Updates from Dale Andersen in Antarctica

Updates from Dale Andersen in Antarctica

Dale Andersen, Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute, is currently conducting field research in Antarctica. His research interests focus on the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe ...

... and he will be locating, characterizing, and understanding environments where physical and chemical conditions approach or exceed the tolerances for life.

Follow along! View the location or send a reply to Dale Andersenhttps://inreach.garmin.com/textmessage/txtmsg?extId=0ead8aef-0285-42e5-b764-3cfc4b489c7c (for the best view, select the aerial layer and zoom out).

UPDATE 1 - OCT. 30 - NOV. 5, 2018

October 30, 2018 

We arrived at the Novolazarevskaya ice runway Thursday evening via the ALCI chartered IL-76 about 8pm without incident; it is very nice to be back here again. We are early enough to enjoy a bit of darkness for several hours too, with a beautiful sunset off to the south of the station. We are staying at the ice-runway, and over the coming days we will prepare for the traverse to Untersee. Unfortunately, a storm arrived about 10 hrs. after we landed and we have been in whiteout conditions for the last two days with visibility of less than 50 meters.

The small blizzard blew out on Sunday, so yesterday was our first real day of work. After digging out the entrance (several hours) we pulled out our skidoos from storage, attached the sleds, and drove them down to Schirmacher Oasis and back to make sure they were working ok. Today we will begin organizing our cargo and gear for the traverse to Untersee - we hope to be there in 2-3 days, depending on how things go with our local logistics and weather. But so far, so good!

November 1, 2018 

We had a busy day yesterday preparing for the traverse to Untersee. We should have everything in place by this afternoon and are scheduled to depart tomorrow morning if the weather is ok. I will try to have tracking set up on my Garmin InReach, so you can follow along.

November 2, 2018 

Arrived Untersee 3pm UTC, all ok, first tent up.
View the location or send a reply to Dale Andersen: https://inreach.garmin.com/textmessage/txtmsg?extId=0ead8aef-0285-42e5-b764-3cfc4b489c7c&adr (for the best view, select the aerial layer, and zoom out)

November 3, 2018 

We are at Lake Untersee now, three tents up with 45-50 knot winds keeping us company. Will try to give an update tomorrow, we are heading to bed early tonight since we had a very long day yesterday and today in blowing snow and wind. My sleeping bag is calling....

November 4, 2018 

Today was a pretty productive day. We turned in early yesterday; everyone was pretty tired from the traverse the day before, followed by a day of getting two more tents up and a first cut at organizing the camp. Yesterday was another day with high winds and blowing snow, that made the work all the more tedious. But we awoke this morning to a quiet calm and after a quick breakfast we began the day with a quick snowmobile tour around the lake (its 6 km long) and continued setting up the camp. This afternoon we drilled through the 3.5 meters of ice to make sure we have fresh water for drinking and cooking the freeze-dried meals (a variety of BackPackers Pantry cuisine). Tomorrow we will begin putting up the diving tent and organize the science lab, getting generators online, etc. But, we will see what the weather brings us, which could impact our activities.

Cheers from Lake Untersee!

November 5, 2018 

Just after getting a couple of tents set up today, the winds started pounding us with 60 knot gusts, and probably increasing this evening to what are likely 75-80 knot winds. We spent another few hours outside trying to protect our new homes; now we hope to stay indoors for a while as this storm moves by. We do have a metal sea container that could provide a safe-house if needed. But I do not think it will come to that!

November 6, 2018 

Our winds have continued unabated likely hitting 40-50 m/s at times. We did lose four of our tents yesterday despite our best efforts to save them - the winds were just too much. But we are safe in another tent for the moment and we will rebuild the camp when the weather improves.

UPDATE 2 - NOV. 9 -12, 2018

November 9, 2018

The weather improved today with sunshine and light winds greeting us this morning, a nice change of pace from the constant pounding we have had the last few days. Late last night we had gusts hitting the 75-80 knot range again (or perhaps more) so it was pretty noisy until early this morning.

Today we replaced two of the Mountain Hardwear Stronghold tents and reinforced them quite a bit so they should be ok, or they just get flattened.  Hope to get the two Weatherports up tomorrow if we are not getting pounded by winds again. Then we have one more stronghold to put up for the kitchen tent and we will be set.  For the moment we are using the sea-container for our cooking tent (and sleeping the last few days). I still need to see if my diving compressor survive - the wind rolled its box (with tanks inside) about 10-15 m before dumping it.

We now have many more snow petrels in the area, quite a few arrived last night along with their nemesis, skuas. It’s nice to have the company!

November 12, 2018

The last two days have been pretty nice weather-wise, and very productive. We have replaced all of the tents lost to the storm and tomorrow we will complete the camp setup with the installation of the science tent, the second  10x12 ft Weatherport structure. We still have a few challenges ahead of us before we are able to engage in our scientific studies nevertheless, slowly but surely we are getting there. Currently our camp consists of three Mountain Hardwear Stronghold tents, one Alaska Tarp & Tent pyramid tent and one Weatherport. 

This afternoon we also re-drilled the water-hole on the lake and refilled our two 20 liter Igloo water coolers, so we are set for water for a few days. During the next day or so we need to organize the lab tent, get the hole-melter (for melting diving holes through the 3.5m thick lake ice) operational and check to see if the dive compressor was damaged.  Once we have confirmed that they both work we will start working on a dive hole for sampling. But, not before the camp is fully operational, safe and warm.  Safety is the first consideration in all that we do, and having shelter from the elements comes ahead of all else.