Project Extremes Antarctica

Scientists and teachers team up to conduct research in the most extreme environment on earth

Off to Camp!


On New Years Eve, we rode in a helicopter to Camp F6.  It was an adventure that I will never forget.  The views were incredible!

Escorted to the helicopter.

Escorted to the helicopter.

When inside, we had elaborate seat belts to keep us safe.

Bucking our seat belts in the helicopter (left to right: Susan, Jeff, Lee).

Buckling our seat belts in the helicopter (left to right: Susan, Jeff, Lee).

We landed at Camp F6, and at this camp, there is a well equipped hut.  Despite its small size, we have a kitchen, lab, and wireless internet.  Considering we are in Antarctica, this is absurdly civilized!

Susan and Loren standing next to the small hut.

Susan and Loren standing next to the small hut.

At night, we sleep in small tents on established sites surrounding the hut.

The tents keep us very warm at night.

The tents keep us very warm at night.

Ian's tent has an amazing view of Commonwealth Glacier.

Ian’s tent has an amazing view of Commonwealth Glacier.

Setting up Jeff's tent with a view of Fryxell Lake.

Setting up Jeff’s tent with a view of Fryxell Lake.


19 thoughts on “Off to Camp!

  1. After hearing about the work it took to set up tents in your training, I bet it’s nice to have them already set up. Can’t wait to hear about your field work.


  2. Wow! What a place. And it even has internet. Your view is outrageous. Lucky nemotode studiers. How cold does it get at night and is it windy…? It looks like it could get ripping. How many days are you going to be there?

    • Hey DT, It is a trippy place indeed. It’s very bizarre to be in a place completely isolated but with great internet access and local phone calls to Boulder! We are holed up in the little hut/lab/kitchen right now because it’s too snowy for helicopters to fly. Good thing we have Ian here to entertain us! Our field site is within view of eight glaciers, a semi-permanent lake and gorgeous mountains. We are lucky! Hope the weather clears though, so we can start our field work in earnest (and have more 12-hour days instead of fewer 16-hour days)…
      Take care!

    • Hey DT,

      This place is amazing. We’ll be out in the field until January 11. Then it’s back to McMurdo for lab work and some interviews with scientists we have contacted.

      Night actually seems to be a bit warmer because the wind gets more calm. You’re right – the wind can really get ripping and when it does it is blowing over either a glacier or sea ice, so it is c-o-l-d. The gear they issued us is so warm that we are really comfortable even when it is cold and windy.

  3. I’m a teacher at Fredericksburg Academy in VA- got this link from Gail Drebes who knows Susan. The pictures are awesome! What a place to be and a great experience to have. I was wondering what is the highest angle the Sun gets right now and what types of rocks are those in the area where the tents are?
    Dara Dawson

    • Hi Dara-

      I’m so glad to hear that our blog is being passed on by friends and family, especially to teachers and students! Sorry it has taken me so long to reply–actually your question about the angle of the sun has been the subject of several debates at our field camp and a lot of googling. Just from looking, we originally estimated that the sun never gets above 40 degrees. But of course as scientists, we were not satisfied with our visual estimate. I finally found a simple equation for calculating the angle of the sun at different latitudes and dates (for more info see, and calculated that the maximum angle of the sun this time if year is 35 degrees. So pretty low in the sky! When we were in the dry valleys the sun almost set behind a mountain in the early morning hours. A great question to think about, and also very relevant to maximizing the efficiency of our power source at the field camp, a solar panel! The solar panel was tilted in a line perpendicular to the sun’s rays, and we went out and rotated it by hand every couple of hours to track the sun as it moved around in a circle.

      For your second question about rock types, its really hard to say since there are so many different rocks in that area. The dry valleys are really a hodge-podge of geologic wonders. The oldest rocks are sedimentary–limestone, mudstone, and marl. There are also lots of igneous and metamorphic rocks–granites, marble, schist, calc-silicate, and gneiss. If you are interested in more detail on the geology of the dry valleys, here is a link to a short summary:

      Thanks for your comments and we hope you keep reading!!


  4. Ian, I guess being a middle school teacher you have all sorts of tricks up your sleeve to keep things interesting. Hang in there. I hope the weather clears. We’re heading for a high of 7 on Thurs and a low of -something. Maybe you’re getting our crummy weather pattern!! I’ll have to check out how El Nino affect Antarctica. I wonder if any research has been done on that – maybe a good dissertation project.

  5. This is so timely! I’m a middle school teacher at Fredericksburg Academy. Dara passed the information she recieved from Gail to me because we are reading Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong (the story of Shackelton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Part of what we do is research on various topics relevant to the Antarctic (climate, weather, geography,plant and animal life and other explorations of the region). I would love to have my students blog with you to ask questions and learn about your experiences!
    I will keep in touch!
    Barbara Hawkins

    • We’re so glad you and your students can be involved! We would love to have their questions, and are happy to answer anything we can.

    • Awesome! Hooray Fredericksburg Academy!! We are so glad you are following us. We would welcome any comments or questions from your students. We actually just visited Shackelton’s Hut yesterday and it was amazing!! We hope to post some pictures and some more information on Antarctic history soon. It is so inspiring to think of what the original Antarctic explorers went through to get to know this amazing place. We are very lucky to be so well supported today.

  6. Thanks for keeping us informed on your activities. Please make sure Kallin doesn’t wonder off on her own day dreaming about spatial variation in soils! She’s slated to give the first lab meeting when she returns.

    • Bill, it is so funny that you mention that– we have literally spent something like 20 hours just discussing spatial variability and how to best sample/describe it… and this doesn’t even count talking about our sample design and methods! Kallin will be (even more of) an expert when she returns!


    • Ha! We would be in trouble here if Kallin didn’t spend so much time thinking about spatial variation in soils. We’ve been keeping her close at hand, mostly because we need her expertise!

  7. Wow- what great photos and what a view!! It is snowing tonight in Boulder. It is great reading about your adventures!
    I love the photo of the yellow tents.
    Send my regards to Barb!

    Happy new year to you all!

    Is the New York times delivered there along with the internet?

    • Thanks Jessica! Barb says to give you her best.

      It is truly amazing all the amenities we have here. We are lucky to be so safe out here, in stark contrast to the first people to arrive in Antarctica!


  8. hey mrs.whitehead

  9. Hey susan! Schwartz! How was it??? it looks truly amazing i cant wait to see your presentation on Wednesday!

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