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Antarctic Postcard from the Field: Herbertson Glacier and Bay of Sails Research Sites - Windows to the Universe

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    Image courtesy of S.E. Walker

From: Sally Walker
Herbertson Glacier and Bay of Sails Research Sites , November 10, 2008

Herbertson Glacier and Bay of Sails Research Sites

Herbertson Glacier is my favorite place we have visited here. Up until the trip to Herbertson, I kept myself busy in the lab, weighing and measuring carbonate minerals for my experiments, so I did not fully realize I was in a historically important setting. That all changed as we traveled to Herbertson.

On the way to Herbertson I saw the Royal Society Mountain Range and the massive Ferrar Glacier in the distance. These mountains and the glacier immediately cemented that, yes, I am in AntarcticaAdmiral Robert Scott, and then Sir Ernest Shakleton and his team, crossed the Ferrar almost 100 years ago in tightly woven jackets and leather shoes filled with a special type of Norwegian grass. They walked across the glacier pulling their gear in sledges, and here I was in several layers of polar fleece, a doughy red parka and bunny boots, riding on an ATV. I would have liked to have teared-up at the thought of these intrepid explorers, but my eyes would have frozen shut from wind-chill! I did not want to miss the polygonal cracks on the sides of the mountains, nor the amazing artsy-looking basaltic intrusions cross-cutting the mountains along the way, sites that I am sure astounded these early explorers too.

Our Herbertson research site is located near the Wilson Piedmont Glacier, and was chosen because the way that sediment moves and is deposited here may be different here than at New Harbor. Herbertson has undulating pressure ridges that crush and crumple the sea ice into ice hills that look like ice sculptures (in the foreground of the top picture). Among the pressure ridges, I must have spent hours collecting scallops and investigating the sediments. The lower picture shows some scallops I collected. I stopped only when the temperature dropped suddenly as the Sun dropped behind the mountains, and I realized it was almost 11 pm at night!

We then took a bumpy and noisy helicopter ride to the Bay of Sails. We flew over the extensive Canadian Glacier glinting bright white in the sunlight (Dry Valley glaciers are not dirty!), and then over sea ice gorged with iceberg chunks. At the Bay of Sails I tended the ice divers, helped deploy the experiments from the ice surface, and had a brief moment to look for fossil scallops along the shoreline. I saw a South Polar Skua at the Bay of Sails, the first flying creature I'd seen in Antarctica. This sea gull-like bird is known as the “raptor of the south”. With its appearance, I knew that the summer heat was on its way, the sea ice was going to melt rapidly, and that our field season would be quickly coming to a close.

Herbertson Glacier information from Sam Bowser's Lab

Ferrar Glacier images and information from NASA Earth Observatory

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Postcards from the Field: Polar Fossil Mysteries

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