Well, the weather has disrupted our plans a bit. We were scheduled to fly up to Terra Nova this morning at 9:00 AM, but the weather has been steadily deteriorating all morning, so it looks unlikely that we will get out right away. Since I have some extra time on my hands, I will update you on events of the last few days.
On Wednesday we returned to the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans. Steve has begun to look at isotopes in eggshell fragments from his excavations, and has noted a dramatic change that takes place in all samples younger than ~200 years. To see whether this change holds up with more samples, and to also provide a known chronological benchmark, we have been granted access to sample penguin eggshells from a collection made by the Robert Scott party in 1911-12. We flew by helo out to Cape Evans, and once again entered this remarkable hut built by the English explorers and scientists. Steve and Ed collected eggshells for the isotope work, and then we looked around the hut again as we waited for pickup. I noticed a few things I had missed last time, such as this complete road bicycle and this well stocked apothecary. Don’t ask me what they thought they would use a bike for down here, especially one with skinny road tires! The hut was otherwise as impressive as before, from the well-stocked kitchen to Scott’s personal bunk and bookshelf.
This is also a good time to introduce my teammates in more detail. Ed is Steve’s new masters student, and all of this is quite exciting to him as a start to a new program. His undergraduate degree is in geology, so he will be doing geochemistry on the eggshells and other materials from the excavations. Jurek is a collaborator of Steve’s from Poland, and works on plants primarily. Steve had warned him about the dearth of plants down this far south, but I think he has been surprised by how little he has found- only a few lichen and a tiny bit of algae. Perhaps Terra Nova will be more productive. Finally, Steve (seen here at the common table in the Terra Nova hut) is the PI and a collaborator and old friend of mine for more than 20 years. He has spent the last 10 seasons down here, and his work by definition requires moving around the continent like few others get the opportunity. He spent last season at the Australian base, Casey, on the opposite side of Antarctica, and has worked extensively in the peninsula.
Yesterday was a down day awaiting our flight, so we took a hike for exercise around the McMurdo glacier loop. It was a quite windy day, but we were able to get to the top of Castle Rock anyway, if only for a brief visit. On the way back we passed skiers on the Kiwi ski hill, and some Field Safety Training folks on their way down from glacier practice. Now we are waiting in our room watching movies while we await the the phone call that tells us the planes will fly. I’ll write again as soon as possible.