GOLF 4-3-9 Antarctica Expedition 2008
Report Day 37 -- Tuesday 02 December 2008 -- Tramway Ridge Warm Soil ASPA

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Donning ASPA Clean Suits

One set of our exposure experiments was to be deployed in the Tramway Ridge hydrothermal area. This region is an "Antarctic Specially Protected Area" (ASPA # 150), specially protected for the mosses and lichens that grow there. The regulations require entry only in special aseptic coveralls, sterile gloves and hats. Such protective clothing may help prevent contamination of the ASPA site through the introduction of strange microbes, but they are not designed for Antarctic temperatures. This was a pretty chilling event.

On the preceding day, we scouted the area out, walked around it and were careful to stay on the snow/ice so we would not contaminate the soil. Once we had a good idea of where it was (there were almost no signs!) we decided on a entry and work strategy for the next day. This region is strikingly beautiful with ice towers indicating hydrothermal vents.

Our deployment in 55C Soil

Early morning came with no wind and a clear sky, so we took off for Tramway Ridge as soon as we could, just to make sure we didn't get hit with another weather problem. We properly dressed in our (Alien-) clean suits, washed down our boots with alcohol and entered the area. We saw mosses and lichen growing in the warm ground. We must be careful to not only avoid the moss and lichen but also not introduce other organisms. Even though the ground is 55C, the air is still cold so we have to move with efficiency before we got too cold ourselves. We were able to place two sets of experiments in Tramway, one in very warm ground and one in a cooler location at the edge of the open ground (20 C- still warm but much cooler than the interior location). Laurie obtained samples that she can bring back to McMurdo for DNA and RNA extraction. On the way back from the ridge we stopped to photograph some of the fumaroles along the "road". They are areas where steam comes up from underground and the warm vapors freeze into chimneys as they hit the cold air on the mountain flanks. After Laurie gets back to the lab in McMurdo it will take her a full day to process the samples from Tramway Ridge and prepare them for shipment back to the US. In addition, extra samples were taken for a collaborator and must be packaged for transfer to Scott Base, the New Zealand base close to McMurdo. Because of the delay at Fang Camp our schedule has been disrupted, so the team must split up. Fog had been predicted for that afternoon so Laurie was able to hop a ride on the last helicopter out for the day, after it delivered cargo for the main body of Golf 081 that will arrive at the Hut in a few days.

Hubert Staudigel (Hotel Sierra) and Laurie Connell (Lima Charlie a.k.a. Loco Coco) from McMurdo Station
2 December, 2008

GOLF 4-3-9 Antarctica Expedition