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Thanksgiving in Antarctica

Thanksgiving in Antarctica

Dale Andersen going into the icy water in Antarctica

Since late October, SETI Institute Senior Research Scientist Dale Andersen has been in the field in Antarctica. After traveling by plane to the Novolazarevskaya Station Airstrip, Dale and his team loaded up skiddos and sleds for the trip to Lake Untersee. Lake Untersee is a freshwater lake located in East Antarctica that is permanently covered with ice. Dale is particularly interested in the microbial life that lives beneath the ice.

After setting up camp, Dale began preparations to dive beneath the ice of Lake Untersee to collect samples. Preparations included making a dive hole through nearly four meters of ice and testing equipment.

Because the field site is so remote, communications with the expedition team can be sporadic. We heard from Dale over the Thanksgiving break, though, and here is what he reports:

We have been keeping very busy these last couple of weeks, trying to take advantage of the nice weather (mostly calm and with clear skies more often than not).

Today I revisited several sites underwater in Lake Untersee, collecting samples of the photosynthetic cyanobacterial mats that cover most every surface. We also began melting out temperature/light sensors we have had underwater the last two years - these sensors, provided by Onset Computer (Hobo) will provide us with additional insight in regards to the light regime experienced by the cyanobacterial mats that are present. The sensors run from just beneath the 3.7 m thick ice-cover to the bottom at 160 m. But the lines, entombed in the thick ice must be melted out so we can pull the sensors to the surface through the 30 cm formed during the melting procedure.

This evening we celebrated American Thanksgiving (I am the only American in the group this year) with most everyone having freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini as the main course. It is always nice to share a holiday with fellow teammates, and to be able to celebrate, and give thanks to everyone who has made our Antarctic research possible. We have much more we hope to accomplish in the remaining days we have at Untersee,

Warm regards from the shores of a perennially ice-covered lake in the mountains of Queen Maud Land!


Dale and his team will continue their work in Antarctica for the next few weeks, arriving back home on December 23. We are looking forward to his next update!

colleagues pulling Dale Andersen getting out of the icy lake

camp nestled between the rocks and snow

UPDATE 12-6-19

Last night our weather shifted from sunny skies to low-cloud, light snow, and light but gusty winds; our highest gust today being about 30 knots. The forecast is for more of the same so we must be prepared tonight for high winds that could descend upon us at almost any time.  Although the day was not great for field work, some work was carried out in the Aurkjosen Cirque by grad student Tim Roy - he spent several hours collecting additional samples and data that will help describe the holocene history of this interesting valley which once hosted a lake somewhat similar to Untersee until it dried down, leaving only traces of its former existence in the permanently frozen valley floor.

Grad student Benoit Faucher also spent the day collecting additional control points with a high-resolution dGPS system. The rest of us spent most of the day working on samples collected over the last several days or working on equipment that will be used in the coming days. We have just over a week left for science before we begin closing down the camp and, with much left to do, we will certainly be kept busy over the next few days, weather permitting.     


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