Nov 28 – Thanksgiving

December 4, 2009

We took Saturday off to celebrate Thanksgiving. I woke up around noon to see almost everyone already up and to be greeted cheerfully by Emma. Peter was cooking turkey (apart from other stuff) , and Kristof was working on a veggie casserole. After breakfast, I decided to hike down valley to the east end of the lake. Emma decided to accompany me and we had a great time. It was very beautiful and quiet there – it was as if we had traveled back in time. It is rare to get such a sense of solitude and freedom. We came back and enjoyed  a very nice Thanksgiving meal and desserts cooked by Bill and Emma.

Peter working on turkey.

Myself on the way to the east end of the lake.

Emma. Behind her is the east end of Lake Bonney.

During summer, glacier melt-water flows into streams that feed into Lake Bonney. Emma walking by Priscu stream.

Thanksgiving dinner. Starting from left front and going clockwise - Emma, Vickie, Chris, Rachel, Peter, Kristof, Bill, Leah.

Nov 15 – Beautiful beyond words

November 22, 2009

We had a very relaxed day today. John made us delicious crepes for brunch in the morning. We had “showers” which basically involve filling an insulated bag with water and sitting under the “tap” in the bag. In the evening, I ended up drinking rather too much of coffee which made me hyperactive. I decided to go for a hike up the hill to see ventifacts. John and Emma decided to come too. It was one of the most beautiful walks of my life and I cannot describe it in words. Below are some pictures.

It had snowed all night. Chris got to work and made snowmen. Emma, Bill, Chris, Bart, Kristof, and Vickie.

John on our way up to see the ventifacts. In the background is Taylor glacier. To the right is east lobe of Lake Bonney leading up to the narrows.

Myself. Thanks to John for this photo.



At the top of the hill. The "zen garden" in John's words.

Nov 14 – Traveling east

November 22, 2009

We spent the morning looking at data from yesterday and trying to debug the communications failure problem. We had some ideas but we were not sure what the exact problem was. The mission for the day involved  traveling to the narrows – the part of lake that connects west lobe to the east lobe. The bot swam about 1.5 km to reach the far east – this is the farthest the bot had ever been. Much remains
unknown about this part of the lake and we were very excited to see the visualizations from the sonars on the bot. We might go there again later for getting more data.
While returning back, we had the same comms failure again. In a flash of inspiration, I was able to figure out what the problem was – a process that had memory leaks and was slowly eating up RAM till 100% was used.
Midway through the mission, it started to snow and Vickie and Bill had a tough time outdoors. It is fairly rare to snow in the dry valleys, so I was very excited. At the end of the day, Bill showed me how to track the robot using the radio beacon. Overall, this was a very good day for us and we have decided to take the day off tomorrow.

A map of lake Bonney showing the profiling points. The points that we have finished are shown in green. Today we went to the point farthest east (D21) on the grid. This point is at the far east of West lobe and at the start of "the narrows" - the narrow channel of water connecting the west lobe to the east lobe.

Bill and Vickie at the end of the day. They were out all day tracking the robot and marking the exact location at whihc it profiled. It snowed half the day making their task difficult.

The first snowfall I have ever seen.

A dead penguin, a dead seal, and a calibration mission

November 6, 2009

We ran a mission today to get data that allows us to calibrate our  navigation instruments so we can quantify the error between the robot’s estimate of its pose and the ground truth (which we obtain by tracking the robot with a radio beacon and marking its GPS position). We also saw some obstacles in the limno-hut region where the fiber had gotten snagged  last year in our new visualizer.


A dead penguin (between the two rocks). Emma had seen it some time back and told us about it. We stopped on our way to work today to see it.


We also saw a seal skeleton. Myself and Chris.


Chris, Rachel and Kristof.


A thin layer of ice freezes over the melt-hole every night that needs to be cleared before we can run any missions. Emma helped us chip ice from the melt-hole today morning. Emma was clearly delighted to do this.


Mission control. Myself, Kristof and Chris.

Cold Antarctica – Part 2

October 29, 2009

Last night was one of the coldest I have experienced. Katabatic winds of upto 30 mph blew for most of the night with windchill upto -30 Celsius. Of course, the winds did not penetrate the tent but the cold did. The sound of the wind was enough to keep me up most of the night. Since I had caught a cold in McMurdo, I haven’t been ableto eat much. That meant that my body did not produce enough heat to fight the cold. Hence, I was shivering badly half the night. Finally consuming a bar of chocolate, and covering every part of my head except the nose put an end to the shivering and I was able to sleep a bit. Thanks to happy camper school for teaching so many little things needed for survival!

Bill suggested I take the day off, which I did. Having slept in the warm jamesway for 5 hours, I feel much better now. The team has been extremely caring, helpful and supportive, and I hope to be well enough soon to get back to work.

The rest of the team went to the Bot-house and made good progress. They have started assembling the various components that were flown separately into the bot. Maciej and Jim have gotten the tecqhnique of melting the hole down and it is coming on well. The team were chilled to the bone and almost frozen when they got back at the end of the way after their long drive in the ATV in the cold.  There is not enough propane at the Bot-house, hence they had only one heater running and they were rather cold all day.  Bart has been a little sick too and he looks exhausted.



No fly weather continues – delay in field deployment

October 21, 2009

The weather has gotten worse today. The current weather from McMurdo intranet below.


The wind is quite strong and can be heard inside.

Bad weather today. By McMurdo standards, still "Condition 3" or relatively good weather.

Bad weather today. By McMurdo standards, still "Condition 3" or relatively good weather.

View from Crary library. Observation hill and other hills in the distance are obscured. There is also some blowing snow.

View from Crary library. Observation hill and other hills in the distance are obscured. There is also some blowing snow.

The helicopter flights cannot take off, so our deployment is delayed to Monday. If weather improves, Bill will leave on Friday to help the carpenters set up the bot-house platform.

Meanwhile, I took th refresher course in field safety today. I am so glad I don’t have to take happy camper course this time – it would have been brutal in this weather.

Cold Antarctica

October 20, 2009

I slept well last night, but am still feeling a little out of it. It is probably because of the long journey, the transition from northern to southern hemisphere, and the dehydartion.

It is very cold here (-40 Celsius with windchill). Our “lab” building this year is outside “town”,  so it is a an8 min walk from town to lab through open area. Exposed and lightly covered body parts, such as nose and legs got really cold in the short walk. I cannot imagine how the early explorers survived here.

The foggy weather also prevented the helicopter flights that were scheduled to leave for Lake Bonney with the carpenters. This means we will have at least 1 day delay in our plans.

My cushy dorm room has a rather drafty window. Unfortunately, it cannot be fixed till tomorrow. So I expect a rather cold night.