GOLF 4-3-9 Antarctica Expedition 2010
G-439 scientists are scheduled to arrive in Antarctica on October 25th 2010 and return from McMurdo to New Zealand on January 9th 2011.
Upon arrival in Antarctica there will be about ten days of activities such as training for survival in Antarctic conditions or how to operate snowmobiles, briefings on any issue from waste disposal to altitude sickness, staging for field camp activities (tents, food, sleep kits, etc.) and preparation for our experiments and sampling.
The first activities at McMurdo will include SCUBA diving in McMurdo Sound, at Cape Evans, where Robert Falcon Scott built a hut more than 100 years ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Evans). There are lots of cool sites nearby, such as the Adelie Penguin rookeries of Cape Royd and the southernmost Weddell seal colonies of the Dellbridge Islands. The Cape Evans dive site is one of the most spectacular dive sites in Antarctica, featuring a steep underwater rock wall made of Mt. Erebus lavas, right next to the entry of a glacier into the oceans and the dark and light ice overhead where snowdrifts look like dark clouds on the ceiling. The current experiment is deployed at about 80 feet water depth on a large rock teeming with sea stars.
On November 5, G-439 scientists will fly to their first field camp on the shores of the permanently frozen Lake Fryxell in Taylor Valley, probably the best known and most studied of the Dry Valleys. This lake was formed millions of years ago and it is sustained by the seasonal melting of the numerous glaciers that converge on the valley from all sides. In 2008, G-439 drilled a hole through six meters of ice and deployed a mooring with experiments positioned at three different water depths below the ice. This work goes hand-in-hand with the activities of the Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER, http://www.lternet.edu/sites/mcm/) project that provides key background information for the deployments. LTER scientists will be on site at the same time and the teams will help each other with drilling, sample handling and camp chores.
After returning to McMurdo for a few days, G-439 will shift its activities to Mt. Erebus, teaming up with a field party from New Zealand who are collaborating on the microbiology of these systems. First we will have to acclimate to the high altitude on Fang Glacier and then take up residence in Lower Erebus Hut at a lofty 3,500 m (11,500 feet) elevation, to study life in hydrothermal vent areas and in ice caves carved into the glaciers covering the active Mt. Erebus Volcano.
In mid-December, when creeks in Taylor Valley begin to run, G-439 will return to Taylor Valley and recover some of our experiments on the upper slopes and briefly stop by at “Blood Falls” a curious surfacing of bright red muds from beneath Taylor glacier.
G-439’s last task will be to tend to exposure experiments that were deployed in a seasonal river on the western end of Walcott glacier in the Royal Society Range. Walcott Glacier is fed from the massive high plateau of the East Antarctic ice sheet, just to the east of the Trans-Antarctic mountains. The terminus of Walcott Glacier begins to form melt rivers around the turn of the year, freeing up the exposure experiments from the grip of the Ice during most of the year. As soon as the melt begins, G-439 will take a one-hour helicopter trip across the ice shelf, recover some of the exposure experiments and return the same day to McMurdo.
Once these last samples are “in the bag” the last sample preparations will be done in McMurdo and it will be time to pack up and go home. This may be around Christmas or early 2011, with a scheduled departure for January 9.
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