9AM – Science-A-Thon

A little about me: I am studying in the Earth Science department under the tutelage of Dr. John Cottle. My current research is aimed at understanding the processes behind subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the East Antarctic craton approximately 500 million years ago. Similar to modern subduction along the coast of South America creating the Andes Mountains, subduction in Antarctica led to emplacement of igneous plutonic bodies that make up the Transantarctic Mountains exposed today. The paleo-Pacific margin was very extensive and long-lived. I am helping further define the tectonic history along that margin by researching how the timing and geometry of subduction changed along the margin through time.

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Please join me in championing this cause to help support future generations of scientists by donating at my campaign page: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/science-a-thon-2018/elizabetherickson11/ You can also follow my “Day of Science” on Instagram @schemerthedreamer

 

#dayofscience #scientistforaday #scienceathon

#womenleadSTEM #womenwhoscience #womenofscience #500WS #distractinglysexy

#scientists #science #geology #earthscience

#schemerthedreamer #lifeinmotion

#scientistsarenormalhumans #thisiswhatIdoasascientist #youmightliketoknow

@science_a_thon #ESWN @500womensci @elementargroup @promega @transnetyx @johnsoncontrols @ncfdd @rochesequencing @ametsoc @madisoncommfdn @alliantenergy

8AM – Science-A-Thon

I try to start work early, while the building is still quiet and I have the office to myself. I typically use this time to check emails, make an agenda for the day, and check off what I accomplished the previous day on my master “To Do” list. Pro Tip: Last year I started keeping a paper calendar to log the hours I work each day and what I accomplish each day. I find it extremely useful to see how much time I spend on activities like clerical work, course work, research, etc. Being able to break the cycle of spending all my time answering emails and doing side tasks for others has dramatically focused my work life. My work ethic has become more focused and efficient, and the calendar has become an important tool for quickly remembering when I worked on something last. It also helps keep me honest about doing work at work, and better separating my personal life from work life. Grad school is a constant balancing act of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and keeping a work log has really helped me get more out of both spheres of life.

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Please join me in championing this cause to help support future generations of scientists by donating at my campaign page: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/science-a-thon-2018/elizabetherickson11/ You can also follow my “Day of Science” on Instagram @schemerthedreamer

 

#dayofscience #scientistforaday #scienceathon

#womenleadSTEM #womenwhoscience #womenofscience #500WS #distractinglysexy

#scientists #science #geology #earthscience

#schemerthedreamer #lifeinmotion

#scientistsarenormalhumans #thisiswhatIdoasascientist #youmightliketoknow

@science_a_thon #ESWN @500womensci @elementargroup @promega @transnetyx @johnsoncontrols @ncfdd @rochesequencing @ametsoc @madisoncommfdn @alliantenergy

7AM – Science-A-Thon

Sometimes I dog-sit for one of the Earth Science professors, Roberta Rudnick. I love waking up to a beautiful sunrise looking over Santa Barbara from the Santa Ynez foothills before taking Murphy on a quick 3 mile run along Mission Canyon. Murphy has a LOT of energy, so I try to tire him out early in the day.

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Please join me in championing this cause to help support future generations of scientists by donating at my campaign page: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/science-a-thon-2018/elizabetherickson11/ You can also follow my “Day of Science” on Instagram @schemerthedreamer

 

#dayofscience #scientistforaday #scienceathon

#womenleadSTEM #womenwhoscience #womenofscience #500WS #distractinglysexy

#scientists #science #geology #earthscience

#schemerthedreamer #lifeinmotion

#scientistsarenormalhumans #thisiswhatIdoasascientist #youmightliketoknow

@science_a_thon #ESWN @500womensci @elementargroup @promega @transnetyx @johnsoncontrols @ncfdd @rochesequencing @ametsoc @madisoncommfdn @alliantenergy

Science-A-Thon welcome!

Hello! Today I am participating in a science outreach event call Science-A-Thon. Science-A-Thon is a social media event to showcase the many different people and activities involved in science, as well as the largest annual fundraiser for the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN; link: https://eswnonline.org), an international organization supporting women in science. This year’s goal is to raise $75,000 for ESWN. Please join me in championing this cause to help support future generations of scientists by donating at my campaign page: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/science-a-thon-2018/elizabetherickson11/ You can also follow my “Day of Science” on Instagram @schemerthedreamer, on my blog (https://elizabeth-erickson.com/blog), and on Facebook. You can also follow the official Twitter feed @science_a_thon. Thank you for your support!

 

#dayofscience #scientistforaday #scienceathon

#womenleadSTEM #womenwhoscience #womenofscience #500WS #distractinglysexy

#scientists #science #geology #earthscience

#schemerthedreamer #lifeinmotion

#scientistsarenormalhumans #thisiswhatIdoasascientist #youmightliketoknow

@science_a_thon #ESWN @500womensci @elementargroup @promega @transnetyx @johnsoncontrols @ncfdd @rochesequencing @ametsoc @madisoncommfdn @alliantenergy

Clothing in Antarctica

12/16/2016

While preparing for this trip to Antarctica, I was completely lost for what clothes to bring. Normally a few hours filing through the bowels of the internet produces more information than I desired. Antarctica was different. And I didn’t really understand why until having been through the whole experience. The majority of people who come through the U.S. station stay at McMurdo. That means they are in a small village, with heated buildings, unlimited hand and toe warmers, warm and cooked meals three times a day, access to drinking water of a variety of temperatures, access to motorized transportation, and within a very short time from a SAR team.

I was not preparing for that type of experience. I was preparing to spend weeks in the middle of nowhere living in a tent. The activities involving skidoo travel and hiking around. My support team a party of two plus me. There are people going out like we did, but apparently none of them (or few enough that I could not find their blogs) are writing about the clothing situation. So as a service to future field people going to Antarctica, I want to add my thoughts to the internet searching.

The CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) in Christchurch issues a bunch of clothing called the Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. Briefly, the ECW issued to me included:
1x Big Red – the giant red down parka;
1x Little Red – a small wind jacket;
1x polar fleece jacket;
1x coveralls;
1x polar fleece pants;
1x Bunny Boots – insulated rubber boots
1x fleece balaclava
2x fleece neck gaiters
1x polar fleece cap
1x insulated leather work gloves
1x waterproof mittens
1x leather mittens
2x polypropylene gloves
1x Bear Claws – “fur”-backed gloves
1x goggles
2x duffle bags

Everyone receives slightly different allocations depending on where they are going and their expected weather conditions. The items I brought myself are explained further below:

BOOTS and SOCKS.
Per John’s advice, I specifically bought boots for this trip since I needed warmth and the ability to hike in them. I bought La Sportiva Spantiks. And I loved them! They were recommended to me as the boot of choice for Denali climbers. I wore really thin silk sock liners under thick expedition-style wool socks. That combo was perfect. My feet were never cold as long as my feet were not cold already prior to going into the boot or the boot was wet. This was most noticeable on the skidoo rides, when I didn’t have the ability to pump blood back into my feet. Even with the thick socks, one size larger than I would wear without socks in the Spantiks was perfect. While hiking, especially after my socks had been worn awhile, they almost felt loose. But I liked these boots best because the heel is snug, so my feet didn’t move around a lot. It is a double boot, and both boots use a single hand threading system to eliminate the need for tying knots. Occasionally my outer strings would come loose, but I could put them on and tie them up without taking off my gloves. And the inner boot never untied because the strings end at a Velcro attachment so the boot itself didn’t come loose. The Spantiks are considered the warmest boot of their style, especially considering how light they are for an expedition boot. I normally hike in running shoes, so it took me a bit to figure out the difference in balance and foot size, but overall I was extremely happy. I used both the Smartwool and REI brand expedition socks. They are the only thick wool socks of their kind. I didn’t notice a difference in warmth or odor blocking. I do think the REI socks maintained shape better after repeated wears without washings. The downside to both brands is the expense. But as I already alluded to, I wore the same few pairs of socks instead of having an abundance of spares. The silk liners, in fact, did not block odor and I definitely wanted to change them more than I ever felt the need to change the wool socks.

BOTTOMS.
I wore Patagonia wool unders beneath Smartwool midweight thermal pants under waterproof ski pants. The ECW coveralls were more comfortable, but I liked the ski pants better for toilet use (bonus toilet section at end of this post). Plus my coverall straps were not actually long enough and I didn’t like dealing with them. The issues pants would have been sufficient, it was a personal choice to favor the pants. If hanging out at camp in the tent, I would prefer the coveralls because the legs completely unzip, making them a lot faster to slip on for a quick run to the toilet tent, like we had set up at our Gabbro Hills camp. Our Miller Range camp toilet was outside unprotected, so I preferred regular pants for lower skin exposure. The coveralls would have been nicer for skidoo travel because I frequently caught drafts up my back that only windproof layers could protect for. I don’t have a lot to say here. My legs don’t typically become cold, so pants were not an issue for me. I do really love Patagonia’s Barely Bikini wool underwear. It is soft, odor resistant, and durable. I have been a few generations and they are a quality item. I honestly think they are the only wool underwear I would recommend. Most brands have unflattering styles are uncomfortable cuts, in my opinion. Not even Smartwool makes the cut. Their underwear seams break easily and quickly unravel. They aren’t very flexible around the leg holes either, I often chafe in Smartwool unders.

TOPS.
I wore an Athleta Full Focus sport bra beneath a midweight long sleeve top covered with a Patagonia zip up fleece jacket. ECW includes a fleece jacket but I found it too bulky for comfort with all the other layers. Then I would wear a combination of outer layer jackets depending on the weather and activity. For skidoo travel, I liked Big Red best. My biggest issue was pockets. I never had enough pockets. Even with a pack on, I needed quick access to my field journal, Sharpee markers, GPS, and camera. And technically I had a satellite phone on my person too. Sometimes I would then add a hammer and/or chisels. So pickets were my problem. Yes, I could have stored all of that in my pack, constantly taking it off and putting it on. But when you are in -30 degree Farenheit weather before accounting for the wind, the goal every time is efficiency. Rummaging around in a pack is not efficient. I liked tops with thumb holes best. Sometimes I had so many layers on that a lost sleeve meant frozen fingers if I de-gloved to fish it out or a cold arm if I did not. Thumb holes also usually means longer sleeves in general, which I personally really like. I find that REI has really jumped onboard with adding quality thumb holes in their winter tops. Patagonia also does a fine job. I had one top with a slim hood. I do not normally find hoods useful as a hat is always warmer, but I really liked the added neck cover without the bulk of a balaclava. My last advice would be to always tuck in your shirt. As mentioned already, the back draft was wretched. Sometimes the skidoo ride would be so bumpy that I needed my hands to hold on and if my coat came up, a tucked in shirt was my only line of defense from freezing winds cutting through the fleece layers.

I am obviously of the crowd who favor layering over fewer bulkier items. The worst thing was to sweat because literally the moment you stop walking, your damp clothes become cold. This was frustrating when balancing skidoo travel with short hikes up outcrops. It was a constant change between producing no heat and too much heat. Hence my love of Big Red. I could put on a huge jacket for the skidoo ride and then quickly shed a bunch of heat as we started walking. I liked putting Little Red over my own wind shell jacket. Both had a few pockets and Little Red was quite large, so they fit nicely together will stopping the wind without over-insulating me while hiking.

GLOVES.
This is where I struggled most. ECW includes so many gloves, I didn’t really think about needing to prepare here as much as I should have. I brought one pair of two-layer waterproof down gloves. I wore these a lot for skidoo travel. They were too warm when driving because the skidoos have heated handlebars, but they were perfect as passenger. I rarely wore liners with these gloves, they are designed to not need additional liners. I ended up wearing the polypropylene gloves as my liners for the leather work gloves. That wasn’t quite warm enough, especially once my leather gloves gained holes. Part of the problem was not having gloves that fit well. The leather gloves either had too slim of fingers to fit liners under or the fingers were way too long. I needed to be able to go from the padded protection and dexterity of a work glove for hammering rocks to extra dexterity for taking field notes and pushing GPS buttons. I do not think that I accomplished an appropriate glove setup, so I will stop here. I also had a weird numb hand problem that compounded that problem.

HATS and NECK GAITERS.
I mostly wore fleece-lined knit hat of my own. While on the skidoo, I would put on another hat that has ear flaps. When sleeping I wore a thin wool Ice Breakers beanie. The ECW included two fleece neck gaiters, but I found them coarse and for some reason they would frost over really quickly. I bought a silky to the touch fleece gaiter in McMurdo. I liked it best. I wish it had been longer though, so I could have pulled it up over my nose without exposing the bottom of my neck. That said, I still preference it over the issued ones which were longer. I brought wool gaiters with me that I normally like for skiing, but I never wore them. I think they would have frosted too quickly.

It isn’t much, but maybe someone will get some tips from this. The last section is mostly on female toilet advice.

PEE-AID DEVICE.
I am told females are normally issued pee funnels and given a run down on female hygiene. This was not done for me or even mentioned, so my advice is my own and likely does not reflect the habits of other females in Antarctica. I have a device called the P-Style. It looks like a scoop spoon. Most female pee aids are funnels, but I am not a fan for several reasons. The biggest reason is that when I am cold and need to pee, the last thing I want to do after stuffing a frozen plastic funnel against my lady parts is have to hold back the force with which my bladder wants to evacuate. It is also unsatisfying to not just let it all out. I find funnels limiting in this regard because they can only drain at a maximum rate. An open sided device like mine, however, will simply flow faster since the fluid is only restricted on three sides. This in fact leads to the second selling point for me, I only have to worry about positioning the device far enough back, rather than pay attention to both the backward and forward positions. Maybe other females don’t find that to be a problem, but I often started peeing without feeling 100% confident that the device was in the correct place. The reason you want a simplified design, in my opinion, is because it was bloody cold. Every task, no matter how basic, it a challenge when it requires the exposure of skin at -40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one reason I preferences pants over coveralls. I could pull down the pants just far enough to gain access to my thermals and then shove the P-Style in place and the solid plastic kept the waist band pushed out of the way. All I had to do was sort of dip my hips down forward so the device could drain down. One brilliant gear item in Antarctica is a pee bottle. It is a white Nalgene with blue lid and big yellow sticker. As long as I was peeing into a bottle, I could expose the least amount of skin while peeing. I even mastered peeing into the bottle while kneeling in my sleeping bag. A big challenge for funnels is that you not only need to keep the whole top flush with your skin to prevent gaps, you also have to allow for the angle of the funnel spout at the bottom. The only design change I would make is either slightly taller side walls or maybe a tiny ridge around the top. With gloves on I didn’t have much leverage to hold the device without having at least one finger pressing down the top to keep my grip. I very nearly pressed that finger down into the pee flow on more than a few occasions. Other than that, it is brilliant. And very easy to clean since it’s a single shape with no connecting points. And there is the option for a little canvas pouch to store it in. Mine has octopuses on it.

Safe passage

12/14/2016

With many activities that I partake in, there is a certain challenge in describing my motivations. For me the answer can always be summed up by “Why not?” Many people require more of something to wrap their head around such logic. Coming to Antarctica, however, I feel like few people asked that question. Maybe I have finally broken through the need for explanation on why I choose the things I do? I actually think it is something different. I have seen it in people’s faces at McMurdo too. We are in Antarctica. This is truly one of the last places on the planet that cannot be freely traveled by anyone with the ambition. And even those who do make it down, I suspect most are restricted by how that access was gained. Though there are those rare expeditions and Vinson Massif summit teams, few people get to really experience the sights of Antarctica. One group of people may have found a way. They are the flight teams from Kenn Borek Air, the U.S. Air Force, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. And I owe a lot of gratitude to many of these people for my safe transport around the continent. Thank you!

To give a brief glimpse into my flight experiences, and maybe spread a thought of support for these incredible people, I want to tell my flight experiences and show the different aircraft I was privileged to be a passenger in while in Antarctica.

My flight from Christchurch to McMurdo was on a Boeing 757-200 flown by the Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 40 Squadron. Maybe it is becoming more common for these large commercial aircraft to land on the continent, but I felt like I was experiencing a rare opportunity. It was a luxury flight compared to standard flights to Antarctica. We had cushioned seats, windows, the quiet interior of a commercial plane, and they packed us a sack lunch. It was fantastic!

RNZAF Boeing 757
RNZAF Boeing 757

My flight into the Miller Range was on a Basler BT-67 (Turbine DC-3) aircraft. There were three crew members. They have a payload limit of 8,500 pounds (including fuel weight), so are the primary cargo hauler for field teams and fuel drops. It was a beautiful day and the crew were all incredibly nice. Kenn Borek Air is based out of Canada, so the pilots are all Canadian bush pilots. My personal experience is that they are all wonderful and interesting people.

KBA Basler BT-67 (Turbine DC-3)
KBA Basler BT-67 (Turbine DC-3)

Shuttles from Miller Range to Shackleton Camp, Shackleton Camp to Gabbro Hills, and Gabbro Hills to Shackleton Camp where all through the efforts of the crews flying Twin Otters (DHC6). These are smaller planes (3,500 lb payload) on skis. They are the nimble flyers for Antarctic missions. They provide a lot of support for science teams because they have the ability to land and takeoff on a wide range of unprepared landing surfaces on sea ice and glaciers and seawater.

Twin Otters (DHC6)
Twin Otters (DHC6)

Returning from Shackleton to McMurdo, we flew with our cargo on an LC-130, a ski-equipped version of the U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules operated by the New York Air National Guard (recent article here). This is a monster of a plane. It was designed for combat transport and has a hinged loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage to dump out cargo by the pallet load.

U.S. Air Force LC-130
U.S. Air Force LC-130

It’s over just like that

12/12/2016

We are back in McMurdo and the process happened quite quickly. On the 10th, it only took three Twin Otter flights to move back to Shackleton Camp. I am beginning to think of Shackleton as the resort of Antarctica, a peaceful and secluded place with all the desired amenities (though lacking WiFi). We had two overnights to re-pack bags, palletize our cargo, shower (with soap this time!), and decompress after coming out of the field. Today we loaded onto an LC-130 and arrived at McMurdo this afternoon. The whole trip seems like a blur. But just like that, the whole season is over, and we are preparing for our departure off of this continent. The end of one adventure always leads into another, but I cannot help feeling a more solid finality for this one. I do not know if I will ever return to this place. I do not foresee my return right now. Though I am also not one to set my future in stone.

Coming to a close

12/9/2016

Yesterday we decommissioned one of the skidoos. Since we are unable to leave the immediate area around camp, we used the one working skidoo to shuttle to the bottom of the ridge overlooking camp and changed our agenda to a hiking mission. The goal had been to skidoo all the way around the outer ridge, sampling along the way. Instead we hiked straight to the top of the nearest peak. We did not cover as much exposure as we would have liked, but we probably accessed better rocks than we would have had access to from below.

Looking out, we had the best views of all of Lillie Range. It was mesmerizing. Unfortunately the Prince Olav Mountains were cloud covered. What a life we lead. We may be the only people to ever climb that peak. It was a rare and peaceful moment. As we hiked back to the skidoo with our packed weighed down with rocks, I felt like I was on another planet, stumbling around an unknown Martian paradise.

Today is our last day in Gabbro Hills. The weather was beautiful today, but with only one skidoo there was nowhere we could go. We are mostly packed up and ready for our flights tomorrow. We are headed back to Shackleton Camp and then to McMurdo.

Demian’s breakout role

12/7/2016

Today was an interesting day. We had a slight delay as I worked with Fixed Wing to coordinate the camp pull out. When we finally walked out to the skidoos, neither one would start. Both skidoos were dead. We went through the skidoo troubleshooting guide to try to solve the problem ourselves. Having already tried our hands as skidoo mechanics, we felt confident that we could figure out the problem (see post from 11/14/16). Nothing was working. We changed the spark plugs, checked for leaks, checked the filters, pressurized the carburetor lines, and drained the fuel lines and carburetor. After checking all the things on our end, Evan called Tony at the MEC for further advice. We had already speculated that the problem was fuel related, hence draining the fuel lines. After going through all the symptoms again with Tony, he thought maybe we had a MOGAS barrel instead of PREMIX. We sent Demian out to check the barrels at the fuel cache. This was a priceless moment. Even was talking with Tony, Tony detailing a lot of complex information over the phone. Suddenly we heard Demian shout out while running back to the tent, “Problem solved! Problem solved!” He ripped open the tent door as Evan quietly asked, “Is it MOGAS?” Demian interjected, “Aviation fuel” with a matter-of-fact head shake. “No kidding?” pipes in Evan. Another head shake from Demian, “Aviation fuel.” Demian zipped up the tent door as Evan turned back to his conversation with Tony, “That’s really bad.” Did I mention that I caught the whole scene on video? I cannot describe how many times we replayed this scene. It is a combination of ridiculousness and amazement that two skidoos have been running on aviation fuel for the last week.

The absurdity of the aviation fuel discovery was added to with us deciding to get in a full day of sampling still. We left camp right at 5PM and did not return until just before midnight. One skidoo broke again by the end of the day, so we towed it back to camp. Too long of a day. But at least we made it out. We only have so many days at this location, so I am glad to work longer days if that means we are able to access more areas. We filled just over three boxes with rocks today. Day well spent.

Winding down the field season

12/6/2016

If you ever have a chance to do research in Antarctica, I highly recommend a USAP mountaineering guide. Our guide for the Gabbro Hills is Evan Miller. The first night he washed all the dishes in hot water with soap. He created a milk bottle so we don’t have to mix the powder each time. Our communal tent is incredibly organized and things outside are kept to a minimum with regular maintenance. It is incredible having another team member helping us get things done. In addition to all the perks for camp life, his primary tasks are to keep us alive and prevent our demise ending at the bottom of a crevasse. All good so far!

Evan was our deep field shakedown and crevasse rescue instructor, so I feel like we were fortunate enough to screen him early. In kind to geologists, I think that mountaineering guides tend to be easy-going adventure-seekers. I do not think that many would consider hiking around and carrying rocks to be quite the thrill they are seeking. Nonetheless, Evan is great in the field. He disproportionately carries more rocks and even took over the GPS duties, though I am keeping a close watch on the latter. 🙂 One aspect that I have found quite amusing is his love of the card game Hearts. Today we were tent-bound due to bad weather, and I think the first words from Evan after we concluded that we weren’t heading out was if we should start playing cards.

Other excitements include us finally having an appropriate Turkey Feast yesterday. Evan brought us a large pre-cooked turkey breast with the resupply food. So last night I cooked up turkey, cheesy potatoes, candied yams, corn bread, and fruit cocktail. I of course was prepared to make chocolate chip cookies, but we were all too full after the meal.