5 November, 1998
I woke up nice and toasty in my tent this morning at 7:45 am. The wind was tugging at my tent, trying to blow it away, it seemed. [But of course, I had made sure that my strings were attached to sturdy rocks and therefore my tent could not blow away. : )] The wind was warmer today...the temperatures reached -4 degrees C (in the 20's F). Wow! Since I was up a little earlier than everyone else, I attempted to make cinnamon rolls. They turned out pretty well...they didn't rise as well as they do at home...I think because of the lack of humidity here. (?) As soon as everyone had had breakfast, John showed me where the sediment traps were kept. The sediment traps were made already; I just had to make sure that they were strung up properly, that there was a weight attached to the bottom of it (otherwise it wouldn't sink), and that there was a mechanism for preventing the whole trap from disappearing down the hole. I worked on doing this for 3 sediment traps this morning, just in case we would be able to drill more holes in the ice. I cut bamboo lengths and crossed them for the top of the trap. This "X" shape would prevent the trap from slipping loose at the top and disappearing forever. This took the majority of the morning (probably because I was practicing my knots!)
We ate lunch (soup and crackers). Mark left for McMurdo in the helicopter. He was taking ice core samples and Nostoc samples back to Jim Raymond in the lab. Nostoc is a cyanobacteria that lives on the ground, in meltwater, in the ice, and in stream beds. It's actually a black color and prefers to live in places where nitrogen is limited (you can find it at home, too). We found a bunch of it on the ground up the hill from camp. Jim is working on ice-active substances-- substances that cause ice to behave in unusual ways. I don't know if I told you about the "antifreeze" substance found in Antarctic fish down here (really a glycoprotein), but that substance prevents ice from forming in the fish and therefore they don't freeze to death. There are other substances that cause ice crystals to behave in different ways. How do you think manufacturers in the U.S. want to use these substances?
At the same time that Mark was picked up, Bjorn (a GPS support person) was dropped off for 1-1/2 days to help Ed learn how to map the surface of Lake Bonney. The ice surface is very rough and ridged on Lake Bonney, and from what I understand, that changes every year. Ed wants to document this change and maybe answer some questions about what causes it and how it affects the microbial life in the ice.
The LTER (Long-Term Ecological Research) team arrived by helicopter next. There are four people on this parcticular team-- Craig Wolf, Michele Secrest, Laura Spinney, and Kathy Welch-- and they travel to the various lakes and spend time sampling on each one. LTER has 17 sites in the world (in deserts, tropical regions, polar regions, etc.). They collect data in 5 main areas (primary productivity, carbon/nitrogen levels, weather patterns, species diversity, and community composition) and share that information with other scientists. Since there are teams from all parts of the world, we can compare the various areas and get a "bigger picture" of what is going on. Pretty cool, huh?
While the LTER team was unpacking and setting up their tents (they'll be here at camp for about 5 days), I went with John to the West Lobe of Lake Bonney to switch the data canister in the data logger (I discussed this yesterday in my journal). We took the ATV (all-terrain vehicle) which was quite the experience because we were driving on ice most of the time...no sharp turns!
The West Lobe of Bonney was very different from the East Lobe...very beautiful again but even more rocky. The terrain looked more like Mars, with the exception of the huge and very blue glaciers spilling over the sides of the mountains. On our way to the other lobe, we went past this huge, perfectly smooth hill with very fine sediment covering it. There were little sand avalanches cascading down the hill...it was mesmerizing to watch the differently colored sand grains mix with each other as they slowly made their way down the hill. It was like a slow-motion video! We went through Santa Fe Creek which Scott's Expedition went through. They made measurements of the stream bed width (which makes for good comparison because their measurements were wider than ours). What does that mean?
We were able to go right up to the foot of the Taylor Glacier. You could see the sediment lines in the glacier where sediment had been deposited as the glacier moved down the valley. Parts of the glacier ice are a very surreal clear blue color; they look so pure and untouchable.
We went by a stream gauge set in the creek bed (I thought it was a small dam with a small channel set into it). The scientists use this "flume" to measure the conductivity and flow rate of the water once it melts and fills the stream. (Yes, there is lots of liquid water in the Antarctic summer!). We took pictures of Blood Falls, an area of the glacier that looks like it's bleeding due to iron oxides in the glacier. John said later that after bringing a clear sample of water back from the glacier and allowing it to sit a while, it turns reddish (this is the ferrous iron becoming ferric iron...it's just being oxidized by the air). Therefore, the outer part of the glacier that we see has had time to oxidize.
We traveled past several more mummified seals, one of which was fairly new...a couple of years old...because the fur was still intact and the joints were flexible.
John changed the data canister in the data logger and checked to make sure it was still recording accurate data.
We went back to camp. We all ate dinner together (pizza!) at 8:30 pm (lots of research makes for a late dinner) and sat around making plans for the next day. I went to bed around 10:30 pm...tired, tired, tired.
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