9 February, 1999

Tuesday, February 9, 1999

WOW! The Mt. Cook area was fantastic!! In addition to seeing wonderful mountains, we were able to see lots of glaciers. To top it off, we were able to see New Zealand's largest glacier, the Tasman Glacier, REALLY well! We started off last night by looking at it from the bottom of the mountain (so we were looking at the end or snout of the glacier). I've never seen a glacier that looked like the Tasman did. Instead of seeing lots of white ice, all we could see was piles of rocks and debris on top of the ice. If it hadn't been for the sign explaining our view, I might not have recognized that it was even a glacier. Higher up the mountain it is white (like you would expect). This far down, however, the rocks and boulders that the glacier has carried down the mountain are left on top as the ice around them slowly melts. It looks really unusual.

This morning, we were able to see the beginning, or top, of the Tasman Glacier. In order to do this, we chartered a small airplane to take us up the mountain. Not only was the scenery spectacular, but also we were able to land the plane on top of the glacier! It was awesome! Technically, this part of the glacier is called the accumulation zone. This is where snow collects each year. The part of the glacier that we saw yesterday was in the ablation zone, which is where the glacier loses ice. Because these glaciers are found in a temperate climate (a place with warm and cold seasons), there is quite a bit of ablation by melting each year. In Antarctica the glaciers don't melt because they are in a polar climate. So, what do you think is the main cause of ablation in Antarctica?

After leaving the mountains, we drove back to Christchurch so that we could get our clothing for Antarctica. The National Science Foundation loans people many of the clothes that they will need while they are on the ice. Each person is issued about 35 pounds of clothing, which includes a warm parka, hats, mittens, gloves, boots, and even long underwear (for starters). We spent over an hour trying on all of our clothes to make sure that they fit correctly. Anything that didn't fit had to be traded in for something that was the correct size. Finally, we were all ready to head south. Unfortunately, we have been told that our flight to Antarctica has been delayed by one day. So, now we are scheduled to fly out on Thursday morning. We have to report to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) at 5:30 a.m.!

Well, before I sign off I want to make sure an answer yesterday's question. The question was: "How can it be 80 degrees outside when I'm so far south of the equator?" Well, you have to remember that I am in the southern hemisphere. Because the earth is tilted, the seasons in the northern and southern hemisphere are opposite of each other. In other words, it's summer in New Zealand right now! Of course, it's summer in Antarctica too . . . but Antarctica is so far south that even in the summer it doesn't get very warm. I guess this summer weather is just a chance for us to get nice and warm before we head down to the cold and ice.

Well, I really need to be signing off. Until tomorrow . . .

Kim Giesting

I'm standing on top of the Tasman Glacier.

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