We study many streams in the Dry Valleys. These streams are located far enough apart to justify the use of helicopters to get back and forth. Our streams gages consist of very expensive science equipment, which helps us measure stream dynamics, such as water height, water temperature, and specific conductivity. Given the distance between sites, the very expensive (and delicate!) science gear, and the extreme conditions of Antarctica – monitoring streams in the Dry Valleys costs a lot of money!
When something breaks at a gage site, it is always best to know ahead of time. Prior knowledge of field failures saves money in the long run, because we’d only need one helicopter trip to fix the problem, rather than two (one to discover the problem, and the other to go back and fix it). Turns our, helicopters are not the cheapest mode of transportation.
To help us get an idea of what is happening at sites very far away, some gages can radio-transmit real-time data via a series of radio and satellite connections to a computer we can easily access. So, before we visit a site, we can look at the data to see if something looks funky. Usually funky or unusual data means a mechanical or electrical problem, which requiring maintenance.
Today, Chris and I worked to set up a new radio repeater on Mt Loke. Radio repeaters, take an incoming radio signal and repeat it so it can be received at some location far away. Radios only work by line-of-sight. So if you and your pal each have a walkie-talkie radio, then generally speaking, if you can see one another – you can talk to one another. At our main camp, F6, we certainly cannot see most of the stream gages in the Valleys. So, we use a series of radio repeaters to transmit real-time data, such that we can see it at F6.
Here are a few photos from our trip. Lucky for us, radio repeaters are located up in the mountains with a great view (line-of-sight) of places all through the valley.
I have finally arrived! After many airplanes, a terra bus, McMurdo Station, a helicopter Lake Hoare Camp, and another helicopter I am finally settled in at our primary hub of activity – F6 Camp. Located on the beautiful banks of Lake Fryxell, this glorious two-room hut will be home to the MCM-LTER stream team, and other more transient researchers.
F6 camp. Home for now!
The kitchen side of F6. We make some pretty awesome meals, and drink LOTS of coffee
We have one room for cooking/hanging out and another room for laboratory work. Thanks to the good folks at McMurdo Station, we were set up with lots of delicious looking food to keep us going while we are out here. Unlike my experiences at Toolik Field Station, in northern Alaska, F6 is D-I-Y. We make all our own meals, and keep the camp running by completing a long list of daily chores. But when the work is split amongst myself and two other teammates – it’s not so bad. I’ll further elaborate on camp life in a future post.
Tyler instals instrumentation inside a gage box at Harnish Creek. I’d love to show photos of streams but there is no liquid water to be found…. yet!
Today was our first day of field work. In brief, the stream team is responsible for maintaining a suite of US Geologic Survey (USGS) gage stations established in 1994, here in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. A “gage station,” basically monitors the discharge of a stream through time. Discharge is the volume of water passing through a cross-section of stream, per unit time. Although this sounds simple – it’s not. There are many streams running throughout the Dry Valleys, which requires us to cover lots of land on any given day. We utilize ATVs, helicopters, and our feet to get from site to site. Also, to put it simply: things break. Trouble shooting and fixing broken stuff often becomes the focal point of our job. Again, I will use future blog posts to explain how we measure discharge in greater detail.
It’s getting late, so for now I’ll leave you with some photos. Enjoy! ~ Adam