Status Report

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report (AMASE 2007): First Day in the Field

By SpaceRef Editor
August 18, 2007
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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report (AMASE 2007): First Day in the Field


Today was the first real day out in the field! It was also the first of two helicopter days – always a bit hectic! We were split into two field groups. I was in the first group to leave, headed to Jotun Springs by Zodiac. AMASE teams have visited this site numerous times in the past (along with many many tourist ships), but this was my first time. This site consists of two main travertine terraces, a large slope of broken travertine and several small pools containing cyanobacteria and other types of green goo. Our goal was to collect a cross section of samples representing the different micro-ecologies present in and around the hot springs. Shortly after we arrived on site, it began to drizzle and clouds that had covered the sky sank even lower.

Back on the ship, the second field crew was set to head out to Scott Kelty, a plateau basalt above the Devonian Redbeds in the neighboring fjord, by helicopter. We watched the clouds sink even lower, covering the mountaintops and were surprised to see the helicopter make three trips down the fjord and around the corner. The Scott Kelty field team apparently decided to make the trip despite the gloomy weather. This optimism was short lived. Once our samples were collected, the Jotun team quickly returned to the Lance to get out of the rain. The Scott Kelty team finally returned a few hours later wet and covered in red mud.

It turned out that they never made it to the plateau basalts at the top of the mountain. The clouds were so low that the helicopter had to drop them off on a ridge about 100m short of the top. They decided to wait and see if the clouds would dissipate. After an hour or so, the weather steadily got worse and they were forced to descend the steep slopes of the Devonian Redbeds on foot to get to a point where they could be picked up by the helicopter.

All was not a loss, however! We did collect samples at Jotun Springs. AND I got our field GCMS to work!!! After more satellite phone discussions with the manufacturer the previous night, we suspected there was a short between our GC column and the mass spectrometer. In the afternoon I pulled our instrument apart for about the 15th time… reset the column exit guard, reassembled everything, and VOILA! It started working!! Even the helium leak appears greatly decreased.

At the 9pm meeting, an AMASE tradition began. The newbies (of which we have many once again) were charged with a task they must perform in order to become real AMASErs. The AMASE management team challenged each newbie to compose a limerick, which will be presented within the next 24 hours. We can’t wait to hear them!

While the newbies got to work on their limericks, most of the AMASE alums decided to try out the new hot tub. Yep, our super amazing Lance crew got together and built another hot tub out of palates and a tarp on the back deck again, securing this fabulous feature as a tradition on AMASE. Morton, the craziest Norwegian sailor onboard (and star lifeboat driver during last year’s glacier ice collecting trip) led this effort and I was intrigued to hear a bit of history behind the hot tub from him tonight.

The story goes…. Morton had been interested in building a hot tub on a boat for a while –he had come up with a great plan using the supplies available on board, but he was the youngest of the crew and the older guys were not supportive of his idea. Finally last year, he gained accomplices in Mette and Alef, the cook’s assistant and another crew member respectively. This was enough of a team to build the first hot tub last year for the final days of our trip. This tub only lasted until Lance pulled into Longyearbyen, however, and was torn down right after we disembarked. The Lance lacked a hot tub for the next six months until in January(!) during a polar bear counting expedition, Morton managed to get another one built. Following the expedition, Lance anchored in front of Longyearbyen. Crew members smiling and waving from a large steaming tub on the back of the Lance drew the attention of folks on shore who made out the hot tub with photo zoom lenses. A small blurb appeared in the local paper, the Svalbardposten, saying Lance was the first ship in Svalbard with a hot tub on deck! This recognition increased support for the tub and so it has stayed more or less since.

Morton and the Lance planned ahead for AMASE this year. Precise calculations and drawings were made for a new and larger hot tub, considering the weight of the water and extra diesel needed to heat it. This year Morton’s tub is almost twice as big, has a reinforced tarp, and is piping hot at 42 degrees Celsius.

Kirsten Fristad
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About Kirsten Fristad in her own words…

Kirsten Fristad here again. I’m privileged and excited to be back writing Notes from the Field on AMASE 07. I am a planetary scientist working in the Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) Lab at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland where I have been for the last year and a half. I graduated from Macalester College in 2005 with a major in geology and core in astronomy knowing I wanted to pursue a research career in planetary science. Through summer internships with several planetary scientists, I developed a background in analyzing martian and lunar planetary remote sensing data and Mars analog field work in Alaska. Over the last year I have continued to organize the Goddard/SAM Team contribution to AMASE, conducted organic analyses of AMASE samples, designed and built new field hardware and participated in two other expeditions in Utah and the Mojave.

Following AMASE 07, I will be staying on in Norway as a Fulbright Scholar to begin graduate work at the University of Oslo. I am very much looking forward to exploring more of this beautiful country, reconnecting with the country of my ancestors and filling up on pickled herring and lefse!

SpaceRef staff editor.