Rob Coker, December 16th, Mt. Bumstead
Today we found some meteorites! So I thought I’d spell out what we do when we find one (besides the obvious jumping up and down in joy). Once we sort of agree that it is a meteorite (we don’t *have* to agree actually), we give it a number and take pictures of it with a counter and a scale-bar in the image. Then we measure the meteorite’s dimensions and estimate the amount of fusion crust coverage and maybe what type of meteorite it is. Next we bag it, being careful to avoid any contamination; so we use sterlized tongs and a teflon bag. We must even be careful to keep runny noses away from the meteorite! Finally, we get a GPS reading and mark the spot with a flag (in case the GPS fails; it is picked up later when the GPS data is uploaded). Then it is off to the next space rock! A picture of one of the ones found today is shown — I am finding it very hard to tell them apart from the local basalt (which are also black/brown with a crust) at a distance! The ‘flat’ light due to the high cloud cover of the last few days makes seeing rocks on the ice easy, but it washes out the color, so it is that much harder to pick out the meteorites from the many many terrestrial rocks (of many types) around here.
Partly as a celebration of finding our first meteorites of this trip, we followed our mountaineer and ski-dooed and hiked up an ice and snow outcrop on the side of Mt. Bumstead. The snowmobile ride was a bit steep, but quite fun. The hike, which required pick axes to avoid the occasional soft deep snow, was up to the very peak of the outcrop at nearly 8500 feet high. The panorama is from the top, showing some of us (I’m one!) down below and, off in the distance, about 5 km away, our base camp. Try finding it in the picture! No picture can possibly do this view justice. Nor can words. One must be there to grasp it’s stark beauty. There are wind-carved ice sculptures. There is blue ice in the nearby peaks visible. Patterns of layering in the snow all around can be seen. The cloud enshrouded peaks in the distance seem to watch over all we do. The wind didn’t howl too much, but it was enough to remind us we are indeed in Antarctica: full bundeling up in many layers of clothing was required. All in all, a wonderful day of views and meteorites. I look forward to many more of the same!