A couple days ago we helped with an experiment looking to see where water from Anderson Stream goes after it empties into Lake Hoare. This is an important question to answer because knowing where the water goes will help us understand the lake biology and hydrology, as well as the relationship between the dry valley streams and lakes. Ultimately, this may provide insight into how these relationships may change in the future if stream discharges continue to increase over time.
The Stream Team helped with this experiment by injecting a known concentration of a naturally occurring element into the stream water so that its elevated presence can be used as a sort of tracer. After this was added to the stream water, we looked for it again by sampling water at different places in the lake over time, and by this method we can see where the water in the stream went. However, this was easier said than done. First of all, Lake Hoare is covered year-round with ice, making it difficult to sample the water underneath. In fact, the only way this can be done is the hard way…by drilling holes into the ice and pumping the water out.
The timing of this experiment was additionally critical, as a sufficiently high discharge is needed to detect the stream water in the lake. Stream flow in Antarctica is highly dependent on the weather, and just a few clouds lingering over the sun may turn off the stream like a faucet. Also, the stream has different peaks of flow throughout the day, depending on where the sun is in the sky. Since the right amount of water was important for the experiment, the weather and time of day had to both be perfect. As a result, there was some inevitable waiting and patience required.
In the end, we got perfect weather, and the experiment went off without a hitch. Now we just have to wait to see what the data say!