Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hey Google Mars, I Made This for You

Hey Google Mars (Mars in Google Earth,) look what I made for you using only a few simple items commonly found in the Arctic: A Google frisbee, a Mars bar, and some satellite imagery of Haughton Crater. Ta-dah!

You're welcome.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Overheard in the Arctic, Chapter 2

1. It's just non-Euclidean geometry. At the poles, parallel lines converge. Put this triangular rock in your bag and take it back to Mountain View. By the time you get there, it'll be a square. --"Crazy" Matt Deans.

2. We should name something after Google. We already have a "Slope of Woe" and a "Dr. Evil's Lair." --Pascal Lee.

3. I was lost once, so I found Hare Krishna. But I was still lost. So I got a GPS. --John Schutt, kick-ass polar explorer.

4. (On the subject of my futuristic helium-elastomer nanolayer Arctic attire) Now you can fit all your clothing in a fanny-pack! --Vicky Glass, firefighter, camp medic, and Chancellor of Incendiary Matters.

5. (On the subject of the Iridium system tripod) This has three legs, but I have four! --Ping Pong Lee, dog and camp mascot.

6. Sarah: I was once accused of being in league with the Guild of Vacuum Pump Manufacturers...
Tiffany: What?!

7. Brian Glass: Watch out for the laser between your legs.
Tiffany: What?!

8. Pilot: It's too dangerous to land, we have to turn around and go back to Devon Island.
Tiffany: I wonder if we can make it back in time for dinner...

9. When the space station called here, it showed up on caller ID as "out of area."

10.Pascal Lee: Here's our press release (handing me a thumb drive.)
Tiffany: Oh my god, you dont use Google Docs?
...then immediately after that....
John Schutt: ...Well, you just type "ANSMET" into Yahoo...
Tiffany: What?! Are you people kidding? This is 2010! (Sigh.) I guess I'll just have to e-abacus you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SIr Edmund Tiffany Summits the World

This has already been an unusual week--but I've just met the most interesting person in the world. Now, you may be wondering who made me president of The Interesting Person Society, and the answer is: I did. And I'm president for life. It's in the bylaws.

But back to the most interesting person. I should mention that this is quite a distinction in a place that includes planetary geology rockstars like Pascal Lee, who travels everywhere with Ping Pong Lee the wonder dog, and the talented team from NASA Ames who will happily show you butt-shots of their Pacman-sound-enhanced K10 robot. But I nominate John Schutt, the HMP camp manager, geologist, mountaineer, and ....ANTARCTIC METEOR HUNTER. John has a long career of leading successful expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic, and has spent 29 consecutive meteor hunting seasons in the Antarctic, or a total of over 7 years on the world's coldest, most uninhabitable, inhospitable continent. John Schutt walks on water. Frozen water that provides a clear backdrop for meteorites down to a half centimeter in diameter that John spots with his eye from a moving snowmobile.....Its astonishing, really--John has been known to collect 1000 meteorites in a single season and has catalogued and recovered more meteorites than any other individual in history. These valuable specimens are collected and sent to the Antarctic Meteor Curation Facility, at the NASA Johnson Space Center, as part of the ANSMET program.

Although I have my hands full with being Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe-I think I may have found my new 20% project....

Congratulations to John Schutt on his new title: Most Interesting Person in the World!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Overheard in the Arctic

1. The temperature really drops when the sun the other part of the sky.
2. I'd turn into a werewolf now, but the sun doesn't ever go down.
3. Wow, its cold. It's almost like being in the Arctic.
4. Can you grab a shotgun and follow my robot?
5. Planetary geology rocks!
6. Our camp cook is an impact caterer.
7. Excuse me, did I leave my pants in your tent last night?
8. Polar bears: one size eats all.
9. I need some quality sitting time.
10. Thank goodness this full body suit parka only smells slightly of gasoline.
11. We must be going Arctic-crazy.
12. This toilet is magnificent. Like the Smithsonian.
13. Elaine (taking video): Act natural.
Tiffany: ....and that's precisely how we pass a bill into law in the United States.
Kira: ....and that concludes the final chapter of my book on quantum physics

Everyone relax, I'm alive.

Hello from the Haughton-Mars Project, where we finally have (spotty) internet access. The Mars Institute has done an incredible job building up a comprehensive international research site in the Arctic. Camp is essentially a cluster of work tents, a kitchen tent (heated), medical tent, and even a toilet tent (brisk.) Off to one side is a tent city- its a race to set up your tent before the wind kicks up. Parked in front of the camp area is a bank of ATVs-our main mode of transport out here, in addition to the Humvee. Upon arrival, you are given important and necessary training for the ATVs (don't leave the choke on, don't kick up dust, be in the right gear, don't flip it,) for the toilets (cr*p goes in bucket, pee goes in barrel. Sorry if I've offended anyone delicate, but it just boils down to life support,) and shotguns (if a polar bear tries to eat you, shoot. Until it falls over.) Again, I hate (love) to keep offending you, but it boils down to life support. Mine. I guess the other option is just to run faster than the guys collecting rock samples, testing spacesuit prototypes, or driving NASA's K10 rover, and hope they are very chewy....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dynamite Beach at low tide

We returned to Dynamite Beach at low tide to see the ice drifts, which had been deposited on the rocks. The photos were taken around 9:30PM, in broad daylight. Found a nice ice specimen.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sea ice? Why, yes I do.

I'm not a patient person, and waiting for the Arctic weather to clear so we can press on to Devon island is mental torture, so we decided to check out Resolute Bay and old remains of a Thule village. As you can see, most of Resolute is rock and gravel, with very little vegetation. At the village, the only location with scrub vegetation, we saw that the Thule people used whale bones as part of their housing structures. I found a good amount of serpentine on the ground, larger pieces might have been used for the decorative carvings typical to this region. I also saw the arctic poppy, which is a relatively uncommon sight. On the way back, we hugged the coastline in order to see some impressive sea ice formations-I was struck by how porous and cavity-riddled the structures were, as well as the vivid aquamarine color at the base of the largest pieces. Check out what I saw:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This is what 80lbs looks like

Have I mentioned to you yet that all of our survival equipment, tools, etc, had to fit within an 80lb budget?Which includes: a tent, tarp, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, mallets, stakes, and various other tools and equipment. That's all stored in the giant brown bag to the right. I don't know if you will find this as funny as I do, (probably not since you are likely not as sleep deprived,) but all of my Arctic survival clothing fits into that tiny bag to the left. Because they are super-futuristic helium-elastomer nano-layers. Really sort of a biofilm.... But no matter how much weight you save in that department, here's the hard truth you need to know when you are carrying things around the Arctic: when you put rock hammers in your luggage, it's heavy.

To Resolute, and beyond!

Well, I made it out of Iqaluit by bribing a large mosquito....(alright, I made that part up.) It was a great relief to get out of there and into the High Arctic. The next leg of the journey took our plane to Hall Beach, where we refueled following the ~3 hour flight. Then it was on to Resolute Bay, which was another few hours, over some impressive sea ice. When we arrived in Resolute, it was cold and snowing, although the landscape was dry, rocky and dusty. The dust is a fine particulate-for all of you burners, it actually reminds me of the the Black Rock City playa. And for the wise guys out there-no, there are no igloos, penguins, or elves from Santa's workshop.

Several of us who are bound for the Haughton Mars Project (HMP) are overnighting in Resolute. The weather conditions at our destination were too treacherous to risk a flight. We'll try again tomorrow morning--such is life in the Arctic.

Its broad daylight outside at 11:30pm-but I bid you all a fond goodnight!

Iqaluit, Nunavut

Day 3 of the journey. What happened to Day 2? Well, I experienced a mild setback common to travel in the Arctic: poor weather. From Ottawa to Iqaluit, Nunavut, it was fine (3.5 hrs) but the Iqaluit to Resolute leg was canceled due to poor conditions. Great.

Iqaluit is the capital city of Nunavut, but its most distinguishing characterisic is the number of pterodactyls it has. No! I'm just kidding. Those things that are aggressively trying to kill me are just mosquitoes. And they are not the size of pterodactyls. They're the size of C-130s. Maybe I can ask one of them to airlift me to Resolute...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Arctic Bound

I'm in downtown Ottawa, sitting in a comfortable hotel room, and contemplating the expedition ahead of me. Tomorrow morning I leave for the High Arctic; I'm headed for Haughton Crater, on Devon Island, by way of Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

Devon Island has the distinction of being the world's largest uninhabited island, but I can tell you this polar desert does indeed have several inhabitants, and I am about to become one. The fact is, this region is extremely desirable as a terrestrial Mars analog, which essentially means that environment, geology, operations, or some combination of factors are similar to a Martian experience.

The Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international field research program, made possible by NASA, SETI, the Mars Institute, and the Canadian Space Agency. The conditions are ideal for real-world testing of rovers, habitats, and space suit prototypes, which is exactly the reason I packed my Arctic survival gear yesterday, and got on a plane to Canada.

However, it's late, and I need to catch a chartered air flight early tomorrow, so I'll have to end this with a ...."to be continued..."