GOLF 4-3-9 Antarctica Expedition 2010
Exploring the Rock Bottom of the Food Chain in McMurdo's Extreme Environments

Five scientists from Oregon, Maine and California (and their team mascot “da Microbe”) are traveling to Antarctica to study the “Rock Bottom” of the food chain in the extreme environments of McMurdo Sound. GOLF-439 scientists will be based at McMurdo station of the US Antarctic Program (USAP) on Ross Island from where they will embark on trips to remote locations and field camps in the Antarctic Dry Valleys, at Cape Evans, on Mount Erebus and in the Royal Society Range. Targets of their investigations will include moorings below the ice of Lake Fryxell (Taylor Valley), experiments below the sea-ice using SCUBA diving, hydrothermal vents and ice caves in the glaciers of Mt. Erebus, as well as seasonal creeks running through volcanic terrain that are fed by glacial melting in the short Antarctic summer. Read more about sciences objectives or view a list of activities ...

Day 39 – 28 November 2010 – Mt. Erebus Caves – A Window into the Subsurface
Below the surface of the Earth, deep within her crust, there is an abundance of microorganisms. Some scientists estimate that the biomass of these microbes living in the subsurface is equal to or greater than the biomass on the surface of the planet. However, at this stage we know very little about the microbes which define the subterranean biosphere, how they get enough energy to survive, how they influence geochemical fluxes promoted by ground water circulation, and how this biosphere ... Read more

Day 36 – 25 November 2010 – Working On Erebus: LEH and Skidoos
Life and work on top of Mt Erebus revolves around three issues: the weather, Lower Erebus Hut (LEH) and travel by snowmobile. Let me explain. Erebus is a very tall mountain in the harsh Antarctic climate: Winds can reach 50-80 miles per hour and temperatures can drop to -40 F/-40°C even in the peak of summer. White-outs can reduce visibility to a point that you have no sense of direction, horizontally or vertically. There is nothing you can do under those conditions, just hunker down in the hut ... Read more

Day 27 – 26 November 2010 – Working at Erebus Volcano: Dealing with High Altitude Sickness
Erebus Volcano is an extremely photogenic volcano with beautiful and often serene scenery, but it is also a very challenging environment for scientific research. While the weather conditions might come to mind first for those challenges, it is only second to its altitude which is of most concern. Our working area is in the summit region of Erebus volcano, between Lower Erebus Hut (“LEH”; 3402 m/11,161 feet) and Erebus summit at 3,794 m (12,448 ft), well above the elevation above which high ... Read more

Day 26 – 15 November 2010 – Working in the Fryxell Ice Maze
We just returned from our first trip out to the Dry Valleys to retrieve our moorings at Lake Fryxell. We did the job we came to do, not entirely without hick-ups but it all worked out and we had a great adventure, learning lots. You might know that the Dry Valleys represent the largest ice-free areas of Antarctica and are amongst the driest places on earth. Glaciers converge on these valleys from many directions, but they melt and “dry up” way ... Read more

Day 22 – 11 November 2010 – Diving Under The Ice II
Diving at McMurdo is an incredible experience. There is so much to learn about diving under the ice, even if you trained hard in San Diego. There is so much to see and study, and it is an amazing amount of fun to hang out with the McMurdo dive team, Rob Robbins, Steve Rupp, Brenda Konar and Adam Marsh. They were the best diving buddies one can imagine. As a novice diver I did not take any photographs or video footage at all. Steve and Rob did it for me - all the images in this report are theirs... Read more

Read All Daily Updates
The Sundial in Christchurch Goes Counterclockwise
Puzzles abound, even before we get to Antarctica. Our delay gives us more opportunity to explore Christchurch, and I happened to run into a sundial in the Botanical Garden. Different from the sundials in the US, the dial goes counterclockwise, where One o’clock is to the left of noon. So, why the heck does the sun go the other way around in Christchurch than in San Diego? It all comes down to the fact that the sun rises in the east and it is straight up at noon at the equator. Read this story by Hubert Staudigel ...

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. Read this story by Hubert Staudigel ...

Antarctica is a very harsh continent with very little life. Food webs have to be very “creative” to adjust to conditions that have been compared to life on other planets or during the early Earth. We are using these special conditions to explore which microbes are the most successful at using nutrients and energy from volcanic rocks.

Our aim is to improve our understanding of the Rock Bottom of the food chain. How can microbes make organic carbon by using inorganic components? And which microbes are the main players in utilizing chemical energy and nutrients from rocks and soils that are very poor in organic matter?

Our experiments will focus on the Extreme Environments of the McMurdo area around Ross Island, Antarctica. These will include some (ancient) lava flows and lakes in the Dry Valleys, the Royal Society Range, and on Mount Erebus.

Our 2008-2009 Expedition focused on the choice and the deployment of experiments. During our 2010-2011 Expedition much of GOLF-439 will be focused on re-visiting these sites and systematically sampling them while concluding our two-year exposure experiments. Our final return in 2012-2013 will allow us to recover experiments that will have been exposed for four years.

2010-2011 Expedition
Follow the GOLF-439 expedition via pictures! The expedition members are uploading stunning pictures from Antarctica on a day by day basis ...

2004/2005  |  2006/2007  |  2008  |  2010  |  2012
We are five scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Oregon Health and Science University and the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine studying microbial life in extreme cold and dry environments. On this website we will provide you with regular updates of the GOLF439 Expedition to share our adventures, challenges and findings!

Hotel Sierra
Bravo Tango
Romeo Alpha
Lima Charlie
Romeo Delta
~  Hubert Staudigel (SIO, left)
~  Brad Tebo (OHSU, middle)
~  Roberto Anitori (OHSU, right)
~  Laurie Connell (SMS-UM, below)
~  Rick Davis (OHSU, below)
We are the GOLF439 Home Team and will work on the microbial experiments and samples as they are retrieved from the extreme environment of Antarctica. We will provide you with reports from our lab results!

Alexis Templeton
Craig Cary
Greg Wanger
Anthony Koppers
Patty Keizer
Rupert Minnett
Don Dingwell
Shawn Doan
Scott Craig
University of Colorado
University of Delaware
Craig Ventner Institute at UCSD
Oregon State University
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Ludwig Maximilians Universitaet Muenchen
Sehome High School, Bellingham, WA
US Fish and Wild Life Service, Orland, ME