A lesson in patience and perspective

Mini Wadhwa, December 14, 2012, Mt. Bumstead Icefield Camp, Beardmore Region   What makes one Antarctic blue icefield such a prolific source of new meteorites, while others are virtually devoid of such riches? If we are to answer this question, we need to understand why blue ice is found only in particular regions of an icesheet.

Blue ice is very hard, compacted ice lacking in air bubbles (and, of course, appears blue in color!). It is generally found in a region where a relatively old icesheet is being ablated as a result of the movement of the ice combined with action of katabatic winds. This is a place where meteorites, that have fallen on the icesheet and are entrained in it, get resurfaced. The fact remains, however, that while some blue icefields contain hundreds of meteorites, others do not seem to have any. While we don’t yet fully understand why this is so, we certainly got to explore the latter variety of blue icefield today… or perhaps our eyes are not yet attuned to picking out the few meteorites that were lurking among the sea of “Bumsteadites” that surrounded us in our searches today. The first picture shows some of our team searching in the moraine at the foot of Mt. Bumstead. As you can see, it was an overcast day and the flat lighting made it all the more difficult to differentiate potential meteorites from the dark basalts and dolerites in this region.

So, after a full day of searching, we came back to camp empty handed this evening. While a little disappointing, it was nothing that a hot meal in a warm tent could not cure. In fact, as you can see in the second picture, Marianne and I felt positively cheerful! A little perspective helps here: we are here in this amazingly beautiful place hunting for space rocks! And we have many more days of hunting ahead of us…