Sunday, February 3, 2008

Final Touches

I finally got a chance to drive a piston bully today! It's my first track vehicle driving experience. It was FUN!!

Well, this is Elizabeth's and my last full day on Antarctica! This continent is such an amazingly beautiful, unique place. There was no way I could include all of the great photographs that I've taken since I got here. Here is a random sample of some other interesting photos I've taken over the past two months. Enjoy!

Taylor Glacier, where it meets Lake Bonney in Taylor Valley:
The three postdocs discover the station sign, cleverly hidden behind a lot of buildings and not at all visible to the public:
Myself and Elizabeth in the field one sunny afternoon:
What happens when you let a helicopter pilot get a hold of your camera:
Standing at the base of Canada Glacier, looking straight up:

Myself and Elizabeth working on some soil samples in the lab:
A sample of the underwater life living below the Ross Sea Ice. These guys are currently living in the touch-tank in the aquarium in the lab:
On the left: What Elizabeth was doing in the field one afternoon on Lake Fryxell.
On the right: What Becky was doing while Elizabeth was working in the field that afternoon on Lake Fryxell.

It's late in the summer, and the sun is dipping lower onto the horizon. We're getting close to having a sunset! That signals that the end of the field season is near.

Weathering Antarctica

Antarctica is a very windy continent. In the Dry Valleys, with so much loose rock and soil, wind has a big impact on the landscape. Weathering is the process by which wind and the atmosphere break down rocks and minerals. There are many types of weathering, but on Antarctica mechanical weathering from wind is the most common. When the wind blows, it picks up pieces of rock and soil and carries them through the air, often at very high speeds. These pieces of small rock and soil blow past and around other rocks. The friction of the soil and rock particles in the air rubs away at the rocks being hit by the small pieces. This is called abrasion. It causes the rocks here to take on very neat shapes!

The rocks that take on these cool, weathered shapes are called ventifacts. They have been worn down, grooved, and polished by the wind and the grit it carries. Ventifacts are very common in dry, desert environments. We see lots of ventifacts of all shapes and sizes in the Dry Valleys. Here is a particularly cool one that we found around Lake Bonney last week that Elizabeth is using as her throne!
The soil, sand, and rock that are blown around by the wind don't always remain on land. Sometimes soil is blown onto nearby sea or lake ice, creating what is called "dirty ice." The soil absorbs and holds more warmth than ice, causing the ice beneath the soil to melt faster than neighboring uncovered ice. There is a large patch of dirty ice near the entrance to Garwood and Marshall Valleys. We have flown over it several times now!
Our time on the Ice is coming towards a close soon! We fly away from McMurdo on Tuesday. That means we have one more full day on station to get the rest of our work done and soak up the Antarctic scenery. We have a lot to do!