You might have read my earlier Earth and Solar System blog about taking part in the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) programme. The project is funded by the Polar Office of the US National Science Foundation, NASA and the Smithsonian, and the science PI is Dr. Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve University. It has been running since 1976 exploring the ice of Antarctica for meteorites. So far about 20,000 meteorites have been collected and made available to the scientific community to study to understand planetary processes. Most of these meteorites originate from the asteroid belt, but some very rare ones have come from Mars and the Moon (see here for more details).I joined the team in 2011-2012 and have been very lucky to be invited back for the 2012-2013 season. We have now arrived on the ice – it has been a long trip… I first flew on the 23rd November 2012 from London Heathrow UK to Houston Texas in the USA. I had a couple of days in Houston to see some friends and then on the 26th Nov flew from Houston to Dallas, Dallas to Los Angeles. Most of the team gathered in LA airport and then we flew on together to Sydney Australia, and then Christchurch New Zealand. Somehow we missed the 27th Nov entirely (let us know if anything exciting happened!) and then on the 28th Nov in Christchurch we met with two other members of the team and spent a day preparing to depart to the ice.
We visited the CDC facility at the Antarctic Center and choose what clothes we would take with us: it is very important to get the clothes choice right so that you are comfortable in the cold desert of Antarctica. We each get issued with a big red parka which is stuffed with Canadian goose down, a pair of ‘bunny boots’ which protect your feet from the -40°C ice, and a thick pair of wind-proof trousers. There are many choices of gloves, hats and thermal underwear layers as well. I even tried on a full down suit – and although it was very warm I decided that it was a bit too heavy to take with me (I hope I don’t regret this later). I also have quite a bit of kit that I brought with me last time.
After preparing the clothes we headed off to see Christchurch city centre. Much of the inner part of the city was devastated by two earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, and it is really sad to see the damaged incurred. The botanical gardens are very beautiful and we all enjoyed smelling the lovely roses and seeing the flower beds – colours and smells we won’t see for another two months.
We left New Zealand for Antarctica on the 30th Nov in a US military C-17 plane. Most of the plane was full of cargo to resupply the programmes on the ice (there was a large plane on board), and we, the human cargo, were sat down the sides of the plane for the 5 hour flight.
Upon arrival in Antarctica we were taken for a briefing in the McMurdo station welcome building, and then met with ANSMET veterans Jim, John and Shaun who have been in McMurdo for a few days getting everything ready for the field season. We are all now getting settled in McMurdo and getting ready to begin our training and preparation for the mission ahead.
Best wishes all, Katie (in McMurdo)
For more information about ANSMET see http://www.case.edu/ansmet
For more news from the ANSMET team on the blog that we are running see http://www.case.edu/ansmet