My green duffel bag looked a little sad sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe all by itself, and I was a little amazed how the same amount of stuff can expand. I had packed both of my issued orange bags to go on the helicopter, and I ended up with a last minute bag as well (purple, if you must know). Granted, none of the bags were full, but I still managed to forget my sneakers. Somehow, I thought I'd be okay with just my two pairs of boots, but when I saw everyone in camp with their sneakers, I asked my roommate to go on an adventure to have them sent to me on the next "flight of opportunity". My boss said it was a FNG move, but I didn't care- I am wearing sneakers instead of boots right now and sometimes that makes a world of difference. As the saying goes, "there's the right way, the wrong way, and the Antarctic way".
My fellow team member let me have the front seat on the way out to Lake Bonney. For those of you that haven't been in a helicopter, the front windshield extends down, so that it almost looks like you are flying on your own. We also got to ride in the Kiwi helo (the one that arrived with us on the C-17), so that meant I was sitting on the right side which was quite bizarre! Anyway, it was an exciting flight with gorgeous views. Without any familiar landmarks, it was hard to tell how fast or how far we were traveling. Soon we were coming up over the ridge into Taylor Valley and spotted the series of lakes. As he swung around into the wind to land, I still couldn't believe we had arrived at Lake Bonney camp.
Stepping out was a bit like landing on the moon. There are pretty much three colors here: the white of the glaciers, the blue of the sky, and the brown of the rocks. The lake ice contains all three. Erratics dot the landscape and large boulders appear as if they would move any second. The camp itself consists of few buildings including the large Jamesway (our kitchen, dining, living room, and office), three small labs (each with a different purpose), a fuel and generator shed, and a couple of outhouses. Little yellow and blue tents dot the surrounding area, within a designated boundary to minimize our impact on the area. Minimizing impact also means shipping out absolutely all waste, segregated into corresponding containers.
Much of our time this week was spent preparing. Preparing tents, sampling gear, and drilling through the meters of ice so that we could sample the lake. Sampling day came early Thursday morning and we were on the lake by 5 am. By lunchtime we were back in camp processing samples, which took until late last night (Friday). At dinner, I was asked how we could make our process more efficient, especially in comparison to having worked on arctic lakes. Honestly, I'm not sure. It seems odd to take an entire day just to punch through the ice, but holes have to be melted to fit equipment in, and certain things just take time. About the only way to make it faster would be to have more people. Unfortunately, logistics takes up most of the personnel down here, and despite there being a population of over 1,200 people at the station, they are anticipated being swamped by (only) 300 scientists this season. Makes for a very different way of doing science, and I'm still wrapping my head around it, especially having come from a very "a la carte" system in Barrow.
Looking out the window, I still can't believe where I am. Here in the field camp, we live a very different existence than when we are in town. We cook our own meals, wash our own dishes, and run our own machines. Helicopters and the occasional repair guy or gal have been our only visitors. Basically, we've been thinking, eating, drinking, talking, and occasionally sleeping science. I say occasionally because suddenly I've become a light sleeper. The wind likes to howl up this way, and my tent likes to flap back. I think the fly wants to see some new scenery, because it's doing what it can to escape the rocks it's tied to. The constant daylight is the most easily fixed obstacle, with a knit hat pulled down over my eyes, and my head tucked into my fleece liner and super thick sleeping bag. But waking every two hours was the norm this week, only fixed by a 3.5 hour nap last evening, and a solid night's rest last night. Amazing how exhaustion will fix your sleep schedule.
Tomorrow we are sampling the other lobe of the lake, so it will be even earlier with an ATV ride to get there. But today is for resting, melting holes, and preparing supplies. Maybe even a hike to see the ventifacts.
Word of the day: Katabatic winds
Entertainment of the day: Lightning McQueen