NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School Home
In the News
Staff & Student Profiles
  What's the Buzz? -
  Press Room
    Press Releases
    Image Gallery
    NOLS Facts
    In the News
    Staff & Alumni Expeditions
  Contact Us

NOLS instructor Louis Sass will be traveling to Antarctica this winter to work as a mountain guide for Dr. John Stone of the University of Washington. Stone and his research team will be performing studies on the recession of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

AntarcticaLouis will guide a research team consisting of three scientists. Stone is the principal investigator and he will be assisted by Greg Balco. Finally, Dr. David Sugden will join the crew as an expert in glacial geomorphology--the study of land forms caused by glacial activity.

Traveling to the ice sheet will be a process in itself. The expedition will work in the Ford Ranges area in West Antarctica, situated approximately 650 miles away from the nearest post, the U.S. station at McMurdo. "To get there we will fly down to Christchurch, New Zealand. From there we will fly on military transport to McMurdo Station, on Ross Island," said Louis.

McMurdo Station is the main support station for the U.S. Antarctic Program. The team will spend time in McMurdo, preparing and securing the proper equipment for their expedition. "After we have finished preparing to go into the field we will fly to our field site on a large, ski equipped military transport plane, a Hercules LC-130," Louis continued.

The team plans to spend about six weeks on the ice. Travel by snow machine will be necessary in the various areas within the Ford Ranges. Louis will guide the crew up a number of peaks where rock and ice samples will be gathered for study.

"First and foremost I am responsible for the safety of the group," noted Louis. "The field area is very remote and in a rugged mountain range. We will spend most of our field season traveling on large glaciers . . . falling into a crevasse is a very real hazard. Much of the research involves climbing up and down mountains, many of which are moderately technical. Cold clear weather is normal but storms can bring very high winds for days at a time. Outside rescue is possible, but the logistical difficulties associated with it ensure that it would take days or even weeks depending on the situation. It is my job to teach everyone in our party to recognize and minimize these hazards, and in the field to oversee this process. Additionally, I will do some of what is more classically associated with guiding, leading rope teams of climbers up mountains."

Louis will work with the team in McMurdo before heading into the field. In McMurdo, the team will work on skills needed to travel, work and survive in the remote Antarctic environment. These skills include proficiency in winter camping, snow and ice climbing, self arrest, and crevasse rescue.

Louis will also help with the logistics of the expedition. Louis admitted that "the logistics of an Antarctic expedition are very complicated." Fortunately, the team will be working with the U.S. Antarctic Program. This program has a large infrastructure in place to assist science groups. But Louis observes the tremendous amount of work and responsibility his team will need to carry out; "even with this assistance, as a team we will be busy checking all of our equipment to ensure that it is the correct equipment and that it is in working order. After that is done we have to package all of it up onto large pallets for transportation to and from the field."

The goal of the research team is to reconstruct past glacial levels of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Stone will use a technique called radiogenic isotope geochronology. His research will entail taking glacial and rock fragment samples from mountains that protrude from the ice sheet. These samples can then be analyzed for amounts of certain isotopes that are created by exposure at the Earth's surface. Stone's data will yield the exposure and date at which the ice sheet deposited a given fragment. Analyzing many samples from various altitudes will allow a reconstruction of the regional ice levels through time.

The team hopes that its research will be of great benefit to the scientific community. The data should shed new light on issues such as climate change and global warming.

Chat with a real person.

Sign up for the NOLSie News
NOLS Top of Page
NOLS Home About Us Courses Wilderness Medicine Institute NOLS Professional Training Alumni Store Donate Account NOLS Home Parents Press Room School Resources Photos NOLS.TV Events WRMC The NOLS Blog Introduction About Leadership History Mission & Values Profiles Partnerships Frequent Questions Find a Course School Locations Skills Leave No Trace Financial Aid Academic Credit Find a Course Skills School Locations Course Types Leave No Trace Financial Aid Academic Credit NOLS Pro Home 1-3 Day Courses 7-30 Day Courses Risk Management Staff Clients Design Your Course Contact NOLS Pro NOLS Pro 1-3 Days 7-30 Days Risk Management Clients Contact Us NOLS Pro Design Your Course NOLS Pro Staff Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Case Studies Overview Administrative Training Staff Training Consulting Conference: WRMC How to Apply Apply Online Download an Application Admission Policies WMI Home About WMI Courses Schedule FAQ Photos & Movies Curriculum Updates Employment Sponsors WMI Home About WMI Admissions Courses Schedule Host a Course Resources Gallery Alumni Home Trips and Events The Leader Alumni Chapters Employment Staying in Touch Volunteer Photos & Videos Home NOLS Photos NOLS.TV The NOLS Podcast NOLS on Flickr Leave No Trace Overview Leave No Trace Principles Leave No Trace Master Educator Course Host a Course Contact Enroll Map of Events Dream Expedition Leadership Week Press Room Images for the Press Archives