January 1, 2019

Team working on white ice near camp. From left to right: Johnny Ringo, Sheridan, Hosie, Elena, Jim and Brian. Paul and Johnny Alpine not pictured. ANSMET vets will recognize the circles in the moraine. In a setting like this, when flags are in short supply and a meteorite is found densely surrounded by terrestrial rocks,  we sometimes carefully push the latter away (with another rock) to form a “target” with the specimen in the bullseye.

The first day of the year turned out to be quite a success for or ANSMET team. After a nice New Year’s Eve filled with great food, stories, and games, we woke up to yet another beautiful morning with perfect weather for collecting. Though today our searching area came as somewhat of surprise.

Yesterday afternoon Brian Hynek went out for a short hike and discovered an area that had quite a large concentration of meteorites. This area had been searched multiple times in years past but this year a new surprise was there just waiting for us. The area is very similar to the area that we are camped on, the downwind edge of the blue ice field where the ice transitions into firn, or very hard-packed crystalline snow. Typically what happens in setting such as this is that both meteorites and terrestrial rock are moved downwind across the vast blue ice due to the strong winds present at these areas. Eventually the rocks make their way to the downwind edge of the icefield, marked by firn and snow patches that sit atop the ice. The texture of the firn surface is much rougher than the ice, so meteorites that once slid easily become trapped.

What was different about the area that Brian found is that an accumulation of wind blown rock is currently emerging from within the ice rather than being actively blown there. These accumulations represent an almost fossilized meteorite trap that formed some time ago and was buried under a thin layer of bluish white ice and snow. Just four years ago, when the 2014 ANSMET team was here, these accumulations were still hidden underneath the surface. Today we went there to have a look as a team and what we found was our New Years miracle! Meteorites everywhere! We searched for an hour or so and then began recovering and documenting the specimens. We worked hard all day but still were unable to collect them all. Our final count today was 92 meteorites in the bag! With another flagged 15-20 still out on the ice awaiting our return. What a spot! Today really showed how active and dynamic a meteorite stranding surface can be. We’re hoping for good weather tomorrow so that our resupply can be delivered via Basler airplane. Keep your fingers crossed! We will be having a good time regardless!

Until next time, Paul Scholar


note from rph:  What an awesome find for the new year.  Remember that huge wind storm the team had where Sheridan noted it was “scouring away the snow”?  The Davis-Ward icefield may now be cleaner (more snow-free) than we’ve ever seen it, revealing accumulations that had always been buried on previous visits.  Transient young snow is a constant feature on meteorite-bearing icefields, particularly on their downwind portion.  While we know these are hiding some specimens, the economics of our work strongly support recovery of those we can see rather than digging through cubic kilometers of snow.  At least for now, nature has done that digging for us and ANSMET gets a New Year’s bonus!  I’m fantasizing about miraculously transporting myself and 150 ANSMET vets to the site for the day,  for a very planetary Harvest Festival……