Antarctic science wrap-up: ANSMET hunting for meteorites again

Antarctic science wrap-up: ANSMET hunting for meteorites again

Posted: Dec 15, 2010 12:02 pm EST

(By Correne Coetzer) This Antarctic season ANSMET has two field teams with separate goals hunting for meteorites; a smaller, more mobile team dedicated to exploring previously unvisited meteorite sites and based at the South Pole, and a larger team that conducts highly systematic searches on ice fields where they know there are many meteorites, based at the Davis Nunataks and Mount Ward.

The Fuchs Foundation Science teachers are back at Union Glacier. The Moon Regan Transantarctic vehicles are heading towards Union Glacier while collecting meteorites for ANSMET and the KNGS Arctic Trucks are nearing Novolazarevskaya.

Here follows information about ANSMETs goal on Antarctica as reported over Contact 5:

Team operating near Davis Nunataks and Mount Ward

The goal for the larger party or officially known as G-058-M, this season is full-scale systematic meteorite recovery from ice fields in the Dominion Range near Davis Nunataks and Mt. Ward in the central Transantarctic Mountains. Informally we call the site the Davis Ward ice fields.

First visited by ANSMET in the mid-eighties, we conducted more serious reconnaissance in 2003 that proved the full potential of the site. Systematic work in the region in 2008-2009 by a team of six recovered more than 600 meteorites in 4 weeks of work; we expect somewhat higher totals this year, weather depending, given a longer season and more boots on the ice. The site is fairly windy, and the meteorites are mixed in with many terrestrial rocks, so a lot of the meteorite recovery will be done during foot searches.

Following established ANSMET protocols, the group will conduct overlapping transect searches of these exposed blue ice regions, recover any meteorites that are encountered, and deliver these specimens to the planetary materials research community.

ANSMET team operating from the South Pole

The more mobile party, G-057-M, or the reconnaissance teams targets include northeastern regions of the LaPaz Ice fields area, ice fields in the Patuxent Range, and ice fields adjacent to the Omega and Whichaway nunataks and in the Argentina Range.

Both the LaPaz and Patuxent sites have been visited previously; but this year's effort at LaPaz targets small "satellite" ice fields that were not visited during previous work in the region. Several ice fields in the Patuxent Range were searched only briefly during an overland traverse in 1991 and about 60 meteorites were recovered, but the large main ice field immediately east of the Patuxent range was only briefly explored.

The 2010 team will be more methodical in their explorations so the full potential of the site for a denser concentration of meteorites can be understood. Finally, several relatively small ice fields "way out" from South Pole near the Omega and Whichaway nunataks, the upper Recovery glacier, and the Argentina range will be examined during a pre-season overflight and may become ground targets as well.

The team will be staged at South Pole and then shuttled out to target ice fields, with the various target sites prioritized after a pre-season reconnaissance flight. Once in the field, the team will generally be self sufficient, but there will be several camp moves in midseason for which the schedule needs to be very flexible to accommodate the weather and the required time for searching.

The Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) is a field-based research program funded by both the National Science Foundation and by NASA to recover meteorites for later scientific research.

The field team (informally called, systematic team) at Davis Ward:
Ralph Harvey, Principal Investigator for ANSMET
Jim Karner, post-doc in the ANSMET program
Shaun Norman, mountaineer and field safety officer
Inge Loes ten Kate
Rhiannon Mayne
Ryan Zeigler
William Satterwhite
Ray Jayawardhana
Joe Boesenberg (filling Ralph's slot at mid-season).

The field team for the recon party:
John Schutt, field team leader and ANSMET head mountaineer
Steve Ballou
Melissa Lane
Serena Aunon

Fuchs Foundation Science teachers

The team is back at Union Glacier.

They experienced a long period of clouds and no sun and were stuck in their tents for several days. When the weather cleared they moved further down the valley, alongside the Collier Hills. The collection of ice samples for Lyndsays project meant that heading towards the blue ice by Charles Peak was an obvious route. Unfortunately lying in our way was 3km of painful, torturous travel. The terrain was covered with sastrugi and they traveled 3 km in over 2.5 hours. It was the first time they have encountered sastrugi.

The team appreciated the wonderful view from Charles Peak over the huge Union Glacier. It is also surrounded by blue ice, so whilst collecting ice samples (searching for Iron Oxide nanoparticles) it seemed rude not to climb it. Crampons, ice axes and ropes were all needed with the view from the top giving us the perfect panorama of the glacier.

Arctic Trucks and Kazakhstan National Geographic Society

The KNGS team departed from the South Pole December 10. On the way back to Novo the team has taken on some new tasks, which will affect their travelling speed, reported their home team. Their primary task will be to detect a landing place for airplanes at 86°. Their secondary task is to transport fuel from the fuel depot at 83° to 76°.

In their latest update they had 340 km to go which they intended to drive non-stop. The only malfunction on this trip so far has been a frozen rear shock absorber in one of the cars. Their home team reported they replaced it with one of the shock absorbers from the trailers, since it is easier for the trailer to continue without a shock absorber than the car. The frozen one was put in the cockpit of the cars in order to warm it up and has now been installed in the trailer and is working fine.

Moon-Regan Transantarctic

Progress was moderate as they headed away from the South Pole. The snow on the Union Glacier side of the Pole is much thicker than they had experienced heading across to the Leverett Glacier and down onto the Ross Ice Shelf. Coupled with our heavy load, we ploughed through the thick snow, both vehicles travelling quite close together following a single track.

Jamie reported they had already spent much of the journey searching for meteorites, the intention being to log their position and report it back to ANSMET as part of a much larger study across Antarctica, which is expected to make one of the single biggest contributions to planetary science of our generation. This meteorite search continues and they also use the opportunity to collect snow samples from the surface, the objective of which is to detect atmospheric contaminants in the top layer once out of Antarctica.

Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa:
To ALCI/TAC base camp Novolazarevskaya / Novo
(70° 4637S, 011° 4926E).
Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America:
To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier
(79° 45'S, 083° 14'W).
Gateway port Punta Christchurch, New Zealand:
To US base McMurdo
(77°50'39"S, 166°40'22"E)

1 nautical mile (nm) = 1.852 km
1 nm = 1.151 miles
1 knot = 1.852 km/h
Sastrugi are hard snow bumps and can be as high as 10 feet.
A nunatak is an peak of a mountain rising above the ice cap; sometimes covered with snow, sometimes exposed rock.


Science projects

ANSMET Meteorite Hunters 2010 (USA)

Fuchs Foundation Antarctic Expedition 2010 (UK)
Fuchs Foundation Antarctic Expedition 2010 (UK) daily updates
Ricky the Puppet (UK) blog
Fuchs Foundation team members: Science teachers Lindsay Hilton, Lisa Wood, Tim Miall and Roussel De Carvalho with BPE leaders, Carl Alvey and Carolyn Bailey.
University of Exeter - Holocene Stability of West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Centro de Estudios Cientificos
Institute Ice Stream Aerial Survey

Motorized crossing/return and science

Moon-Regan Transantarctic Expedition (UK) with Imperial College London Union Glacier-GSP-Leverett Glacier and back.

Arctic Truck Expeditions:
NCAOR Expedition GĂ­sli Karel, Freyr Jonsson and Eyjolfur Teitsson (Iceland) and 8 Indian scientists, Novo - Geographic South Pole Novo;
Kazakhstan National Geographic Society Gunnar Haraldsson and Hlynur SigurĂ°sson from Iceland with 6-8 people from Kazakhstan. Novo-SP-Novo
2010 Ski Race GĂ­sli JĂłnsson, Aron Reynisson and GuĂ°mundur GuĂ°jĂłnsson from Arctic Trucks.

Other links:

CONTACT 5 expedition technology

Polar rules of Adventure
What is solo?
Hercules Inlet start point

Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE/ANI)
The Antarctic Company (TAC/ALCI)

#World #Polar #Space #Science

The Fuchs team camping between Mount Sporli and Ronald Ridge (click to enlarge)
courtesy Fuchs Foundation (live over Contact 5), SOURCE
Lindsay from Fuchs team: Outside it was pretty cloudy but visibility was still quite good and as the weather was calm and pretty warm at only -8°C we were keen to head off down the hill. (click to enlarge)
courtesy Fuchs Foundation (live over Contact 5), SOURCE
ANSMET camp at Davis Ward (Davis Nunataks and Mount. Ward) (click to enlarge)
courtesy ANSMET 2010-11 (live over Contact 5), SOURCE
ANSMET: The various possible targets of the ANSMET recon team for 2010-2011. A preseason flight along the path shown, established the priority for visits to each ice field. (click to enlarge)
courtesy ANSMET 2010-11 (live over Contact 5), SOURCE
ANSMET: An annotated USGS map showing the Davis Ward region, which lies about half way between McMurdo Station and the South Pole, in the headwaters of the Beardmore Glacier" (click to enlarge)
courtesy ANSMET 2010-11 (live over Contact 5), SOURCE
Annotated aerial photograph (vintage 1960's) of the Davis Ward ice fields. The old pen markings are from Bill Cassidy's original search in the area; the campsite from the 2008 visit is also marked, and we plan to reoccupy the same site this seas (click to enlarge)
courtesy ANSMET 2010-11 (live over Contact 5), SOURCE