GOLF 4-3-9 Antarctica Expedition 2012
Exploring the Rock Bottom of the Food Chain in McMurdo's Extreme Environments

Volcanoes host a deep dark biosphere that may contain a substantial fraction of the biomass on Earth, but we know very little about it. How does microbial life adjust to darkness, making organic compounds without light or energy from existing organic components? How does the temperature or the availability of oxygen control microbial function in these settings? G-439 uses the extreme environments of volcanoes in the McMurdo area as a model system to shed light on these questions. G-439 will work below the sea-ice, in frozen lakes in the Dry Valleys and fumarolic ice caves on the ice-covered 14,000 feet tall Mt. Erebus volcano, the southernmost active volcano on Planet Earth. Follow this website read about the G-439 project, and find out about their work, encounters and adventures at the bottom of the globe. E-mail your questions but give us a few days to answer them! Read more about sciences objectives or view a list of activities ...

Day 60 -- 22 December 2012 -- Sponge Collection on the Dirty Ice at Britina Island
One of the aspects of our project is to determine what the “background” organisms are so we can assess how different the microbial communities are on our traps. Laurie has been looking at the fungal communities associated with marine sponges- part of the group of animals we find near our trap at the Cape Evan’s wall. Read more

Day 59 -- 21 December 2012 -- Happy Solstice!
When we first arrived in McMurdo we still had sunrise and sunset, although the daylight was long. On 23 October we got our last sunset for the field season and it is now 24 hours a day of daylight. But today marks a shift in our pattern. For us in the far southern hemisphere, the December solstice is when the sun begins to shift downward toward the horizon as we slowly move into our long winter night. Read more

Day 55 -- 17 December 2012 -- Lake Fryxell, Taylor Valley, Antarctica
Taylor Valley, known as one of the Dry Valleys, is located on the Antarctica continent and is home to lakes Fryxell, Hoare, and Bonney. Although the receding glaciers that carved the valley are not quite as massive as they once were, glaciers are still present. The largest input of liquid water to the Fryxell, although still comparatively minimal, comes from the Canada and Commonwealth glaciers. Read more

Day 31 -- 23 November 2012 -- Ice Caves on Mt Erebus
Active volcanoes not only spew lava, but also hot gases, some of them toxic, some of them just warm air with various amounts of steam and CO2. The vents for such gases are called fumaroles. They commonly form as magma brings groundwater to a boil, forming steam that mixes with volcanic gas and air from the cracks and pores in the volcano, and finally rising to the surface. Read more

Day 22 -- 14 November 2012 -- Polar Mirage
Polar mirage Here in McMurdo we often see mirages when looking across McMurdo Sound to the Royal Society range or Mount Discovery. These are specifically a form of superior mirage where alternating cold layers and warm layers of air bend the light and can form fantastical images, often appearing like cliffs or upside down mountains Read more

Day 20 -- 12 November 2012 -- Our Labwork
Antarctica is not all about fun in the snow; our highest priority for the duration of our visit here is research. Charges, defined as multiple packets of rock substrates with different mineral contents and glass slides, have been exposed to the environment for periods of up to four years. Read more

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19 November 2012 -- Puzzle Of The Week (Answered)
Question: There is a very curious place in Antarctica where the wind always comes from the North. Where is it? Read more

01 November 2012 -- Dive Safety in McMurdo
There are risks when diving under the ice, with only one small hole to get out of the water and diving without a tether at water temperatures below Zero C. Divers must take these risks very seriously. Dive Masters Steve Rupp and Rob Robbins are the local Dive Safety Officers who are in charge of the McMurdo Dive Operations. They take an active role in training new divers, they maintain equipment and the make sure everybody is safe down here. Read more

29 October 2012 -- Puzzle Of The Week (Answered)
Question: A C-17 transport plane could not land on Oct 15 the sea-ice on McMurdo because the sea-ice was too thin. A little over a week later, when Laurie and Anthony were flying in the sea ice has thickened enough so the US Air Force started landing on the Sea Ice Runway. How is it possible that the sea ice is still thickening even though the days are getting longer and the air is warming? The wind chill also decreases as the region enters the Austral summer. Read more

26 October 2012 -- Starting Our 2012/13 Season
It has been a long haul for us to prepare for our work on the ice. We started in mid-summer sending off our cargo shipments. Throughout the summer, we were busy with a prolonged series of medical and dental qualification exams. We finally got our medical clearance only a couple of weeks prior to our deployment and flights were booked only with five days notice. Hubert was the first one to arrive on Oct 10, so he could properly train up for the diving. Read more

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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.

2012-2013 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 four 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!

Alpha Romeo
Hotel Sierra
Bravo Tango
Lima Charlie

~  Anthony Rigoni (OHSU, left)
~  Hubert Staudigel (SIO, left middle)
~  Brad Tebo (OHSU, right middle)
~  Laurie Connell (SMS-UM, right)
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