Over the coming weeks Ms. Niccoli's first graders and Mr. Brad's preschoolers will be joining us on our science expedition in Antarctica. While we (a science team from various parts of the world) work in sub-freezing conditions and sleep on ice for several weeks on end, the students will be enjoying the adventure from their warm and cozy classrooms. Feel free to follow along on our adventure together.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read a little about our science team.

Satellite image of Antarctica, courtesy of NASA. The blue dot is McMurdo. The red dot is our field area on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tents, Snow Mobiles, and Weather

Our preschoolers and first-graders back home want to know where we sleep (buildings or tents), how cold it is, and whether snowmobiles are fun. Great questions.

First, the fun part - the snow mobiles. These are our only mode of transportation while we're away from McMurdo - they carry us and all our gear all around. And, yes, they are lots of fun. We were excited about them before we ever left New Zealand. Below are some fun pictures and videos of our snow mobiling experience so far.

Left: Landon and Clement practicing their snow mobile skills in New Zealand.
Right: Dr. Koenig wishing she had brought her motorcycle helmit to Antarctica, instead of using the ones given us in McMurdo.

Left: Our snow mobile mechanic attempting to teach us how to fix them when we brake them
Right: Mountain Mike on one of our snow mobiles at WAIS Divide Camp

The first video below is the view from the snow mobile as Landon is driving out towards our first ice core drilling site. The second video is Landon pulling Dr. Rupper in a sled across some of the sastrugi (snow dunes). Yeehaw!

Where do we sleep? We slept in buildings when we were in McMurdo, but out here at WAIS Divide Camp everyone sleeps in tents. We have two types of tents with us: Mountain Tents (red) and Scott Tents (yellow). Landon and Clement sleep in one of the Scott Tents; Drs. Koenig, Koutnik, and Rupper sleep in the other Scott Tent; Mountain Mike sleeps in the Mountain Tent.

How cold is it? Temperatures in this area change quite a bit from day to day. Our warmest day so far was -15 F; the coldest day was -35 F. How cold is that? Well, I went to bed inside a fleece sleeping bag which was inside a -15 F down sleeping bag which was inside a -40 F down sleeping bag. The toothpaste and baby wipes I was hiding in my sleeping bag to keep them warm were completely frozen when I woke up in the morning. Since we haven't showered in ... well ... a long time, the baby wipes are my only way of keeping clean. They don't work so well when they're frozen.

Drs. Rupper and Koutnik snuggling in for the night. Do we look warm yet?

Frozen gloves hanging inside the scott tent

The cold temperatures really aren't too much of a problem. The real problem is the wind. It is always windy here, and the wind makes it feel much colder. Plus, you can never set anything down or it will just blow away or quickly be covered by the blowing snow. The first video below shows the typical windy day. The second video is taken in the same spot during a wind storm. We weren't able to work on that very windy day - so we slept and ate a lot instead.

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