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6 August, 2003

Next stop: Antarctica!

Today, Phil and I worked on the sediment cores in the walk in freezer. We tested the effectiveness of using an electric hot knife and wire for cutting through part of the cores. Both devices may prove to be useful for certain tasks, but the actual cutting of the cores will be left to power saws!

The remainder of the day was spent finalizing plans and sorting through remaining paper work.

The logistics of getting a team to a remote field site in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are impressive. It is quite a task to organize travel plans, not only for a group of people, but also for all the equipment that will be needed in the field. There are baggage restrictions to follow, customs forms and permits to acquire, and schedules to coordinate; nothing can be forgotten!

Getting to Antarctica is not an easy task! We will fly from Los Angeles, California to Auckland, New Zealand. From Auckland, we will take a thankfully much shorter flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. If schedules go as planned, we will be in Christchurch for two days. One day will be for going to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) to get properly outfitted with all the extreme cold weather clothing. The next day will be scheduled for deployment to Antarctica; but this depends on the weather! Time spent in Christchurch is ultimately determined by weather conditions allowing us to leave. The weather in Antarctica is the larger limiting factor -- are there storms brewing or occurring? Will the plane be able to land when it gets there? The plan is for me to leave LA on November 3rd, arriving in Christchurch on November 5th; that's right, I will lose November 4th due to traveling across the international date line! November 6th will be the day I visit the CDC and November 7th is the scheduled day to depart for Antarctica; we will see!

Once in Antarctica, our team will spend several days in McMurdo Station. The initial stay in McMurdo will be largely an Antarctic training session that will include "Happy Camper" school. This training will teach us how to use the communications radios, how to build an emergency shelter, and basically how to stay as safe as possible in the Antarctic environment.

We will then deploy, via helicopter, to the Dry Valleys. We will spend roughly 7-10 days at Lake Hoare, 7 days at Lake Fryxell, 7-10 days at Lake Bonney, and 1-2 days at Lake Vida. We will be collecting data, sediment cores, water samples, and will also be attempting to establish the brine depth under the ice at Lake Vida.

The McMurdo Long Term Ecological Research Project is truly exciting; I am extremely fortunate to be part of this years field team. Although there is much still to learn, I feel ready to get underway! As Apsley Cherry-Garrard (an early Antarctic explorer with Robert Falcon Scott) said in his book The Worst Journey in The World: "If you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore." Come out and explore with us!

1) Slicing through a sediment core with an electric "hot wire."

2) Most commonly used routes to Antarctic locations. (photo from NSF booklet)

3) Taylor Valley Lakes and Monitoring Stations (Diagram from MCMLTER).

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