Friday, December 03, 2010

Trials and tribulations

Home sweet home next to Canada Glacier

The fiasco field day of which I last wrote, was followed by an absolutely fabulous Thanksgiving. Of course, because I'm on the limno team, we still did a bit of work, but it was still a relaxing day. People came from all over, by foot and by helicopter from other camps in the Dry Valleys. All told, I believe there were 28 people gathered at Lake Hoare for the feast. The camp manager had some friends from "town" fly in the day before to help her cook, and what a spread it was. Turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Jessy's savory cornbread pudding, Dottie Mae's sweet potato casserole, roasted pumpkin, cranberry sauce, cranberry chutney, peas, pumpkin dinner rolls, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, and walnut pie. Plus wine of various variety which seemed to appear out of thin air. Of course, I ate so much that post-dinner coma turned into a nap. Eventually people returned to whence they came, and those of us staying at Hoare had the place to ourselves again. The evening was rounded out by a rather loud game of Scrabble Apple.

Thanksgiving dinner at Lake Hoare

The day after Thanksgiving was our chance to prepare things for our next trip into the field and to pack up to head back to town. Weather delays messed with the schedule a bit, but we were still able to catch our helo ride. They combined our trip with another pair's, so we were packed like sardines, quite cozy for the half hour ride across the sea ice. Those big red jackets make for nice pillows. The best part of Friday was coming back to the lab to be greeted by Ema, who had been out in the field some of the same time as us, but she had been two valleys away, at Lake Vida, without internet! My roommate Anne was still sleeping, so I had to wait for her to wake up, but there were lots of familiar faces in town this time, quite a bit different from my first arrival. Friday night there was a huge dance party, with "local" bands playing lots of good music. It was good to let our hair down (post shower, of course) and relax after working in the field.

Heading back from Scott base

Our time in town has been dominated by processing samples from the last trip and preparing material for the second round of field work. Basically, we sample the lakes in Taylor Valley and then go back and do it again, and again, with a week or two between each round. Each trip is successively shorter with less time required for drilling and melting holes, and the very last run is a subset of samples collected. So, the weekend after the big party was relatively relaxed with bottle washing and sample processing on the list, with a quick trip over to the store over at Scott base.

Where to catch the shuttle to Scott Base (dorms in background)

Monday we had to say goodbye to Dr. Anne. Off to New Zealand for more adventures! She was quite the ideal roommate, especially compared to some of the horror stories I've heard floating around. There are snorers, people that type on their computers all night, and folks that never turn off the light. A bit like being back in college.

McMurdo infrastructure

The rest of the week has been fairly benign, mostly putzing around the Crary lab combusting bottles and setting up my heat block while the rest of the team anxiously awaited the opportunity to sample Lake Vanda. Originally, we were going to have two trips out, so I was going to be on the second trip. Unfortunately, I ended up missing out seeing Vanda entirely, but the rest of the team brought me back lots of water to play with (i.e., run lots of experiments on). They had another rough and windy day out, but the pictures sure look like it was worth it.

Temperature experiment set-up

One thing you might not realize about biological experiments is time sensitivity. With samples arriving back here around 6 pm, I was up until 3:30 am setting up an experiment. Not the end of the world, until I found out at 11 am that there had been a power outage after which one of my water baths did not turn back on, ruining the 20 hour long incubation. So, yesterday I got to set it up again, although it went much faster the second time around and it was up and running by dinner time. Not an unusual thing in the world of science, but quite taxing when you are already fighting off of a cold of sorts. Today I am ending the experiment and setting up a longer term growth incubation to run while I am back out in the field with the team starting on Monday.

Leopard seal skull

Luckily, it looks like tomorrow might be a bona fide day off, one I currently plan to spend sleeping and watching movies (with a break to see the big craft show). Thanks to a care package from my friend Kathy, I now have two "new" movies to watch, since it didn't occur to me to pack any dvds!



Sus Mettler said...

Wow! That Thanksgiving dinner looks amazing! Also, that seal skull photo is incredible. I love it. And one more thing, how can you sleep when your tent is sitting on a boulder pile?

Heather said...

Good question! Actually, the tent sites are the same year after year to minimize impact, so they are relatively rock free.

Ema said...

awesome week!!!! is good to have you here.

Ema said...

and I love your home next the Canada Glacier!!! =D

pecwanpete said...

Ha ha, I had the same two thoughts as Sus. Very cool stuff Heather!

pecwanpete said...

Ha ha, I had the same two thoughts as Sus. Very cool stuff Heather!

Kathy said...

I'm late going through your blogposts, but am happy the package got to you!

Have a great rest of your time down there! Michael will be jealous you got to see that skull for sure!