Sorry for the silence on the blog this past couple of weeks. It has been an eventful time, though not in the way hoped. My two-year old daughter was admitted to the hospital as soon as I reached Christchurch. She has a bone infection in her spine. Instead of catching a plane to Antarctica, I caught one back to Seattle. She is out of the hospital and recovering as well as we could hope, but I won’t get to join my team at Hercules Dome this year. I have no doubt that they will have a successful field season revealing the structure of Hercules Dome and I look forward to going next year.
Get ready for the next Antarctic Adventure! T.J. is heading back to the ice next week and we will be providing regular updates and photos. There have been a lot of changes since we last posted. We are now Dr. and Dr. Fudge. T.J. has completed his PhD and is now a post-doc at the University of Washington. Jessie completed her Sports Medicine Fellowship at the University of Washington and is working in a sports practice in Everett, WA. We have also added a member to the Fudge clan. Adrian was born on October 12, 2013. He seems to love snow, and is looking forward to some more “sled skiing” this winter.
T.J.’s last project was at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide. He published his findings in Nature. You can link to the article here. His new project will bring him to the South Pole where they are drilling another ice core. Since, I am a bit jealous that he is returning to Antarctica without me, I like to remind him that I was the first Fudge to stand at the South Pole. We look forward to having you follow along on T.J.’s South Pole adventure. Look for new posts starting early January.
It seems like just yesterday that I left Seattle for the adventure of a lifetime. The plane returns tomorrow (hopefully) to bring me back to the land of color, smells, good food and family! I had an amazing experience, learned a lot and met great friends. It will be hard to leave, but I am ready for the next adventure!
The first sunset early this morning was a good way to wrap up the incredible season. It was awesome to experience the final sunset earlier in the season and the first sunset at the end. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate to make the sunset this morning epic, but a hike after dinner proved beautiful.
Tomorrow, I say goodbye to great friends, incredible views and penguins. Antarctica and the people of antarctica will always hold a special place in my heart. I am so lucky to be able to share this incredible experience with T.J — it is one we will never forget.
There is a lot of different types of ice in Antarctica. When the seasonal ice in front of the station started melting, I saw a new type of ice — Pancake Ice. Until recently, I thought the ice took on the rounded shape because of the icebreaker, which was breaking up the channel. Pancake ice occurs naturally in cold waters!
I love the colors in the following photo, which was taken by Jordan Watson.
Pancake ice is formed from frazil ice and grease ice. Sea ice starts to form as frazil ice in cold moving water. Frazil ice is composed of fine ice crystals floating at the surface. The frazil ice then thickens and sticks together to form grease ice ,which can be seen at the left and top of the next image.
With time, the grease ice separates into ice discs from winds and tidal currents. Pancake ice has raised edges from slush (frazil ice) freezing around the edge of the ice disc or from collisions between ice pieces.
The next two photos were also taken by Jordan. A weddell seal checking us out through the broken ice:
And finally, an awesome photo of a piece of sheet ice floating away from station. This is a large piece of ice that broke off from an ice shelf. It is different from pancake ice. I had to include it anyway, because it is such a neat photo!
There has been a dramatic change in the view from the station over the past several weeks. There is water in front of the station for the first time in the past decade. The road that we used to drive on and the ice runway broke apart and floated out to sea yesterday afternoon.
Here is a collection of photos taken over the past several months.
Hut Point Ridge
My Favorite Beach
What a difference a day makes!
“We did not come here to study the climate of Antarctica — we are here because this is where the information is stored,” said Kendrick Taylor , chief scientist of the WAIS Divide program from the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, shortly before the last core came to the surface on Jan. 28, 2011 at 12:24 p.m. (local time).
The above link will connect you to a great article about the WAIS divide ice core. It describes the history of the WAIS divide core, information about the drilling season and plans for next year. The article also provides great information on what the scientists are hoping to learn from this large ice core.
As the summer winds to an end, the station must prepare for the long dark winter. The large amount of supplies needed this winter and next summer cannot be brought in by plane. Once per year, the station is re-supplied by the fuel vessel and the cargo vessel.
All employees involved in ship offload are switched to twelve hour shifts. And, extra workers are flown in to assist with the cargo off load and load of the boat. It is an impressive process. All non-essential station activities are shut down to encourage everyone to focus on the dangerous task.
The successful off load is complete and the final cargo boxes leaving the ice will be loaded tonight. All extra station personnel will fly out tomorrow, and the station will be mostly back to normal. The large boxes you see being offloaded will mostly be unloaded by the winter crew. Below are awesome timelapse videos, put together by Mike, that shows the ship arrival and offload. It is a choreographed dance! You can see Mike’s other videos here.
After cargo offload, the vessel removes all of our solid waste from the island and returns it to LA. The last of the mail and science cargo also leaves on the vessel. T.J.’s ice cores from WAIS divide will be sent to the United States in a freezer on the boat. To prevent the ice from melting, there are multiple backups in place, including a spare generator. He will see the ice again at the National Ice Core Lab in Denver CO this summer.