Image courtesy of S.E. Walker

From: Sally Walker
Explorers Cove Field Camp, New Harbor, McMurdo Sound , November 1, 2008

The Research Team and Artist Gather at New Harbor and Research Begins!

At last, the entire research team is at New Harbor, and everyone is busy constructing sediment samplers, testing sediment corers and retooling them, and making experiments to be put on the sea floor before the ice starts to melt in early December.  Why are we doing this? Our goal is to figure out why there are so few fossils of Antarctica’s sea creatures

Molly Miller (on right in upper left photo) is keen to start work. She explores the sea ice to collect sand and gravel deposited from the strong winds.  She will compare the grain sizes she finds above the ice, to those on the sea floor.  She also is studying how fast sediments are deposited on the sea floor in New Harbor.  This affects whether an organism makes it into the fossil record. Sediments piling up quickly may lead to better preservation of fossils. If sediments are slow to accumulate, then the shells and bones of organisms may not be preserved as well.

Sam Bowser (center in the upper left photo) is studying some of the smallest creatures in the Antarctic. He is looking at the diversity of single-celled organisms (protists) and whether they are likely to be preserved in the fossil record. Both Molly and Sam have over 30 years of experience working in this desert of snow and ice. 

I am working on the fossil forensics of mollusks in Antarctica, especially the Antarctic scallop, Adamussium colbecki.  My experiments are designed to measure the amount that shells disolve in these icy waters.  Artist, Claire Beynon (right) joined us, tending dives and facilitating art projects from around the world.   There was such a whirlwind of activity in New Harbor, with continuing ice dives.  The middle picture shows Shawn and Cecil ready to dive.

Soon, we had to get to our other field sites, Herbertson Glacier and the Bay of Sails that were farther away, before the sea ice started to melt.

Molly Miller's Antarctic Web Page

Sam Bowser’s Antarctic Web Page

Claire Beynon’s Polar Art

Go to the next postcard

Postcards from the Field: Polar Fossil Mysteries

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