11 November, 1998
Today our goal was to do some ice coring and algae gathering at Trough Lake. It is a rather remote site, and the "powers that be" are thinking about banning any visitation to the lake in the future [They really are trying to preserve what is here so that human influence won't alter the mini-ecosystems]...but for now we're allowed to go. My group has never sampled there.
I woke at 6:00 am, showered (knowing that this would be my last shower for about a week), and packed my bags to go back to camp (following our trip to Trough Lake). I had breakfast and picked up the boxed lunches for our day trip. I checked my e-mail and picked up the boxes of frozen food that I had packed yesterday. I met Chris at the Crary Lab with the boxes and my bags at 8:00 am. We were then picked up to go to the helo pad. We would be meeting John, Ed, and Nina at Trough Lake. They were flying from the Lake Bonney camp to the lake, and then we would all fly back to camp together.
We flew off at 8:30 am and arrived at Trough Lake around 9:10am. We landed on the opaque blue moat ice (remember this is the ice that usually melts in the summer) and moved our equipment and survival bags more into the middle of the lake. Every time we fly in a helicopter, we are left with huge survival bags in case the helicopters cannot get back to us on schedule. Today started out looking like one of those days. The day was cloudy and the weather threatened to isolate us from any access to home. It flurried a bit, but mostly it stayed cloudy and chilly.
Trough Lake was amazing. It was like walking over a miniature world of fantastic ice formations-- ice tables, holes, and caverns. There were huge boulders in the middle of the lake that were held up by small ice structures. They must have been frozen in and then the ice around it gradually fell away. There were parts of the lake that had the clearest dark blue ice in it. There were no bubbles all the way through this part of the ice, so we could see for long distances down through the ice...the ice was about 5 meters thick! This was the first lake that Chris had seen that had this much sediment and algae just lying on top of the lake. This was good because we could collect algal mat from the top of the lake and study it quite easily.
While I collected algal mat and put it into Ziplock bags, Chris walked over to the edge of the lake to collect more algae in the stream beds . Ed, John, and Nina arrived around 11:45 am with the coring equipment and drills.
The weather seemed to get a little colder as I collected the algae. We guessed it was probably around 10 - 15 degrees F, much colder with the wind when it picked up. We ate our boxed lunches before we began coring.
I continued collecting algae, small flakes of Phormidium (a cyanobacteria that grows in meltwater). I looked for the parts of the snow that were "dirty", where sediment had fallen onto the snow and caused it to melt a little. These were great places to find the algae, because, as you know (since you just studied photosynthesis in great detail), these algae need water and sunlight to photosynthesize. Some of the mat was so thick and frozen in that I used a small Leatherman (pocketknife) to chip away at it. John and Ed cored for about 45 minutes, stopping long enough for me to take pictures of them goofing off (see picture below). Chris came back from the stream beds and took over coring with Ed and Nina while John went for a walk to the stream beds.
After collecting a bag of algae (yes, it doesn't seem like much, but it took a long time to collect that amount!), I collected ice from the ice table (the top ice on the lake) for meltwater for our experiments back at the Lake Bonney camp. Nina and I finished this task while the guys decided to hike over to the glacier that loomed over the head of the lake. At 4:45 pm the helicopter arrived to take us back to camp. They first landed near Nina and me and picked up our gear, and then we went to pick up the guys who were at the edge of the glacier. [Wow, these helicopters land very close to us when we're on the ice...which makes it easier to load the helicopter...but we have to hold everything down when they land and take off because, otherwise, everything would go blowing away. There's quite a bit of windpower there!]
On the way back to camp, we refueled at a place called Marble Point. This is one of the locations that helicopters refuel when they are a long distance from McMurdo. It really is a small place with just enough room for 8 people to stay should their flights get delayed back to McMurdo or camp because of weather. The pilots mentioned that we might have to stay there overnight because of the weather, but we loaded up again and headed out for camp. Whew!
We got back to camp and found that "freshies" had arrived. This is a big thing here in camp, I guess. It's when McMurdo is able to send out fresh food, rather than canned, frozen, and dried food...things like onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, eggplant, yogurt, apples, oranges, and cabbage. It's like Christmas!
Ed made hamburgers for the group (a total of 10 people still because the LTER...or Limno...team are still here).
I went to bed at 10:30 pm and slept very well. I sleep much better out in my tent than I do at McMurdo...maybe it's because living conditions at McMurdo are more like a dorm, and the noise can get excessive at times. Of course, being out all day in the cold helps me sleep, too.
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