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Ditching work

November 8, 2009

Tomorrow and the next day and the next, I will dig a ditch. A long ditch. A 130 foot ditch. In normal life, that would be bad news. But for me it is probably some of the best news I’ll get all season, because my ditch digging will mean ditching McMurdo for Lake Fryxell.  You dig?

Lake Fryxell is in a region of Antarctica called the Dry Valleys. And that means that A – I’m going to get on a helicopter for the first time! B – I’ll be camping on a frozen lake next to glaciers and mountains and C – I’ll be in one of the most beautiful and unique ecosystems on the continent.
The Dry Valleys form the largest portion of the continent that’s not covered in ice – because cold winds are drawn down the surrounding peaks quickly enough to evaporate almost all moisture. There are microscopic organisms living in the rocky ground there, which is rare in this part of the world. The Dry Valleys are considered the closest thing we get on earth to the environment on Mars. All of these factors mean that it’s a great place for science, and around here, where there’s science, there are ditches that need digging. And that’s where I come in.
It’s supposed to be a 2-3 day trip, if the weather permits us to fly back as soon as we’re done, so I promise many amazing photographs later in the week.
You can see Taylor Valley, where the lake is, in relation to McMurdo Station on this map.

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