Friday, December 30, 2011

Tears and hope for an adopted home

Christchurch, New Zealand continues to be battered by earthquakes, and traveling through town on the way to/from Antarctica was a sobering experience. So many homes and businesses are in ruins.

I spent a solemn hour at the site of the Devon B & B, which had to be demolished. I've stayed there every season, and now understand how it feels to be left homeless.

One wish for 2012: May the earth settle so that Christchurch can heal.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fixing what's broken ... well, the easy stuff to fix

Stuff breaks. When that happens in the middle of nowhere, it helps to have a handful of different adhesives for repairs.

A split watch band is difficult to fix. Fortunately, our pal Henry was visiting and he had a pouch of some blue goop that works well with plastic ...

... it fixed Cecil's sunglasses, too ...

... and my bifocals ...

... this is what you see ...

... and this is what I saw

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Team Bravo(!) 043

I've been remiss by not introducing the members of our 2011 research team. I'll post more complete introductions and detail each person's role in the project at a later date. For now, from left to right:

Laura Von Rosk - Art/science collaborator (Schroon Lake, NY)
Cecilia Shin - Lead research diver and camp safety officer (University of California Santa Cruz)
Dr. Jan Pawlowski - Molecular protistologist (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Danielle Woodward - Youngest research diver in Antarctica (Hilo, HI)
Hilary Hudson - Research diver, documentary film maker
Dr. Sam Bowser - Principal Investigator (Albany, NY)
Dr. Andrew Gooday (pictured below in the Explorers Cove lab) - Biological oceanographer (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, U.K.)

Our project centers on characterizing the ~20 new species of foraminiferan protists we have identified in past work, and on obtaining information on the genetics of these organisms.

More about that as results pour in!

Friday, December 9, 2011

"The Look" on ice ...

People often ask what we wear around camp. Here's a sampling of our "look" (eat your heart out,
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta):

The well-dressed Antarctic frogman wears dry suit by DUI, glacier glasses by Julbo, and Shibori scarf by Pavlos Mayakis ( ...

After work, casual wear includes T-shirt "Go Back" by Emek ( and Under Armour "Team Barriage" pants. Gloves and bunny boots issued by USAP.

Hair sanitized daily with Purell; coiffed by Antarctica ...

Photos courtesy Laura Von Rosk

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hotsie Yoga

What to do in -20 weather while melting dive holes at the bottom of the world? Take up Yoga!

We use a "Hotsie" to circulate warmed glycol thru a stainless steel coil (i.e., a "finger"), which melts sea ice to fashion dive holes. It's a noisy, lengthy process (1-2 days per hole, depending on ice thickness), and as the sun goes down and the temperature drops, you can get very cold monitoring its progress, fueling the burner (diesel) and feeding its 5 kW generator (gasoline).

Last year, Cecil Shin (right, holding the finger) showed me some meditative Yoga moves, which we adopted to make tending the Hotsy a bit more enjoyable.

Tadasana modified for Hotsie hose: Heat applied to the brachial artery/vein helps keep the upper extremities functional.

Yoga poses while draped with the Hotsy hose helps stretch cold, old, aching muscles ...

And their melodic, pulsatile vibration allows one to get lost in the moment, mindful of the sublime beauty of Explorers Cove.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Watch the Skies!

A beautiful display of clouds above Mount Erebus this evening ...

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Walk Around Camp: Power

We need electricity in camp. Microscopes, centrifuges, fume hoods, lights, cameras, radios, computers, microwave oven, and the infamous coffee (dribble)maker use it. How do we make electricity here? Three sources: (1) solar, (2) wind, (3) diesel. Back in the 80's we only had a diesel generator, and we burned about 10 barrels of fuel each season. With improvements in alternative energy technology, we're down to burning 2 barrels. We do more science than ever before, yet have reduced our carbon footprint dramatically.

Solar Panel

Wind generator

The power system at camp centers around a box full of batteries. The electrical input (solar when it's sunny, wind when it's windy, diesel when it's neither) is stored in these batteries, and a computer system ensures that the proper current is delivered.

It all takes a lot of legwork, though ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Flags Fly at Explorers Cove

We have arrived at field camp and school flags are flying. (One more is on the way.) Weather delays and equipment failures have created setbacks, but we hope to catch up over the next few days. More photos soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

(un)Happy Camper School

New field members (or those who have been absent from the U.S. Antarctic Program for 5 or more years) are required to take a two-day survival training class on the ice, and sleep one night in snow trenches, igloos, and bivouac shelters that they build. This "Happy Camper" program teaches you to be smart and avoid rescue situations. For some it's a fun experience; for others it's a nightmare ...

Conditions in McMurdo make me think that the four B-043 team members in the class will be unhappy campers tonight.

Henry Kaiser took this IR picture of me checking outside conditions from the comfort of the Crary Lab. Wind-blown snow obscured the view, and I could feel the cold oozing through the window. (Ooops, that statement will get my thermodynamics prof turning in his grave ... OK, it's heat transferring from the air surrounding the window that I'm perceiving.)

Everyone in B043 will certainly learn a lesson tonight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


All team members are now at McMurdo Station. We've completed check-out dives and are packing bags for Camp New Harbor. Hopefully the weather clears and helicopters start flying soon ...

We've been instructed to tread lightly on the "thin" (6ft/2 m) sea ice this year, and keep alert for cracks. We will certainly tiptoe on the frozen landscape ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Bravo(!) 043 begins another year of research in Antarctica. We may have a different "look" this season (three new team members) but our goal remains the same: to better understand the role of unicellular organisms in the ice-cold waters of McMurdo Sound, with a commitment to minimizing our impact on the Antarctic environment.

All living creatures leave their mark on this earth. It is, perhaps, one definition of life itself. As scientists, we study those "marks" in the fossil record, and uncover the steps of carbon flow in modern habitats. Knowing where we are and where we've been is our best hope of moving forward with care and confidence.

It seems fitting that this year's voyage begins in the garden ...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Even the icicles were dirty ...

This photo was taken on Nov. 15, 2010 -- roughly 2 weeks after the katabatic windstorm on Halloween. Large piles of sediment, blown onto the sea ice, are seen everywhere.

The sun was warming the labyrinth, forming icicles on the undersides of its various features.

Closer inspection revealed that these icicles were vested with sediment. They seemed to be serving as "fine sediment flypaper." I wonder if icicles have been viewed in this context before, and I wonder what role, if any, this process plays in sediment deposition?

Dirty ice everywhere ... a sign of the times? Don't worry - like everything else, icicles come and go, come and go.