Category Archives: 2014 (12/03) Not Your Typical Commute To Work
Dec 3, 2014
I’ve arrived at my fieldsite in the mountains! I had a great week visiting McMurdo station before arriving at my final destination at Canada Glacier in the Dry Valleys of the Transantarctic mountains. I had a few opportunities to explore the area around McMurdo Station before I left, including a trip to an underwater observation station underneath the sea ice, a trip out to the historic explorer’s hut out at Cape Evans, and my first Thanksgiving at an American Antarctic station. (Since all my previous Antarctic station experience has been working for the French, Italians, and Swedes who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.) I’d like to write a few more articles about those later, (don’t I always tend to say that??) but in the mean time I wanted to show you all a video clip of my helicopter trip from McMurdo Station on Ross Island, across the Sound to mainland Antarctica, and into the Transantarctic mountain range. In the video you’ll notice that the first mountains we pass are still covered by part of the Antarctic ice sheet, but the second valley range is dry on the bottom- that’s why it’s called the Dry Valleys.
What I like about this video in particular is that it’s often difficult to show the proper sense of *scale* for the size of mountains and glaciers here- people see pictures like these two,
which are taken from quite high up in a helicopter, and the glaciers look smoothly sloped and not all that tall, even though their downslope edges (called a ‘glacial tongue, the part that sticks farthest out from a glacier’s uphill origin) are often more than forty feet tall. This is simply a problem because the valleys and mountains themselves are so BIG that when a camera is zoomed out or a helicopter is high in the air, the glaciers look smaller than they really are. For instance, here are a few different photos of Canada Glacier again (seen in the second photo above) with people or buildings that add a sense of proportional perspective-
So it can be difficult to show both how WIDE the valleys are and how TALL the glaciers are within the same photograph, and that’s why I’m happy with this video below because it shows the valleys both from up high, and the eventual landing spot in front of Lake Hoare’s storage building (the green semi-circle dome at the end of the video) that gives the trip a sense of scale.
Filming in a helicopter without the permits to have ‘mounted cameras’ can be pretty bumpy, so I wrote a program *into* the camera before filming to try to anticipate the vibration and smooth out the video. It’s only effective when the helicopter maintains constant speed (so it doesn’t work during acceleration/ landings and during high wind interference, which you can see in the video) but for a back-of-the-envelope calculation made by a non-programmer with a borrowed GoPro living in a tent in Antarctica without proper video editing software, I’m pretty pleased with the results of this first attempt. I applied a second stabilizing program in post-production, but I still need to crop the video a little to remove the frame interference. (I don’t have a decent video-editing program for that, but I’d like to find one…)