Midpoint of the Field Season – Highlights and Impressions

The ANSMET 2018-19 team on top of Davis Nunataks. From left to right, Elena, Johny Ringo, Paul, Jim, Sheridan, Brian H, Brian R, and John Schutt. In the background, the Dominion Range.

By my records, we’re about at the midpoint of the field season.  The Team began ingress Dec 12 (after Johnny Alpine) with a full team by Dec 15.  We began meteorite hunting on December 16th.  So that’s about 3 out of the 6 weeks complete in our mission.
Let’s start with the numbers:
21:  Total days with our full team and the chance for searching.
14:  Days of meteorite searching!
7:  Tent Days, including today.
451:  Collected and inventoried meteorites to date!!
70?:  Meteorites that have been found and flagged but not yet collected.
13: Minimum days we’ll be waiting for our resupply flight that was scheduled for Dec. 26 (tomorrow is Sunday, so no flights)
1: Santa sightings.
0: Frowns that have appeared on Jim’s face.

And onto the highlights:  We think 451 meteorites in the bag already counts as Mission Success.  And if we project forward, that’s approaching 1000 total?  Yes, we are pretty proud of ourselves and have even requested that Ralph double our pay!  And we promise there is quality as well as quantity in that 451 total.  I think a 2:1 ratio for searching to tent days is noteworthy and beats ANSMET historical averages at Davis-Ward.  Let’s hope it continues!

Our evening science and social meetings are a definite highlight.  A typical night includes going over the day’s work and tomorrow’s nominal plan, checking in with the team, then Trivia, then Johnny’s readings of the journals of Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen, and sometimes games (particularly Farkle).  Following the early explorers’ daily trials and tribulations, sometimes on the glacier next door to us, is fascinating.  It takes us all back a century and, given our mild hardships, we recognize how exceedingly hard it must have been for the early polebound journeys. Johnny peppers in fascinating commentary, drawing on his encyclopedia knowledge from that era of Antarctic exploration.  Even though he appears too young, we are starting to think he was there with Shackleton, helping him out.

Our gatherings on Christmas and New Years were of course extra special.  A lot of great food and thoughtful gifts were shared on our Dec. 26 Christmas celebration.  Santa even visited us and decorated our tents and put sleigh bells on our skidoos.  New Years Eve featured the best pizza in all of Antarctica!  And a lot of us made it until midnight to bring in 2019 before most people in the world.

The gale force winds of December 20-21 certainly stand out as a memorable time.  But of course the Scott tents and the team’s diligence to securing camp weathered it with no problems.

My final highlight is the amazing scenery all around us.  I live a few miles from the jagged peaks of the continental divide in Colorado, so not just any mountains will impress me (I’m looking at you, Appalachians).  The peaks here don’t have the vertical relief of the ones in my backyard, but the difference is there are rivers of ice flowing all around (and sometimes over) them.  We work on the blue ice (majestic in its own right) sourrounded by the steep ridges and nunataks and every direction could be a picture postcard.  While we stare at the ground 95% of the time, I think we all take time to look up at the beauty around us.
Let’s hope the second half of the season yields more good weather, good times, and lots more meteorites!

-Brian Hynek


Note from rph:  Don’t knock the Appalachians, young man.  They’ve seen things the Rockies and the Transantarctics won’t understand for another 250 million years.