Fosdick. A name known to very few. A place visited by even fewer. Nestled as a sub-range of mountains within Marie Byrd land in western Antarctica, the Fosdicks are a focal point of study for geologist, Dr. Christine Siddoway. Unraveling their complex geologic history will ultimately provide the clues to understand how Australia and Antarctica were once connected over 300 million years ago. A rare form of metamorphic rock called 'migmatite' forms the core the mountain chain, and trapped within its swirled folds are the clues that will lead Siddoway and her team toward a conclusion about the birth and adolescence of this remote area.
In order to conduct their research, Siddoway and her team travel first to McMurdo Station on Ross Island, from which they launch in US Air Force Hercules LC-130 ski planes which are capable of landing on remote glaciers with up to 10,000 pounds of supplies. The team spent over sixty days in self-supported camps of just a few tents and skidoos, traveling around the glaciated flanks of the Fosdicks while taking samples, battling storms, and collecting other data.
The fieldwork is simultaneously intense and mundane at the same time; gathering rock samples from hundreds of location for lab testing back at University of Maryland and Colorado College. Accompanied by two mountaineers the team attempts to traverse the range to discover previously unrecorded geologic events, which will be keys to understanding the complex history of Marie Byrd land and its relationship with Australia.
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9,000 pounds of supplies are unloaded from the New York Air National Guard ski-equipped LC-130, on a remote glacier in Antarctica. It is so cold the plane has to remain powered up to avoid any risk of start-up failure. The snow was so cold and sticky the crew used rockets mounted to the side of the aircraft for an extra boost when it took off again.
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Marie Byrd land is the largest unclaimed area on earth, similar in size to Iran and Mongolia. The Fosdicks are a small sub-range of mountains within this greater area and are roughly the size of Slovenia. Within Marie Byrd land, the science team, comprised of five members, were the only humans for the two months of the expedition.
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Dr. Chris Yakymchuck passes the time in the Scott Polar tent while waiting out a storm.
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Dr. Yakymchuck traverses a frozen melt-pool underneath some highly metamorphosed 'migmatite' rock. Sampling and mapping these outcrops was the primary goal of the science expedition.
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A team member descends into a crevasse on a day off from work.
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Footprints of the Antarctic Snow Petrel, tens of thousands of which made their nests the cliffsides of the Fosdick Mountains.
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Dr. Yakymchuck checks the weather as a storm approaches.
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Dr. Siddoway and Dr. Brown consult aerial photography while mapping the outcrops of the Fosdick range.
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Dr. Brown and Dr. Yakymchuck mapping and taking samples at an outcroup.
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Dr. Yakymchuck at an outcrop.
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Traversing a melt-pool near camp.
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On a long day away from camp the team would skidoo up to 60 kilometers to investigate new rock faces and gather samples.
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Dr. Siddoway's birthday provided an opportunity for the team to explore inside of a nearby crevasse.