AMASE Blog 2009: Flying to Bockfjorden

Adrienne Kish: You know you are in for a good day when the first thing you do after breakfast is get fitted for a pair of crampons. Backpacks were loaded with science gear for sampling the microbial life in glacial ice and ice coring gear, not to mention warm clothes, food, and hot chocolate and we headed out to the field site. Did I mention that our ride was a helicopter....?

This was my first time in a helicopter, and I must say that it is a pretty sweet ride! We swung by the Lance and landed on the deck to say hello to the other half of the AMASE 2009 team and grabbing some lunch before flying out again to the field site on a glacier in Bockfjorden. I am a girl with a love for mountains and snow and ice, but I have to say that getting dropped off by a helicopter on a glacier with the sun glinting off the surface of blue ice as pure, clear water winds its way around rocks and ice in its unceasing path to the fjord below blew away any previous experiences in mountains. The view during flight from NyAlesund to Bockfjorden gives you an idea of what they mean when you hear about the polar ice caps. Here we are mid-summer in North America, thinking of our colleagues back home clinging to their air conditioners for dear life in the blistering heat, and we have nothing but mountain peaks and ice in every direction. It is truly beyond description. We sampled runoff water from the glacier, took ice cores, sampled rocks for biology, and sampled the biomass-rich sediment at the bottom of water melt holes called 'cryoconites'.

We even had some time to spare before the helicopter came to pick us up to poise for a few shots of us in our white Tyvek bunny suits (worn along with surgical-type gloves to keep us from contaminating the ice coring equipment with our own personal biology) on the white glacier. With the rifles we carried for polar bear protection and the white snow suits on the glacier pack all we needed were the skies to recreate a scene from a James Bond film!

The SLICE team studying life in ice was only 1 of 5 AMASE teams out in the field today. Other groups were out in Bockfjorden conducting reconnaissance for rover deployment sites, sampling hot springs, and collecting rocks for geological analyses. It was a VERY full day of science. The scenery could not have been more breathtaking, the science goals for the day were reached, and a generally satisfied feeling was felt as we all packed it in for the day. The science rolls on in the next 3 days until we do a rotation with some people coming off the Lance field samples in tow to continue their scientific analyses in the lab at NyAlesund and other NyAlesund-based scientists rotating onto the Lance to sample new field sites. In that time we will have a rover deployment to pick up rock samples and among other things practice a Mars sample return-type scenario for sample caching, field geology and biology sampling in Bockfjorden, testing of instruments developed as part of the AMASE ASTEP grant from NASA for in situ field analyses, and more ice coring.

It's full steam ahead for AMASE 2009!

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