Science and Discovery Hut

Life has been hustle and bustle here at McMurdo the past few days.  I kept trying to find the time to write a post, but I get distracted so easily!  My Adviser arrived down on the ice a week ago with two of our other team members.  Jill, who will be helping out with the phytoplankton radioactive enrichment incubations and Marco, who brought all of the fun toys!  Marco is helping us characterize the geomorphology of the cotton glacier using a variety of equiptment including an RC helicopter with an additional camera (photos and video) attachment.  The helicopter can be flown down into the meltwater channels and into other regions that are too dangerous for us to travel, but allows us to still obtain pictures and video of these regions.  The helicopter also has its own GPS system that will allow us to pair photos with location and essentially map out regions of the glacier.  I sadly won't get to head out in the field in time to really watch it in action, but he took it for a test drive in the basketball gym in McMurdo, which was a lot of fun to watch!

 The Helicopter!  

The helo with it's camera mounted to the bottom.  The angle of the camera can be changed using the controller and Marco has a small screen you can wear over your eyes (makes him look like someone from Strar Trek) that allows you to see the video the camera collects in real time! 

In particular, Marco is interested in identifying cryoconites, which is basically airborne sediment (dust and soot) deposited on the surface of the glacier.  These particles absorb solar radiation and speeding the melting rate of the surrounding snow and creating holes known as cryoconite holes.  Marco has studied the cryoconites in Greenland ( and is on a search for cryoconite holes on the Cotton Glacier in Antarctica. 

As for my work, I have been mostly spending time in the lab cleaning up and trouble shooting machines.  I have been mostly focusing on the high-pressure liquid chromatograph (HPLC), which looks very much like a Rube Goldberg contraption.  We will use a size exclusion chromatorgraphy (SEC) column which will allow us to monitor the average and range of sized molecules that compose the dissolved organic matter.

On a more recreational note, after work a couple of nights ago I had the opportunity to walk out to Captain Scott’s hut from the Discovery Expedition (1901-1904).  This mission had both scientific and geographic exploration aims.  The scientific investigations included a magnetic survey and study of meteorology, oceanography, and biology.  The hut was built primarily as shelter and cooking area, but never actually lived in since the men continued living onboard their ship and working in their mobile laboratories. As I briefly mentioned before, my adviser Yo Chin is an “official” tour guide so we checked out the key and took a walk out.  It is really impressive to see all of the artifacts preserved in the cold.
 Discovery Hut Entrance Plaque

 In order to keep the hut warm, they burned seal blubber (as you can see in the photo above, the rotting remnants of which still remain in the hut )

Sheep Skulls -- I think that is what someone told me ... but they look awfully odd to me.

 A biscuit, some bottles, and an old cooking stove

 Boxes of gar and food

This box speaks for itself!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to head out to Cape Royds for a short recognizance trip of Pony Lake.  While we were there, Yo and I visited Earnest Shackleton’s hut.  This hut housed Shackleton and his entire party of men, they even over-wintered in the hut during the winter of 1908.  The hut was left with sufficient provisions and equipment to last a team of men to stay, so there are still tons of artifacts left!  However, I have to do a bit more reading before I can really give much history about it.  We also visited a giant colony of Adelie penguins!!  I will try to get a post about the trip written as soon as I can!!

 Stay tuned, much more to come!
Posted on December 8, 2010 .