacket...a light-weight parka… or the famous red parka, and you’re set. All you need now is gloves and several smaller items for your neck and head, such as a neck gaiter, balaclava (hood) and possibly another hat of some sort. I was able to get back into the large warehouse that’s used for storage and I want you to take a look at all of the gear that’s housed there. It’s incredible. Thanks to the helpful people at the CDC, I was able to find everything I needed to be ready for my flight and two months on the ice.


Here are some dirty clothes returned from Antarctic travelers and extra orange duffle bags. The people at the CDC play a huge role in preparing us for Antarctica.

One of the best things about today was getting to meet Matteo Cattadori, the ARISE teacher from Italy. He will be one of my colleagues for the next two months. I picked him up at the airport later this afternoon, and we began to plan for our presentations tomorrow and Wednesday at local Christchurch schools. We had the chance to walk around Christchurch a bit and tried out the MyThai restaurant for dinner. It’s hard to believe that soon we’ll trade this flavorful food for cafeteria food at McMurdo Station. Both of us were exhausted from such a huge travel day (night/day) that we checked into our hotels and made a plan to meet up tomorrow. It’s great to be back in New Zealand.


Fast facts about New Zealand:
  1. Maoris were the first inhabitants of New Zealand.
  2. There are two main components of the country are the North and South Islands.
  3. The capital city is Wellington.
  4. Other large cities include Auckland (North Island) and Christchurch (South Island).
  5. The total land area is 103,483 square miles (268,021 square kilometers).
  6. The country is the size of Colorado.
  7. The official languages are English and Maori.
  8. The monetary unit is the New Zealand dollar.
  9. The population is estimated to be about 4,000,000 people.
  10. The North Island has many volcanic features such as hot springs and geysers.
  11. The South Island has mountains that are quite high….called the Southern Alps.
  12. At 12,316 feet above sea level, Mt. Cook is the highest peak.
  13. Natural resources include: iron ore, coal, sand, natural gas, timber, hydropower, limestone, and gold.
Information retrieved from:
October 14, 2006
Next Stop... New Zealand!
The day I’ve been waiting for was finally here…departure day!  In spite of the hectic schedule of the past week, preparations have gone very smoothly.  I took a few moments out this morning to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall season in Illinois.  My good friend, Ron, joined me on our local lake for an hour of kayaking.


 It was a great way to spend my last morning in Crystal Lake, and as I put my kayak away for the last time this year I realized that I really was leaving for two months. Ron is a songwriter and has given me permission to adapt one of his songs to fit my current Antarctic adventure.  His "Land of the Ice Bear" song morphed into my own "Antarctic Sojourn."  Read the lyrics below:

October winds are blowing, there’s a nip that’s in the air.
We’ve got our parkas ready, it’s lookin’ mighty cold out there
You’d think a girl would settle for a warm fire by the stove.
But I’m off to Antarctica, to the southland I must go!
I flew off to New Zealand, a land so far away.
I crossed over the dateline—and somehow lost a day!
We finally got to Auckland—9,000 miles away.
I transferred down to Christchurch, and hopped a cargo plane.
Oh, I’m off to Antarctica, to the land where the glaciers reign.
Where scientists solve the mysteries locked in the hard-packed snow.
Yes, I’m off to Antarctica, McMurdo here I go!
Explorers dared to venture to this place that has no trees.
They pulled their sleds and trudged for miles to reach 90 degrees.
They reached the Pole and traveled across this frozen land.
The race claimed lives, men lost supplies, some did not understand.

Oh, I’m off to Antarctica, to the land of the ice and wind.
Yes, I’m off to Antarctica, that’s where my spirit lies!

You may be thinkin’ that this could never happen to you...
But take it from me….Antarctic dreams can come true.

So if you’ve ever dreamed of an adventure in the snow.
The continent Antarctica is where you’ll want to go.
Where wilderness surrounds you with pure tranquility.

Oh, I’m off to Antarctica, to the land of explorers past.
Where geologists solve mysteries locked underneath the land.
Yes, I’m off to Antarctica so I can understand.
Yes, I’m off to Antarctica, I love that special land!


Saying good-bye to my husband (Chris) and one of my six children (Linda) at the airport was really hard.  I know we’ll be in touch each day, and my entire family is very supportive of my Antarctic adventure.  They are ready to learn about the science behind the ANDRILL Program and share this experience with me through my journals and photographs.  I’ll miss them all so much!



October 13, 2006
Previews of Coming Attractions!
We’ve been having some beautiful fall weather lately, with leaves turning golden and orange leaves swirling everywhere in the wind.  There have been many sunny, warm days with a cool, crisp breeze.  I was finding it hard to believe that I would leave all that for the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth.  Just when I was starting to realize what I’d miss, we had a “preview of coming attractions" in Crystal Lake… an early snowstorm!  People were joking that I ordered up some Antarctic weather just for the occasion of my departure.


 This snowy weather pushed me to get my packing done and get ready for the journey.  Once my bags were packed I had to be sure they were under the weight limit, so I took them to my veterinarian’s office to weigh in on the scale used to weigh pets.  It happens to be the easiest way to find out the weight of large bags, since the scale is nearly at ground level.  It’s hard to pack for a two month trip, especially with a lot of the special gear we need for such an extreme climate.  My bags are heavy, but have made the 75 lb. limit for international travel.  What a relief!


It was very hard to say good-bye to my students today.  I know that they’ll be following my journey and the ANDRILL team of geoscientists.  I’ll miss being at Husmann Elementary School and with my class each day.  So long for now!



October 12, 2006
Preparing for Departure
Many people have asked me how I am preparing for an experience such as the one I’m about to embark on. For me it’s been a combination of many different activities—packing, doing presentations, working with my substitute teacher to hand over the responsibilities of my classroom teaching, and saying good-bye to a lot of students, friends, and family members as I get ready to leave for the ice. It’s been an incredibly busy time and I think I will sleep all the way to New Zealand to catch up on my rest!

I’ve been taking a lot of time this week to visit classrooms in District #47 schools. I want to reach out to as many students and teachers as possible so that they will follow the work of the geoscientists involved in the ANDRILL Program in Antarctica. One thing I know is that there is a lot to learn…for all of us. Many people still mix up the Arctic and Antarctic, so I thought I’d share some basic facts with you today to get you started. Remember, I’m heading to the bottom of the world, not "up there" as many people have said to me. I’ll be at about 77 degrees south latitude at McMurdo Station.


  • it is a continent
  • it is surrounded by oceans, winds, and circumpolar ocean currents, uninterrupted by land masses
  • sea ice has an annual outward growth that doubles the size of the continent
  • the elevation at the South Pole is 2912 meters above sea level; bedrock only 34 meters above sea level
  • has penguins living there
  • has no terrestrial (land) mammals
  • no record of primitive man; no native groups
  • the population south of 60 degrees South is sparse, scattered at scientific stations; no exploitation of terrestrial resources
  • crossing of the Antarctic Circle by James Cook; January 17, 1772


photo by David Middleton

  • ocean surrounded by continents
  • sea ice is multi-year, circulates in polar area, and reaches a thickness of up to 1.5 meters
  • the elevation at the North Pole is 1 meter of sea ice; bedrock is 4300 meters below sea level
  • has polar bears living there
  • terrestrial mammals include bears, musk ox, lemmings, reindeer, caribou, fox, hare, wolf, and others
  • native peoples with long, rich cultural records
  • human population at 60 degrees North in excess of 2 million people; modern settlements; widespread technological development
  • crossing of the Arctic Circle is prehistoric
(information from the National Science Foundation)

October 11, 2006
How do you view scientists?

When you think of a scientist at work, what picture do you have in your head?

For years I’ve asked that question to students of all ages as well as colleagues and other friends.  The results are almost always the same... a man with wild looking hair, wearing a lab coat, probably with glasses, and most often mixing up some potion in a laboratory.


One of my goals as part of Project Iceberg is to share the work of the ANDRILL geoscientists as they examine the sediment cores that will be recovered from below the sea floor.  I hope to change how people view scientists and to show the many different activities and investigations in which they are involved.

Perhaps you will picture a scientist as shown in the following drawings.  These were done by some of my fourth grade students after I shared slides and information from an earlier Antarctic drilling project called the Cape Roberts Project, as well as other science research being done in Antarctica.


Notice how the scientists are both men and women.  They are shown sampling a sediment core and scuba diving to collect marine samples.   One student even drew me working in Antarctica.  Remember, we are all scientists, learning every day.

Connect with the ANDRILL geoscientists working on the McMurdo Ice Shelf Project this season.  Find out more about how they will examine the drill core to determine the behavior of the ice shelf in response to past changes in Earth’s climate.

Join the ANDRILL journey and follow the journals of the Project Iceberg teachers.  We hope to hear from you with questions and comments.  Enjoy the journey, I know I will.


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