Status Report

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Cold & Wet – 17 August 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
August 30, 2006
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NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report: Cold & Wet – 17 August 2006


Today’s Notes were made possible with writing assistance from Ivar and Ed Viscenzi.

There was no whale last night. I awoke with a start at 3:50 am afraid that no one came to wake me up and I had missed it all. I went up to the common room and found Rohit saying we hadn’t arrived yet, but should be there in 15 minutes. I decided to catnap on the couch until we arrived. Five minutes later Hans came in and said there would be no whale…. we couldn’t find it anywhere. Ah, so sad.

This morning I was exhausted; from waking up for no whale and accumulated tiredness from the last several days. The morning meeting was scarcely populated since I was not the only one who was willing to sacrifice some sleep for a whale sighting. Yet, we had just arrived in Murchison Fjord and I was anxious to get off the boat. Outside the wind was coming in at 15 – 20 meters per second from the north and the outside temperature was 2?C. It was decided only a small field party would go ashore since we could not use the small rubber boats for transportation due to large waves. We used the MOB (Man Over Board) boat and were all more or less soaked during the 15 minute ride to the small island we would explore. We are at nearly 80? N here, so chilly days are to be expected I guess (we had some snow later in the day). Despite colder weather, hiking around and checking out the field sites is definitely my favorite activity. Here at Murchison we are looking at stromatolites.

Until the 1960s stromatolites were regarded as the earliest evidence for life on Earth. It is generally believed they were formed by microbial algal mats close to an ancient ocean beach. Waves moved sand over the sticky mats causing sediment to be trapped. The algae then migrated to the surface to have access to sunlight. This process was repeated over and over until mounds grew in diameter. Scientists are currently engaged in a debate over whether these structures can be made by simple physical forces that do not require life. Regardless of how they formed, these stromatolites are truly ancient features almost 800 million years old.

After a long and chilly day in the field we all enjoyed a hot and tasty bowl of vegetable soup in the ship’s galley. Later that evening after work had finished we enjoyed each other’s company in the common room where one sleeping scientist awoke to find blown-up nitrile gloves covered in whipped cream adjacent to his head. Good times had by all.

Kirsten Fristad
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About Kirsten Fristad in her own words…

My name is Kirsten Fristad. I am a budding planetary scientist working in the highly talented Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) Lab at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 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. Since starting at Goddard in May, I have been organizing the Goddard/SAM Team contribution to AMASE 2006. I will continue working in the SAM lab until fall 2007 when I will commence graduate studies in a yet to be decided location to pursue a PhD in planetary science.

Before starting at Goddard in May 2006, I worked and traveled around Australia, coached high school hurdlers, and pondered the mysteries of the universe. Aside from pondering, I love to laugh, dance, listen to music from the ’80s, and travel to remote locations. I’m really hoping I can make a career of this expedition thing.

SpaceRef staff editor.