Archive for the ‘Lake Hoare’ Category

Trapped by Julie

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

I was supposed to leave Lake Hoare yesterday, but it will be at least tomorrow, if not later, before that happens. A large snowstorm, named ‘Julie’ for some reason beyond me, has been lumbering through the region. Here in the valley everything was dusted white yesterday, but most of that has melted and the winds have calmed. This is very nice place to be stranded, especially with the present company, but I’m very eager to get home to my family now that my research has concluded.

If the sun was out I could conduct some additional experiments. Of course, if the sun was out I could also go home. Since it is heavily overcast, we are left seeking other forms of passing the time, like watching movies, crossword puzzles (the Friday or Saturday NYT puzzles would have passed more time), and seeing what happens when you eat a lot of dried plums (not sure yet…).

The day before my scheduled departure, I got a farewell tour of all 3 major Dry Valleys to help Hassan with met station maintenance. It was really neat to see how different each valley is from the others, and we got to spend a lot of time in helicopters looking at cool stuff:


At the end of the day, I was treated to a wonderful oatmeal, chocolate chip, sweet, sweet cookie bar with a reproduction on top of my weir out of gingerbread as a going away celebration. It was oh-so-good, but left me with an odd sense of déjà vu:

this year last year

Almost famous, pt. 2

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

One of the more exciting events of late, other than Christmas, was the visit to Lake Hoare of one of the artists via the Antarctic Artist & Writers Program. Andrea Polli is a sound artist who made recordings of a whole variety of Antarctic noises while she was here, from the sounds of waterfalls off Canada Glacier to the noise of a gas-powered ice auger. One thing that was great about Andrea, as opposed to some of the other artists who have come through, is that she was genuinely interested in the details of all of our science projects. Another great thing was that she took a lot of nice hero shots of me using my FieldSpec 3 with my new hat on.

me and my toy me and my drill

She also worked with Hassan a lot recording, photographing, and videotaping various met. stations, and I believe her intent is to ’sonify’ that actual met. data – making wind speed one tone that varies as it’s windier or calmer, air temperature another tone, etc., something she has done with data from the Arctic.

While her work is not exactly front page news, it is still exciting to have her take an interest in our work. She has examples of her recordings on her blog at So for those of you not content in just seeing what Antarctica looks like, now you can find out what it sounds like. Apparently there is a recording of our cries of excitement as a helo flies away. Our internet connection is too slow to check it out, so let me know if I say anything stupid.

To everyone back home, have a wonderful Christmas!  Today was our recovery from a long day of cookie decorating, gingerbread house construction, ham eating, secret santa-ing, and general mayhem.  Though it’s hard to be away from family, this a very welcoming place to spend a holiday – and without the obnoxious ads and never ending holiday songs.  It was also probably warmer and sunnier than wherever you are.  I hope the big midwestern storms I read about have been manageable!

Laying on Warm Spit

Friday, December 14th, 2007

We arrived at Lake Hoare today, and it feels like I never left. The timelessness of this type of traveling is strange, but it certainly makes it much easier – no wasted time adjusting or getting settled. It’s fun to see people again, and everyone told me congratulations and seemed very excited about the existence of Penelo. I don’t quite understand why, but I enjoy it because I get to talk about her and show pictures.

One big difference from last year is how amazingly warm it is here at this time of year. I spent most of the afternoon walking around and setting up my tent in my t-shirt. I’m sure there will be cold days, but being here midsummer will be a totally different experience than my previous seasons. The mild weather is quite nice, but the flipside is everything is wet. The other big difference is I chose a different tent site! This one is in the thick of things and has wonderful views in all directions out on Warm Spit.

It’s nice to finally be here – we will head up on Canada Glacier tomorrow already and scout out locations for all my experiments. Time for bed!

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Last night was my last night at Lake Hoare (we fly out in a few hours). It is quite sad to go, as the place and the people have really grown on me. We have a nice quiet camp right now, with just Sandra, Rae, Joel, and Becki, besides Hassan and I. I was in the lab all afternoon yesterday processing ice cores, but everyone else was apparently very busy inside, making me an amazing goodbye cake. It was truly a group effort, with Sandra making the cake and frosting it as a glacier, Rae adding Blood Falls with red food coloring, Joel adding a network of ablation stakes (including a horizontal cliff stake!), Becki contributing the blue ice of refrozen crevasses and cryoconite holes, and Hassan adding the infamous Explorer’s Cove Met Station out of wire with me standing behind it with my core barrel on my back. There also is a fantastic likeness of an unused human waste bucket I had strapped to the cliff behind my tent to collect water melting off the cliff face (the gray thing to the right of Blood Falls). I had no idea that the highlights of my 5 weeks here could be condensed onto a single cake, but they managed to pull it off (everything but the nachos).

Anyway, the cake was as tasty as it was narrative, and it was a very meaningful goodbye present. In fact, I think I am going to go have some more right now…


A day in the life

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

I thought about writing about our recent visit to Beacon Valley, the place closest to Mars on the planet, but I sense there is a lot of interest in what day to day life is like down here, so I have decided to write about what I eat instead. So life down here is nice in that you don’t really have to change clothes or wash up very often. So when my alarm goes off at 6:45, if I don’t sleep in, I will pop out of my sleeping bag put on my jacket and some pants (in that order), throw on my shoes, and out the tent I go. When I reach the main hut I have a bowl of cereal (usually that brown box of granola, sometimes I have the Aussie Sanitarium Muesli instead) while I put a kettle on for tea and toast a bagel. By the time I finish cereal I make a PBJ on bagel and some tea (usually English Breakfast with milk and sugar, but lately Earl Grey black). I drink my tea while I check my email, and then go to the lab to get dressed (after I brush my teeth).

About mid-morning when we are out on some glacier I eat a bag of peanut M&Ms and maybe a Cadbury chocolate bar (usually Mint or Energy). Lately I have been skipping this step as it has been much warmer and I don’t need the extra calories so much. At lunch we have some sandwiches. If there was leftover meat, we have glacier meat sandwiches, which are the best (steak, pork tenderloin, lamb, etc.). But when there is no supply of that, we just have lunch meat and cheese with some of that chili sauce that comes in the bottle with the rooster on it.

Dinner is a much finer affair with some amazing meal created by Rae and Sandra. Do not fear, for we eat better here than most people do at home. And there always is ample dessert, including cookies, brownies, and cakes, all from scratch. Lately we have been having a lot of fruit pies.

The one thing I forgot to mention was midday tea. You’ll notice the food schedule I described is very formulaic and does not change significantly from day to day. Midday tea is the one thing that does seem to vary for some reason. It ranges from none, to full-on milk tea with biscuits, to milky chai, to the perennial favorite black Earl Grey (also referred to as Hot Beef for no particular reason). The time we take tea seems to vary a lot as well, but we drink a lot of it. There is nothing better than crossing a glacier on a cold windy day, and sitting down for a nice cup of tea.

I saw a bird.

Monday, November 27th, 2006

So the other day I was sitting in the hut and I said “Hey I just saw a bird.” My peripheral vision had identified a shadow passing overhead (all the buildings here have skylights) that my brain interpreted as a bird based on a lifetime of experience. However, my initial thought was “that can’t be a bird, I’m in Antarctica.” On closer inspection, it turned out it was a bird and my brain was right after all. Apparently there is a skua that comes around now and then to pick at the leathered remains of a dead seal near camp. It’s already gotten the soft stuff (eyes) but hasn’t given up that there is something else edible. It made me realize that it was the first living thing I’d seen besides humans in about 4 weeks. Strange.

Happy Turkey Food Day!

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving at Lake Hoare which consisted of 30 people coming in from all over Taylor Valley for the day and eating an amazing spread of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, turkey, asparagus, sweet potato casserole thing, roasted yams, rolls, whole wheat rolls, bread, cranberry sauce, and 8 pies. It is really an amazing thing. There are probably some food items I’ve forgotten about too. Many people fall into comas for awhile, but most have helos to catch home at the end of the day, so they have to wake up before the helo pilots finish their pie.

The weather was beautiful with clear skies and a temperature of 0 C – the warmest so far of the season. Short sleeve weather.

Last year I found this extravaganza very disorienting because it was my first time leaving 1 square mile and being with more than 6 people in 3 weeks. This year I was much better prepared having already been living here. It felt like a big family reunion. It did make me feel more homesick to have time away from working and to be celebrating a holiday.

Well we finished the Blood Falls work successfully yesterday and will go back to doing our work tomorrow. Population goes down to 7 over the weekend!

Snow Day!

Monday, November 20th, 2006

Today was the first day cancelled on account of weather. We had been really lucky so far , but it’s bound to happen sooner or later. The weather here was actually ok (low clouds, moderate temperatures, moderate wind), but the helos were grounded for the day because weather in McMurdo was worse (as is typical). While this sucked for schedule and I was looking forward to getting back up to Blood Falls, there always is a certain level of excitement on a weather day, like a snow day in grade school.

That said, we still kept plenty busy catching up on some data analysis and we spent a cold afternoon up on Canada Glacier testing various methods of extracting a 3 m piece of conduit that is frozen into the ice. Hassan is faced with a special project in December after I leave removing many ablation stakes from another project that are still 1-2 meters in the ice. It is a daunting task he faces, but we had fun devising ways to bash, bend, ram, and pull some old metal stakes out of Canada, despite a stiff sea breeze.

We rewarded ourselves with a wonderful meal of Puttanesca and fresh olive bread that Rae and Sandra made, and with a couple episodes of the Office that Hassan brought down. The forecast for tomorrow does not look any better, but the sun keeps peaking through the clouds upvalley, creating very neat golden light. There are 32 people expected for Thanksgiving, and if the weather does not improve, turkey logistics could get very complicated.

Regardless of the helos, we have plenty of work to keep us busy here, so don’t worry, Andrew. The worst would be if they fly in the morning but call it off later which would leave us stranded at Blood Falls and forced to either spend the night at Bonney Camp or hike back. I’m sure I’ve just jinxed us by acknowledging the slim possibility, but it’s not the end of the world.

Well if we do get to fly tomorrow I need to be in bed by now!

Saturday Night Fever

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Finally, a post that isn’t about glaciers! Saturday nights at Lake Hoare can get a little crazy after a long week of work. Tonight had a carnival atmosphere with all the shades drawn and a series of feats of athletic prowess – longstanding Lake Hoare traditions: the Table Traverse and Fitting into the Orange Bag. Rather than explain the rules, just look at the photos. I will try to get some more photos from other cameras at some point. I succeeded at both tests and may have entered Lake Hoare lore with my Orange Bag performance…

Photos start here:

Oh, and tomorrow is shower day!

sun’s come out

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

After snowing ever since we arrived, the sun finally came out this afternoon. Hassan and I spent the day downloading met data from the met station on Lake Hoare near camp and sorting our glacier gear. Tomorrow we will head up on Canada Glacier and start measuring ablation stakes. I don’t have any photos with the sun out yet, but I have pictures from the flight in, and I’ve added a couple more photos to the McMurdo album, including some great reuben photos.