Updates from Antarctica

Welcome to our Antarctic blog! We thought it would be fun to post some updates from the field for students and colleagues, and friends and family. The National Science Foundation and the US Antarctic Program are supporting our lab’s research into long-term cell survival in the Dry Valleys, so over the coming weeks, our team of five will be collecting samples from our planet’s coldest, driest desert. We’ll be analyzing many of them in real time with a variety of advanced sequencing technologies. We’ll have updates as the science unfolds!

Oy, but we have to get there first. We’re 3/4th of the way to Antarctica, but our cargo plane to the ice was delayed, then scrubbed, then rescheduled, and now it’s delayed again. We’ve spent a few nights in Christchurch now, and we’re just waiting for the weather to improve at our destination, McMurdo Station. It’s nearly eight hours away over the empty waters of the vast Southern Ocean. The C-130 Hercules we’re flying down on doesn’t carry enough fuel to get all the way to Antarctica and then back to New Zealand if weather conditions prevent a landing, so the pilots are pretty conservative. A couple times this season, flights have “boomeranged” at the last point of safe return, meaning ten hours of flying just to end up where they started and have to do it all again the next day. Fingers crossed that won’t be us!

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Figure 1. Ready to go.