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Author: Marie-Amande

Date: 6 March 2013

Temperature: -25C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35C

Sunrise: Everlasting

Sunset: Everlasting

 

 

Antoine de Saint Exupery was a French pioneer aviator and writer who travelled worldwide and disappeared at sea in a plane crash in 1944. Due to the discovery of his identity bracelet ('gourmette') nearby in 1998, his aircraft has been located and excavated. The recovery and exhibition of these artefacts are not without connection to the work we are doing at Scott Base on artefacts from Antarctica's first explorers.

 

But the real connection for me is Saint Ex' famous novel The Little Prince. The Little Prince comes from a very very small planet, so small that he only needs to move his chair to see the sun set or rise.

 

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Sun setting, or rising

 

We are actually living on a similar tiny planet named Scott Base. The sun, which started setting on 20 February, is currently curving so low in the sky that it seems to be everlasting sunset or sunrise. We just have to change windows to see orange and gold colours floating around Black and White Islands in the morning, surrounding Mount Erebus' summit at lunch, lying on the Dry Valley Mountains after dinner, and finally hiding for a few minutes at midnight.

 

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Sun setting, or rising

 

Should I say that The Little Prince is about exploration and explorers, about leaving and missing home, about experience and knowledge? There are many more connections to make.  To understand why we should consider snow drifts behind the doors as baobabs, I invite you to read the novel or to attend my French class every Friday evening at Scott Base.

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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

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Niskin bottle

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Water filtration set-up

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

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

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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

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View from the helicopter over to the Commonwealth Glacier

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Campling gear and science equipment arriving with a sling load

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Lake Joyce is in the Pearse Valley, a westward extension of the Taylor Valley next to the Taylor Glacier and fed by the meltwater of the glacier. Lake Joyce is one of the smaller Dry Valley lakes. It is perennially ice-covered and the ice is about five meters thick and the ice is not smooth as known from lakes in Europe. The ice is rugged due to irregular freeze-thawing of the top-layer of the ice and deposition of soil from the surrounding hills by the wind.

 

 

Lake Joyce and Taylor Glacier with research tents

 

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Lake ice

 

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Research tents on Lake Joyce ice

 

As the lake is ice-covered samples are collected through diving. The diving is done by three members of our team that are very experienced scientific divers. In order to directly process our samples we had two tents on the ice next to the dive hole.

 

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Much of the travel around Ross Island and the Dry Valleys is done by helicopter because this is often the only way to reach many of the remote research locations.  Therefore, it was also the means of transportation for me to get to my first field site Lake Joyce in Pearce Valley (Dry Valleys, Antarctica).

 

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I was scheduled to fly early in the morning and my cargo did not only contain my science equipment but also the much awaited  food resupplies for our camp including frozen eggs, olive oil, muesli and plenty of salsa sauce etc.

 

 

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The flight took me along Ross Island and many incredibly beautiful mountain ranges and glaciers. 

 

Ross Island with Mt Erebus

 

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Dry Valleys

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Arrival at Lake Joyce

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Lake Joyce

 

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