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November 25-26, 2013

Transitioning to Terrestrial

by Andrew Klein

Andrew's head

These past two days have marked somewhat of a transition for the B-518 team as we completed our marine sampling on Friday the 22nd and have spent the past two days preparing for the terrestrial component of our research. This time, while very productive, has not been perhaps as exciting as the previous week. But it has been quite important. On Monday the team was not unhappy to spend the day in the lab as the winds were quite high and temperatures were well below freezing which would have made terrestrial sampling very difficult. Today the winds calmed, the temperature warmed and the B-518 team’s thoughts began to turn to getting out and sampling once again.

Our Office Door
The door to the office where Steve and Andrew work. It has a nice coffee aroma.

Office Door
B-518 is still referred to as the Kennicutt Crew...

Lab Door
The door to our lab that we share with B-330...

Our Lab
Our lab space...if you turn around you would see a bunch of boxes of sample jars...as you can see Mary is hard at work this evening.

view from lab
The view from our lab is spectacular. Sometimes the smells in the lab, not so.

Your faithful blogger has spent a large part of the past two days preparing the sampling plan for the collection of our terrestrial soil samples. This activity has been somewhat more complex than in the past few years as we are adding three sites in the McMurdo Dry Valleys that we wish to sample. This has required software to be rewritten and many new decisions to be made about how to sample these sites.  

Not only was it necessary to create a sampling plan, it is necessary to collect all the instruments we will use in our terrestrial sampling and begin labeling the sample jars we will take in the field with us.
Therefore the team had to spend considerable time and effort in dealing with the many small details that require our attention such as making sure we have received all the supplies that were to be provided in our Research Support Plan drawn up by the Antarctic Support Contract (ASC) that lays out exactly what supplies and services will be given by the contractor in support of our research this season.

Steve and Terry also spent time working on completing the marine side of this year’s program such as making sure the samples are correctly labeled and packed for shipment back to our laboratories in the United States. All of our samples will come back on the resupply vessel that will visit McMurdo in February. We also worked on making sure the supplies for our marine sampling we are leaving on station for when we return are cleaned and ready to use again in a year or so.

As part of my and Mary’s GIS work, Mary talked with the person on station from the Polar Geospatial Center (PGC) at the University of Minnesota about getting some high resolution satellite images of our control sites. The PGC provides GIS and other geospatial support for science and operations on the continent. I will perhaps blog more about this group later in the season.

On the afternoon of the 26th, the B-518 team did have some fun. All four of us had snowmobile training. The three Old Antarctic Explorers: Terry, Steve and Andrew just had to do a 1.5 hour refresher course held in the warmth of the SSC (Science Support Center) whereas Mary had the wonderful opportunity to go outside and practice riding a snow machine. As the weather finally improved and is excellent that was not a bad thing to have to do.

Gregg explaining the finer workings of a snow mobile
Greg Zerban explains the finer workings of a snowmobile.

listening to the lecture
Terry, Steve and Mary learn about how to repair a snowmobile

In fact, Mary had a great training! Today is the last day of 2013 which the C-17s are flying into McMurdo. They will not return until the end of January. Our snowmobile trainer – Greg Zerban – wanted to see a C-17 up close so he took the three trainees out to the sea ice runway to see the activities. Not something every training group gets to do! Greg gave a great refresher course and as several people commented it was the first time we were told where to check the transmission fluid on a Skidoo.

Mary on a Scandic Ski-doo
Mary rides a Scandic Ski-doo

Mary's close up of a Hercules LC-130 which is the ski-equipped version of the C-130. This one has the new 8 blade propellors which save on fuel and create much less vibration and noise.

A C-17 being readied for flight back to Christchurch, NZ.

Condition Fun - a McMurdo band - has a locally popular song about flying south to McMurdo Station on a C-17 which can be seen in this YouTube video. They also have a Facebook Page. By the way, Condition Fun is a spin off of Condition 1 - the worst weather conditions and in which cannot leave the building you are in.

Mt. Erebus above McMurdo
Mt. Erebus in the clouds behind the hills of McMurdo Station

Well we hope tomorrow will turn out to be a great day for the B-518 team as we wait, somewhat patiently, to find out if we are scheduled on a helicopter to visit our Dry Valley’s sites. Stay tuned to find out on our next blog.