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The ice mass on Antarctica is the largest body of frozen water in the world so it is unsurprising that our drinking water is melted glacier ice. Our camp is near Canada Glacier and for several days some of us go over to Canada Glacier to collect chunks of ice that have fallen off the glacier. These chunks of ice are called glacier berries by the locals.


Trip to Canada Glacier to collect glacier berries



Standing among the glacier berries



Diving in Lake Fryxell

Posted by Anne D Jungblut Nov 27, 2012

As I wrote previously, all our microbial mat samples are collected by the divers in our team. AND the divers are back in the water! The diving is happening through a hole in the ice. It takes several days to make the hole. First a smaller hole is drilled and then a coil called a hot finger is used to widen the hole to ca 1 m in diameter.


We are not only collecting benthic cyanobacterial mat samples, but the divers are also collecting water from above the microbial mats for nutrient analysis and to determine oxygen concentration, as well as measuring the light conditions under the ice.


The scientific diving at Lake Fryxell is done with surface supplied air and there are always several dive tenders at each dive. Their responsibilities include tendering to the tethered diver or operating the console for the air supply and communication between the tender and diver.


We are getting ready for a dive



My job is dive tender




It is the end of a dive and we are getting the diver out of the water



Full face mask diving set-up



This afternoon we went for a walk on the Lake Fryxell. The ice is incredible clear in the moat regions, and one can find everywhere cyanobacterial mats frozen into the ice. These cyanobacterial mats were originally from the bottom of the lake, and are called lift-off mats. Microbial mats often drift to the top of the water when they are pushed upwards through the formation of gas bubbles. Although mats are now frozen, it is very likely that many of the cyanobacteria in the mats are still viable.


Lake Fryxell with Canada Glacier in the background




Dried cyanobacterial mats in the ice



Today, I collected water samples to study the diversity of cyanobacteria found in the water column of Lake Fryxell.  The water is sampled through a hole in the ice. We are very lucky the hole is covered by a heated tent, which makes it a lot easier. 


The phytoplankton biomass is concentrated on a filter. Some of the filters turned orange and brown because of the pigments of the phototrophic microbial community. After my return to the NHM, I will extract the DNA in order to characterise the cyanobacterial diversity.


Water sampling




Niskin bottle



Water filtration set-up



Water filter coloured by the pigments of the phototrophic microbes in Lake Fryxell water



.....and a little quiz: What is wrong in the following pictures?



This year, we will be be out in the field for 5 weeks. Our first camp is at Lake Fryxell. During our time at Lake Fryxell, we will be able to use the facilities by the US Antarctic Programme, which is pretty cool! The camp consist of a James Way as living area with heating, internet and even a telephone line to Scott Base and McMurdo. We sleep in tents but spend most of the day out on the lake or in the labs and hut.


Lake Fryxell camp


Inside the hut


Our drinking water is melted glacier ice

Snack corner


Frozen Veggies


Camping at Lake Fryxell



My tent



Solar  energy



Wind energy



Here some images from our flight from Scott base, the New Zealand Antarctic station to Lake Fryxell. We crossed the McMurdo Ice Shelf and flew passed Mt Erebus, which seemed more smoky than usual. We then entered Taylor Valley and crossed Commonwealth Glacier and landed at Lake Fryxell. Shortly after our arrival, the remaining camping gear and science equipment arrived on sling load.


Mt Erebus


View from the helicopter over to the Commonwealth Glacier




Campling gear and science equipment arriving with a sling load



It is November 2012 and it is time to head back to Antarctica. This year we are a team of researchers and students from University of Canterbury (NZ), UC Davis (USA) and the Natural History Museum, London. We are coming from the research areas of Microbial Biodiversity, Microbial Ecology and Geobiology. We will be working in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and study the benthic biology of Lake Fryxell and Lake Vanda. In total, we will be in Antarctica seven weeks, two weeks at Lake Fryxell and three weeks at Lake Vanda, which is very exciting !


Cyanobacteria-based microbial mats and microbialites cover large parts of these lakes. The lakes are ice-covered and meromictic with a stratified water column, which makes them very interesting systems to study how environmental conditions affect microbial diversity and community composition and microbialite morphologies and their assemblages. The microbial communities will be collected by divers ( ...not me but the other members of my team). They will also characterise the different shapes of microbialite structures, as well as light conditions and photosynthesis activity of the lake environment.   We will also do light microscopy to study the cyanobacterial morphotype diversity.


Lake Fryxell at night


Anne D Jungblut

Anne D Jungblut

Member since: Sep 2, 2010

I'm Anne Jungblut from the Botany Department. Join me as I head to Antarctica to study cyanobacterial diversity in ice-covered lakes of the Dry Valleys and Ross Island where already scientists on Scott's and Shakleton's expeditions made many discoveries.

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