Theres no more fuel and no more tubes which means it’s time to head home. Actually, there’s barely stable ice to keep our floors steady. We were the last science team to leave camp the day that Stone Aerospce was breaking down and we were able to see the helicopter sling VALKYRIE and the generator out, which might have been normal for everyone else, but I was fascinated. You can only imagine my excitement when I learned that we would be leaving the glacier via helicopter versus bush plane. My exact words were, “it’s July and I don’t know what else can happen that will top a helicopter ride!”
VALKYRIE was able to execute five runs, which gave us a total of 45 different liquid samples from two boreholes that were about half a meter away from each other. We never received more than two filters per run because it takes about 4 hours for VALKYRIE to filter melt water due to the pump rate. Stone Aerospace pushed it to very end of available fuel. During the last run they were taking fuel measurements and rationing the amount of fuel another university UCSC (University of California Santa Cruz), glaciologist there to measure the impact of glacial movement, could have to finish their task. Stone Aerospace weren’t the group rationing supplies, we came down to the wire as well. For the last two VALKYRIE runs, I began designating and grouping supplies per run. It’s extremely frustrating and you find yourself saying, it’s not what experiment or replicates you will do, but what can you do. A part of me wants to go back and review my packing list and the other part of me says let it go.
Most days we all see each other in the morning during breakfast. Some are early risers around 8:00am and some are late risers at 9:00am. Most mornings we eat cereal or oatmeal, but there were a few days we had “freshies” when different teams arrived and brought avacados, tomatoes, eggs, and a resupply of s’mores fixings. Dinner is served hot at 7pm. If you drag into camp beyond then and you get luke warm to cold. On several occasions Josh would take dinner to the glacier for whichever VALKYRIE team member would manning the bot during a run. After dinner we sit around the fire and eat marshmallows, most of the time not realizing how late it is.
Not the Mosquitos, but the bees
The Mosquitos are far more active this year than last year and that’s not surprising because we’re here later in the year than last year. I’m not bothered by the mosquitos because they’re quiet, the bees do what bees do…BUZZ! They follow flowers and then find themselves stuck between the netting of my tent and the rain trap. They try to fly away, but they are trapped and so they fly around and around underneath the rain trap, BUZZING the entire time. They make a circle and each time they pass where my head is the buzz is intensified. They make no distinction between 11pm, 4am, nor 7am. They’re simply doing what bees do.
Let’s define experiment. Sometimes experiments are successful. By successful, what you hypothesize is tested and true. If what you hypothesize is not true, does not necessarily mean your experiment was unsuccessful, it’s just a different type of data. Now moving on to assays working in practice and then crapping out on you in the field. Yes, that’s exactly what has happened to me. I’ve accepted it moved on. VALKYRIE returned samples to us, I ran 2 assays and
we were pleased with the result. VALKYRIE run 2, I depleted a reagent and switched to an untried enzyme (bad choice) and so now we only have 1/2 of the metabolic story. It’s a hiccup, but we have data from VALKYRIE’s on board spectrometer (upgrade) and that’s really important. The spectrometer should tell VALKYRIE when to sample due to a specific signal. Processes haven’t been exactly smooth with VALKYRIE, but the engineers worked it out. The focus is VALKYRIE detecting microbial life. We’ll perform cell counts when we return to LSU.