January 23, 2019

Notice the cracks that are relatively free of debris, running nearly top-to-bottom on this image? Paul has an intriguing explanation below.

Well, early this morning we received word that our flight out from David-Ward has been canceled for today. Jim, Brian R., Sheridan and I will be spending at least one more night here on the ice. We are still awaiting the actual reason behind why, but from the information we received, it may be due to weather restrictions in our area. The interesting thing about this is we are experiencing possibly the best weather conditions of the entire season so far. Currently, it’s about 0 degrees F, with absolutely no wind, and very few clouds on the horizon. As the pilot explained to us yesterday, the complete lack of wind actually makes landing and liftoff much more difficult at these elevations. So, essentially we may have been cancelled due to the weather conditions being too good. Only in Antarctica! Anyway we were ready and excited to be leaving this morning, but are now looking forward to enjoying another beautiful day in the mountains. To most people 0 degrees may not seem too comfortable, but after making it through 43 days in these fairly harsh conditions, the last two days feel like we’re in paradise! It’s actually pretty nice to have another day here to enjoy. Leaving will definitely be a bitter/sweet emotional roller coaster. I think I can speak for most of us when saying there are many aspects of this place that we’ve become accustom to. Last night even marked our 50th night without darkness. I know that I’m not looking forward to having nighttime fall at 5pm again in the states!

Yesterday was probably the nicest day we’ve seen so far. Sheridan and I could find absolutely no reason to stay in the tents during such a beautiful day. After the plane left with all of our non-essential cargo, we decided to hike around and look for any freshly wind transported meteorites on the local downwind ice edges. As to our surprise, a few very small stragglers still exist! Last weeks heavy winds may even have blown them in. Seems to be a common trend here at Davis-Ward, no matter how many times you look, more meteorites just keep showing up! Too bad all of the GPS and collection supplies are back in McMurdo. Today’s plan is more of the same. Hike around and see how things have changed. It’s amazing to see how dynamic these areas truly are. Strong aeolian events, along with other slower localized icefield processes, seem to keep a large population of meteorites and terrestrial rocks in a periodic state of redistribution. Returning to an area that we disturbed just a few weeks ago, it is common to find the evidence of us being there already fading away. This is especially true of areas like the moraines and windrow accumulations. In the moraines, even small events, such are ice cracking, helps to sort and redistribute the rocks within them. We experience the ice cracking in camp nearly every night. As the glacier slowly advances, small cracks form, sometimes releasing pressure with a loud popping sound. You can see the effects of these within the small rocks in the moraines. When the ice cracks and snaps up, all of the small rocks are projected away from the area directly along the crack (see attached image). It’s amazing to think about how much redistribution occurs, due to this, in even just a few years. This not only moves the terrestrial rock around, but could also expose meteorites that were previously hidden under these rocks. As for the windrows, yesterday Sheridan and I walked out to the ones that Brian Hynek discovered earlier in the season. Upon his discovery, these deposits were completely uncovered and exposed. A week or so ago, I looked at them and they were nearly all covered up in snow. Yesterday, they again were completely uncovered. Just 2-3 days of high winds really made a difference. It looked like many of them were even beginning to thin out, with a lot of their rocks beginning to be blown down wind. It’s pretty amazing to see how this area has evolved in just a few weeks. Brian found them at the exact perfect time. Because of this, we were able to recover over 100 meteorites from this area. Given the timing and length of our field season, only a small window of time may have existed in which that was possible. Who knows if these deposits will even exist in the next few years! This trip has been an exciting, learning experience! Hopefully we can discover a few more interesting things today! I just need to quit writing this blog and get back out there.
Until next time,
Paul Scholar


additional note from rph: What an amazing observation by Paul. I’ve been looking at these moraines for over 30 years and never noticed that. An hour of wind and all that debris would be spread out again. Kudos for Paul for being in the right place at the right time, and in an analytical frame of mind. He lives up to his name