Posted by: sioglac | Nov 6, 2011

Headed down south to the Land of the Pines…

Okay, I’m not really going to the land of the pines, I just thought it would be an apt time to quote some lyrics about heading south. The land of the pines, though, is right next door to where I’ll be going.

I decided to make up a quick map to show you where we’ll be camping during our 7 week stay on the Whillans Ice Stream. The three year-round US Antarctica bases are marked with yellow stars. On the left side is West Antartica and on the right, East Antarctica. Grey area denotes ice that is in contact with the bedrock below it. White areas denote ice that has flowed off the the grey area, but is now floating in water like an ice cube. Blue indicates ocean water, but some of it is covered by sea ice, which is different from the meteoric ice shown in grey and white. The big difference between the two is sea ice is formed by freezing seawater, while meteoric ice is snow that compacts into ice through time. I study the latter.

Our camp is the green star. We’re not particularly close to any civilization (with McMurdo Station being the pinnacle of civilization in Antarctica). If you zoom in really far, you’ll see that our camp is right on the boundary between the grey (grounded ice of the Siple Coast) and the white (here, the Ross Ice Shelf). In fact, our main camp is called the Camp GZ, standing for Grounding Zone. The “GZ” is the area (~10km wide) in which the ice column (~800 meters thick where we are) goes from fully in contact with bedrock to fully floating. In between, the ice bends as it begins to float on the salty ocean water. This region is extremely important to understanding how the large ice sheets contribute to rising sea level as the warm ocean water is actually in contact with the ice at the grounding line.

If you are interested in the geography of Antarctica, Wikipedia has a pretty nice map labeling more parts of the ice sheet. The article on Antarctica is worth a read too if you want some more background on Antarctica. I’ll fill you in on the difference science projects we will be working on next time.




  1. Sounds a tad desolate. So I guess you won’t be bringing back souvenirs? No “My friend went to Antarctica and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” t-shirts? No “I (heart) Antarctica” mugs?

    • maybe i can find a license plate that says “SUE” on it…? or i’ll just blast this on repeat in your honor.

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