This is a continuation of my earlier University of Manchester Earth and Solar System blog about being part of the ANSMET meteorite hunting team in Antarctica. The ANSMET programme, funded by the Polar Office of the US National Science Foundation and NASA, and run between Case Western Reserve University (the science PI is Dr. Ralph Harvey), NASA and the Smithsonian, has been running since 1976 exploring the ice of Antarctica for meteorites. The ANSMET blog for the 2012-2013 team can be found at http://artscilabs.case.edu/ansmet/
The ANSMET team has been in McMurdo Station, the main US research outpost in Antarctica, for over a week now and we have been preparing to get ready travelling out to our field sites. There are two teams this year – a main systematic search team of 8 people, and a smaller reconnaissance team of 4 people. I will be on the recon team and we are heading out to the Klein glacier area in the Transantarctic Mountains, which is at about 86.5 degrees south.
The last ten days has been very busy – we have been busy packing up all the gear for our trip and choosing what food we want to take with us for 6 weeks. My tent mate Tomoko Arai and I have picked out lots of chocolate which will give us energy and keep us warm in the cold. We have been to snowmobile maintenance school, and have practiced driving the snowmobiles around (I love driving – it is a lot of fun!). We also went on an overnight practice camp to test out how to put our tents up and get them organised. The camp was rather windy in the night and we had a few inches of snowfall, but it was good to learn about different possible camp conditions we will likely encounter later on at the field site.
In between all the packing and repacking and carrying gear about and getting ready to go, we have had a chance to explore McMurdo station and the surrounding area. It is a beautiful spot as McMurdo town sits right next to the sea ice which is home to lots of big fat Weddell seals, and sits between a series of small snow covered volcanic hills. Across the sea ice covered bay we can see a mountain range called the Royal Society mountains. Behind McMurdo is Mt. Erebus active volcano that we got a great look at from afar yesterday when we went on a guided tour of some ice pressure ridges (big folded up ice patches) close to the New Zealand Scott Base which is close by. We also were lucky enough to go inside Discovery Hut which was built by Captain Scott and his expedition over 100 years ago. It is very well preserved and you can still see cans of digestive biscuits that the team brought along, and items of clothing and camp gear. An amazing privilege to be allowed to visit this time capsule of past exploration efforts.
We are due to head off into the field in a few days time – so please catch up with our adventures via http://artscilabs.case.edu/ansmet/
Happy Christmas and a great New Year to all!
Katie Joy, McMurdo Station, 10th Decemeber 2012
PS. A huge thanks to all the McMurdo staff who have helped the team out so far. We have been incredibly well fed by the kitchen crew (the food here is great), and have had fantastic support from all the centres involved in preparing and shipping our gear. Thank you all for your help and support.
All photos are credited to Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program / Katherine Joy