Dear Mrs. Rich’s Kindergarten Class,
I am excited to write to you this week as a proud member of the US International Trans Antarctic Scientific Expedition (US ITASE) team. My friend Dan Dixon has taken me with him on this expedition in which he and his friends are studying the ice and snow in East Antarctica to learn more about our environment. I would like to tell you about how this trip works and about some of the science that my friends are working on.
As a team we are driving in very large tractors that do not have wheels, but instead they have tracks like a tank. Our big tractors are pulling large sleds connected together in what we call a train. The sleds of the train carry everything we need to survive out here, including our home (with beds and a kitchen) and our laboratory (where we will do our research as we travel) and the actual engines (the tractor parts of the train that pull us). We have to drive carefully and slowly because we are scared of two things, sastrugi and crevasses. Sastrugi is the name for wind-formed ridges that form in the ice. When you get out of the train and look at them, they look like waves in the ocean that are frozen and still. Crevasses are great big cracks in the ice. We definitely want to avoid these because we are afraid of falling into them (they can be very deep).
My friends on the US ITASE team are from many different universities and doing many different types of science. One of my friends, Dan Dixon, is drilling deep holes in the ice and pulling out cores. He cuts the core into 1m-long pieces and then packages them up to take home and look at. He hopes to learn about the weather and temperature in our environment from studying the ice and snow. Another friend, Brian Welch, pulls a machine called a radar along the ice surface. He is learning about the shape and thickness of the ice and uses the information to draw 3D maps of the ice sheet. Andrei Kurbatov is studying how the volcanoes in the area affect climate. Lastly, my friend, Dan Breton, uses a special machine that helps to find crevasses in the ice so that we do not fall in them!
I have had a great time with the US ITASE team. Everything is much harder here than back home. For example, the only water we have is that which we melt, so we do not get to take baths or showers! Our bathroom is a tiny little hut that just has a seat with a hole in it. We drag it at the back of our train. The only way to reach us when we are traveling is by airplane. There are two types of small airplane in Antarctica one is called a Bassler and the other is called a Twin Otter. I have included some pictures of me with the US ITASE team so that you can see what our train looks like and what our airplanes and equipment look like. Thanks to all the members of the US ITASE team who invited me to travel with them and to Dan Dixon who carried me and took photographs of me. Maybe next year they will decide to do some science work in the Arctic and take me with them on an expedition up there also! What fun that would be.
More from my next stop,