Antarctica, the time is now

This is late in coming, but something I am checking off my To Do list all the same. In 48 hours I will depart for Antarctica. That sentence alone sums up the crazed state of my last few weeks. I finished the Pacific Crest Trail, survived my Ph.D. program’s comprehensive exams to remain in graduate school, and now I depart for field work in Antarctica. I have had many awesome experiences in my lifetime, but this one is truly special. On October 20th, 2016, I will depart from Christchurch, New Zealand, and arrive at McMurdo Station, a research center on the south tip of the Ross Island at the edge of the ice shelf. I will be accompanied by my advisor, Dr. John Cottle (you can check out his research here: LINK), and my fellow lab mate, Demian Nelson (you can check out his research here: LINK). You can follow our adventures at antarctica360.net. I will try to also post updates here, but likely they will mirror the ones posted to the research blog.

We will spend a short time at McMurdo and then will be in the field for approximately six to eight weeks, all but cut off from the living world. We will have a satellite phone to create a hot spot to send out messages, but there will not be any incoming calls or internet. More serious than that will be that this is my first experience with no gray water for a prolonged period of time. Everything is brought in, and everything is packed out. That means no laundry, no showers, no face rinsing, collecting all urine in a bottle and all feces in a bucket. Nothing is dumped on the ground.

The logistics go beyond this though. We are targeting two main areas to collect rock samples, and both are within 7 degrees of the South Pole. This means that I will not be at a station, but camping on ice. My mode of travel will be on foot and by skidoo. Our mission will be to collect rock samples from the exposed Transantarctic Mountains. As amazing and exciting as this trip will be, safety will also be an important aspect. With average temperatures between -30 and -40 degrees Celsius (this is summer time!), deep, hidden crevasses littering the glacier covered terrain, and high potential for rapid, extreme weather changes, life threatening dangers will be everywhere.

But that is what lures me to this field work. During undergrad, I spent a month in northern Minnesota tracking wolves. That was my first experience with winter survival. Not to mention that I lived in Iowa, so tree-snapping ice storms are the norm. I haven’t turned back since. Two winters in Colorado resulted in about 80 total ski days and numerous winter excursions. I also completed the AIARE 1 for decision making in backcountry avalanche terrain. Had I not moved to California, I would have spent last winter knee-deep in snow pursuing my interest in backcountry skiing. I will not claim some expertise for an Antarctic adventure, but I do know that I am beyond excited and ready for whatever comes my way.

Stay tuned and I will try to create an agenda so you know what to expect on this adventure of a lifetime!


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