Greetings from Lake Fryxell | NevadaAppeal.com

Greetings from Lake Fryxell

Julie Allen

Julie Allen, a Carson City resident, is spending three months in Antarctica conducting research and experiments on a fellowship through the University of Nevada, Reno’s graduate program. This is the second of her letters home in which she is sharing her experiences with Nevada Appeal readers.

I arrived at Lake Fryxell on Jan. 8 by helicopter. The ride over the ice from McMurdo took approximately 30 minutes.

The trail of the sea ice that had been broken by the Coast Guard ice breaker was visible, as well as the surrounding islands and the main land of Antarctica. It was a spectacular view.

Lake Fryxell is located on the mainland of Antarctica in the Dry Valleys. The camp I am staying at is situated about 100 yards from the shore of Lake Fryxell and sits between the Commonwealth and Canada Glaciers.

The camp consists of five small shacks that are used as lab, where we process the samples collected from the field, store equipment needed for sampling as well as one shack used to store generators, fuel and the like. There is a large jamesway where we spend most of our time when we are not working in the labs or in the field. Out the window of the jamesway, where I sit when I use the computer or the phone, the view I have is of Lake Fryxell, the Commonwealth Glacier and the active volcano Mount Erebus in the distance.

Here we store food, water, personal items, laptops and other equipment as well as gather to cook and eat. There are tents set up in back of the buildings where we sleep.

We do take showers here in the field. We have a camping shower curtain and a solar shower bag. The water used for showers is heated on the heater in the jamesway, poured into the solar bag and ready for use. I have had a total of four showers, averaging one a week!

Our water is collected from the moat that surrounds Lake Fryxell. Supplies are brought to us by helicopter as they are needed, which tends to be often. We just received a re-supply of food that will last us until the end of the season, which is Feb. 7.

Just a couple of days ago, fresh fruit and vegetables were delivered to McMurdo Station. There have not been any “freshies” since Christmas. The other members of our team had some fresh fruit and veggies sent to us here at Fryxell. It is easy to take for granted how available fresh food is at home. All trash and waste of any kind is packed up and shipped out by helicopter to McMurdo where it is then shipped back to the United States for disposal.

There is a team of six of us with this particular science project. Four of us are based here at Fryxell, whereas the others work out of McMurdo, taking day trips to the Dry Valleys to collect samples. The focus of this project is life in extreme environments.

Most of our sampling takes place on Lake Fryxell, although we take day trips to other locations by helicopter for sampling. So far we have visited Lake Bonney, and the Taylor and Canada Glaciers. Sampling consists of taking water and sediment samples from various locations at each site with a minimal amount of disturbance. The water and sediment samples are then brought to the labs at Fryxell for processing. The samples are processed in many ways. In each sample we are analyzing water chemistry and microbial activity.

There are many long nights, in which processing and experiments can run into the very early hours of the morning. However, with constant daylight it is not too difficult to continue working.

Fall is coming, and the days are getting colder. The sun is lower on the horizon. I sometimes wonder what darkness looks like. The scenery here is incredible. I don’t care what I am doing when I step outside and take a look around at where I am! I am very fortunate to be here.