2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


ANDREWS, Sarah, P.O. Box 1521, Sebastopol, CA 95473, Sarah.Andrews@ebagroup.com

As with the myriad ways one might perish in Antarctica—from simple exposure to attack by leopard seal, intentional killing is a dish served cold. Ironically, the trail can in fact be so cold that evidence is preserved like it was laid down yesterday. One hundred years ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Nimrod Expedition crew built a hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island, ate roast penguin (in season, perhaps with a dressing of gooseberries) and tossed the empties from the gooseberry jars and fine French champagnes onto an icy midden atop the crumbling remains of volcanic flows. Shards of glass (that man-made geologic material which falls under the purview of geologist forensic examiners at the FBI's) litter the ground from the front step of Sir Ernest's hut to his inelegant but archaeologically robust junk heap. In 1911, at the next point of land closer to the Pole, Sir Robert Falcon Scott built a more lavish hut, and left similar evidence in his wake.

In 2005, I followed these polar explorers to the lonely shores of Antarctica in search of forensic evidence for the 11th novel in my geologic mystery series. While trying to maintain the crude wilderness etiquette of not tracking crumbling trachyte into penguinologist and Cape Royds host David Ainley's cook tent, I noted that the treads of the standard-issue extreme-cold-weather-gear boots I was wearing seemed to select for a certain grain size of shattered feldspar phenocrysts, along with a residue of feathers and guano from the nearby colony of Adélie penguins. Having also perused (with the archaeologists who were working to conserve Shackleton's hut, over modern New Zealand wines) Shackleton's ship's manifest expedition and discussed early-20th-century bottle manufacture (which narrowed the glass sources to 1907 England and France), I realized that I had a trace evidence bonanza. The geologic evidence for my novel assured, I returned north quick before I suffered the fate of the sled dog which is still chained (freeze-dried and thus mummified) to the line at Scott's hut.