Hello all - Greetings from Taylor Valley, Antarctica - where the winds blow cold and the snow flies much more frequently than one would expect, at least this time of year.
I was in Antarctica for the New Year's Eve celebration. Several of us hiked down to Scott Base Station (the New Zealand base about 3 km from McMurdo) and welcomed the new year beneath the Midnight Sun. That was certainly an experience I won't forget. I hope all of your celebrations were happy and safe.
Well, getting to the field this year was a bit different than last year. Last year, we were in and out of Christchurch, New Zealand in the period of about 24 hours. This year, we were delayed in Christchurch for 3 days due to bad weather in McMurdo. Apparently, early in the season Lake Hoare was plagued with more-than-the-usual number of no-fly days. By early January the weather typically gets better. Last year at this time the weather was great for science in the valley - warm and sunny, beach weather really. As of today (the 11th here), since my arrival at Lake Hoare on the 4th we have had three no-fly days - twice due to weather here at Lake Hoare, and once due to weather back at McMurdo. We are about a half an hour helicopter flight from McMurdo and the weather can be completely different at each location. These no-fly days make field planning a pain, especially when we have teams of surveyors and safety guides out from McMurdo, and these folks have other things planned as well back in town or elsewhere on the continent. On top of the weird weather, the helicopter scheduling is handled by a new group of people this year, and they are still in the learning process.
We have a good group of goofballs down here this year (although it is hard to rival Martyn T., and Andrew isn't here). We do have a good time when dinner rolls around (Photo 1 attached - This is Pete Conovitz and me grilling up a meal). The food is good and there is plenty of it. We all pitch in to keep the place clean and functioning. And in the evening, you never know what we will end up doing. We've been through Cranium (some people think they know how to hum Stairway to Heaven, and it can be quite humorous when, during a Club Cranium - that's an All Play to you Pictionary players - a player from both teams should both be drawing the process "mutation" and one is actually drawing "mutilation"), many games of cribbage, and another card game called Wizard. Reading and hiking are good pastimes as well, as it is always light while we are here. A midnight stroll is effective when sleep is slow in coming (which is pretty seldom after a day climbing around on the ice), and of course, there is always something in the form of work to do.
Since flying up to Taylor Glacier wasn't possible the other day, I hiked up to Canada Glacier to look for any connections in the near-surface hydraulic system of the glacier, but things were frozen up tight. There were 5 to 12 centimeters of snow on the glacier, depending on where you were, and this is very rare here for this time of year. We awoke that morning to a couple of centimeters of snow on the ground here at camp (Photo 2 attached - This is a lot of snow at Lake Hoare for early January. Back Row: Jeff Scanniello, Brennen Brunner, Rae Spain; Front Row: Whitney Gann, me, Joe Hurley) and it was beautiful. Luckily we got a few good days of work done up on Taylor on Friday and Saturday before the bad weather set in. I still have a few more days of work up there that I need to get done, but it will have to wait...down here, the weather dictates...
We're surveying another channel on Taylor Glacier this year (Photo 3 attached - This is a picture of the channel looking up-glacier, with Brennen Brunner, our ice-climbing guide, at the channel perimeter), as well as placing a couple of roving meteorological stations simultaneously on the channel floor and at the channel perimeter (Photos 4 & 5 attached - These are photos of the met stations). I've also seen many interesting cryoconite holes. Those of you who have put up with me going on and on and on about these features know what I am talking about. Those of you how don't know what I'm talking about can get a short course on cryoconite holes at http://www.geol.pdx.edu/Glaciers/robin/default.html. (Photo 6 attached - Me and beautiful twin cannibalized cryoconite holes).
I'm off now. Please email me at email@example.com - I'd love to hear from you. Until next time - be well and stay warm. After the end of January, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Cheers, Robin (Romeo Juliet in radio code - we have fun with this)