GOLF 1-8-2 Antarctica Expedition 2006/2007 Studying the Geological History of Earth's Magnetic Field
Three scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Hawaii are traveling to Antarctica to study the geological history of Earth's magnetic field. On this page, you will find regular updates on their
expedition, exciting information about life in
Antarctica, and reports on the adventures (and work) of the GOLF 1-8-2 Team.
Day 47 – 31 December 2006 – New Year’s Eve and Ice-stock
Like Woodstock, but smaller, more intimate, and involving much less nudity (lest we have a serious case of frostbite on our hands), Ice-stock is an annual McMurdo music tradition. An all-day event, it involves a variety of local talent, musicians, costumes, a chili cook-off, and even a very quirky beard-growing competition! Alternating between cleaning out the lab and enjoying the festivities, between packing up gear and wolfing down chili, we eventually squeezed in a full day’s work and a full day’s play. It was a very “Mactown” goodbye to our 2006 field season!
Day 46 – 30 December 2006 – No Royal Society Range
We managed to finagle our way into the helicopter schedule today (the folks at the helipad worked some serious magic on our behalf), but unfortunately, the weather looked horrid across the sound this morning. Would we make it out to the Royal Society Range? After all that finagling, no! This is the price of doing business in the Antarctic, folks, and thus ends our sampling season. In the next few days we plan to collect all of our things together, ship our samples, return our gear, and tie up any loose ends that need to be dealt with before we go. Oh, yes, and of course we’ll be enjoying the New Year’s celebrations, McMurdo style
Day 45 – 29 December 2006 – Waiting on Our Last Site!
With yesterday’s unexpected delay, our final trip out is now postponed until Saturday. We plan to sample in the Royal Society Range near Radian Glacier, but for now, we have to wait and see if it’s logistically feasible. Keep your fingers crossed ...
Day 42 & 43 – 27 and 28 December 2006 – Not your Mother’s Antarctic Experience
Now the real adventure begins!
After an unsuccessful attempt at sampling Nausea Knob (so-named because of its lofty altitude and the resulting acute mountain sickness that afflicts unacclimatized visitors), we returned to McMurdo to rethink our plans for the day. We had originally expected to land our helicopter near Nausea Knob, collect samples, then hike up to the rim of the caldera on Mount Erebus. However, the helicopter engine kept overheating every time we tried to land, so we decided to bump up our schedule and sample Fang Ridge instead. Fang Ridge is located further down Mount Erebus and is actually the remains of an older caldera rim. Some of the oldest exposed rocks on the volcano should be found there, topping at 1.07 million years of age.
We flew into Upper Fang Ridge, and with the help of our field safety guide and a borrowed snowmobile, we descended Fang Glacier to reach our site at Lower Fang Ridge. Crossing the glacier required ditching the snowmobile, roping up together with harnesses, helmets and ice axes and probing for crevasses while hiking across: quite an ordeal, but invaluable for our safety.
We carefully crossed the glacier, sampled some gorgeous rocks, then returned back the way we came, grabbed our snowmobile, and drove back up to Upper Fang to await our helicopter. We made radio contact with HeloOps, who informed us that our flight would be along shortly, in the next half-hour or so. So we waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally we received another transmission from the folks at HeloOps “Hi, Hubert. You probably already realized this, but Mike [the pilot] isn’t coming to get you guys. He can’t get up there. Low cloud ceiling. There’s no visibility down by the coast.”
That was our cue to dig into our survival bags and set up camp! We ducked into our Scott tent, and after 20 minutes or so of fiddling with the straps on the survival bag, marveling at how cruel fate would be if we couldn’t even open the dang thing, we finally busted it open and pulled out the gear. Julie started up the WhisperLite stove so we could melt snow and make hot water bottles to sleep with (and later, to drink). Elise set up the mats and sleeping bags, while waiting for her dehydrated meal to finish cooking. Six-foot-three Hubert marveled at how he would be able to fit inside his tiny sleeping bag. We ate a meager dinner, then tried to get to sleep.
And boy was it cold! The air temperature was around –30°C, and the frigid cold coupled with thin air and bright sun made sleep very difficult. The night was long, toes went numb, but luckily we made it through and were able to be picked up by the helicopter the next morning (needless to say, after returning to McMurdo we treated ourselves to a well-deserved nap)!
Day 42 – 26 December 2006 – Happy Birthday, Hubert!
Hubert awoke to find his office festooned with birthday streamers (finely crafted out of geological sampling goodies – flagging tape, sample labels and pump hoses). We were supposed to celebrate the big day atop Mount Erebus, one of our last stops here in the Antarctic, but the weather is being stubborn again and refuses to cooperate. Julie, in her best effort to persuade the sun to come out and the wind to die down, took a shower (a strategy that has worked well in the recent past – as soon as she hops in the shower the weather clears up and we have to go get messy again in the field). Unfortunately, her plan fails so far today. But we’re still waiting, fingers crossed
Day 41 – 25 December 2006 – Christmas
It’s Christmas on the ice! McMurdo celebrated with a white-to-grey, not-too-cold-and-windy Christmas day. We started out with a brunch that gave McMurdo’s finest: a buffet with cheeses, lox, all kinds of fruit, kiwis, melon, honeydew, grapes, and yes, even fresh Hawaiian papayas! There were eggs of every description, and waffles made fresh with all kinds of toppings, from berries to syrup to whipped cream. Nobody went hungry, least of all the Golf-182 team, with plates piled high, and bellies full. As Hubert left the galley, he was asked to participate in a mystery “Santarctic” event at an undisclosed location. Unsure of what he was in for, he reluctantly agreed, as it was “something to do on an otherwise fairly quiet, uneventful day.” He had no idea why they asked him to participate, but allow him to report on his outing.
Day 40 – 24 December 2006 – When, What to My Wondering Eyes should Appear?
Christmas Eve at McMurdo brings the big Christmas feast. In preparation for this event and to work up an appetite, we went skiing on the sea ice to Cape Armitage and the Kiwi Base. It was a beautiful day, and we were happy to get a bit of fresh air. We then shared a wonderful meal with our fellow McMurdoids: roast duck, beef Wellington, shrimp, lobster and most importantly – pumpkin pie: the perfect end to a Christmas Eve in Antarctica.
‘Twas the before Christmas, and all through the station,
Not a skua was stirring, to Julie’s elation;
The parkas were hung by the galley with care,
In hopes they would still fit after the meal we would share…
(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)
Day 39 – 23 December 2006 – Altitude Class and the Night Before the Night Before Christmas
Today we wrapped Elise in a giant pressurized hotdog, just for kicks. Well, that and we were attending a course on altitude sickness and proper usage of the Gamov bag in preparation for our upcoming trip to the summit of Mount Erebus. The Gamov bag allows someone suffering from the effects of severe altitude sickness to feel as though they are a couple thousand feet lower in elevation than they actually are. While we don’t expect to have to use this handy little sausage on our day trip, it was helpful to learn how to recognize the onset of altitude sickness and the steps to prevent it (rest and hydration). Still, it was all Elise could do to restrain herself from singing the familiar
“Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer weiner…”. Later that night we attended the annual Christmas party in the heavy shop. The heavy shop is just what it sounds like: an industrial warehouse with big, heavy, testosterone-laden equipment parked inside. But every year the heavy shop staff makeover the ugliest building on the premises, transforming it to be the most festive and merry. Bedecked in Christmas lights and various other sparkly decorations, filled with music and people and food and grog, the shop was transformed into a magical world of holiday revelry. Very fun!
Day 38 – 22 December 2006 – The Epic Saga Continues ...
Today dawns sunny and warm at McMurdo: a day pregnant with possibilities, hopes and dreams. The Golf-182 team has big plans to finish most of the remaining Erebus sites today, and the weather seems promising. But weather in Antarctica can turn on a dime and could dash their hopes. After retreating before a dangerously advancing cloud bank yesterday and being forced to leave behind their cores on Mt. Bird, one question remains: is Golf-182 striving for a goal that is beyond their reach? They are joined today by pilot Paul Murphy in their daring quest to retrieve the abandoned samples. Whether or not they are successful in this mission remains to be seen. The flight to Mt. Bird is uneventful, and the team lands in high spirits near their previous sampling site. Tensions soon mount, however, when they discover that the drill site has been covered with snow by the harsh Antarctic winds. Fortunately, Hubert’s experienced eyes and hands allows him to find minute, telltale signs that eventually lead him to each and every core sample. The day is saved – for now. As the team works diligently in the increasingly bitterly cold winds to retrieve the cores, Paul fashions a musical instrument out of a discarded piece of scientific equipment and serenades them in an attempt to lift their battered spirits.
Finally, all the cores are recovered and team G-182 descends to the rocky shores of Cape Bird to find additional sampling locations. These sites have previously been sampled by another group for dating, and G-182 has been given the site coordinates. By now, though, the sun has swept a wide
arc through the Antarctic sky, and the group is engaged in a race against time to find and sample the sites, aided only by a single GPS receiver and their own wits. After hiking miles and narrowly escaping a flock of vicious skuas, the group of intrepid adventurers locates one of the sites. However, in a cruel twist of fate, the sun has deserted G-182, forcing them to orient their samples with the complicated and touchy differential GPS unit. This means the group must remain hours longer on the barren cliff, exposed to the harsh Antarctic elements, wondering if they will ever see the comforts of McMurdo station again. Things start to look ever more grim when Hubert starts hallucinating about a flock of marauding penguins charging up the hill in an unprovoked attack upon the innocent scientists. This madness is seemingly contagious, and now Paul believes he is on a tropical island in the South Pacific. But Elise and Julie manage to hold the group together, and miraculously, everyone makes it through alive, having also achieved the ambitious scientific goals. Before the group wings their way home to a well-deserved warm meal and shower, they stop by to visit their friends at the Kiwi hut on Cape Bird. They are treated to a guided tour of the penguin colony, where those miraculous little creatures have recently hatched and are bravely making their way into the cruel, harsh world that is Antarctica.
Day 37 – 21 December 2006 – Crash Nunatak and Mount Bird
We had plans of sampling the nunatak (an exposure surrounded by glacial ice) on the northern slope of Erebus. However, unbeknownst to us, the portion of the outcrop that we wanted was located within an Antarcic Specially Protected Area, or ASPA, as part of a memorial for Air New Zealand flight 901, which crashed nearby in 1979. The gps coordinates we were given were supposedly outside of the protected area, however, the only rocks to be found were within its borders, so we had to give up the site, and instead flew north to the top of Mount Bird. At Mount Bird it was difficult to find coherent outcrop, as the whole area is mostly covered with lose rock, but after a good half hour of searching, we found a teeny-tiny-little exposure and drilled it. Unfortunately, at that point the fog rolled in and we had to rush back in the helicopter and abandon our site before we could orient the samples.
Day 36 – 20 December 2006 – Mr. Hooper and Mr. William Generously Donate Rocks to Support our Cause ...
Today we fly to Hooper’s Shoulder Cone and to William’s Cliff, both located on the flanks of Mount Erebus. We collect three sites with close helicopter support from our pilot, Paul Murphy.
Day 35 – 19 December 2006 – Stuck in Purgatory, Part III
Thinking we were on a good roll after our record-breaking sampling effort yesterday, we were disappointed to be put on "weather hold" early this morning. Due to cloudy and foggy conditions, the helicopters were not flying. We eventually cancelled the flight, and spent the day tidying up the lab in preparation for new lab neighbors due to arrive tomorrow. For the rest of our stay at McMurdo, we will be sharing our space with a group from Purdue University.
Day 34 – 18 December 2006 – Four Sites in the Bag
Team record! Today we collect four sites: One at Abbott Peak, two at Hooper’s Shoulder, and one at Turks Head. We pull a long day, but arrive back at the lab with pounds and pounds of glycol-covered booty in tow ...
Build-Your-Own-Panorama and Computer Desktop Images
We have collected 5 build-your-own-panoramas from Antarctica and a set of beautiful images you could use for your computer desktop background! Use your own favorite "stitching" program to make the panoramas ...
As Hubert left the galley on Christmas day, he was asked to participate in a mystery "Santarctic" event at an undisclosed location. Unsure of what he was in for, he agreed, as it was "something to do on an otherwise fairly quiet, uneventful day." He had no idea why they asked him to participate, but allow him to report on his outing ...
Ivan the Terra Bus
He's Ivan the Terra Bus, and
He's bringing our friends to us. Get the lyrics here of this particular Antarctica song ...
How Rocks get Magnetized
The Golf-182 team is sampling volcanic rocks to study how Earth’s magnetic field has changed over the past few million years. The rocks act like a paleo-compass by preserving a record of the direction and strength of Earth’s magnetic field at the time they erupted and cooled. This way if we can find volcanic rocks of different ages, we also have a record of the magnetic field at different points in time.
Read here how we extract all this valuable information ...
Keeping Warm in Antarctica – Happy Camper Survival Training
Before deployment into the field, our team must undergo special training to learn how to deal with the harsh Antarctic weather conditions. Join the Golf-182 team as they undergo "Happy Camper" Survival Training (more formally titled "Snowcraft I") ...
How to Build a Quinzee – A Lesson in Shoveling
Surprisingly warm, comfortable and quiet, a "quinzee" is a cross between an igloo and a pile of snow. Find out how to build a proper one ...
Survival Bags – What’s Inside?
Every time we go out to do field research in Antarctica we are required to hump a huge bag full of survival equipment in case the weather turns ugly. Check out what we put inside these bags ...
How many geologists does it take to read a compass? It takes at least a few. Compass measurements at high latitudes leave us scratching our heads. Find out why this seemingly simple task is not as straightforward as you might think ...
USAP Shorthand and Lingo
Before you ever dream about going to do research in
Antarctica, you better know your abbreviations. Get
yourself a handle here on your USAP shorthand and
lingo, because these abbreviations and terminology
might be used liberally on this website ...
The ultimate goal of this study is to improve our understanding of the Earth's magnetic field in both time and space! In order to accomplish these far-reaching goals, scientists have founded the Time-Averaged
Field Initiative (TAFI) to collect geomagnetic data over the whole globe for the past 5 million years.
Members of the
GOLF 1-8-2 Team are braving the elements (extreme cold, wind and maybe snow fall) in order to collect samples of volcanic rocks from the McMurdo area in Antarctica. By studying these igneous rocks, they hope to view a "snapshot" of what the Earth's magnetic field looked like in the particular time and place the rocks were formed.
The study at
McMurdo is particularly important because the rocks collected there will give insight into what is going on inside the outer core region of the Tangent Cylinder, an imaginary cylinder that shares its radius with the radius of the inner core and its central axis with Earth's rotational axis. The
Tangent Cylinder intersects the Earth's surface at about 70° latitude and is responsible for some very unexpected geomagnetic behaviors near the South pole and thus also the McMurdo area.
Day 47 -- Ice-Stock Ice-stock is the McMurdo new year's eve tradition. The festival includes an assortment of music, a chili cook-off, and the annual beard-growing contest. And of course, what would a 'stock be without scantily clad partygoers?
Day 46 -- Scott Base The road to Willy field avoids the pressure ridges in the ice by winding around them. This gives us some prime examples of undulating ice grading into more broken and blocky terrain ...
Day 44 -- Still Smiling after One Night Camping on Fang Glacier At thirty-below, any moisture in your breath condenses and freezes on exposed hair. We spent the night at Fang Glacier, giving us some first-hand experience in surviving these extreme conditions, and some good photo-ops of "Beardcicles"
dominating Hubert's face. Just imagine what would have happened after two nights on the ice ...
Day 43 -- Fang Ridge our Last Drill Site Low hanging clouds prevented the helicopter from flying in to pick us up. We had to dig into our survival bags, set up camp on Fang Glacier and spend the night on Mount Erebus! A hell of a way to drill our last site for the
GOLF182 expedition ...
Day 41 -- Frolicking in the Snow Everybody is having a ball here on the ice in Antarctica! Even though we are on the opposite part of our planet with regard to Santa's house on the North Pole, he still has a great holiday weekend planned out for us. For today
this includes a white playground with blue balls ...
Day 38 -- Santa is in Town! At the helicopter pad this morning, we catch a glimpse of Santa and his elves boarding the 212 with a sack-full of goodies for the field camps. Would Santa have a present for this patient penguin?
Day 37 -- The Ice is Breaking Up A clear day on the north coast of Ross Island. Thirty minutes later, Mount Bird was shrouded in fog and we had to go home. However, from the helicopter we could see the first cracks appear in the ice sheet, the ice is starting
to break up!
Day 36 -- GOLF 182 Set For More Drilling When a dim sun appears behind the clouds a sun compass reading can be made by lining up a straight wire with the gnomon and the sun. A second person must read the azimuth.
Day 34 -- Rocks and Snow The title seems to sum up what we are up to here in Antarctica, trying to sample as many rock samples in a snow-filled landscape!
Day 33 -- Helicopter versus Mt. Erebus The brave little A*star (the helicopter from the National Science Foundation) stands before a very cloudy Fang Ridge on Mt. Erebus. We have to hurry and collect our samples before the clouds come in or else we can't take off!
Day 29 -- Helicopter versus Mt. Erebus The brave little A*star (the helicopter from the National Science Foundation) stands before a very cloudy Fang Ridge on Mt. Erebus. We have to hurry and collect our samples before the clouds come in or else we can't take off!
Day 24 -- More sampling on Mt. Erebus Pengiuns at Cape Bird are the cutest things Makes for pleasant drilling and rock sampling.
Day 23 -- Wright Valley Wright Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, is today's sampling target. The geology and scenery are just amazing. While moving into the valley by helicopter, we could see that the freezing soil forms cracks like a drying mudflat, often defining hexagonal shapes. The cracks are then filled with snow and drift sand
Day 20 -- Drilling Site 209 Snow drifts and wind erosion make some bizarre ice sculptures. Good scenery while we were drilling Site MC209 near Little Razorback Island with Mt Discovery in the background.
Day 19 -- Seals Galore Weddell seal moms lose up to 40% of their body weight during the six-week nursing season. That's what we learned today. Pups can gain up to three pounds per day from nursing alone. View some really cute seal pictures in this
Day 18 -- Ice Skating for Exposures On our way to Turks Head today our paths were blocked by impressive ice formations. Tidal heave and sea-ice expansion bunch up the ice along the shore line offering a challenge to get to our drill sites. However, we could use
our infamous ice skating skills on cramp-ons.
Day 15 -- Trek to Turks Head Elise and Julie scout for potential drill sites on Little Razorback Island, almost reminiscent of a Hollywood movie set. Our team must traverse slush ponds, ice and snow in order to access our desired outcrop at Turks Head.
Day 14 -- NSF is Drilling Down Tom and Brian from the NSF Science Support team join us today on our quest for good paleomagnetic samples. Both are trying the Stihl hand drill, while pumping a lot of "cooling" water. It is amazing that we still need to cool
the drill around here in the sub-zero climate of the South Pole, but the drill bits get overheated easily, still ...
Day 13 -- Thanks to the Emperor
Today we crossed paths with a lone Emperor penguin. These gracious and dignified animals are patient photo subjects, as we find out, which makes for some good pictures. We also are getting quite some work done today! It was a long day of drilling
and we were able to collect samples from three sites!
Day 12 -- Observation Hill Today we visited Observation Hill, where a cross was erected on "Ob Hill" as memorial to Robert Falcon Scott's fatal exploration. It reads "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" ... a good reminder for every possible
situation in life! From this hill we also have an unobstructed view of McMurdo Station.
We are three scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and the University of Hawaii traveling to Antarctica to study the geological history of Earth’s magnetic field. This scientific endeavor, project G-182 (spelled "golf-1-8-2") of the US Antarctic Program will begin on November 16, 2006 with a flight from Christchurch/New Zealand to
McMurdo in Antarctica. We will provide you with regular updates of the 2006/2007 expedition, but above all, you will be able to contact us and ask questions or get more information, because McMurdo station has high-speed internet access. So, we are looking forward to share our
adventures with you or to chat to you over the internet!