Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Transantarctic Mountains at 3 AM

I took this picture this morning at around 3 AM when I took a short break from logging. The Royal Society Range of the Transantarctic Mountains is reflected by the morning sun, a row of snow mobiles is visible on the sea ice on the left, and the buildings of the air strip further away. I have seen this landscape hundreds of times now, but it never gets old. The light and the weather are different every day.
Last night we had a small breakthrough: we had drilled through a major unconformity (erosion surface) and found larger quantities of diatoms in the sediments. Diatoms are tiny single-celled algae made of silica that are particularly abundant in the polar regions. The paleontologists can use them to provide ages for the rocks we core (biostratigraphy), because through evolution they have changed their morphology frequently through time (image of diatom to the right from Reed Scherer). The paleontologists will now sample the rocks we described and identify different species using a microscope (diatoms are much less than a millimeter in size).
Other news is that Ann Curry of the Today Show arrived in McMurdo Station yesterday and she is going to report on the projects related to "Climate Change" in a series of broadcasts. The date of a Live broadcast I heard is Nov. 5th. There is a small chance some of the people in our project will appear in the program. See the link here for more information...

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