Dale Andersen's Field Reports

Dale Andersen’s Astrobiology Antarctic Status Report: 5 November 2023: Setting Up Base Camp At Lake Untersee

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
Dale Andersen
November 5, 2023
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Dale Andersen’s Astrobiology Antarctic Status Report: 5 November 2023: Setting Up Base Camp At Lake Untersee
Base Camp at Lake Untersee

Hi Keith – We’ve successfully traveled from the Novo ice runway to Lake Untersee, Antarctica, navigating our snowmobiles and tracked vehicles across the icy plains. The snowmobile journey, lasting about five and a half hours, was challenging due to flat light conditions which made visibility poor at times. Nevertheless, we managed well.

However, we did face some challenges: our traverse sleds, towed by the large tracked vehicle, suffered mechanical issues and didn’t reach Untersee until well after midnight. Over the past two days, we’ve been busy establishing our camp, which will serve as both a home and a research center for the next five to six weeks.

Panoramic view of Base Camp at Lake Untersee, Antarctica — Dale Andersen

Building a robust and reliable shelter is essential, especially with the area’s sudden, strong winds. I’ve also included several panoramic images of our surroundings. While the mountains appear linear in these images, they actually form a near-complete circle around us, creating a breathtaking natural amphitheater.

We’re excited to test the innovative Heimplanet Maverick Basecamp tent this year, featuring cutting-edge air beam technology instead of traditional poles. Its performance in extreme conditions, especially during fierce winds reaching up to 50 m/s (about 112 mph or 180 kph), will be a crucial comparison with our previous tents.

Heimplanet Maverick Basecamp tent at Lake Untersee – Dale Andersen

We’ll also be using the more compact Cave tent from Heimplanet for fieldwork on the lake.

By the way a bunch of these same Cave tents were recently featured in episode 208 of Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Under The Cloak of War“.

Note the multiple Cave Tents from Heimplanet in the background. L-R Clinton Howard as Buck and Jess Bush as Chapel in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds . Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ Larger image at Trek Core

The quick inflation time of just a few minutes for these air beams may prove to be a game changer for us, offering us rapid-deploy shelter for critical tasks like deploying the ROV for underwater surveys beneath the ice or as we carry out underwater measurements with our Xylem YSI EXO-2 Datasonde (See this entry from 2022 for more information on the Xylem YSI EXO-2 Datasonde.)

Xylem YSI EXO-2 Datasonde

We’re excited to embark on a journey of discovery at Lake Untersee, a mysterious and untouched gem nestled in the heart of Antarctica. Our mission is to unravel the secrets of this ancient lake and its surrounding oasis, where time-locked paleolake basins and permafrost hold clues to understanding our planet’s past and future. Join us as we delve into this fascinating world, where science meets adventure in one of Earth’s most extreme environments.

Cheers from the shores of Lake Untersee


Base Camp at Lake Untersee, Antarctica — Dale Andersen

Earlier posts from 2023

Archive of all of Dale’s field reports over the years


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) 🖖🏻