By Ted Daeschler,
Academy Paleontologist and Vice President for Collections and Library
It is Saturday afternoon, and I am sorry to say that we are still at McMurdo Station due to poor weather conditions for helicopter operations. Thursday and Friday had low fog at McMurdo and elsewhere, and Saturday has been high winds, blowing snow, and low visibility. Being a good governmental operation, everyone has Sunday off work, so we are currently scheduled to head out first thing on Monday, December 19th (Sunday afternoon back in Pennsylvania). Obviously we can’t do anything about such delays and safety has to come first.
The weather today is a little bit of a window into some of the challenging conditions we will face at our field sites. The temperature is a pleasant 20°F but with 30+ MPH winds we are looking at sub-zero wind chills. Our first camp is on Mount Fleming, at the margin of the Antarctic Plateau. Temperatures will be colder, with winds coming off of the continent-sized glacier. We learned of an automated weather station at Mount Fleming that has recorded data for many years. Attached are the December and January records for temperature (Celsius) and wind speed (Knots) over the past five years. One knot equals about 1.15mph. The records make me shiver a bit, but we are well prepared.
Life at McMurdo Station is comfortable, and we are well fed. Despite this we are all anxious to get out into the field and find some fossil fish! Our team remains in good spirits and upbeat.
For more on Ted’s trip to Antarctica, check out these links: