Shop Windows to the Universe

The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials in our online store.

    Image courtesy of NSF.

From: Bob Bindschadler
McMurdo Station, Antarctica, December 18, 2007

Antarctic Gateway

Hello,

We were able to get to McMurdo Station in Antarctica pretty quickly: we left the States on December 10, added a day crossing the International Date Line, rested a day in New Zealand, then caught the next flight to "The Ice", getting here on Friday the 14th. Since then, we have been collecting and packing our cargo. McMurdo is rather small and very well organized, but equipment is scattered: snowmobiles are one place, tents and sleds another; radios in the electronics shack…you get the idea. It's up to us to bring it all together at the cargo building, box it, weigh it and turn in slips of paper so others can take it away, still others pile it onto palettes and still others take it to the airstrip where it waits for a plane going the right station. It sounds very complicated and apparently is because our one rookie field team member has had to ask a million questions to understand what’s going on. I'm used to it - this is my 15th season in the past 25 years. Most of our preparations will be complete after we pack food tomorrow and our automatic weather station Thursday. Then it's a full day of training for crevassed rescue (which I hope we won't need!) followed by waiting for the next plane going our way.

We are going to a very distant ice shelf at the end of the Pine Island Glacier 1,400 miles (2,253 km) from here (75.1° S, 100° W). It is where the ice is thinning rapidly and the ice speed is accelerating. The rates of change are astonishingly fast. We think the cause is warmer water getting underneath the floating ice shelf, reducing the resistance to seaward flow of the grounded ice sheet. This year we are only hoping to demonstrate that it is possible to land on this very crevassed ice shelf and to leave an automatic weather station with webcams and some GPS trackers. If successful, we plan to return next year with a more ambitious program to melt a hole through the ice, release some ocean instruments that will measure the water properties and "helo-hop" across the ice shelf to measure the shape of the ice and the water beneath. This is very exciting work. No one has ever set foot, I mean boot, on this ice shelf before.

Go to the next postcard

Postcards from the Field: Pine Island Glacier

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Antarctic Region

What Will You Find There? South of the Antarctic Circle (at 66.5°S latitude) you will find the continent of Antarctica surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the geographic South Pole and the magnetic South...more

Antarctica

Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more

En Route to Antarctica - First Stop New Zealand

Hello Everyone! We are not in Antarctica yet - but we are getting closer! We are now in Christchurch, New Zealand. We still have to get all our Extreme Cold Weather Gear from the Clothing Distribution...more

The Cryosphere

The cryosphere includes the parts of the Earth system where water is in its frozen (solid) form. This includes snow, sea ice, icebergs, ice shelves, glaciers, ice sheets, and permafrost soils. Approximately...more

Glaciers and Ice Sheets

For a glacier to develop, the amount of snow that falls must be more than the amount of snow that melts each year. This means that glaciers are only found in places where a large amount of snow falls each...more

Ice Shelves

Ice shelves are a part of the Earth's cryosphere. Ice shelves are usually extensions of glaciers or ice sheets that cover the land. An ice shelf is a part of an ice sheet that extends from land out over...more

Christmas in McMurdo

Here's a Christmas card from Antarctica. I had hoped to be farther toward our goal of the ice shelf, but an airplane (a refitted DC-3) we were counting on to move our cargo had an "incident" and is out...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF