18 August, 2001
It’s the end of my first day in Socorro, NM. I met with Dr. Phil Kyle from New Mexico Tech. He is the PI that will be leading the team headed for Mount Erebus in November. He is no stranger to Antarctica, or to Mount Erebus in parcticular. This will be his thirtieth field season on the continent, and he’s led 25 of them. You can read about New Mexico Tech at http://www.nmt.edu , and read about Dr. Kyle at http://www.ees.nmt.edu/faculty/kyle.html .
Two things were accomplished today. The first was being “introduced” to the team. They weren’t there personally, but I got a description of who they were, what they were doing science-wise on the expedition, and how they managed to become a part of the group. Secondly, I got many of my own questions answered about just what it’s going to be like on this volcano in Antarctica. Most of the questions are ones that people have been asking me—and I can’t answer them. There’s the classic, “How cold is it going to be on the mountain?” (One person said to me, “Well, at least you’ll be warm, it’s a volcano!”) As you might guess, there’s quite a bit of variation in the temperature, but Phil’s estimated average was in the neighborhood of 20 degrees below zero Celsius (about five degrees Fahrenheit). He did say that if the wind is really blowing, there is little to do but hunker down and wait. Sometimes for days. Another standard question is, “Does it erupt?” I’ve been answering in the negative, and it turns out I’m wrong. It depends what one pictures when it’s said, “The volcano is erupting.” It’s not a volcano like Mt. St. Helens. It doesn’t flow over the top like the volcanoes in Hawaii, either. It is a boiling cauldron of lava that has Strombolian eruptions nearly every day. This means that it “burps” new rock onto the walls of the crater (and sometimes into the air.)
On Monday, the group will meet together (minus one), then I’ll spend some time with each member during the week. Starting Monday, I’ll include more of the science that will be involved. In the mean time, if you’re interested in this, I strongly encourage you to visit the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory homepage at http://www.ees.nmt.edu/Geop/mevo/mevo.html . It is an excellent site.
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