Sunday, January 3, 2010

Life at Lake Hoare Field Camp--Text

Life at the camp at Lake Hoare involves a combination of doing my own work (drawing and painting—more on that later) hiking, and helping (a little) and listening to the scientists working here. Right now there are 10 people in residence including me—there is a post-doc geologist, another geologist from SUNY, Oneonta, a microbiologist from Sicily, 3 limnology (inland water) researcher/ filterers/ lab people, a general assistant from McMurdo and the camp director and her assistant.
The camp is set on Lake Hoare, a lake that is mainly frozen, although the edges are melted. There are 3 labs, some other small buildings—a Jamesway for storage, a fuel shed, four outhouses of different styles and the shower building—used once per week for the Sunday shower. Everyone sleeps in their own mountaineer or Scott tent. And then there is the main building where the wonderful chef and host and drawing artist and fiber artist Rae Spain presides with help from hiker and baker extraordinaire Becky Peace. The camp sits on the edge of the Canada Glacier that serves as a backdrop for much that goes on here.
Each day has been different-some days filled with drawing and painting the local landscape—sometimes including buildings, etc. Another day microbiologists Luigi Michaud and Alex Michaud (no relation) and I flew to a higher plateau to collect water samples—I drew—they collected. Today Luigi, Devin (geologist) Becky and I climbed Mount Rae. Becky and Devin made it higher than Luigi and I—but we still were way up, scrambling up loose rock and able to see the whole valley and as far as Mount Erebus.
It has been the holidays here so Rae and Becky have been off—yesterday I cooked shrimp curry for the crowd—today Luigi made some fabulous pasta. The kitchen here is incredibly and generously stocked—people are treated very well here. Dinners are convivial and lively, breakfast and lunch everyone is on their own.
The scientists are patient and explain with great care the projects they are working on here. They define the terminology and I realize what an incredible opportunity this is for me—I spend days watching the process of scientific research with people eager to explain their work. Much of what they are doing is new and innovative—studying here in the Dry Valleys, collecting microbes in ponds in this harsh environment with such incredibly extreme conditions. My very first day I was taken around the periphery of the lake as post-doc geologist Joe Levy collected water samples from an area not in the lake but on the edge—where the water melts up from the ground, once a hole has been dug. He is exploring the subsurface of the polar landscape.
The limnologists Amy Chiucholo and student assistants, Alyssa and Loralee, are collecting data, and making routine measurements of the lakes’ biological (bacteria and phytoplankton), chemical (nitrogen and phosphorus), physical (light) properties. Oneonta geologist, Devin Castendyk studies the movement (or currents) of water within the lake in an attempt to understand the cause of those currents. He also seeks the meaning of the data collected by the limnologists while doing his own research collecting water in the streams on the edges of the glaciers and in the lakes.
Devin voiced his appreciation for this situation, as it is a rare chance for scientists working in different disciplines to share their knowledge. General Assistant Will Freihofer has been helping Devin with his research but will return to McMurdo tomorrow and await his next assignment. Later this week “the worm herders” (those studying nematodes) will arrive.
Many here are part of the LTER or Long Term Ecological Research Network.
The art I am doing here still feels like I am in the hunting/gathering stage—these landscapes will be part of a larger project—I think the 30 x 40” gouache landscape with buildings will serve as a background for a series of objects drawn on top. I have been interviewing Rae and Becky—asking them about significant objects—essential or symbolic or quirky –representing Lake Hoare field camp life. A large piece of found plywood has served as my outdoor drawing board, but I have to move it if a helicopter is coming as it and my materials will fly away from the great winds the “helos” create. I also have an indoor studio—I have a section of the instruments lab with a great view of the glacier out of the windows.
Tomorrow I am supposed to assist Luigi at the Goldman Pond, but we don’t seem to be listed on the helicopter schedule so we shall see….


  1. You have the beginnings of a great book here, Elise.


  2. Hi my name is Andrik and it looks like you had fun in the adventure!!! happy new year!!

  3. Hi my name is Carlos Perez from 504 and i just wanted to say how does it feels to spend a week without taking a bath because i will die if that happened to me i will die literally HAPPY NEW YEAR

  4. P.s i will love to be in Antartica from carlosP 504

  5. hi its us JOSHUA &OLIVER how does it fell to be in us air force !

  6. Hi Elise,

    Looks like you're having fun. Like the watercolors. The landscape looks amazing. best, Patty

  7. Hi Carlos,

    You get a bit used to not taking a bath--because nobody does and you adjust--also one doesn't sweat as much here--but I definitely look forward to bath day--everyone does and the bath house is like a sauna!
    Joshua and Oliver,
    I am not in the air force--but they do fly us here-----actually the New York Air National Guard.