Thursday, January 7, 2010

good but cold days in the field

We awoke to more snow this morning... This is my tent. Around 5 AM I heard the characteristic shush.... shush... of snow sliding off of my tent. I knew what I would see outside.I know it sounds strange to complain about snow in Antarctica, but in the Dry Valleys, the amount of snow in we have had in the last two weeks or so is uncommon.

Yesterday was a good one, but we didn't get everything completed we had planned. We flew by helicopter from Lake Hoare camp to some field sites we are studying in the Wright Valley, about 20 minutes to the north. It was a cold, cloudy, and windy day. We sampled soils for later analysis of the chemistry of the soil and for the genetic material of the microbes in the soils. We had planned to visit more sites, but the weather became poor and we just barely got back to our field camp. The helicopter crew (Paul, the pilot and Ali the helo tech) were stuck here overnight as the weather was too poor for them to fly after dropping us off. We made the best of the next morning as Paul, Greg (both pilots) and I made a large breakfast for 15 folks! (30 eggs, 1 zucchini, 1 tomato, 1 onion, large handful of mushrooms, handful of fresh basil and some tater tots and hashbrowns). It was terrific!

More weather delays today kept 2 helicopters here through mid-afternoon today until the weather cleared some. Our group decided to walk across Lake Hoare to our field sites to install some monitoring equipment and conduct careful lidar scans of the locations of the snow patches that had been in place a few weeks ago (now gone). Our monitoring equipment will measure soil moisture (liquid water in the soil), soil temperature, and the pressure of water in the soils. Our lidar scans are special scans of the ground that give us a high resolution image of the soil surface. We did these a few weeks ago with the snow in place so that we can estimate the volume of the snow that was there.The day was chilly and we had snow on and off. As you can see below, the lake ice is quite uneven right now. It has lots of pockets and hollow spots that can crumble under your feet at any moment - some steps are solid, some sound hollow... We left came around 10 AM and got back around 8 PM - motivated by the promise of Indian food for dinner!
Here's to being one day closer to better weather!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike! I enjoyed checking out your blog. We'll be projecting it this afternoon so students can check it out. We'll try to write back then, too!