Dale Andersen's Field Reports

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 22 November 2018: Drilling Time

By Keith Cowing
Dale Andersen
November 22, 2018
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Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 22 November 2018: Drilling Time

“We have a clear but very blustery day here right now, winds are 30 knots, gusting 45 at times and air temps around -5°C.”

“We expect stormy weather to move in later this evening with high winds, overcast skies and perhaps some snow hitting us Friday and Saturday. They are calling whiteout conditions at Novolazarevskaya during this period, along with 60 knot winds. We have been reinforcing our tents each day and preparing the camp for the next large storm, perhaps this will be our first real test of the camp since the last major storm that hit us, destroying most of our tents.

Yesterday we drilled several more holes through the ice to determine ice-thickness and depth to help refine the bathymetry data for Lake Untersee. Today we will head back over to these holes in the south basin and profile the water column with the RBR Concerto CTD and the HydroLab DataSonde 5. Microbial mats that had lifted off the bottom of the lake, frozen into the ice-cover and transported to the surface (about an 8 – 10 year trip from the bottom of the ice to the surface depending on freezing and ablation rates) were collected around the edge of the lake yesterday as well. These mats will be analyzed for geolipids upon return to NASA’s Ames Research Center in the USA. They will also have DNA and RNA extracted here for genomics-based studies at Georgetown University. Since the weather is not too bad right now, we will collect soil samples near the shore of the lake and these samples will also undergo DNA and RNA extractions in our field lab tent over the next several days.

We are still waiting the return of the steam cleaner (hole melter) from Novo, and this will depend on weather and flight opportunities, so until we are able to melt a dive hole, this part of our work has been put on hold.

It is Thanksgiving Day here, at least for the Americans on the team. But as a team we will all have an extra-nice meal this evening to celebrate our common desire to search for new knowledge at this incredibly interesting oasis in a frozen desert, and to give thanks to everyone that has helped make our expedition possible. And it is with great hope that our work here will contribute to our understanding of our own home planet, Earth, as well as inform the journeys yet to come by robotic and eventually human explorers to far off worlds such as the planet Mars or the outer moons of Jupiter and Saturn – Europa and Enceladus!

Cheers from the shores of Lake Untersee,


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻