26 January 2009

Rejoining the High Lakes Expedition Team

Originally drafted on 11 November 2008

Image: Chillyfornia base camp. Located at 14,000ft in the Chilean Altiplano.

Unfortunately, due to research permit problems in Bolivia, and Nathalie made the call to pull the plug. The entire time returned to Chile on 09 November. I arrived at “Chillyfornia” on the night of 10 November. Chillyfornia is an abandoned military barracks that provides us with four walls to partially shield us from the high Altiplanic winds.

Apparently, I brought the cold air with me. I was told tonight was the coldest night to date. It was around 20 below zero last night! Good thing I had my brand new Mountain Hardware -15 bag. This isn’t a shameless plug here; the -15 degree Lyell is bomber! I was snug as a bug in a rug!

Image: This is Lazcar. This active volcano actually erupted while the 2007 High Lakes Team was reaching the summit of Simbad. Lazcar is just a few miles away.

Today was my first day of fieldwork on the High Lakes Project. I still have a hacking cough, but after lying in the bed for the past several days, and watching more American television than I normally do at home, I was eager to get into the field.

I was working with Nathalie and Eric Fleming. Eric is a postdoc and microbiologist with NASA Ames; he is investigating the diatom communities living in the small pools along Laguna Lejia.

This large lake is situated at 14,000 ft, and laid within a valley. It was absolutely astounding. Lazcar, the only active volcano in the region, blew steam the entire time we were in the field. A dormant sister volcano, Simbad (or Aguas Caliente) rises slightly above Lazcar to the south and west. Flamingos fed on copepods along the shoreline. It is an absolutely amazing place.

Image: This morning as we drove across the Altiplano we encountered nandus (Rhea pennata). These large flightless birds belong to the ostrich family but are much smaller, and have been commonly observed out here.

Our objective for the day is to use the multi-parameter tool, which is essentially a water chemistry lab in a box, to collect data along an inner tidal pool that is partially fed by Laguna Lejia. While Nathalie and I did this, Eric was collect microbial mat samples at each sample location.

It is also possible this tidal pool is spring fed; however, we have yet to confirm this. It may be somewhat of a misnomer to refer to these features as tide pools. They are pools which were likely part of the lake and when it receded, these pools have become isolated from the lake.

Nathalie and I were operating our new multiparameter instrument, which collected several parameters related to the aqueous habitat. These parameters include temperature, pH, conductivity, resistivity, ORP, salinity, and total dissolved solids.

Image: The view looking out the door of our four walls at Chillyfornia. Credit: Cristian Tambley.

No comments: