Friday, November 30, 2007

Mostly Dry Valleys

Today sucked. The hot water drill was almost a joke. The guy shipped it with used pipes and hoses, and some sort of soap in it somewhere. Thankfully we shot it into a bucket on the first run, or the clean up would have been horrendous. The burner wouldn't work, so it was a cold water drill, which simply isn't effective. The weather was terrible today. Grey and windy, cold again. The meltwater at the lake edge is thoroughly refrozen.

And, to top it off, it's snowing in the driest place on Earth. Chances are we won't get our flight tomorrow due to weather, and they don't fly on Sundays, so we won't have our cables and cutters until Monday, which means our Monday move becomes a Tuesday move, our Tuesday a Wednesday, and our Wednesday a Thursday. Hopefully we're not delayed too much more...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life During Wartime

We've scored a decisive, and potentially final, victory in the war against the Generators today. It is a great day indeed. Unfortunately, on the heels of this spectacular win in glorious battle comes a sudden uprising among the plebeians of the Hotsy region in the Eastern district, aided by their allies the sand grains, in the form of a stuck hose. To add insult to injury, in replacing the hose Meda took a stream of (thankfully not hot or he'd probably be blind) glycol to the face. We quelled this rebellion quickly, but are wary of scattered bands of resistance that may come up when we send a delegation to the barony of Brancker hole. Tension is high.

That much aside, the day was alright I guess. We got the first UW PAR (under water photosynthetically active radiation) replacement logging. We should be done with Jiffy drills, as the lake level measurement has been completed. This is good news for my neck and shoulder. The hot water drill is in today, and we've got to play with it to see how it works. If it does its job, this will be the first step in permanently replacing all Jiffy drills on Ice. Yay us. I made June's Chicken for dinner, which was tasty, sad, and nostalgically pleasant all at once. There's been no time for hiking lately, but I'm hopeful for the weekend. There are two places I'd like to get to before we move on. One of them (is not crucial but) would be helpful to the mystery photo album extravaganza which I'm sure you're all (chirp, chirp) anticipating (read: have completely forgotten about) greatly by now. And at this point it would be good to remember that it's 1:30, and sometimes it's good to sleep.

By the by, the Blood Falls pics finally made it up. They're pretty damn neat.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blood Falls and The Door to Nowhere

Today we finished the ablation stake survey on the West Lobe, and once again took up arms against the vile nation of Generators. No clear victory was decided, with a win and a loss on both sides. The weather sucked today (clouds, wind, cold) and because of that and my being tired and in a generally terrible mood these past few days, I was pretty cold. Still, there was some salvage of the afternoon.

Today we went to Blood Falls (which is conveniently near one of our ablation stakes). Blood Falls is a section of Taylor Glacier that is very aptly named (see [search for jpwarnock] a few minutes after I finish this). It's an entirely geologic phenomenon (I can explain if you really care); biology has nothing to do with the color. Some people say it is the most interesting looking place on the continent. I'm not sure that I'd go that far, but it was pretty damn cool. Following our viewing of the Falls, we spent some time with one of the other science groups out here, who make their camp there. They're cutting (with chainsaws, dear god!) into Taylor Glacier. They've cut a tunnel, sevenish feet tall, three feet across, and some 20ish meters into the glacier. Then the started cutting down, to the glacier bed. They're looking for bacteria living in the ice. These organisms are especially prevalent near sediment, but do exist throughout. Seeing the entrance to their site (I couldn't go in the tunnel because a stream has flooded their entrance, just a day after they finished. Lucky boys.) is quite bizarre. It's like there's a door going into the glacier. Just a big, dark, rectangular hole in the ice, not a site I'm likely to see again (it will take about a year for the glacier to heal itself. all things considered, I think that's damn quick). I think in my own right I've spent a fair amount of time down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, but this is something altogether different.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ventifact Garden

We finished another drill hole today, and got a third as close to done as we can until we have an available melter. I took a ride by myself to fill the Hotsy that we do have running, and the view was spectacular. All of the little ice peaks, like frozen waves, caught the golden sunlight in a million places. But here a thousand blue, and here a thousand red and every other color you could need pulled from light split by ice.

It was a pretty productive day, but as the day wore on, things fell apart. Our generator on the East Lobe is broken, as is our Hotsy, and now the Limno generator is down too. The ATV is allegedly having problems, but I am skeptical. So for every success, a setback. Still, work got done, and tomorrow will be the ablation stakes, which will be a nice trip around the East and West Lobes.

Deciding to retreat after dinner before something else broke, I headed up hill. The mountain behind Bonney camp is exposed bedrock at the top, and I wanted to have a look. It's also one of the better spots to find ventifacts around here. The things were quite massive, some rocks more than fifteen feet tall and five feet thick sitting in place all carved with holes and tunnels and spires and groves and pits. By the time i hit the top of the hill, I was actually getting frustrated that there were so many I wanted to look at. At this point I'm pretty ready for bed, so it's off to the tent again.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Well, we've flown in to Lake Bonney today. It was a nice flight with some good views. We flew later than we were scheduled to, but it wasn't so bad. We got one hole drilled today, but it took longer than it should have, on account of the film crew. We were filmed by a BBC documentary group. They filmed us drilling the hole in it's entirety, plus the underwater camera going in and measuring the ice thickness. He had me give a spiel about why we research here, which hopefully won't anger Peter. Anyways, I'll almost certainly be on TV in England, and might even have a speaking part. And I've officially been directed. It was fun, I just hope I don't get in trouble... We were going to do the second hole tonight, but Meda opted to wait. So, we'll do it tomorrow morning. Time to see how the new tent feels. 'night.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Lurkey Time

Ok, so maybe the song references Christmas, but (ten points if you can ID the source sans search engine)... Well, it was a pretty good one. We are still stuck at Lake Fryxell due to weather, so the hike to Lake Hoare was shorter. The spread was great; no one went hungry and there was a pretty good holiday variety. We had a crowd of something like 21, which is less than usual, actually. Still, it was a damn good time. There were many photos taken, but I'm not sure how many are going to be posted. I learned a new game (the wounds /shouldn't/ scar), table traverse, which will have to be practiced at home. Due to weather, there was no flight home, so it's rather later than it should be. Good night all. If we don't fly tomorrow, there may be violence.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chapter 28, In which many lessons are learned.

Amoung them: if you leave the cheese to thaw on the propane heater for two episodes of X-men (~40min) while you're trying to figure out what's wrong the the sonar, you will end up with a zip-top bag full of melted cheese, even if it started frozen.
:the slime attached to Brancker buoys when you pull them out of a frozen lake smells very, very bad.
:that ridge, the one over east, in the direction of the ocean, the one you can only see sky over, is neither the farthest nor the highest ridge.
:stream team boys who are working late at F6, but have to pee, will not bother getting dressed for their trip to the barrel, but will rather run very fast in a t-shirt and gym shorts.
:INXS, through Jethro Tull, to Jimmy Eat World seems to take about three hours, when one's coworker does not decided to push stop when one leaves.
:a simple picture will often brighten one's day, even when there is 24 hour daylight.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Sky

Well, it's almost 1 in the morning, so it's bed time. I just got in from a nice hike. I decided to go to the top of a mountain, behind camp. I'll post some pictures tomorrow (although there are new ones today. I hope you're not all bored of them...). Anyways, it was just awesome. By the time I hit the top I could see all of Lake Fryxell and the ocean. If it hadn't been for a few clouds, I might have even seen McTown. Many of the rocks up there are wind sculpted (they never do get the face right), and quite pretty to look at. I think that this may be the highest I've ever climbed, or at least the greatest elevation change that didn't involve a vehicle. I was high enough that I could see over some of the mountain glaciers into the next valley south. I couldn't see the next valley north (as I had been hoping) due to some ice in the way.... I'll be there eventually anyways. Well, I'm beat and we work on Sundays. Later.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chip chop

Well, that's two sonars taken care of. But since something was working... The surface PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) sensor is broken. Actually, one of the wires cracked. But it's not our fault! Yay! We've patched it up so that it's working, but a good strong wind will probably mess it up again. So we have to replace it, as soon as they can fly a new one in to us. That should be today. After that, we have to tie down the cut wires of the Brancker. I got to chip out the ice hole so that we could get to it last night. It didn't take all that long, thankfully we did it this way instead of waiting for chainsaws. Still, a good three foot square hole in the ice takes some effort. Maybe I'll pick up ice-chipper as a weapon proficiency. It's probably too heavy to be useful. Ah well. Today we're just waiting for this sensor, then we're out to finish some things up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Snip Snap

The weather was great today, full sun, a few lazy clouds, and hovering around 20F. I took a long walk to the 'Tourist Zone.' This is the only place on the continent open to tourists. The only way to get there is on a cruise boat equipped with helicopters. Should you take one of these cruises, you will have the pleasure of walking around a couple hundred foot square patch of hills in the Dry Valleys. The average price of one of these cruises is $30,000/person. Any takers? Right. So this is the only place on the continent (with the exception of the McMurdo greenhouse) where plants grow. Moss, specifically, and grow is pretty generous. Still, it's there. None of it is brave enough to be green, but some of it is a good-old-college-try shade of yellow. The hills are pretty there. Many of the rocks are wind sculpted, although not as much so as in other places. The rocks are pretty, and you're pretty close to the glacier. It overlooks Fryxell. Anyways, it was a nice way to kill a few hours this afternoon while the hotsy melted and the coms guys worked on getting the phone up and active.

After I got back we went to drill our last hole here. In the course of drilling, we managed to cut the damn cables we were trying to free. So, either we spend a few extra days at Fryxell pulling the thing (an underwater temperature sensor) out without just sending it to the bottom of the lake, or Peter deals with it later. Maybe he'll dive for it. We were both pretty impressed that we cut the cable. The drill edge was at least six inches away from it. The continent is accident prone. :( Well, it's almost midnight and we have an early morning tomorrow. JabberWocky over and out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good news/Bad news

The sonar points up, towards the ice/water interface in order to determine how/when/how fast ice moves up and new ice is added to the bottom.

Well, the good news is they fixed the internet. So it'll be working for a while, now. Also, no yetti attacks.

The bad news is that we had a hell of a day drilling. Our lake level hole was too close to shore, although I don't know how it could have been. So, after drilling three meters of ice, we hit the sandy bottom. Two drill blades were sacrificed (read: obliterated beyond recognition) in deciding that this was the bottom, and not just a sand pocket in the ice. After that we had to move to a new possition, which it looked like was going to be a loss until water sprang out at the last minute. So, a one hour job took all day. I was going to go hike around Fryxell basin for a bit, but now I don't know if I have the energy. Also, ice goblins have decided that this would be a great place to put lots of happy foot traps which cause one or your feet to suddenly be six inches below the other.

And our base radio is out of whack, so we only have the hand radios. That means that if we want to contact McMurdo (for our daily required check in, as an example) we get to walk up the hill and hold our hand helds really high and hope we get through. And the day started out so well....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sonar Success; Scheduled Relocation

Well, the sonar is finally in. All it took was an emergency fly in of steel cable, ferrels, clamps, cutters... So it's installed, and seems to be working. It was cold today, and cloudy. Still, the sand is starting to sink into the ice noticably. It won't be long before the streams are flowing.

And we're packing. Tomorrow we will fly to Lake Fryxell. Fryxell is just over Canada Glacier from Hoare, actually the two would be lake Froare if it wasn't for the glacier. So we won't be going far, but it will be a completely different view. It will just be Meda and I there, too. That means we'll be doing the cooking now and such. So far this season, Fryxell station has been without internet. While Coms is working on that, there's a pretty good chance I'll have no net for a week or so. That means I'm probably signing off for now...

A Light Climb

Well, it's Sunday, and generally there is no work on Sunday. That usually doesn't apply to the science groups, but we were a head of schedule, so I went with the glacier team to get to the top of Suess Glacier. I didn't get to the actually top, but got to climb around a little. Suess isn't really a good choice for a first time, there are ice walls to climb and crevasses around the edges. So I played around on the sides, learning how to climb up ice walls and such. Also, the crampons I was using were not so good, so I couldn't do as much as I would have liked. Still, it was a fun day. Tomorrow we have to pull the buoy back out of the water and give it more line and re-attempt the sonar that way. Joy. So much for a lazy Monday. Here's hopin' it works.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Scoured Clean, Take Two

Alright. This site is acting pretty wonky. Or maybe it's my connection. Either way, I seem to be having issues, hence, nothing last night. Anyways, we had a productive day yesterday. We got a new hole drilled, expanded the buoy hole enough to be useful, to some data downloaded from one of the stations, and packed a few things for the next lake. We'll helo to Fryxell on Tuesday.

After dinner I walked to the other end of Lake Hoare. It was a bit more than an hour to get there. With the snow finally blown away, the lake is completely different. You've never seen so many shades of blue. And there are so many patters of bubbles in the ice, too. Some are like feathers, or pancakes, or strings coming straight up, or crazy curvy brain patterns. I did some sample collection, too. That was a relief, to have it started. I'll get some more pictures up (if the internet will let me), before we go back to work.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Wind and the Rain

Wind last night. Soooooo much wind. There were gusts that would not only lift the rain fly on the tent, but lift the base of the tent and my head with it. Yeesh. The lake looks totally different, scoured free of snow.

Well, after a bit of magic we had generators again. We just warmed the damn things. I could understand that helping, except that the first day we used them, it was -30. Today it was -5. . . That's bunches and bunches warmer already. Once again, what use is a single data point? So, we had some success today. We got some drilling done, and some surveying. We're still behind, but it shouldn't be much of an issue. I'm much to tired to go walking around, plus my new homework just got posted. I'm sure I'll learn plenty being this tired and... right. So I guess it's a short one today. G'night.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Equipment Failure, Day Two

Well, still no generators, so we had to do something else. There are some markers to survey, so that was our job today. It was fun walking around a lot, but was on and off very cold. Each time we found the marker there was about twenty minutes of standing with the precision GPS talked to the satellites. But we found a broken PVC pipe with a bit of cloth wrapped around the end, and a bamboo pole with a flag on it that had fallen down. So, a few bungee cords later, I got to play Don Quixote with the ATV. If the winds and clouds are still bad tomorrow, we won't get the new generator, and we'll be sitting around doing nothing until we do. No new pics tonight, connection's bad and I'm exhausted. However, if you're counting, I've taken 345 of them now. :P

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Impossible not to Role Play Here

A few things first:

Mom: Only you, Matt, and Brian have the link. I was pretty lazy. Also, speaking of ice fantasy, funny you should mention (i had the idea before i read your post, i promise)...

Right. Spent 8 hours trying to get two generators to work today to no avail. /Very/ frustrating.

Read the below as if it was being narrated to you, out loud, if you must. That will make the repetition bearable.

Right. Impossible, you say? Well, when you're not working, or swearing at machines; if you're alone, or enjoying yourself, or driving the ATV (read: snow speeder), then yes, impossible. So, picture, if you will, a character, very much like yourself.....

You are alone and walking. It's quite cold; you know that. The ice, a few hundred feet high and just to your right, is happy to remind you. Still, you are hot; you strip. The fleece is gone. You walk. The down coat is replaced with the flimsy windbreaker. The hills go up, even when they slope downward. The glove liners and scarf go both at once.
You're walking alone, but can't think of a reason why you should be alone. Who would come to this place with no one else? What could possibly bring a lone soul here? What quest, what task, what journey, divine or mundane, would convince an individual to do this? Yet, the fact remains, you are quite alone. So, there must be companions. The reasons for their lack shove at each other, begging for purchase in your mind as you do in the sand and snow. Did you leave them behind because they had other things to do? Is your reason for leaving so personal that they had to be left? Is the journey so dangerous that you couldn't risk more than one? Or, maybe they have already been taken down by this place, dead or crippled.
You're thoughts break. There are tracks ahead, yours two days old. There are two long gouges in the snow where you fell, feet sliding. A single hand print is above them; a Passata di Soto if you will.
You continue to the top of a ridge, panting. A rock, the size of a Volkswagon provides a seat. For a moment, the comparison seperates your self from your Self. The only sound, as you stop, is the sound of you stopping. Having paused fully, the silence becomes full.
Walking again, only a few steps, you slip. You are no longer on the footpath, you realize. Righting yourself, you continue only to slip again. The Count di Soto is not there for you this time. Instinct puts a foot beneath you, the slide is short. Looking around, you realize that the rock you paused at this time is the rock you stopped at last time. You are no longer on familiar ground. The path, however, reveals itself below you.
Going down to meet it, you are at the ice again. This close, you can see that the columns and cracks look like ribs. You know the ice is old, very old. But from here, you know the ice is alive. You have to stop and take a picture. This time, the technology does not shatter the illusion. There are many Roles to Play. Walking, again, of course, up, the snow breaks beneath you. It is a reminder that there is a grave, of sorts, not far from here. Does the snow crunch, or are you cracking ribs.
Looking up, you see the Flag. The one that marks the path. It's so easy to do that, here, to get lost in yourself, lost in that over there, or this over here. Every time you turn your head, you are struck by a revelation of sight. The flag, so close, and it's twin. But your panting is loud enough to catch your attention. Just go to the flags, then stop. A half second's hesitation. Just go to the flags. Your knees, now, are as 'loud' as your breath. A second's hesitation, just go to the flags. You reach them, finally, and sit. Now it's the hat and the gloves that go. You know, having reached the flags, that the hills will no longer go up, even when they go down. Now they will simply go up.

So, I went on a hike today....

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Today we played with the drills. And the dull blades. And the burnt spark plugs. And the pockets of impossible to move sand. And the stop your drill so that you can only get 20 seconds of drill time between start ups rocks. Damn. We finished one hole, and started a second. We have to go back out after dinner to refill the generator. I'd like to finish the second hole, but my everything hurts and I don't think I have the arms for it anymore. And either way, Meda looks just this side of dead.

Aside from that, it was a very pretty day. Fairly warm (we almost hit freezing) for a while. Amazingly windy in the morning, but calming for the most part the rest of the day. I got some more pics, which I have to review yet, but at least some of them must be good. It's even more amazing being among all of the windblown ice sculpture than it is being aside it.

I only took a short hike today. Some pictures from that will follow, but only after I've done a few more things. . . Maybe I'll go out a bit after the generator. I don't know if I could get comfortable enough to sleep right now in that small bag. I think thats all for now.

Ice Goblins

Ok, I'm exhausted and it's midnight and so I am going to be brief. Also, comments are sort of declining both in number and variety of commenters, which is disheartening. I shouldn't worry about it, I know. Anyways, the surface of Lake Hoare is very, very, very uneven. There are all sorts of spires and bridges and tunnels and such. They're like ice goblins, or maybe ice goblin houses. The sunlight catches them and creates a million colors. I'll get some pictures up tomorrow; I don't have the energy now. Drilling tomorrow. :(

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Terra Nova

We are officially at the continent, stationed at Lake Hoare. We'll be here for probably 10ish days, and then off to other lakes. It's colder here than it should be (-22F), but should be warming soon. The helo flight was quite a bit of fun. The views were great; many pictures taken. I'll be putting some up, probably similar to those you've been expecting.

In other news, Ann Curry from the Today Show is here. She's quite a bitch (forgive me, but it's true), and neither her nor her film crew care about the people or science that is happening here. They just want a story, and expect the station to stop and start on their whim. I spend about two hours with her today (her flight was just before mine, and there's quite a bit of prep, then she was at LH with Meda and I), and she never once asked what I (or Meda, for that matter) was there for. The entire crew was just trying to figure out how quickly they could finish. When the were interviewing someone, the sound and camera guys would turn away to catch a passing helo or plane. However, if you are interested in seeing the show (I can't imagine I'll be in it, despite running into her a few times over the past few days, and being in the Valleys with them today) the information is provided below.

Greetings from Antarctica.

The broadcast schedule follows:

Today Show Day 1: Nov 5-6, 11pm - 3:15am McMurdo Time// //Nov 5, 5am -
9:15am Eastern// // Nov 5, 3am - 7:15am Mountain
Today Show Day 2: Nov 6-7, 11pm - 3:15am McMurdo Time// //Nov 6, 5am -
9:15am Eastern// // Nov 6, 3am - 7:15am Mountain
NBC Nightly News: Nov 7, 12:15pm - 1:00pm McMurdo Time// //Nov 6, 6:15pm
- 7:00pm Eastern// // Nov 6, 4:15pm - 5:00pm Mountain

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Final Preps

Once again, thanks to Dad. This time inre: installing the hot tub. Today was fitting together a whole mess of copper pipe and rubber tubing with valves and gauges for a crazy water/gas sampler. I'm not even going to use it, but Peter needs it when he gets here. I got pretty friendly with the people in the materials shop, since most of the parts we had were wrong. They were all jealous that I'm taking a helo out to the Valleys tomorrow. Hopefully there are no delays, and we get to leave on schedule. I will still have internet (there's homework to turn in after all >/) but will almost certainly be online less often. Until then, it's 5:30 here, so almost dinner time.