Category Archives: 2014 (12/03) Not Your Typical Commute To Work

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,


Glacial tongue sloping downhill


Canada Glacier spills down across the landscape in the upper left side of this photo of Taylor Valley, while my camp from 2013-14, F6, is labeled on the right of the photo


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-



Hiking towards Canada Glacier. The orange box in the photo is a gauge station used to measure streamflow, the same size as the gauge station in the picture below–


Repairing a gauge station a fair way in front of part of the Canada Glacial Tongue


This is a similar view to that seen in the end of the video posted below. The tiny blue squares in the bottom left of the photo are the Lake Hoare laboratories, while tiny yellow specs on top of the ‘islands’ on the lake are scientists’ tents. My tent this year is slightly more uphill towards the mountains than this site. The glare in this photo is because it was also taken from a helicopter; the only way to get this sort of angle on the size of the glacier compared to the buildings below.

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. I took this with a GoPro on a windy day inside a helicopter, which means it does get quite shaky, but I did my best from my tent in Antarctica to smooth out the video’s ‘camera shake’ with some editing software in places where it was possible to do so. Safety regulations prohibit attaching cameras to the outside of the NSF helicopters, so I had to let the camera shake around from inside the copter and then stabilize the images a little bit after the trip. I still have a lot to learn about video editing but I’m happy with my first attempt in a place like this, simply to be able to share the view of my commute into the mountains.

Flight to Canada Glacier, Antarctica from A.Q. Mass on Vimeo.