Saturday, December 1, 2007

Brunch at Scott Base and a walk through the pressure ridges

Yesterday we finished logging the last pile of cores down to 1038.54 meters below sea floor. Today, Sunday, we had a chance to finally take a couple of hours off and we were invited to have brunch at Scott Base. Scott Base is the New Zealand base and the green buildings of the base are just a few miles from McMurdo Station (see photo above). Behind the base you can see the pressure ridges in the sea ice. One of the mountaineers offered us a trip through the area. He had drilled several holes to estimate the ice thickness and found a save route through the area. The pressure ridges are exceptionally high now (much higher than when I first saw them 10 years ago) because the sea ice has not broken out since 1991. The floating glaciers (ice shelves) keep pushing against the sea ice and it buckles and cracks. Seals come up through the cracks to rest on the ice, and our way was blocked by one of them, so we had to return the way we came. The Antarctic Treaty does not allow people to disturb wild life, so we watched the seal from a distance. One of my Italian colleagues on the night shift, Franco Talarico, is visible here to the left. This is a project with scientists of 4 nations: the U.S., New Zealand, Italy and Germany.
We now have to finish writing our on-ice research reports and we are still making attempts to survey the Dry Valleys upstream from the drill site by helicopter drop-off in small groups. So far the weather hasn't been cooperating. It just started snowing, again... I am scheduled to leave here on Dec. 7, so time is running out. I am currently shipping over 300 samples for analysis in the lab at Montclair State University's Department of Earth and Environmental Studies. It is an exciting core and we will have a long way to go to fully understand it, but it is by far the most interesting core I have ever worked on.

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