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ANSMET 2013-2014 Field Season in the Miller Range, Antarctica

Picture of a small meteorite on the snow before collection and a picture of the meteorite collection case on a large truck.

2013-2014 ANSMET Team Members
Steve Ballou*, Beloit College, Wisconsin
Barbara Cohen*, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama
Manavi Jadhav, University of Hawai‘i (and soon the University of Chicago)
Jim Karner*, field team leader, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
Morgan Martinez, University of California San Diego
Alex Meshik, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
Jani Radebaugh*, Brigham Young University, Utah
John Schutt*, mountaineer and field safety officer since 1980, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
            Veterans of previous seasons are marked with an asterisk (*).

The Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) 2013-2014 season has come to a successful close with the team of eight scientists returned home from the Miller Range of the central Transantarctic Mountains. Nearly 2,400 meteorites had been collected from icefields distributed across ~60 km of the Miller Range by six previous ANSMET visits and this season's team had their work cut out for them to cover the areas not yet systematically searched. In the face of serious issues beyond their control—shifted timetables, challenges with logistics and air transport for everyone in the U.S. Antarctic Program, unfavorable weather—the team's hard work resulted in the fruitful recovery of 333 meteorites.

The logistics required to move personnel and cargo to, from, and around Antarctica is a perfect example of a complex choreography intrinsically tied to Antarctic Program operations and mother nature. The photo above on the left shows a meteorite on the snow of a Miller Range icefield before being bagged and tagged by the ANSMET team. All of the meteorites collected in a season are stored in a transport case, which is airlifted along with the team members from the field to McMurdo Station at the end of the season. The photo on the right shows how the precious cargo of meteorites moves from the airstrip to McMurdo. The meteorites remain frozen as they are carried by cargo ship from McMurdo to Port Hueneme, California and by freezer truck to the NASA Johnson Space Center's Antarctic Meteorite Laboratory. The meteorites generally arrive at the Houston, Texas lab by late March or early April, but that won't happen this year. A storm in late January damaged McMurdo's ice dock, preventing some cargo freezer vans from being loaded onto the annual cargo ship. Included in the inventory delayed in McMurdo are the ANSMET-collected meteorites, which will be kept frozen and protected while queued for departure on the 2015 cargo ship.

A NASA-funded program, ANSMET fulfills the strong scientific demand for new meteorite specimens. As Ralph Harvey (Case Western Reserve University), the Principal Investigator of ANSMET explains, "any new specimen has the potential to shake the foundation of how these things are categorized." NASA and the Smithsonian Institution share the responsibilities of classifying, storing, and distributing Antarctic meteorites to researchers around the globe. Details of curation, characterization, and allocation of the ANSMET meteorites are available from the NASA Johnson Space Center:

pdf link ANSMET 2013-2014 Field Season in the Miller Range, Antarctica (pdf version)

For more information see: the ANSMET website, the February 2014 Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter, and the PSRD articles Meteorites on Ice and Searching Antarctic Ice for Meteorites.

Added March, 2015: NEW BOOK: 35 Seasons of U.S. Antarctic Meteorites (1976-2010): A Pictorial Guide to the Collection, edited by K. Righter, C. Corrigan, T. McCoy, and R. Harvey, American Geophysical Union and John Wiley & Sons, Inc., December 2014, 320 pages.

Written by Linda Martel, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, for PSRD.

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February 2014