2006 Study Updates/Photos
2006 Season Summary
The 2006 field season ended with our group recruiting approximately 140 subjects that made the transition from McMurdo to the South Pole station. The majority of these volunteers filled out questionnaires, had blood samples drawn, a physiological assessment, had sleep studies and were followed for activity levels and altitude related symptoms. During the few weeks we were at the South Pole, there were a number of volunteers that developed more significant altitude symptoms, including HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) that required transfer back to sea level. All recovered quickly without residual problems. In all it was an a great field season in Antarctica, the support from NSF and Raytheon personnel was tremendous and the data obtained were unique relative to previous studies and that which is available in the published literature. One by one, our research team made the transfer back to McMurdo and on to Christchurch, NZ. Equipment was stored for the 2007 season. Now the long process of sample processing (over 2000 samples), data analysis (questionnaires, sleep studies and activity monitors) and forming a database. This will be merged with data from the 2007 season prior to submission of abstracts and papers.
November 3, 2006
My impressions of life at south pole:
The south pole is cold, it has been about -40 since we have been here. Weather is usually sunny, though we had one overcast windy day. On the sunny calm days, walking outside is not so bad. I had fears of my fingers instantly falling off if I took my gloves off, but that is not the case, one can usually survive glove less for a few minutes to snap photos, etc. But wind adds significantly to the chill, and managing cold when outside is something you have to learn.
The south pole research station is an amazing place. We are staying in the elevated station that has been under conctruction over the last few years and is now nearly complete. It is quite modern, has a galley for regular food service, recreation areas, research laboratories, small berthing units for personnel, and even a small gift shop. We spend most of the day indoors, staying quite busy with the research study. This is the first human related research project that has been done here in recent years, so there are no real laboratories set for our kind of studies. So we have established places to process blood samples, perform physiological assessments, etc on available lab benches. We brought most of our own equipment and supplies, but inevitable mssed a few items. But people here have been very supportive in helping us establish facilities to do all the analysis needed.
(Pictures include photos of Ken, Andy, Kathy and Bruce at the South Pole, South Pole Station, built on packed snow and ice, Andy in a tunnel where they store food, -60 most of the year.)
October 31, 2006
The weather finally broke and temps drifted above -50 for the first time. Both Andy Miller and Ken Beck were off to South Pole in small planes (LC-130). Equipment was unloaded by "drifting" (dropped from behind the plane as it was still taxiing) and they quickly set up a make shift testing area in amongst other scientists involved in neutrino detection, telescope construction, and meteorology. Most subjects were complaining of typical altitude symptoms, including headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, some lack of appetite, poor sleep.
October 27, 2006
Life doing scence Antarctica-style over the last few days has been busy. We have spent days drawing blood samples and processing the blood, spending 3 hour stretches in -20 freezer sorting samples to be sent back to Minnesota for final assays, recruiting more subjects, and trying to fill in for deficiencies in equipment and supplies. Doing science in an environment where there is no neighborhood hardware store or medical supply house to run to has its challenges. People here at McMurdo have been extremely helpful, at doing the science without that support would have been extremely difficult.
There has been a little time for extra activities. Short hikes require donning the "ECW" gear to protect against the cold. The wind is constantly blowing, especially as we venture out of the town of McMurdo. But the scenery is spectacular in this world of ice. Views over the McMurdo Sound and Ross Sea are totally of ice, largely flat, with spots where ice has buckled to create sculptures of blue and white. Several mountains jut above the ice-scape in the distance, and thick glaciers wind their way to the ice shelf between the peaks. In spite of the beautirul mountain scenery, there is no vegetation in sight, only rock outcrops poke above the snow and ice cover. We spotted a lone seal sleeping on the ice near the air strip yesterday, oblivious to the human activity that continued around him in support of the air traffic. He was gone today.
(Pictures include a leopard seal, Andy and Ken outside of the NZ Scott Base and a view of Scott Base)
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October 25, 2006
We now have close to 90 subjects recruited for our study, however, Andy Miller and Ken Beck are still stuck in McMurdo due to the cold weather at South Pole (record temperatures -60 degrees C and colder). They have had "bag drag" every evening for about 4-5 days, but the planes cannot fly-in due to fear that the hydraulics of the planes (particularly landing gear) may not work at the cold temps. There is a winter over staff at South Pole that has been there since last February that is anxious to come out and the "summer" staff now in McMurdo that are anxious to get busy.
Highlights of the day were the appearance of a leopard seal outside the lab window, that must have found a crack in the ice and a chance to view Scott Base (NZ base) that is close to McMurdo station.
(Pictures include photos of some of our subjects instrumented for the study)
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October 20, 2006
It has been a busy week setting up a physiology lab in the corner of the Crary Building in the heart of the little community of McMurdo. Next to our lab is a large aquarium where specimens are brought in from the ocean near McMurdo. From outside our lab window we can see amazing views of the McMurdo Ice shelf , Mount Discovery and the glacier-mantled peaks of the Royal Society Range . The sun simply circles the sky, so that at midnight it is just as bright as mid day . We have been busy recruiting volunteers headed to the South Pole. Most of these people are involved in logistical support of science projects and are headed in on the first flight of the "summer" season. They are amazing, hard working people, many of whom spend hours each day out in temperatures of -50 degrees C or colder. We have recruited 47 of these people and have enjoyed working with them as we instrument them for sleep studies, peform physiological testing, complete questionnaires and obtain blood samples. Our hours have been long to go along with the never ending daylight. After packing up half our gear, Andy Miller and Ken Beck will be on one of the flights tomorrow so they can set up a second laboratory at the South Pole in time to study the acute altitude adaptations in our subjects. Thus far flights to the Pole have been delayed due to temperatures that remain below -50 degrees C. We have had tremendous support from Raytheon personnel, including the medical staff.
(Pictures include Mt Erebus, McMurdo Station, Volunteers being instrumented, work in the lab-Ken and Maile, Some special people who have helped us along, including Paddy Douglas and Jay O’Brien, the original Scott Hut and the local coffee house in a snow bank.)
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October 14, 2006
Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a shuttle to the International Antarctic Center. We put on our ECW (extreme cold weather gear), finished packing supplies and clothing for transport and after some delays began a 5 hour flight in a U.S. Airforce C17. Clouds threatened a boomerang, however skies cleared as we came to the Ross Ice Shelf and we landed safely on the ice just outside of McMurdo. Pictures are of the plane and first glimpses of Antarctica, including Mount Discovery.
(Pictures include our flight over, the first glimpses of Antarctica and our team at McMurdo Station.)
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October 12, 2006
Spent the afternoon in Christchurch at the International Antarctic Center clothing distribution area being outfitted for cold weather gear. A couple of pictures are included of Maile and Andy. Tomorrow we meet at the center at 6:00 a.m. for a 9:00 departure to McMurdo. The weather has been variable and thus a number of flights into Antarctica have had to boomerang, meaning they make the 5 hr flight but cannot land and thus turn around back to Christchurch; repeating the trip over and over until a landing is made.
(Pictures include Andy and Maile being outfitted for ECW gear.)
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