Project Extremes Antarctica

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


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Holed up in the Dry Valleys

This place is stunning.  It’s hard to describe the beauty, the enormity of the landscape.  Now I can understand why so many people failed to reach the South Pole, why this continent is so harsh.  Antarctica is not a flat sheet of ice; it is the highest continent on earth.  The Asgard mountains tower over the Taylor Valley, and they are but one of many mountain ranges, any of which would be treacherous to cross…treacherous, but they are beautiful indeed.

Huge glacier surrounded by mountains, adjacent to Taylor Valley

The huge Ferrar glacier surrounded by mountains, adjacent to Taylor Valley

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Into the Field!

Yesterday, we arrived at the field camp designated F6 in the Taylor Valley. We had a fabulous day for flying – clear and calm. After leaving McMurdo Station we flew out over the sea ice of the Ross Sea and had amazing views of Mount Erebus.

On the way in to land at camp, we had outstanding views of the Canada, Commonwealth, Howard, and Crescent Glaciers. The camp looked tiny in relation to the Taylor Valley.

As soon as we landed, the helicopter technician helped us unload our gear and move it well away from the helicopter. The pilot stays in the helicopter and keeps it running, so it is important to watch out where you are walking but also to work efficiently and as a team. It is extremely noisy and windy!

At F6 at last! All smiles in my big red as the helicopter leaves us at the field camp.

Happy to be in the field! All smiles in my “big red” as the helicopter leaves us at F6.

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Survival Training

After being thoroughly debriefed for two days on survival skills in emergencies, I can’t decide if I feel more prepared for adverse situations, or more hesitant about the extreme environment I will voluntarily venture into tomorrow.  On the one hand, I have all the tools I need to stay warm and hydrated, and to get help if I need it.  On the other, I am hyper-aware of a myriad of things that could go wrong on my journey (or my stay in field camp). Continue reading


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Happy Campers

We’ve just returned from an overnight field safety training course, officially called “Snowcraft I Training”, but known by all at McMurdo as “Happy Camper School”.  We have to agree, it was hard to be anything but happy on this fantastic two-day adventure.  We were a group of ten students–our GK-12 team of four, several other folks headed to the field for the first time for research, and a few McMurdo employees that elected to go on the trip as a fun and educational break from their work at the station.  Our instructor was a mountaineering guide from Alaska, well-trained and practiced in living outdoors in the extremest of conditions.  The course is required for everyone planning to work at field camps outside McMurdo Station, and with good reason.  It’s easy to forget the harshness of the environment we are in while we are warm, well-fed, and comfortable, but spending the night in the snow last night was an excellent reminder of the realities of the continent.

Kallin, Susan, Ian, and Loren on the first day of Happy Camper School.  I was too hot at first for my big red parka, but later on it got colder and I was glad I had it with me!

Kallin, Susan, Ian, and Loren on the first day of Happy Camper School. I was too hot at first for my big red parka, but later on it got colder and I was glad I had it with me!

The site for Happy Camper School is on the Ross Sea ice shelf,  several Continue reading