Cape Evans

Wow we had an amazing time at Cape Evans! The weather was just gorgeous. My group was lucky and got to ride there in the smaller helicopter with a very good pilot. We flew along the channel that had been cut by the ice breaker and saw minke and orca whales! It was fantastic! We would hover near the channel only feet off the ice, boy that pilot was good! Sadly, my nice camera’s battery was lost a few days back so I’m only left with my cell phone camera until I can steal some nice pictures from friends. In the meantime these have to suffice. Still, I think they help to convey the beauty of this place!

seal yawn
“Yawn” says the seal! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Adelie on edge
Pensive Adelie
evans hut with glacier
Cape Evans hut with helicopter landed in background


helicopter landing near hut
Glacier and bay

This is what scientists look like around penguins ๐Ÿ˜‰

Scientists with penguins


I hiked around Observation Hill yesterday with a couple friends and then we headed to Scott base which is really very close to McMurdo. Scott base has an open invitation to those at McMurdo to visit on Thursday evening and Sunday afternoons. Here is Anna and I at Scott Base.


Michael, I’m sorry to report they weren’t interested in selling (nor shipping back) one of their Toyotas. Although I have heard rumors of a surplus store for old McMurdo gear, but not sure if the Kiwis have anything similar….anyone know? ๐Ÿ˜‰


On the schedule!

So our last group got out to the ice edge today and saw tons of wildlife; penguins, minke whales and orcas! Oh and they also took some great light data in holes they drilled at various distances from the edge and pressure, temperature and salinity data in the water ย columns beneath.

This all means though that we’re on for our helicopter ride up to Cape Evans tomorrow! We’re on the schedule so as long as the beautiful weather we’re having today holds we’re a go! Keep your fingers crossed! ๐Ÿ™‚

DNA and Castle Rock

Hi! We prepped for DNA sequencing on Saturday! Here are Joe and Chelsea in the Lab

Joe and Chelsea Lab

And Virginie showing off our solution for vortexing our samples all at once (a platform that mixes by vibrating the sample in various directions). Sometimes duct tape just really makes things possible! ๐Ÿ˜‰Virginie and vortex

Also the cargo ship has arrived and here is a picture of it from the window in our lab and the Icebreaker leaving.icebreaker and cargo ships

Then yesterday, for the first time since we arrived about 3 weeks ago, we had a day completely off. We decided to take the opportunity to hike out to Castle Rock. It was very windy and pretty cold but it was a great trip.

On the way there are a couple places to stop and rest called “apples” where you can get out of the wind and weather.

Apple and Crater

Here’s the view of Castle rock from the closest apple where we stopped to have a snackKirstinApple&CastleRock

Getting close!


Part of our group starting the trek up to the Castle Rock climbGrouptoCastle

Mridul and Harriett at the baseAtCastleMridul&Harriett

Just starting up we got a great view of the islands off the coastKateonCastle

Harriett and the group climbing upHarriettOnCastleClimbingCastle

Sam, one of our instructors out on a ledge. Don’t get blown away Sam!SamOnCastleRidge

Beautiful lighting on the water beyond the iceIslandsFromCastleIslands and RopefromCastle

Looking the other direction from the very summit back towards McMurdo. You can make out Ob Hill on the left and one or two of the radio spheres on the far ridge.ViewbacktoMCMfromCastle

Looking back at Castle Rock on our return. Stunning clouds and view.!Crater and Castle

Happy day!KateSillyCastle



Labwork and the actual Arrival Heights

Hi! Just in case you think I haven’t been doing anything the last couple days since I haven’t posted lately I want you to know I have been working hard in the lab! It’s been a bit of an uphill climb for me in learning how to do tasks including filtering water for bacterial counts, filtering for chlorophyll, looking at the filters under the microscope with florescence (makes the bacteria glow bright blue), taking pictures, prepping slides for looking for bacteria in the ice cores, filter for DNA analyses and more!

Photo on 1-25-18 at 3.39 AM
Me filtering the melted ice core water through a filter to collect for DNA! It was cold in the cooler room so I’m trying to stay warm!

We also had a nice field trip up to the Arrival Heights area where there is a ton of really cool science going on. Basically, Principal Investigators will come down here, get things set up for their experiment/observations and then leave it to a person who checks on them periodically. That person can be “running” over 10 instruments/experiments at a time!

One really cool thing that we got to see/hear was a radio frequency that records and listens for signals that are made when lighting happens and travels through Earth’s magnetic field along the field paths is collected. The higher frequency travels faster and so arrives at the “listener” first and then follows the lower frequency and so you get a higher pitch sound followed by a lower one. They sound like long whistles or little Stars Wars shots – “Pweew – pweew – pweew!” A fun fact I recalled after hearing about this was that the Voyager spacecraft (number one I think) confirmed the that Jupiter had lighting in its atmosphere by hearing these sounds, along with pictures it took as it was leaving of lit areas in the clouds. The first detection of lighting outside of Earth! So cool!

Listen to the Jupiter recordings here:

It was cold this day and very windy with snow. Here is me and Francis who is post doc at USC and another parent of 3 kids! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks to our better halves for making this trip possible!

Kate at arrival heights snow

Cold arrival heights zoomin

I promise more pictures soon! We’re suppose to go on the helicopter again on Saturday so hope for better weather for us!



Running – er rather Hiking up Arrival Heights ;)

I had a chance to run and hike up to Arrival Heights here at McMurdo. The view is looking out over the base towards Observation Hill. Isn’t the ice out there just spectacular!

McMurdo to Ob Hill &Ice

This perspective is looking up the hill as I’m moving up towards the top of the ridge. Further to the left off the picture is the open ocean. Up ahead is a radio antenna.

Hiking up to Arriv. heights

Another view of McMurdo and Ob Hill:

McMurdo to Ob Hill

It was cold and blustery up there but well worth the effort!


Then yesterday we did some more work out on the sea ice near the shelf transition (where the sea ice is close to the transition to the ice shelf. The ice shelf is the glacier ice coming off of the continent). Here are some pics!


Kate&Virginie Drill
That’s me with the shovel! We have to shovel off the snow first where we take the ice cores.

As usual we had some friends hanging out at the hole nearby. Hello! ๐Ÿ™‚

Seals at hole2

Then there was a little time today for a quick hike up Observation Hill with a couple classmates.

Joshua and Leah on top of Observation Hill overlooking McMurdo station and the sound

We also had a couple interesting lectures today on the history of whaling and how a study on intertidal limpets (aquatic snails that look a lot like clams) did some work to shed light on how these organisms can evolve to tolerate temperatures outside of their normal thermal regime. We worked then on our project abstracts and presented them to everyone. Late tonight we took a tour of the famous Scott hut that was built in 1902 when they came down for the south pole expedition. It deserves a post of its own and so that will be tomorrow. Until then, have a great evening!

Further out on the ice

Yesterday we went out to our other hole, further out on the ice to take more samples. Here are a couple pictures:

Riding skidoos out with all the gear and emergency supplies

Upon arriving we could see the icebreaker that is now moving back out to the ocean and widening the channel. Seals here in the foreground.


Mark and Sam setting up to take light measurements under the ice.

Also, we had a couple seals come up one of our holes to breathe just before we started sending down instruments. So we just sat back, gave them some space and enjoyed their company.


On our way back we had to stop to work on the gear arrangement and caught a C130 landing.


Today we are doing lab work. We caught some krill and small snails yesterday that we’ll study a bit. Here’s a pic. The bigger, orange-ish ones are the krill and the little black ones are the snails. Hopefully I’ll have microscope pictures to share of these later.


And then these pics are for you Michael. These are the Kiwi’s trucks. You know I’d bring one back for you if I could! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cuiser Erebus



In the lab and Ob Hill

We started the day off with a lecture on sea ice and then had a training on how to head out to the local trails safely around here. We weren’t allowed to do any hiking off road until taking this course. It was a GORGEOUS day here and we were able to head out in the late afternoon to do a hike up Observation Hill. More on that in a sec. First, half of our group headed out to a hole that had been opened up for us further out on the sea ice off across from the Scott base. And my half of the group went into the lab here to do some work with the Arthropods we were able to catch overnight (hooray!). I went to the group that was setting up equipment to test respiration. Others worked on prepping plates for culturing and others worked to do some testing on mollusks we had in the fish tanks on their mobility.

Two little arthropods. Can you spot them?
Taking a look under the scope
Putting the arthropods into small chambers to measure their respiration (how quickly they take in oxygen)

Then after the experiment was set up and running we had a little free time. I did a hike up observation hill which is right next to McMurdo Base and gives a glorious view of everywhere around. There is also a cross there in memorandum of the explorers Scott and his companions who died traveling back from the South Pole.

Mcmurdo antenna
Antenna above McMurdo
pressure ridges
Pressure Ridges
The Icebreaker is coming!
Eberus and Castle rock
Beautiful Volcano Erebus
Other half on seaice
Our other half of the party that we could see from Observation Hill
Helicopter over sea ice and seals (black specs)
Icebergs out in the ocean!
Kate on Ob hill
Me on Ob Hill

And the icebreaker is here! Goodnight world! -k


Another good day on the ice ;)

We caught some fish, saw a seal peek at us through the hole, drilled some holes (a new bit can do wonders!), took some more ice cores. It was good! If you’re interested to know what lives in the water around here, here is a nice guide:

A co-student of the course (expert in ice fish) thinks these are the ones we caught: “it looks like we caught a good number of Emerald notothensย (Trematomus bernacchii) and a single specimen of the naked dragonfishย (Gymnodraco acuticeps)” – Till Harter

We also dropped a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) probe down to take measurements.


We also had a couple interesting lectures on Physical Oceanography and Antarctic geology, geography and ice sheets. Really interesting stuff!

We also could see a seal pretty close by, looking like she was enjoying a lounge on the beach. Only it is ice! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Seal near hole off jetty

Cheers! I’m hitting the hay! Lots of love to my family! ย -k