Frank Rack/Northern Illinois University
Heater Pump Unit 1 of the WISSARD hot-water drill system. The exhaust is vented through the roof of the container.
As the U.S. government shutdown goes into its 10th day, a work-around to save the country from defaulting on its debt may be in the works with a temporary hike in the nation's borrowing limit. Even still, the partial shutdown of the government, including national parks, is likely to continue. Here the U.S. Capitol looms in the background of a sign on the National Mall reminding visitors of the closures to all national parks due to the federal government shutdown in Washington.
Al Golub/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Yosemite Valley destinations are closed to drivers; as the sign indicates, travelers must exit the park by way of the El Capitan Bridge Crossover.
A sign announces the closure of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Though Old Faithful continues to spout off in Yellowstone National Park, the famous geyser is off-limits to tourists.
Due to the government shutdown, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island have been closed to visitors.
A National Parks policeman walks past a sign after the Lincoln Memorial was sealed off from visitors in Washington, Oct. 1, 2013. During the last shutdown 17 years ago, government workers were furloughed for 6 days in November and then again from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996. Barricades were then, as they are now, placed around national monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial.
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A park ranger secures a road at the entrance to Mount Rushmore National Memorial on Oct. 1, 2013 in Keystone, South Dakota.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
A sign in the lobby of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., warns visitors that the library is closed due a government shutdown. While the government-funded library is closed, outdoor areas where a piece of the Berlin Wall (in background) is located and Air Force One, are privately funded and remain open to the public.
PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images
A board informs visitors of the closing of the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, west of Paris, on October 1, 2013. The famous D-Day cemetery for American soldiers in Normandy, France, is also closed.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. Park Police move barricades into place around the World War II Memorial in Washington to prevent people from entering the monument on the National Mall. After a confrontation was caught on video between a park ranger and Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer, during which Neugebauer told the park ranger she should be ashamed for closing the memorial, park rangers have taken to wearing badges that read: "I Am Not Ashamed."
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A U.S. Park Police officer assists Park Service employees in closing down the Martin Luther King (MLK) Memorial on the National Mall Oct. 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
The USS Constitution in Boston, is closed to onboard visitors because of the federal government shutdown.
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Visitors take pictures of the outside of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park on Oct. 1, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif.
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Park Ranger Dylan Moe stands guard as the sun sets at the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park to prevent any tourists from entering, in Joshua Tree, Calif., on Oct. 2, 2013.
David McNew/Getty Images
Access to Switzer Picnic Area is prohibited in the Angeles National Forest on Oct. 2, 2013 in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles, Calif.
An unidentified biker rides past the barricades and sign at the entrance to Rock Creek Park in Chevy Chase, Md. The road, Rock Creek Parkway, which runs through the park, is a major thoroughfare for motor vehicles and bicycles between the Maryland suburbs and downtown Washington, D.C.
The casualty list from the government shutdown earlier this month continues to grow for U.S. Antarctic science.
On the kill list so far: the $10-million WISSARD drilling project, the first to discover microscopic life in a buried Antarctic lake; an expedition to look at how melting ice sheets change marine ecosystems; a study tracking the feeding habits of Antarctica's top predators, including penguins and killer whales; and a balloon experiment to search for gravity waves in cosmic microwave background radiation.
Scientists expect more losses this week, as the National Science Foundation (NSF) sorts itself out following the relaunch of Antarctic operations last Thursday (Oct. 17).
This month's government shutdown forced the NSF to slam the floodgates on the river of support staff, scientists and equipment streaming toward Antarctica for the summer research season. The result: a logistical nightmare, with people and essential supplies scattered across four continents.
After the NSF reopened, the agency said it would try to restore the research season, which lasts from October through February, but warned that some projects couldn't be saved. (17 Weirdest Effects of the Government Shutdown)
"(T)he 16-day interruption has already resulted in deferral of some projects, and additional projects will be impacted," Scott Borg, head of the Antarctic Sciences Section, wrote in a letter sent to scientists on Oct. 18.
"NSF decisions about priorities for restart are conditioned by factors such as continuity of long-term data sets, time-criticality of observations or studies, impacts on young or early career investigators, and international or interagency partnerships," Borg wrote.
At the University of Florida, good and bad news hit colleagues in the same department on Monday. Oceanographer Amelia Shevenell gets to board a plane Thursday for Antarctica, but her fellow professor, Kendra Daly, learned her project was called off for 2013, said Vickie Cachere, a university spokeswoman.
No drilling, baby
The cancellation was a crushing blow for the WISSARD team, but not wholly unexpected.
"They made the only logical decision," said Reed Scherer, a geologist at Northern Illinois University and one of the lead scientists on the drilling project. "It's deeply frustrating," Scherer added. "After all these years of development and a tremendous amount of money, we have very little to show for it."
The original plan for WISSARD's second season in Antarctica was to return to Lake Whillans (where the team left their equipment in storage containers), drill again at the lake, then caravan across the ice about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the ocean's edge. There, they would drill through the ice shelf. Then the sequester hit in March, and the group decided to only drill through the ice shelf, into the grounding line, where the massive Whillans Ice Sheet leaves bedrock and floats on the sea.
The drilling would have provided key information on ice sheet stability, Scherer said.
The shutdown left the team with no time for tractoring across the ice, let alone drilling. However, part of the WISSARD effort, a group from the University of California, Santa Cruz, did get the go-ahead to return to Antarctica, for a stripped-down geophysical survey at the grounding zone.
But the drilling equipment will stay buried under snow at Lake Whillans for at least another year. "We don't know if we're ever going to get it back," Scherer said. And the team's chief equipment designer, Northern Illinois University graduate student Tim Hodson, loses his years of investment in the project and must start again on a new doctoral thesis project, Scherer said. The senior scientists were invited to submit a new proposal to NSF, to request funding to return to Antarctica next year.
"I just wish there was a way we could get a guarantee and start planning that we can go forward next season. But there's a tremendous competition for the logistical resources, so we have no way of knowing whether we're going forward next year," Scherer told LiveScience.
"It's just, 'Write another proposal.' It's like, 'Thank you, sir. May I have another?'"
Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.
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