Last year, a New Zealand-based Antarctic research group invited Chris MacIntyre to take part in their research investigating soil biological activity in the extremes of the earth. MacIntyre says he was surprised from the moment he set foot on the frozen continent, as the weather was warmer and nicer in Antarctica than it has been in the Maritimes.
“A lot of my expectations were blown out of the water. It was warmer than I was expecting. It was five degrees and sunny for the most part. I got a nice tan. The sun was really strong down there,” he explains. “The conditions were, I think, ideal. The 24-hour sunlight was convenient more than anything, to get a lot of work done.”
MacIntyre used an instrument he helped develop at St. FX to measure gas emissions from soil samples. He was part of a team made up of scientists from New Zealand and California. The team worked in an area called a dry valley, which is virtually free of snow and ice.
“They were saying ‘oh, this is kind of cold’ and I was like ‘it’s not really that cold. Nova Scotia’s in a blizzard right now,’” laughs MacIntyre. “I think every time I got in contact back here, there was a snowstorm occurring, the Wednesday snowstorm that was always occurring.”
MacIntyre’s earth sciences professor, Dr. Dave Risk, helped him prepare for the trip last fall. Risk says things could not have gone better for his student. “There aren’t a lot of grad students that would be capable, especially at the first year master’s level, of heading down there, independently with equipment, and not having to call home with any questions, really,” says Risk.
MacIntyre says 24 days of research in Antarctica was a dream come true and that the expedition has given him an optimistic view of the future. “I think this may have gotten me hooked on polar research, because it’s an absolutely beautiful and fascinating place and there’s analogous areas in northern Canada.”
He says he would love to have the opportunity to go back someday.