24 January, 1999
Hello from McMurdo!!
I thought that you might want to know something about another really interesting project here. One of my roomates in the Hotel is Diane DiMassa. She received a PhD from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in beautiful Woods Hole, Ma. I had the opportunity several summers ago to study at the Sea Education Association located there. We have both sailed on the same ship - the Corwith Cramer.
Diane designed a navigation system for an autonomous underwater craft - a robot in other words. It is important that the robot "know" where it is or data collected can be quite meaningless.
She "was in the right place at the right time" as she put it and was invited on short notice to join the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET). ANSMET is an unusual group in that most of the members of the expedition each year are new. The mountaineer is John Schutt (Johnny Alpine) and he is a regular, with 19 seasons of ANSMET under his belt. The other regular of course is the Principal Investigator
(PI), Ralph Harvey who has been to all 21 seasons of meteortics in Antarctica.
This year the other members of the team included Paul Benoit (University of Arkansas), Nancy Chabot (University of Arizona), Scott Sanddiford (Astrophysics at Ames) and Barry Lopez, Antarctic regular and author of one of my favorite books - Arctic Dreams.
This year ANSMET went to Grave's Nunatak at 87 degrees South. These mountains surrounded by ice were formerly unclimbed, the ice formerly untrod by human or skidoo.
They had two weeks of weather delays before they could even leave McMurdo. The group was flown out in C130's - all their equipment including skidoos must be flown out.
They traveled via skidoo and each person also dragged 2 Nansen or Komatik sleds behind to carry the equipment and living requirements (tents, stoves, food).
They look for the meteorites on blue ice, and so sometimes the sleds raced ahead of the skidoos and flipped over. Diane told me that once one of her sleds flipped. and as she and Nancy were trying to figure out the best way to right it, they was John yelling and waving. Well they just waved right back and continued to discuss the best way to take of the problem when the mountaineer skiied over to let them know about the crevasse they were standing over!! This soured Nancy on the crevasse issue - well it would be scary!! In the BFC, this group has a sign on their cage door with a penguin upside down on skis hanging, but not falling into a crevasse. At the bottom it says "Crevasse Specialists." That's why they have a mountaineer that goes with them.
This group has a specific protocol for collecting the meteorites. The meteorite is only handled with sterile scissors and 2 people collect the meteorite into a sterile bag after photographing it. Another person -usually John - takes GPS readings so that the location can be documented.
Despite their late start and one week of tent weather out in the field, they had a successful season. Everyone got meteorites (which will end up at NASA) and Barry Lopez found a 65 pound giant. To mark this find they erected a stone man on peak 2680 (it has no name). Barry Lopez has spent glorious time in the Arctic which resulted in that fabulous book and he knows some Inuit. Inuqsuq is Inuit for stone man. Peak 2680 may just be named Inuqsuq Peak sometime in the near future.
The website for ANSMET is http:www. cwru.edu/affil/ansmet.
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