We are part of ANSMET, the Antarctic Search for Meteorites. We're here at 85 degrees south in Antarctica beside the transantarctic mountains on a 6 week mission to search for meteorites via snowmobile. ANSMET is a Case Western Reserve University project, funded by grants from NSF and NASA. A camp oven was delivered by a Twin Otter plane yesterday so that we can bake a turkey for our Christmas dinner! For 1 hour at 1pm today our time, 7pm Eastern time, your questions will be read to the team via satellite phone and we will answer as many as we can! The principal investigator on the project, Ralph Harvey, couldn't be in the field this year, so he will also chime in here to answer questions. Proof

Edit: Answering questions now! There are two ANSMET teams out in the field. The members of the systematic search team are the ones answering questions:

  • Jim Karner, from Case Western Reserve University (field team leader)
  • Shaun Norman, from Twizel, NZ (mountaineer)
  • Andrew Beck, from the Smithsonian Institution
  • Tom Sharp, from Arizona State University
  • Marianne Mader, from the University of Western Ontario
  • Rob Coker, from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Mini Wadhwa, from Arizona State University
  • Stan Love, from NASA Johnson Space Center.

Edit 2: They're done! They have to go and cook their Christmas turkey now. Thanks to Case Western Reserve University, NSF and NASA for funding this project! We're all very grateful for this opportunity to be here. We feel privileged to be able to be here. This is for the kids: If you are interested in science or engineering, there are lots of opportunities to work in Antarctica and other amazing places! Follow us on our ANSMET blog, we're posting almost every day!

Comments: 1017 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

Deuce_197841 karma

If you take a pee does the urine freeze before it hits the ground, thus forming the seldom seen peesicle?

DancesWithWhales403 karma

Stan: Nope, no peesicles. It's still liquid all the way down. In fact, if you pee on an upslope, it will still come back at you.

tecomancat290 karma

What is the main purpose of the search for Meteorites? Have you found anything else that is pretty interesting. Also by having Love as your last name did it ever help with the ladies?

DancesWithWhales868 karma

Question: Also by having Love as your last name did it ever help with the ladies?

Stan: Not until I got my doctorate.

DancesWithWhales290 karma

The main purpose to finding meteorites to help us understand the origins of the solar system, the origin of our planet, and the origin of life on earth. They contain the building blocks of materials of the solar system.

Geologists study rocks to study the history of the earth. Meteorites are the rock record for the solar system. They record the history all the way from the hot gasses condensing to form the planets.

This can help answer fundamental questions about where we came from.

Some may even contain tiny grains of stardust that can predate our solar system that can tell us things about before our solar system formed.

These are some of the oldest materials we can study, older than any materials on earth.

Antarctica also has a history similar to other continents. We have seen some nice fossils. At one place we found lots of geodes - rocks full of crystals.

DancesWithWhales217 karma


The ice we're searching is called "blue ice". It's very old, it's been flowing as a glacier for tens of thousands of years. It's blue because it absorbs the longer wavelengths of light. It's not at all flat, it has small waves and ripples from centimetres to meters in size. Up to swells dozens of meters high. It's like a frozen ocean. The wind is always blowing, it's like being in a fog machine with ghosts of snow blowing across us. We're driving around on snowmobiles in this fabulous blue world.

DancesWithWhales199 karma


Antarctica is in its present position at the south pole, but it was not there always. At one time, it was much closer to the equator. Fossil life here shows ferns, and tropical life. Antarctica is one of the places that show us that the continents were all once together, and have drifted apart.

lisasimpsonfan203 karma

Merry Christmas!

  1. Besides cold, what is it like on the bottom of the Earth?

  2. Have you seen any wildlife or are you too far from the coast?

  3. What happens in case of an emergency?

  4. What do you miss most about civilization?

  5. How do you prepare yourself for a expedition like this?

Thank you.

DancesWithWhales221 karma

  1. Besides cold, what is it like on the bottom of the Earth?

Windy, isolated, sunny all the time. Beautiful and majestic. At the winter solstice, the sun goes around in a circle. Midnight is the same as noon, but the sun is at the opposite side. At noon, the sun is to the north, and at midnight it is due south. And it's pretty much the same level all the time.

Shaun: At the south pole, there are 15 ceremonial flags around a pole. Nearby there is a pole where they have plotted the exact position of the south pole at Jan 1st. Every year it moves a few meters, so you see a line of poles where it used to be.

Off to one side, there used to be a dome, which is now gone. There is a new pole station there now, 400-500 feet long, 2 stories. There are over 200 people working there on many experiments, which you see scattered around the station. One experiment has drilled over 2km deep into the ice.

DancesWithWhales208 karma

Question 2: Have you seen any wildlife or are you too far from the coast?


We are the only wildlife.


We are too far inland on the plateau for any life. It's just rock, ice and snow here. There are no animals, plants or even a lot of microbes or bacteria. Just a bit of fungi that grows on the rocks. It's actually pretty sterile. We're here for 6 weeks without showering, and it's not too bad.

Once and a while you do see Antarctic scavenger birds called skua following people around. They're like an aggressive seagull. They have showed up in our camps in the past.

DancesWithWhales152 karma

Question 3: What happens in case of an emergency?

Shaun: The NSF has extraordinary degrees of help and support in case of any emergencies. We have 3 satellite phones so we can communicate, charged with solar panels. We also have radios for a back up. If we fail to check in at our designated time each day, a whole amazing process swings into action to rescue us. Planes are standing by at all times for any rescue necessary. If someone falls in to a crevasse for example, a little plane would come out from McMurdo base with a doctor on board. People can be whisked by plane to hospital in Christchurch in case of medical emergency.

DancesWithWhales147 karma

Question 4: What do you miss most about civilization?

Marianne: Nothing! I mean my husband! (laughter)

Shaun: I would really like to have some way to bring down my wife. The peninsula has some beautiful scenery and wildlife I'd like her to see.

Tom: My family!

Jim: There are rituals of civilization that I miss. For example every day before going to work I go to the gas station and get a big mountain dew.

Andrew and everyone else: Family. Fresh salad and fruit. Chairs. French fries.

Mini: And a double non-fat latte...

It's great to have satellite phones and to keep in touch with people back home. We eat very well here, we have great food.

DancesWithWhales100 karma

Question 5: How do you prepare yourself for a expedition like this?

Rob: In my case, I had never been before, so I talked to as many people as I could who had been before, including my better half. Last year's blog and all the reports I could find were also helpful. Getting lists from previous participants was helpful, too.

JimmyNelson162 karma

What kind of lip balm, from your experience, has the best results?

What is the temperature inside your tent?

Thank you for the AMA and good luck on your research.

DancesWithWhales152 karma

Carmex and Burt's Bees are popular. There is one called Mad Gabs that you can buy at McMurdo, too.

When we're not sleeping, the stove is on, so it's comfortable. Cold at night.

The tent is gradational. Near the floor is -5 C or colder. Near the top of the teepee tent is 25 C or warmer, so we hang things there that we don't want to freeze.

DancesWithWhales86 karma

Almost time! The team is going to call me shortly. Some great questions here for them to answer!

By the way, I'm helping them with the AMA because my wife, Marianne Mader, is one of the scientists down there.

jenhbrooklyn84 karma

What's the time and temperature right now? Also how hard is it to look for meteorites where you are? How do you find them?

DancesWithWhales70 karma

Marianne: It's 1:53pm December 27th, and -19 C and 20 knots of wind. It's difficult when going upwind. We wear masks to protect us from the wind. Down-wind everything is good.

hypedupdawg67 karma

  • At the moment it's your summer (24/7 sunlight) - do you still stick to a 24 hour timetable? If you don't, do you tend to adopt a longer or shorter day? How does having no time cues affect you long-term; is it hard to adjust to?

  • How large an area can you search in a day - and what counts as a thorough search for you?

DancesWithWhales80 karma

Yes, we still keep a 24 hour timetable.

Jim: We line up the skidoos in a line 10-20 meters apart, and sweep the area. We travel at about 2 miles an hour, stopping to examine meteorites. In a day, we can search up to 1 square mile systematically.

There are times that we have to get off the skidoos and foot search. Usually moraine areas where there are a lot of rocks at the surface. That's what we did today, and in about 3 hours we covered about the area of a football field and found 20 meteorites.

thirdrail6962 karma

1)How many meteorites by number and weight have you found?

2)How much does the largest one you've found weigh?

3)What's the rarest type you've found?

DancesWithWhales90 karma

We've found 75 so far this year. For the entire 36 year program, ANSMET has found over 20,000 meteorites.

The largest one this year is about 5kg and the size of a soccer ball.

We can't really say what is the rarest, because we don't classify them in the field.

Achondrites are the rarest, those are the ones that come from other planetary bodies with a crust. We usually find some of these each year. Martian meteorites are the prize!

94% are chondrites, the building blocks of the solar system.

The largest found by ANSMET is hundreds of pounds. There is also one iron meteorite in Antarctica that is still in place because it is too large.

whowilliupvotetoday44 karma

How often do meteorites actually hit antartica? Or are you looking at meteorites that hit thousands of years ago. or both?

DancesWithWhales73 karma

Mini: The ones we are finding are the ones that have fallen a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Basically as long as the ice sheets have existed. Meteorites don't fall here any more frequently than anywhere else.

Meteorites are easy to find here because they stand out against the ice sheet.

The movement of the ice sheet also concentrates the meteorites in certain areas.

MHtellsajoke43 karma

Recently we had a redditor from space post an audio sample of the ambient environment aboard the ISS. Could one of you post a 30 second or so sound clip from there so we can all say we heard the South Pole too?

DancesWithWhales3 karma

By the way, I asked them to try and do this. Hopefully they will have time, I will post it if they do. Great idea!