December 17, 2018

The moraine at the foot of Mt. Ward affectionately known as “the beach”. Some areas of this moraine rank among the most dense meteorite concentrations we’ve found, with hundreds of specimens in an area the size of a tennis court. Note the plume of snow coming off Mt. Ward. (caption by rph)

Yesterday was our first introduction to the meteorite discovery and collection processes. It took a little time to begin to pick out meteorites from the surrounding terrestrial rock, but when we did they started popping up left and right. In all, I think the group found somewhere between 35 to 45 meteorites. (At least that’s what I counted.) The majority of the finds appeared to be ordinary chondrites, but one in particular seemed to be an odd ball. Along the edge of a moraine, Jim found a rock a little larger than a golf ball with a glassy, almost green looking fusion crust and white crystals throughout its interior. There’s been speculation to what it could be, but even John Schutt admitted to being slightly puzzled over it. Today started out looking like it was going to be a full tent day. After a beautiful day yesterday, the weather broke just after we made it back to camp. Wind speeds increased significantly and held on throughout the night. In the morning, John Schutt estimated the wind speeds were up to about 28 knots and holding strong. Jim let us know early that field work would be on hiatus until the weather broke. By 10:00 am, I had all but wrote the day off when suddenly the wind speeds died down immensely. I can honestly say that I’ve never witnessed anything like the weather here in the Transantarctic Mountains. In one day it may go from storm to sunshine a half a dozen times. Often it seems to be on an hourly variation. We finally headed out into the field around 1:00 pm. We searched an area of blue ice, at the edge of a moraine, on foot. On our first pass we located a dozen specimens or more. On our return pass our friendly neighborhood wind returned with a vengeance. Just before 4:00 pm we were forced back to camp. Currently, the winds are just about as strong as they were this morning. With hope they will dissipate throughout the night. The first two days in the field definitely had their hardships and I’ve realized that the learning curve has just begun. Getting used to the endless wind seems more difficult than the cold temperatures. It’s a nonstop battle just trying to be constantly aware of your surroundings. If you drop or lay anything down, it’s sailing away in an instant. Hopefully it won’t take too much longer to become adapted to. Overall, it was a good two days in the field! If the weather calms down, we will be back at it in the morning.

Also, I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to my wife, Rachel. I wish I could be there with you and hoping you had a wonderful day!

Until next time,
Paul Scholar

PS  Happy Birthday, Rachel!   And Happy Holidays to all the significant others left at home.  Separation is the true hardship of ANSMET work, hard on both parties but in very different ways. For the ANSMET volunteer it’s a combo of homesickness, helplessness and often guilt because you’re choosing adventure over stability.  For those back in the civilized world it’s loneliness, lack of stability, and if there’s kids involved a dramatic increase in responsibility and workload.  As PI of ANSMET now for over 25 years, I’m utterly grateful for the sacrifices accepted by the partners at home-  I can always find more adventurers,  but domestic partners willing to take on the entire load?  THAT’s a hero!  I hope you’re all thriving in spite of the challenge.  -rph