The time has come for me to finally say goodbye to the group of people that have been my family for the past month. Yesterday (Wednesday), the AStar came to pick me up in order to take me back to Mactown to start my long journey back to Rochester. I teared up as we took off the ground and I waved goodbye to those beneath me. I did not realize how hard it was going to be to say goodbye to those who were strangers to me not too long ago. Spending time with people 24/7 makes a bond that is indescribable. It was because of this team that this trip will be an unforgettable experience, an escape from reality to a world of science that is impossible to imagine without having experienced it yourself. Despite being the youngest, I never felt the difference in age. We were all there for a common goal which brought us together and drove us to work that much harder. Leaving half way through the season was probably the most difficult part of this trip because knowing that everyone else will continue on does not give much closure. We took a family portrait before I headed out though, which was great.
These past three weeks in the field have flown by. Every day was a new challenge and learning experience. There was not a single day that went by that I was not testing my ability to persevere through long days of work. Most of my time was spent with a chainsaw or drill (the sidewinder, jiffy, or Blue Ice Drill). Vas had described some of the things that I would be doing in the field, but each day was nothing like I could have imagined.
Daniel and I using the Jiffy drill
For the first week that I was in the field, I spent my days with Daniel, learning how to do small ice core sampling in order to do a reconnaissance of the desired sampling area to ensure that we would be taking larger samples from the correct locations. Once this was done we moved on to what Michael loved to call “Labor Camp” while everyone else was away at “Nerd Camp”-running the GC and the melter. Basically, the next couple of weeks were spent constructing two trenches, a 30m and a 40m trench. In order to do this, the outline of the trench was created by chain sawing the area, then using a breaker bar to smash the ice on the inside and then having the ice shoveled out. The desired samples were taken from a 6cm wide line that ran down the center of the trench. In order to remove the samples, a wedge shaped ice block was created using the chainsaw. Despite the labor intensive work, I loved every moment of it. The time flew by.
Small sample collecting
For about four days during these couple of weeks, I was sent over to be the assistant on the Blue Ice Drill. I worked with Josh in order to get some of the larger ice cores that would be melted on site. We had a couple electronical issues during my shifts, which were a bit frustrating and took a lot of patience to get through, but now the drill is running smoothly. Unfortunately, I was a klutz and tripped over the V-threads on our mess tent. I ended up smashing my knee on the ice, so I found it too painful to keep kneeling and moving around for the Blue Ice Drill. Ben thankfully took over my position there, and I switched back to helping out Daniel.
One thing that was very interesting about this adventure was the diet of chocolate bars, bumper bars, and numerous cookies that were the best during snack time. Along with Raro-a sugary powder mix- that seemed to have magical powers while we were at work. The one thing that I will not miss is the undesirable temperatures for all meals; breakfast with hot steaming cereal, cold lunch meals-with some frozen turkey, and dinner meals that become extremely cold in a matter of minutes. Do not get me wrong, we were very well fed, thanks to Chandra, and we ate way better than I could have ever imagined but the temperatures of each meal were sometimes disheartening.
Other than the warmth while sleeping, working through the night was really enjoyable because for about five hours the sun would disappear behind the mountains, so that the glacier would be in the shade. This provided a great temperature for collecting samples and for drilling since we didn’t have to worry about melting. The weather had been much more manageable for these past couple of weeks than during the first week that we were there. Other than a small snow storm, which is uncommon for the Dry Valleys- the weather was pretty much consistent. There were also a couple extremely warm days where we were down to our base layers, which were quite amazing but not the best for getting work done.
The night of the snow storm
As the last week of my journey approached, I was determined to see as much of Taylor Glacier as possible in my free time. After work, Daniel thankfully took the time and energy to fulfill my desires to see and do as much as time allowed. He took me to see the preserved penguin and seal that were located about ten minutes away from camp. It is absolutely phenomenal to see how the cold helps to keep animals so well preserved. Despite Taylor Glacier being a good distance from the oceans, a penguin and seal somehow ended up where they currently remain today. Also, after our snow storm we hiked up-glacier to where there is a trough with a steep slope in order to go sledding. Sledding is absolutely amazing when the ice is covered with a small layer of snow. Another highlight of my last week was the chainsaw sculpting that we attempted, which was quite interesting.
Every time that I looked around me I was always in awe at the world that surrounded me. It is hard to believe that this is over. I have pushed myself more than I could have imagined and am grateful for this amazing opportunity that I have experienced. Hopefully, the rest of the team that I left behind will finish all their science goals and make it home safely. They have made great progress so far, despite a couple of issues along the way, and are on their way to a successful season. Sorry for rambling so much, but so much has happened in the past couple weeks that I will never be able to capture it fully in a simple blog post.
View from the AStar of our camp
Farewell Taylor Glacier,