UND geology team heads to Antarctica to research landform changes in remote South Pole region

A research team headed by University of North Dakota geomorphologist Dr. Jaakko Putkonen heads to the Ong Valley in a desolate, little-known region near the South Pole later this month on a National Science Foundation-funded expedition.

UND geologist Dr. Jaakko Putkonen during a past visit to Antarctica

The group includes Theodore Bibby, Tallahassee, Fla., a Ph.D. student in geology; Collin Giusti, Chanhassen, Minn., a junior majoring in geology; and Holly Westad, Parkers Prairie, Minn., a junior majoring in biology.

The team departs from Grand Forks Airport at 2:50 p.m., Nov. 27, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, on trip scheduled to last a total of two months.

Putkonen, assistant professor in the UND Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, the research team will spend six weeks at two separate field camps they’ll set up in the Ong Valley and Moraine Canyon during  Antarctica’s austral summer. Including all the complex travel arrangements and training at the US Antarctic research and transport facilities in New Zealand and at McMurdo Station, the team will be gone a total of about two months.

“It’s still plenty cold there even though it’ll be summer,” said Putkonen, a Finnish native who’s done research in just about all of the world’s extreme cold environments, including the Himalayas, northern Scandinavia, and both the Arctic and Antarctica. “Of course, there’s no ‘night’ because summer is the season of the midnight sun. We’ll be issued a lot of heavy-duty cold weather gear—parkas, boots, underwear, mittens, hats, and more.”

The purpose of the NSF-backed trip is to dig into the evolution of the Antarctic landscape in one of the continent’s remotest and least understood regions, an area not currently covered in snow and ice.

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Useful links:
*Jaakko Putkonen’s home page
*National Science Foundation Antarctic Project story http://www.usap.gov/usapgov/News/contentHandler.cfm?id=964
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