Monday, December 31, 2007

January 1, 2008
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -10 °C ( 13°F)
Wind speed: calm
Wind Chill:
Visibility: clear clear clear
Clouds: Clouds building on the horizon -Storm moving in
Wind direction: N
Relative Humidity: 80%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: breakfast burrito

Happy New Year!!!
like today have not been happening often, but today was clear, getting
clearer, and actual clouds instead of overcast skies. This is all well
and good but Ken (Chief scientist) and I were trying to film more
around camp video. The Sun casts a few shadows off the snow piles and
is nice to have instead of the usual cloudy flat light we get around
here. Unfortunately, because we actually had real clouds and not just
an overcast sky, our video background kept changing. If we were able to
do all our video in one take then all would be good, but the more film
takes you need the more the background changes and the harder it is to
splice the pieces together. I am not complaining about seeing the Sun,
even if the Sunburn on my nose is finally healing.

Observations on the 3d quadrat
today include a sharp decline in the relative humidity and the clearing
sky. At the same time, the temperature did not change much. These dry
days often produce “sundogs” on rings around the Sun and “diamond dust”. Sundogs
are bright spots that appear at the four “corners” on a circle around
the Sun. They are produced by the refraction of the light through high
atmospheric ice crystals (basically cirrus clouds). Diamond dust is my
favorite atmospheric cold weather phenomenon and I often saw it last
time I was in Antarctica. The only other time I saw it outside of
Antarctica was one winter on a mountain in Northern Idaho. Diamond dust
forms when the relative humidity is low and the air temperature so cold
that any available atmospheric moisture is frozen directly out of the
air. I am not sure if it can happen when the Sun is not shining (winter
darkness in Antarctica) but I have only seen it on sunny days as the
light reflects off the ice crystals as they fall to the ground. I will
be looking for Sundogs and Diamond dust today. Both are every difficult
to photograph so I will probably not able to add images to the blog.
Those of you with 3dquadrats should pay special attention to the
temperature, the cloud type/cover, and the relative humidity. Take
careful observations and look closely at the relationship between these

Today’s big news was sighting of a LDB (Long Distance
Balloon). These balloons are about 130 m (400’) in diameter and float
with the atmospheric air circulation at an altitude of about 33,000 m
(~100,000‘). These balloons carry a 8,800kg (4,000 lb) payload of
astronomy instruments. They float for months until the scientists
decide to bring it down for recovery. We are not sure when this balloon
was launched but it may have been back in October fromMcMurdo.

images today are of part of the cargo line with today’s clouds in the
background, a nice weather day football game during lunch, and one tent
that is being slowly covered by snow for the last few weeks – soon it
will have to be shoveled out.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

December 31, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -10 °C ( 13°F)
Wind speed: calm
Wind Chill:
Visibility: slightly overcast
Clouds: stratus
Wind direction: NE
Relative Humidity: 82%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: leftovers (pizza for me)
Lunch: leftovers (pizza for me)
Supper: leftovers ((pizza and shrimp/beef for me)

being Sunday, was a rest day. Our Internet satellite connection occurs
in the early morning from about 5 am until about 10 am. The bandwidth
is very narrow so I try to get in and upload my blog entries by 5 am so
as not to interfere with the rest of the 50+ people in camp that might
want to access their e-mail. The whole e-mail-phone connection thing
here is very strange. Since it is West Antarctica and it is a long way
from home, I resigned myself to little or no communications with home.
There are a couple reasons for this, firstly because though I love to
hear that all is well at home, if things are not well there is nothing
I can do about it and it makes everything harder on both ends of the
phone. Another reason is that one of the reasons some of us come here
is to do the science and be removed from some forms of modern life back
home. If you can still make a phone call or send and e-mail and hold a
cross-global conversation with someone at home then we have not really
gotten away. With e-mail, we don’t only get to talk with friends and
family but we also get the same junk e-mail solicitations. It is a
tough choice to be able to retain the communications needed for
science, safety, and doing our work here but not it make it feel like
we are accessible to all the other “junk” that we are bombarded with at
home and trying to get away from. Possibly even West Antarctica is
becoming just another spot on Earth.

My 3d quadrat is up and
still in place after days. The accumulation of falling and drifting
snow has not yet covered the bottom brackets but we have not had the
real wind storms in a couple days. As I mentioned in a previous blog
entry, the movement of the snow/ice grains blowing across the ground is
a truly fascinating event to watch. Eroding grains upwind of a dune and
deposited grains downwind continually building and breaking down
surface structures. This is the same process that has created much of
the surface structure of the Earth for millennium. Big mountains form
by a number of Earth process and then are eroded back into the sea,
then rebuilt and broken down. The Appalachian Mountains in the Eastern
US were once as large and majestic as the Rocky Mountains. Over long
periods of time, after they were built from various Earth movements,
they were eroded to their present form one grain at a time. There are a
number of metaphors for trying to visualize the geologic history of the
Earth over the last couple hundred millions of years but no simple
“Earth history as a 24 hour clock or clothes-line time line example”
can possible give you the “experience” with Earth history as just
watching grains of snow/sand build into dunes and erode into blowing
snow/sand. A couple minutes of watching grains move with the wind and
then comparing the amount of change that has taken place to the
impressive size of any mountain range will give you a better
appreciation of geologic history than any grade school metaphor.
Another task for those of you with 3dquadrats, or just keen observers, is to take a few minutes just to watch the Earth change, one grain at a time.

days ago I also got to play an erosional force as a D-1 operator. The
“D” refers to the designation of the size of bulldozers built by the
Caterpillar company. A D-10 is a huge, gigantic bulldozer that could
level your home with one push and used in large mining operations.
Thus, a D-1 is the smallest of Earth movers. In Antarctica lingo, a D-1
is a shovel and I got to spend the entire morning digging out the berm
around our fuel bladders. We use 10 m x 10 m “bubbles” or bladders to
hold the fuel we need for camp operations. The bladders are easier to
use, more reliable, and easier to store/ship than 50 gallon fuel drums.
We need to keep the bladders free of drifting snow to make sure they
can be accessed easily and are not “flattened” by drifting snow. So, I
got to be a D-1 operator and remove snow one shovel full at a time for
an entire morning to keep our fuel reserves safe. The other work here
is great but a morning working by yourself on such a mindless job being
able to look out over miles and miles of West Antarctica with little
distraction is truly one of the good jobs I get to do here. The pay is
low but the view is priceless. Of course a D-1 operator in Antarctica
is relaxing as opposed to a D-1 operator at home trying to remove snow
from my driveway just to get my car in and out – not always fun.

images are - what I see of the horizon and down the runway from my
perch on the fuel bladders (taken by Inger), and Jeff and Nicole from the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) working in the arch (Inger).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

December 30, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -10 °C ( 13°F)
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5 mp/h)
Wind Chill: -4°C ( 25°F)
Visibility: overcast
Clouds: stratus
Wind direction: E
Relative Humidity: 82%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, toast
Lunch: fish and chips, chicken soup, vege soup
Supper: shrimp, roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables

Last night we actually celebrated New Year’s Eve. Each week we work Monday – Saturday and take off Sundays so we celebrated New Year’s on Saturday which gave us Sunday off and Monday – Saturday to work again without interruption. It is all very strange as we are a day ahead anyway but then we celebrate Holidays on a work week schedule. The really strange thing is that this is a group of people used to staying up all night (or at least late into the night) because it never gets dark. Last night then you would expect that we would celebrate New year’s Eve at midnight – nope. We celebrated at 10:30 pm because most everyone was tired and because we are almost ready to dig ice cores after weeks of preparation and we know that we will need the energy in the next week of ice coring.

If you check the supper menu you will see that we are eating very well. Our chefs John, Sue, and Karen feed us very well. Since food is something we think about here all the time as most of us are hungry most of the time regardless of the unlimited quantities and excellent quality, I thought that I would pass on one of our favorite foods so far. Naturally it is desert, specifically cookies. Of all the foods so far these cookies went the fastest. Karen baked and served them for Christmas but it has taken me a couple days to get her to give me the recipe. She got the recipe from her Aunt Dinny. Actually, my family has been making these (very very similar) cookies for generations and we call them Kiffles. Karen calls them Aunt Dinny’s cookies. So, as thanks to Aunt Dinny (and Karen) for helping make our holidays bright and tasty.

Aunt Dinny’s cookies from Karen the night chef
(aka Kiffles)

2 Sticks butter
1 large cream cheese
2 cups flour
Mix well and chill

Filling: 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
1 – 16 oz jar apricot jam
(and jam filling will work)

Roll 1/4 of dough at a time in confectioner’s sugar – cut into 9 squares – add filling
fold over diagonally

Bake an non-greased cookie sheet 350 -375 until golden brown 18-22 mins

Remove from pan quickly onto rack to cool


Todays image is of the spool of cable for the ice core drill being installed in the drill arch.

Friday, December 28, 2007

December 29, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -14 °C ( 7°F)
Wind speed: 14 km/h (8 mp/h)
Wind Chill: -7°C ( 25°F)
Visibility: 1600 m
Clouds: cirrus, mist
Wind direction: W
Relative Humidity: 76%
Barometric Pressure: steady
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, toast
Lunch: fish and chips, chicken soup, vegi soup

The biggest news was that yesterday was crystal clear. Ken and I had been waiting for a sunny day to film our snow pit. Since I had scraped the dividing wall between the two pits to only 15 cm thick (6”) it was primed and ready for viewing snow/ice layers. We ran out there before 6 am and it was perfect timing as the Sun was shining into the open pit. One of the pits is completely open on top and the one you stand in to view the adjoining wall is completely covered with plywood sheets. Once your pit is darkened you can see the light illuminate the wall, and it was a spectacular view of beautiful wind blown and storm layers. Last summer’s hoar frost layer was easily identified so the accumulation of snow for the last two years can be determined. The snow accumulation rate here is ~85 cm per year (25 cm of ice), so in our ~2 m deep snow pit you can see almost all of two year’s worth of snow.

Students are still on vacation so not too much on my 3d quadrat but suffice to say that the bamboo structure is doing well and surviving the conditions. In a place like West Antarctica where you can often see to the real horizon not obstructed by buildings, trees, or hills (about 11km 0r 7 miles) it is very easy to look at the mega (large) scale of this place. My 3d quadrat allows me to focus on the meso (medium) and micro (small) scale of West Antarctica. IT is a little cold and breezy just to sit outside and observe the snow surface but I can tell you that for the 10 minutes I observed the surface is very dynamic. If you have ever stood on a beach (especially a very white one) and just observed the grains move in the wind it looks similar to the snow surface here (minus the swim suit). The snow “flakes” that fall here are not very soft and fluffy but largely coarse and crystalline. Once those coarse “flakes” hit the ground, and because it is so dry, the flakes do not stick but act almost as little individual crystalline pieces that roll around on the surface. Around all objects that stick into the surface you can incredible erosion and deposition of snow. On the up wind side there is the most erosion where snow flakes are picked up and moved to the back side of the object and deposited. A similar pattern emerges around tents, bamboo poles, buildings, cargo piles, snowmobiles, the outhouses, etc. Erosion up wind and deposition down wind. It creates a spectacularly beautiful consistency to the landscape. That erosion and deposition pattern becomes very apparent here during and after storms where a snow bank 2 m (6’) high might form over night. Even during normal conditions I have to shovel out part of my tent every week or so to keep it clear of snow, or as it is called here – spin drift.

If there are no objects, then the snow surface it generally very very flat. To us cross-country skiers it is a paradise where you can move across a relatively flat surface for kilometer after kilometer. Where I live in Maine, I never get to ski a flat surface for more than a few tens of meters. What I have to ski on at home is up, or it is down, and very little in between. Take time to observe the very small in your 3d quadrat and you will be amazed as to the patterns and things you observe and how it connects to the entire landscape.

Happy Birthday today to Ursula, one of the core handlers. Last night we had cake and sang Happy Birthday.

Today’s images are of inside the snow pit. The very light layer just above Inger’s finger is last year’s summer snow-hoar frost layer(s). The second image is of the Twin Otter that spent the last two days here flying missions with the geophysics guys. The third image is a view taken from the Twin Otter of WAIS Divide camp. The image is annotated to point out some highlight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

December 28, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -15°C ( 13°F)
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5 mp/h)
Wind Chill: -4°C ( 25°F)
Visibility: bluebird day (totally clear with no clouds)
Clouds: none
Wind direction: W
Relative Humidity: 78%
Barometric Pressure: rising
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: baked egg- artichoke heart - pepper, sausage-bacon, toast, hot/cold cereal, lots of leftovers
Lunch: roast beef sandwiches, veggies, mashpotaotes

Yesterday was very mild, only 13 °F. Not quite short-sleeve temperatures though some folks were dressed down to their long underware tops.

A C-130 (airplane) came in today. It carried out about 6 people and what we call retro cargo (cargo that goes back, in this case to McMurdo) and brought us about 8 more people and some gear. It was not a particularly sunny day but clear enough to land. Without the direct sunlight the light remains, as we call it, flat. In flat light you can often not even see small snow banks or exactly where the “ground” is. I have often tripped on a small snow mound or fallen down a small snow slope because I could not see the surface. Even on sunny days the snow surface is often so smooth that it is hard to tell where it is without any shadows.

It is a strange feeling when new folks come and old ones go. You become very close here with everyone in camp and are sorry to see folks leave, even if they have only been here with you for a few weeks. It does not take long to become old friends and many people here keep in touch years and years afterwards after only having lived with each other for a few weeks in the field. During that few weeks though you shared a lot of common time. It can also work the opposite way and in some cases you can not wait to get away from some people. I think that the positive happens more than the negative.
Seeing new people come to camp is also a little strange. New people become old friends quickly and the community we have here at WAIS Divide camp is very welcoming.

In 1908 Shackelton captained the Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica. One of the ways that the men entertained themselves on that over-winter expedition was to “publish” Aurora Australis. In anticipation of their publishing this book while they were in Antarctica some of the men had instruction of using a printing press and then transported the printing press with them to Antarctica. This book was a collection of short stories, wood prints, drawings, poems, and other entertainment. Yesterday’s entry of Sharon’s poem Antarctica was another entry designed to make this blog a collection of the diversity of talents in Antarctica. My understanding is that there were 100 original copies published by the crew in Antarctica and bound in packing crates that were used to ship food stuff . If that is true, there must be a few original copies still in private libraries etc around the world. If you have one, I would trade you an official WAIS Divide project patch for a copy, maybe even two patches. Otherwise, you might be able to find a recent paper copy of Aurora Australis available through modern publishers.

I mentioned before about my 3d quadrat and how it does not contain all of the weather equipment that I would normally install in my 3-d quadrat at home. There are a couple reasons for this, one being that my WAIS Divide 3d quadrat is right next to a professional grade weather station so no reason to have double instrumentation. I can justify this because if you look at today’s image you will see that I could move my 3d quadrat kilometers in any direction and guess what – it is still flat, snow covered, the same elevation, and impacted by the same amount of wind. Basically the area around here does not change much for long distances. At my home and at your location every few feet the vegetation, elevation, wind, etc probably changes a lot. The faster the terrain you are observing changes the more measurements you need to take to get a good average or representative data for that area. If your schoolyard has a lot of changes you would need to use a couple of 3d quadrats and get data from each different type of area. Then you would average them together to get the best representative example. More on 3d quadrats each entry. As soon as our young school friends are back in their classrooms we will be comparing measurements using our individual 3d quadrats from many different places. Although the Internet connection here is not very strong I hope that we can create a larger conversation between us all. All are certainly welcome.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

December 27, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -15 °C ( 5 °F)
Wind speed: 5 km/h (3 mp/h)
Wind Chill: (-20°C (-5°F)
Visibility: 2 + miles
Clouds: overcast
Wind direction: NE
Relative Humidity: 76%
Barometric Pressure: rising
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: eggs, sausage-bacon, toast, hot/cold cereal, fresh pineapple -yum!
Lunch: burgers, fries, vegies
Supper: Last night - fish, vegies, rice pilaf

I have a special treat for you. Antarctica is not just about science.
The whole place is full of beauty and wonder and promotes all kinds of
creativity. While we were inMcMurdo there was a special program organized by many of the women that work in McMurdo. Their program titled “The Women’s Soiree” has been on-going in McMurdo
every year for about 12 years. This event is a charity event and raffle
tickets are sold with all proceeds going to benefit a charity in
Christchurch NZ to thank that town for all it does for the US Antarctic
Program and the thousands of scientists and support staff that travel
through there each year. This year over $4,500 was raised. During the
event there were dozens of women that entertained the station with
music, art, dances, and skits. One of the performers we heard that
evening was from our WAIS Divide travel representative Sharon Lewis.
Sharon recited a poem that she originally wrote as a song. With
permission from Sharon, her poem/song is reproduced below. Thanks

Antarctica, you are always cold
But you always know what no one knows about the wind
And that wind does blow
Across the heart
Through your soul
Full of light, then
Full of dark
From a long, black night that holds the stars
And won’t let go
Until the Sun begins to glow
Above your white
On a long, slow dawn
Full of rainbow
Full of song

You’re soft as snow
And hard as ice
I know someday I’ll pay the price
For secrets lost
That are not mine
Secrets no one should

Antarctica, you are always cold
But you always know what no one knows about the wind

Sharon Lewis © 2007

PS I f you have questions or comments for Sharon you are welcome to direct them to her through the blog.

Today’s image is of the galley and a few of the other buildings here at the WAIS
Divide camp. There was some confusion that we were all living, eating,
and working in tents. We do have tent city and 90% of us live in tents
but we also have a number of building for the galley, showers, medical,
communications, and a few other things.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

December 26, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -14 °C (7 °F)
Wind speed: calm
Wind Chill: °C
Visibility: cloudy, 2 miles
Clouds: thick stratus to the ground
Wind direction: N
Relative Humidity: 86%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0, snowing lightly
Breakfast: eggs, sausage-bacon, toast, hot/cold cereal, lots of leftovers

The glue on my 3-d quadrat seems to have hardened properly so I installed it outside the communications building as close as possible to the meteorology
(weather) station. Since there is already a professional grade weather
station here, I have decided to use it for most of the weather data. All of the data should come from inside the 3d quadrat but you use what you can - and the meteorology station is right next to the 3d quadrat - and I did add my 2
data loggers to my 3-dquadrat, one on the snow level and one at the
top, one meter up, a wind indicator (flag) on the upright bamboo poles that support the 3d quadrat, and a snow depth indicator. The data loggers I am using automatically record temperature and light intensity every hour, 24 hrs a day, for about 3 months. The relative humidity, additional temperature, and barometric pressure will come from the WAIS meteorology station.

Yesterday I was also back on snow pity duty. Inger and I added a lot more inside
space and smoothed the walls on the snow pit we started two days ago.
Ken brought his movie camera out and we added a few more film clips of
the digging to the collection of science process videos he is making.
All in all, the additional snow pit work took the better half of a day.
It is actually a great job being off the station and just working on
snow pits. Though you are 2 meters deep in a snow pit it is actually
warmer than being on the surface with the wind. And you are largely
also out of the Sun, which is very important in a place where the Sun
is always out and there is no shade –except in a building or in the
snow pit. After going to the beach in NZ and all the Sun I have gotten
here, my nose has been burnt and peeled twice. I guess I need more

Since yesterday was the 25th and Christmas here in
Antarctica, Ken the project director gave glass science beakers to all
the staff. It was a very nice surprise and a terrific gift for a
science group. Lots of folks here have also gotten boxes and mail on
the last plane. Most of it was Christmas gifts and “care packages” from
home, all very much appreciated and largely shared with everyone else

Today’s images are of Inger clearing off the snow that
drifted on to the plywood that we used to cover our snow pits. Without
the plywood covers the 2 m (6’) x 3 m (9’) snow pits would have been completely
filled in by drifting snow in less than a day. The two things you can
always count on here is 24 hrs of Sun at this time of year and blowing
snow. The other is of my 3d quadrat. You can see it placed next to our station weather station. What you may not be able to see in this image are the two data loggers and snow depth indicator. The last image is one of the scientists here with their ski-sail enjoying the almost constant wind.

Monday, December 24, 2007

December 25, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -12 °C ( 10 °F)
Wind speed: calm
Wind Chill: -
Visibility: unlimited
Clouds: few clouds
Wind direction: SW
Relative Humidity: 82%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0
Breakfast: Leftovers
Lunch: Leftovers
Supper: Leftovers

Yesterday and today are our days off for most folks. Though there was certainly a lot of work being done around here for a day off. Largely everyone did some work today with a little skiing, reading, movie watching thrown in. The biggest impact was that the cooks John, Karen, and Sue were also off. That means that we eat leftovers all three meals. One of our community jobs each day is being House Mouse. That means that we share washing dishes /clean-up responsibilities. Today I had House Mouse at supper time. I worked my shift with Brent and Elizabeth our camp supervisor. Both are really terrific great at dishes.

I also worked on my 3-d quadrat today in between other small tasks. If I had the right sized PVC tubing, PVC corners, and a saw I could construct a 3-d quadrat in 15 minuets. I thought that I could easily find PVC tubing here so I did not ship any and decided that if it would not work I would use bamboo poles from broken flags poles. The bamboo poles I did find in abundance but it was the glue to hold the bamboo into the PVC corners that ended up being the difficult part of the construction. Glue is glue but glue in these cold conditions is another thing. I think that I finally solved the problems though and will have my 3-d quadrat installed by early morning.

We have two folks here with stunt kites and two with ski kites. All were out for part of the day taking advantage of the free time and the breeze. Though not very strong, there was enough wind to launch the stunt kites and propel the skiers for short distances.

Since today is December 25 th it is really Christmas day though since we had our celebration two might ago I think it will be another regular day. We will save it all up for a New year's celebration.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

December 24, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -10 °C ( 8 °F)
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5 mp/h)
Wind Chill: -2°C
Visibility: unlimited
Clouds: few clouds
Wind direction: SW
Relative Humidity: 82%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: trace
Breakfast: Eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, toast, biscuits, bacon
Lunch: sandwiches
Supper: Crab legs, roast beef, veggi stir fry, peas/carrots. Mash potatoes, asparagus, fresh bread

It turned out to be an absolutely supper day. The weather was fair, a plane landed and brought us our remaining three ice core handlers stranded n McMurdo, a National Ice Core lab person to help when we start drilling and collecting ice cores, and the person from McMurdo who is in charge of our camp personnel’s travel from McMurdo to WAIS Divide camp – and it turns out she is one of the most important people on the continent. Other than be very organized and professional, Sharon, is a very talented writer (we will publish one of her Antarctic poems on this blog soon) and makes the flags that are so important to all the camps and travel on the ground in the US Antarctic program. I have mentioned flags and flag lines a number of time on the blog and after this last big storm we understand exactly how important flags are. We have hundreds of red and green flags in this camp to mark pathways from tents to other camp buildings and black flags for danger. You might not be able to image how important these ~12” x 10” flags are to us here. I learned just days ago how vital they are to our safety when I could not see the 50’ between them as I traveled (barely) around camp during storm.

We also did some filming, a little down hole temperature, some construction in the drill arch, and more importantly we prepared for Christmas. Our Christmas party last night started with hors d’oeuvres at 5 pm and then a elaborate feast in our very festively decorated galley. We had a fantastic meal (see above) complete with a gift giving taking Yankee Swap and dancing until late (early?). Naturally everyone on station attended and we all had a fantastic time. Even cleanup afterwards was smooth with all the help. The one great thing about evening activities here is that no matter when you finish it is still light outside.

It is December 24th here in West Antarctica and Christmas eve today. For an added holiday celebration we actually get the next two days off to catch up on personal things, play, and just relax. Though most of us will still do some work, as there is much to do, it will be a casual two days.

Safe to say that folks here miss love ones back home and wish you a Merry Christmas when the day comes around on your side of the world.

PS I got a journal for my Yankee Swap gift – how appropriate.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

December 23, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -12 °C ( 10 °F)
Wind speed: 16 km/h (10 mp/h)
Wind Chill: -4°C
Visibility: 3 miles
Clouds: overcast
Wind direction: SW
Relative Humidity: 81%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: trace
Breakfast: Eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, toast, biscuits, bacon
Lunch: Chicken stir fry, tofu stir fry
Supper: Oysters, shrimps, scallops, rice pilaf, peas and carrot, carrot cake

Yesterday morning was unbelievably clear and calm. This morning is overcast and lightly snowing. Yesterday we were supposed to get a plane in to pick up two passengers and fuel on its way to a camp at Patriot Hills but by mid afternoon the visibility was really poor and snowing lightly and the plane could not land here but went to a different location in West Antarctica. The image I added today is a view looking from the snow pits we finished digging yesterday toward Anais’s downhole temperature logging project. The picture was taken about 3 pm and you can see how poor visibility was at that time. I know that the image is very small but you can see the edge of Anais’s project area outlined by the black flags. If you look very very carefully about halfway up the flags you can barely distinguish the horizon line. If you think that it is tough to distinguish between sky and snow surface in this image believe me it is not any easier in real life. We often struggle to make out the horizon on these overcast days.

As I mentioned, we did finish digging our snow-pit yesterday. We dug two pits, one smaller, about 2.5 m x 3 m (7.5’ x 9’), and one 2.5 m x 4 m (7.5’ x 12’), and separated by a 2/3 m (2’) wall. When we finished at 5pm we covered both pits with plywood to keep them from filling-in with snow before we will use them in 2 weeks. When we take the plywood off we will shave the separating snow wall down to about 15 cm (6”). Then when you stand in the larger pit (covered by plywood to darken the inside) and remove the plywood from over the top of the smaller pit, the light shines through the thin wall which separates the two pits and illuminates the snow/ice layers in the wall. The position and thickness of each layer will be recorded.

The second image is of Rebecca and Inger starting to work on the second pit. You can see the first snow pit in the bottom left-hand side of the image. There is a 2” x6” x 12‘ board across where the thin wall will be when completed.

After digging all day long we returned to the galley for a seafood meal and caught up on news around camp.

Today I will make an effort to finally get my quadrant set-up and operating.

Tomorrow is Christamas Eve for us - wow

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 22, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -12 °C ( 10 °F)
Wind speed: 0-9 km/h (0-5 mp/h)
Wind Chill: ~ -15°C (8°F)
Visibility: 5 km (10 miles)
Clouds: clear to partly cloudy
Wind direction: w
Relative Humidity: 84%
Barometric Pressure: rising
Precipitation: 0

Breakfast: eggs, omlettes, toast-muffins, bacon, sausage

Yesterday was the work day as promised. As if everyone had cabin fever and they had to be outside as much as possible - and it was sunny and "warm". Snow was plowed, shoveled, removed, and melted. My task for the day was to work with Inger and Anais to take Anais's equipment, for doing the down-hole temperature measurements, out to a hole that was dug a year ago near camp. Actually the hole is 1/4 mile from camp. We also had to find shovels etc to start digging a series of snow pits near Anais's equipment for a snow pit project. Anais's project will basically drop a digital thermometer down the old hole - which is like a ice core hole since it is only about 20 cm (8 ") across and hundreds of meter deep - and measure the temperature at a predetermined set of intervals down the hole. The temperature at which snow is depositied is actually retained (to some degree) as it is covered over by and insulated by the next layer of snow. What Anais will measure is the temperature of the atmosphere at a number of times back in the past, now retained in the layers. Now this is not 100% reliable, very difficult to measure since the changes in temperature are very small, and not the type of measurement used when you see information on climate change temperatures. Anais's measurement is a way to support temperature measurements determined by other methods such as using the more precise oxygen isotope ratio method - but more on that measurement another time.

Our other project was to dig a series of snow pits. The purpose for this is for use by a film crew that is scheduled to arrive in Januray. The first snow pit is approximately 2.5 m x 2.5 m (8' x8') and 200 cm (6') deep. Then only 15 cm (6 ") away will be a longer 2.5 m x 5m pit (8' x 15') snow pit. When you climb down insdie the larger pit, cover it with plywood, and then look at the wall between you and the smaller pit, what you see is the Sun illuminating the snow wall between you and the smaller pit. In this illuminated snow wall you can see the layering of the snow/ice. These layers represent wind blown layers, frost layers, and annual layers of snow. Since the accumulation of snow in this area is about 25 cm (10") a year we will be able to see about 8 years worth of snow accumulation in our illuminaed pit. This is a very good way to observe/measure the way snow accumulates in this area and use it as a guide for determining annual layers in the longer ice core. In your snow pits you can also collect and analyze small 2 cm portions of the snow/ice from top to bottom to determine snow chemistry. Maybe we will get to the snow chemistry maybe not.

Now to get all these projects going I was supposed to get a snowmible started, grab a Nansen sled, and haul all our gear the 1/4 mile out to the digging location. This is Antarctica, and there was just a major storm, and it is cold, and things take a "little" bit longer. So, 2 hours later, I was still without a working snowmobile. Lucky Don one of our mechanics took pity on me and got us going. Sometime about 11 am, after an early start, we were finally ready just top start with Anais's equipment set-up and our snow pit. Though by the end of the day, Anais was set-up and Inger and I had snow pit #1 finshed. And yes, I slept well last night.

Finally able to upload images here
One is of my tent and the moat formed around it by the storm, one of me trying to start a frozen snow mobile (unsuccessfully), and one of Inger and the pit she largely dug (and I mostly watched).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

December 21, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 6 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Wind speed: calm
Wind Chill:
Visibility: miles
Clouds: clear
Wind direction:
Relative Humidity: %
Barometric Pressure: rising
Breakfast: Eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, toast, biscuits, bacon
Lunch: sliced lunch meats, chicken soup
Supper: BBQ chicken, chicken tempah, mushroom soup, steak fries, tater tots, green beans, red jello, coconut cake, pumpkin pie

The way the day is working around here I may need to add blogs before morning weather reports are in so I will add them for today etc as soon as I can.

Last night the storm cleared away by 7pm. Suddenly the camp emerged from the storm and you could see from the galley about ¼ mile to the airfield and to the drill dome about ¼ mile in the other
direction. As I mentioned yesterday, there is something very exciting
about only being able to see flag to flag as you make your way to your
tent but it would get very old very fast. Everyone is back to their
usual game which is heavy on digging out. It is truly amazing how snow
drifts. We have about a dozen yellow Arctic Oven tents and each one is
oriented slightly differently in respect to the wind direction. Only
one tent actually had snow inside and most only had minor drifting
around the edges. Around my tent the wind scoured what looks like a
moat (no alligators). The snow surface around my tent is about 2 feet
higher than the floor level of the tent so I have to step down to get
in to my tent. It was actually produced by a combination of scouring
and snow accumulation that caused the snow bank/moat around the tent.
Though out the whole storm there must have been only a couple of inches
of real snow accumulation. The rest was from somewhere else in West
Antarctica and blown here for our amusement.

Work will continue
today in the drill dome. The drillers will complete assembly of the
tower on schedule in a day or two. The actual drilling pipe and motor
are 15 meters long (45 feet) from the bottom of the drill teeth to the
top of the pipe. That includes the drill motor that turns the bit, the
pump that circulates the fluid in the hole, drill stabilizers, and the
rest of the assemblage. The fluid is need to both keep the hole from
closing up as the surrounding ice pushes into the open space and to
“float” the “ice dust” produced by the drill to the surface where it
will be collected. The drillsonde (as that 15 m of drill pipe is
called) is then lowered down the hole as an ice core is drilled and
collected by a cable that is about ½ inch thick. As the ice core is
drilled, at about a meter at each time, the hole then gets deeper and
deeper and the drill has to be lowered further each time. Basically,
the drill goes into the hole, drills, and collects an ice core about a
meter (3 feet) long. Then that core is brought to the surface by the
cable and winch and moved to the core processing room. Then the drill
is lowered back down into the hole to collect the next meter of ice
core. Using this process we will eventually, after three years, get to
3,5oo meters deep. Each layer of snow that has fallen over the last
100,000+ years will eventually end up in a core box and shipped to the
National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver Colorado for further processing.
The diameter of the ice core collected using this method is
approximately 12 cm (5 “) wide. Each 1 m x 12 cm ice core contains
enough information for the dozens of scientific investigations that
will happen through theWAIS Divide ice coring project to further understand climate change.

An image of the drill sonde will be posted on this blog eventually (depending on Internet access) and on the web site.

Right now it is calm and clear. The snow in my tent has melted to form my new indoor pool. I will have to take care of that later today before it soaks my gear. We are really looking forward to a calm day around here.

Total accumulation was between 2 and 4 inches, but the accumulation is very hard to measure since it is difficult to determine if the snow is all wind blown or some of it is new snow.
** eventually we will link a digital file of all the weather data on the website so that you can view all the daily weather in one graph.
December 20, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 10 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’)
Temperature: -12 °C ( 10 °F)
Wind speed: 30 km/h (19 mp/h) gusts to 41.6km/h (26mp/h)
Wind Chill: ~ -10° C (-17 °F)
Visibility: 300 m (900 ‘)
Clouds: clear –100’ visibility at WAIS Divide
Wind direction: SW
Relative Humidity: 92%
Barometric Pressure: rising
Precipitation: Blowing snow, basically whiteout conditions.

Another day in the middle of a good Antarctic storm. No flights in or out today. The pilots are excellent but even they can not land if they can not see the surface. So, more around camp chores, frequent warm-up breaks, and lots of chatting about the good ole days when you could actually work outdoors in West Antarctica. Recently someone researched old records and found that in 1914, when Robert Scott and his crew died on their return from their trek to the South Pole, it was also a particularly stormy season. I do not know about 1914 but it is a lot stormier here now than it was when I was at this almost identical location in 2000.

I have met a lot of the folks here in camp and I have found three others from Maine. The chef John, and a couple that work here as carpenters. Certainly there are lots of other folks here from all over the country, and the world. Most of them are also very outdoorsy (as you might expect) though most of us have never met before we share a lot of similar stories of adventures from around the world. There is a magazine rack in the galley and not surprisingly the magazines are all skiing, climbing, kayaking, bicycling, and adventure travel. Actually there is the odd movie and entertainment magazines here but largely here just for kicks.

After lunch the conditions degraded to condition 1. Around here the weather/visibility conditions are rated condition 3 for a perfect easy clear day, to condition 1 which is low to zero visibility and blowing snow so we stay indoors and no unnecessary travel. I did not bring my towel and tooth brush into the recreation Jamesway (a type of long half-done type shelter) this morning where we have showers and sinks (I did brush my teeth earlier this morning in my tent though so no worries there). So, I thought that I would just take my time and walk the flag line out to my tent and get my stuff. We post 8-foot bamboo poles with red or green flags, about 20 feet apart, along lines to help us get from one place to another here in a storm. I started to walk the flag line and could only see two flags ahead of me. I walked step by step carefully since the drifting snow cause mounds that you can step off and trip. After abut 15minutes I got to the outhouse that is the central point in our tent city where everyone is sleeping. The flags are only 20 feet apart but the tents are 50 feet a part. Once I got to the last flag I could only see one tent in the direction that I thought I had to go. Once I got to that tent I could not see the next tent. As I remembered, my tent is about three tents past that. At that point it would have been very very silly to continue so I turned around and started walking back along the flag line to the galley. It is so loud out there that you can not hear anything but the constant flap of the flags and the wind. At the same time it is incredible to be in a storm with so much power. A 50 mp/h wind can almost sweep you off you feet and couple that with no visibility and the fact that it would only take 10 minutes to walk off course and lose your bearings in these whiteouts (a bad thing in West Antarctica). I was mesmerized by the blowing snow and wind and just content to stand out in the full intensity of this condition 1 storm. Not a place I would be without outdoor training and without all the facilities and people here but still absolutely mesmerizing. Six foot drifts form in minutes and the entire landscape changes rapidly. One of the reasons we are drilling the ice core here is because of the high accumulation rate, about 25 cm (12 inches) a year, but this is a little wild.

Last night was a little crazy and only Karen slept in her tent. She is the night cook so she left for her tent at noon yesterday and slept through most of the storm that stranded the rest of us in the gallery and the Jamesway shelter. It was so bad that even in large groups we could not navigate from flag to flag to try and find our tents. Since there are no sleeping bags here of blankets in the galley we huddled in your jackets all night. Actually it was that cold as we have two heaters in the galley. Most of us only slept a few winks so morning could not come fast enough. Overall there was no real danger in the storm even though we were stuck in the galley as we have radio contact with McMurdo, plenty of food and water (melted snow), lots of fuel for generators, and each other for companionship and safety. About 9am I took a radio and ventured out to tent city and found that the tents were all up except for one. I ventured into my tent and it was no worse for wear. Last night you could not see from tent to tent and this morning I could see three tents ahead so it was much safer to travel outside. After lunch I think that most of us might need a nap and then back to the drill dome to keep at our jobs. Since all flights are still cancelled it leaves four guys from Penn State working on geophysics stranded here and our three core handler colleagues stranded in McMurdo. With flight schedules and weather it will probably be after Christmas until one group leaves and the rest of our group are here.

As you might have noticed I have added the menu each day to the top list of weather measurements. There is always plenty of delicious food here and no one goes away hungry. Each day the leftovers are also stored and available for snacks as well as plenty of candy bars, muffins, tea, coffee, cold drinks mixes, and lots of chocolate in bars and cookies. The menu varies each day and there are multiple optional entrees each meal. I will list at least the meal that I eat.

Hopefully we are in for some nicer weather and I will get my 3-d quadrat constructed today. Everyone is safe and all is well.

Note: The density of water is 1.0 gram/mL. The density of ice is 0.92 grams/mL (this is why ice floats on top of water; ice is less dense than water). The density of snow varies quite a bit but in general the density of snow is about 30% of water. Therefore, 80 centimeters of snow per year translates into about 24 centimeters (12 inches) of ice per year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 19, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 10 am
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’ )
Temperature: -17 °C ( 2 °F)
Wind speed: 30 km/h (19 mp/h) gusts to 64km/h (40mp/h)
Wind Chill: ~ -27° C (-17 °F)
Clouds: clear –100’ visibility at WAIS Divide
Wind direction: NE
Relative Humidity: 80%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: Blowing snow, basically whiteout conditions.

Ideally I would be recording the weather data at the same time each day but I have limited time here and since the sun is up 24 hrs and the wind keeps blowing snow the weather here has been relatively constant throughout the day.

Another night in the tent and though it was much windier I slept much better. I added a double stake system to the outside, upwind side of my tent which I think kept the tent form flapping as much as the night before. I also fell asleep listening to my ipod. This morning is more of the same – white on white (white snow blowing/falling on a white surface). It really an amazing place though and last night on my trip to the outhouse I could see the blue sky above and the ground snow storm below – probably the 10-20 meters (30 – 60 feet) above the ground. It was clear enough though to see a ring around the Sun and my first sun dogs this trip. Sun dogs are “bright” spots on the ring around the Sun caused by the refraction of the Sun light through the ice crystals in the atmosphere. They can be very impressive when are bright in a blue sky background.

We are scheduled to get a flight in from McMurdo tomorrow which will bring in our remaining ice core handlers,; Sylvia, Gabby, and John. On the way out will go some geophysics guys from Penn State University that have been here doing a GPS survey. One of their team members is a science teacher from Kansas named Brent- who says hello to his students and friends. Our Internet connection is still very sketchy and I am not able to upload to the blog on a regular basis but we will keep trying.

Most of the group is out working in the storm or in the drill dome still working on getting equipment put together. One of the assigned jobs here is as D1. A D1 is someone that shovels snow from the doorways of all the buildings to clear the entrance. They have real job security since 15 minutes after a doorway is cleared, it is drifted in again. The name D1 comes from the Caterpillar tractors we use here in Antarctica. The largest Cat tractors/bulldozer is a D10 with a blade bid enough to clear a 2-lane road with one swipe. A D1 then is the smallest Cat blade and really just a shovel handler by one of the crew. There are a lot of really important jobs here from electrician to D1s.

You can see from the weather data that it is going to be harder and harder to find my quadrat, much less record data from it as it gets buried by drifting snow.

I did do a little housekeeping in my tent last night and I hung my calendar, a piece of the Christmas tree that stands in my house in Maine, and a few family pictures. Since I am going to be here for another 5 weeks I might as well make it comfortable.
December 18, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 9 pm
Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W
Elevation: 1820 m (5919’ )
Temperature: -15 °C ( 2 °F)
Wind speed: 30 km/h (19 mp/h) gusts to 48km/h (30mp/h)
Wind Chill: ~
Clouds: clear –100’ visibility at WAIS Divide
Wind direction: W
Relative Humidity: 78%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: Blowing snow, basically whiteout conditions.

Now I know how well (and how loud) an Arctic Oven tent holds up at “night”. It held up to 19 mph winds with gusts to 30 mph but it was a lot louder than the dorm in McMurdo. Today I will add a few more tie-downs to my tent and maybe it will shake a little less. I might also consider ear plugs. Other than the noise the tent is quite comfortable. Lots of room for one person and gear and with my -40 F sleeping bag I was toasty all night. I had to get up to go to the outhouse once during the night but it was more a chance to walk around outside at night (remember it is still 24 hours of light) in the blowing snow. Takes a bit of work to get redressed each time but part of the game around here. Looks like everyone else is settled in and in a day or two I will be right at home here in these conditions. Today I am on construction detail and will assist in putting together more of the equipment needed to process the ice cores. Geoff Hargreaves is the curator at the National Ice Core laboratory (NICL) in Denver Colorado and he is here in the field with us to put everything together and oversee the ice core packaging. NICL is the national repository for ice cores drill all over the world by US science projects. It stores ice cores and provides the facilities for scientists to come and process their ice cores into pieces that they will use in their research. Once the WAIS Divide ice cores are drilled they are put into trays and run through the processing line here in the field. Mostly that involves bagging, labeling, and storing the cores.

Today most of us spent the day in the drill dome which is between -25 C and -10 C (-13 F and 14 F) putting together equipment that we will need once we start collecting ice cores.

More tomorrow but the forecast is for continued whiteout conditions so it may be a slow day at work.

The only science investigations that are taking place here on site are the DEP (Dielectic Profile which measures the annual cycle of chemical species), down hole temperature measurement, and physical properties. The DEP uses an electrical current to measure the amount of “stuff” in the ice. The stuff can be volcanic particles or dust and help to date the ice core among other things. The physical properties work is to identify some layers and to also provide dating. Some of the ice cores are fairly solid and some are very brittle. The brittle ones will actually be stored here under the snow in a hollowed out freezer which should give them time to equalize with the surface atmosphere. The deep layers of ice are under increasing pressure with depth and often pop and crack when brought to the surface.
December 17, 2007
WAIS Divide camp Antarctica

Time: 9 am
Latitude: 77° 49.98’ S- McMurdo
Longitude: 166° 49.10’ E - McMurdo

Latitude: 79° 28.10’ S - WAIS
Longitude: 112° 3.56’ W - WAIS
Elevation: 1820 meters (5919’ ) WAIS - McMurdo was at sea level so its elevation was only ~50’

Temperature: -15 °C ( 2 °F)
Wind speed: 30 km/h (19 mp/h)- WAIS Divide
Wind Chill: -28°C (-20°F)
Clouds: clear – McMurdo , 500’ visibility at WAIS Divide
Wind direction: W
Relative Humidity: 75%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: clear in McMurdo but blowing snow at WAIS Divide

Yea!! We are off. Our 8:30 departure from McMurdo was actually an 8:30 departure just as if it always happens this way and there was never any reason for doubt about getting off the ground and to the WAIS Divide camp. In this morning flight, other than tons of cargo are the rest of the drilling group; Laurant, Bill, Nicolai, and Paul. Also on board is our Kiwi generator mechanic Ben, Ken (the WAIS Divide Ice Core Project Chief Scientist), a GA (general assistant) to help around camp named Zack, my fellow core handler Anais, and myself. The nine of us are psyched to get out of McMurdo and get on with the project. I am sure that once we get to camp there will be plenty of our favorite shoveling and tent set-up to do. We should get there in about 5 hours, sometime after lunch – which we brought with us in handy little prepackaged lunch boxes (not the best food on the continent but we appreciate the service).

I want to continue with yesterday’s discussion about the collecting of observations and data with the 3d quadrat I will install at the WAIS Divide camp.

What we observe in our areas (here of at home) as a warm or cold day could be misinterpreted as a change in climate if we do not have any reference for what the “usual” conditions are. Any warm or cold day could be just a normal variation in the weather in that area at that time. For example, a lower than normal winter snow-pack in my area at home could be misinterpreted as a change in climate and possibly even global cooling. Climate is defined as the average weather over a 30-year period so any one winter’s snow pack or daily temperature does not necessarily reflect a change in weather or global climate. Though if we continually to make observations and find that we are getting less snow than our usual winter snow packs, and it happens again and again for years and even decades then we have to wonder if the climate may have changed.

Once we decide that our long-term over 30 year long lower snow pack data does indicate a change in climate we have to then wonder why it is happening, and if it is either possibly a “normal” long-term cycling variation that Earth has gone through for millions of years or if the change in snow pack in Southern Maine we have observed is caused by something different. The processes starts with finding out if other places on Earth are also experiencing lower than usual snow pack years. If not, then maybe Southern Maine is just experiencing unusual changes. If though, many areas on Earth are observing similar changes, then we might have some real change going on that we need to investigate still further.

Temperature varies, sometimes dramatically, from one small place to another. Even within a 1m3 area there are variations in temperature. You should measure the temperature at the ground level and also at the top of a 13m 3d quadrat before and after the Sun rises in your area. What you will find is a, often dramatic, change in temperature between the ground level and 1m up from the ground and that the temperature difference changes rapidly as the day progresses due to heating of the surface. It is not just temperature but all the other weather parameters that we should consider and how they interact with each other. For example, if the temperature is different at the top and the bottom of the 3d quadrat at any one time during the day then how is the humidity affected since the moisture is largely in the surface (ground/soil) and it is temperature that determines the amount of water that can be evaporated into the air changing the percent of relative humidity. If humidity does change, then how does that water vapor transfer from the ground into the atmosphere and go into cloud formation and form precipitation? The “Butterfly Effect” says that everything is interconnected and related and no one thing can happen without it influencing changes in other things. So it is with the global climate system. No one place can change its weather and climate without some influence on or by the weather and climate in other places.

Certainly within the area of the entire of the McMurdo Station or the WAIS Divide camp there is a great variety in temperature due to topography, elevation change, and the surface material. The variation here at McMurdo may be as great as 10 oF due to the difference between black volcanic material and some ice/snow on parts of the surface. This makes it very difficult to understand that any one measurement in an area can be “the” average of temperature – like global average temperature. The amount of variation around the globe in temperature is extremely great and we need to understand variations between large and small areas.

The 3d quadrat then is a micro scale version of the entire globe. In fact, within every 3d quadrat the same chemical and physical cycling is taking place that is happening around the global. And not only temperature, but wind, humidity, surface and atmospheric chemical and physical cycling (like the water, nitrogen, and carbon cycles) occur inside every 3d quadrat. The exact same concentration of chemicals does not occur in every 3d quadrat, if they were placed at every school-yard across the globe, but in each 3d quadrat the same chemicals and earth system dynamics occurs in every cube.

If we can then first observe/measure and ultimately understand what is happening inside only a small 1 3m area than we can more easily understand what happens within the entire global system. A 3d quadrat is a micro-version of the global climate system that we can actually get our hands around (pun intended). It changes the problem of trying to understand the entire gigantic global climate system into one that is a little easier - essentially we are only responsible for 13m, though one that reflects changes in the entire globe.

The first step is to very carefully observe and record what is happening with weather in your area (3d quadrat), then to compare the observations with other areas (3d quadrats at other schools). Once we establish the changes that are taking place then we can start to find out why. Even though climate is a 30-year average and we are only observing daily weather, we can start to record our observations, compile a longer record, and compare our observations to other established records. This work is very valuable by adding to the important scientific record, by adding to our personal understanding of how weather and climate operate, and to our understanding of how we are intricately involved in the system.

We made it - WAIS Divide camp finally!!! A bit if a reunion with our colleagues that preceded us out here. Gone are the mountains, rocks, roads, and everything that is not plain white surface that extends to the horizon in every direction for what seems like forever.

The first thing we did was to set up Anais’s tent called an Arctic Oven. Not sure how warm these tents will be but they are square-shaped and yellow. There was another Artic Oven tent already set up and unoccupied, so I moved into that one. We also helped Ken dig out a tent that was set up for him. That little job took and hour. We then took a quick tour of some of the camp buildings and then off to the drill tower to see the progress there. WAIS Divide camp is really a small city with a medical tent, a galley tent and eating area, a science tent, about 30 personal sleeping tents, a drill dome and a number of other small tent-buildings that house various equipment, and piles and piles of crates. We even have an oven for baking and electricity from generators to power computers and electric lights. This might not be your first impression of the middle of West Antarctica but in order to drill an ice core this deep it is going to take a lot of people and equipment, and it takes a lot of power to make it all happen and keep this many people (50 so far) warm and feed.

Tomorrow we will start putting together the remaining unassembled equipment. We do have an Internet connection here through our satellite link but it only operates a few hours a day and does not have enough bandwidth to upload images. I will be sending images out through the mail via the frequent flow of LC-130 airplanes and little by little the images can be added by colleagues receiving the images at home.

PS The communications from WAIS Divide camp is a little sketchy and I will not be able to report every day but will as often as possible.
December 18, 2007
WAIS Divide field camp, Antarctica

Time: 11:11 am
Latitude: 79.467° S
Longitude: 112.085° W
Temperature: -12 °C ( 10.4 °F)
Wind speed: 74 km/h (46 mp/h)
Wind Chill: 0 °C ( 32 °F)
Clouds: cloudy
Wind direction: S to E
Relative Humidity: 80%
Barometric Pressure: n/a
Precipitation: n/a

Special Note: This posting is being submitted by Scott Battaion, Media Coordinator at the Wright Center and fellow WAIS Divide Outreach Program (WDOP) educator, currently at the Corvallis field station in Montana.

Zach sent an email to let me know that he has arrived at the WAIS Divide field camp in one piece. Conditions there are a bit severe right now and he has very limited access to the Internet (that's why I'm posting today's blog).

After several days of waiting in McMurdo, the weather cleared up enough to get a plane out and the team jumped at the chance to head to the drilling site. Zach said when they touched down the wind was kicking some strong gusts and it was snowing pretty hard. With the weather being as it is everyone is in for the long haul. Fortunately, all is well at the camp and everyone is just waiting out the weather as they prepare to get down to some serious ice coring business.

Stay tuned for the next update...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 16, 2007
McMurdo Antarctica

Time: 10 pm
Latitude: 77° 49.98’ S
Longitude: 166° 49.10’ E
Temperature: 3 °C ( 38 °F)
Wind speed: 6 km/h (4mp/h)
Wind Chill: 0 °C ( 32 °F)
Clouds: clear
Wind direction: W
Relative Humidity: 17%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0

I still have not gotten an opportunity to set up my 3d quadrat to collect observations/weather data. All of the data I have posted on the blog so far has come from Weather Underground .com, weather stations along my travels, or the McMurdo weather station. When I get to WAIS camp, installing my 3d quadrat is one of the first things I will do. I am going to take a little time here to explain the 3d quadrat concept since I know that there are a number of schools out there that have installed a 3d quadrat at their school and are using it to collect observations/data. A 3d quadrat is a 1 3m cube made of PVC tubing, or in my case at WAIS,
I will build one out of bamboo since it is study and readily available in Antarctica
for flagging walking routes/plane runway. The pieces of bamboo I will
use actually came out of one of the dumpsters here in McMurdo. My
1 meter long poles are the good half of broken bamboo flagging poles.
I have mentioned a number of times about trash disposal here and how it
is highly sorted and all transported to California on a ship at the end
of the summer season to be properly disposed of. Dumpster diving in McMurdo
is called Skua, named after the large gulls here named Skuas that are
seen around station collecting scrap bits of food. The better the job
everyone does cleaning up after themselves and not leaving food around
outside then the fewer Skua we see. So, my bamboo poles are termed Skua
since I got them out of a dumpster.

Once my 3d quadrat is installed at WAIS Divide camp it then becomes the “place” where I collect my observations and weather data. If I reported the temperature at WAIS
Divide you do not know exactly where I collected that temperature and
for how much of that area that temperature applies. I could collect it
outside the galley and call it the WAIS temperature but that might not
be a good representation of the temperature for the entire camp. When I
collect the temperature and other data it will be from
the area inside my 3d quadrat. Then we can take that number and think about how it applies to the temperature for the rest of the WAIS
Divide camp. The only way to really know if it a good approximation of
the temperature for the entire camp is then to test it and collect
other temperature measurements around camp and compare them. Since
schools and other folks around the world do not have a galley tent or a
drill dome to measure the temperature at we are all finding an “open”
space to install 3d quadrats so that we are all taking our observations/data from the same kind of place.

This may sound a little wonky that we really care exactly where at any place
we collect observations/data but we need to standardize as much as we
can when we go to compare observations from one place to another. We also
care what the variation in temperature around any “small” area on Earth
might be and what we record as the (average) temperature for that area. Part of the problem in understanding climate change and global warming is comparing our observations from different spots on Earth. Later I will talk more about 3d quadrats and how collecting observations/data and understanding their importance. At this point you may be interested to use the weather data at the head of each blog to compare to your home area.

Today I also took a guided tour of the pressure ridges on the sea ice outside
the Kiwi Scott base. Pressure ridges are formed as the sea ice is
pushed by the advancing ice shelf up against the shore and the sea ice that is frozen
to the shore. Since the sea ice here is only 2-4 meters (6-12 feet) thick it easily
buckled by the pressure of the advancing ice shelf. The pressure ridges
I saw were 1-5 meters (3 – 15 feet) high above the rest of the sea ice. These ridges are spectacular to see up close and they also create breaks in the sea ice through to
the water underneath which provides a place for seals to surface and emerge. These Weddell Seals all seem to be over 500 lbs and lie around on the sea ice basking in the sun leaving periodically to eat.

The images today are of pressure ridges, seals, and a new plume off Mt Erebus.

Friday, December 14, 2007

December 15, 2007
McMurdo Antarctica

Time: 9 am
Latitude: 77° 49.98’ S
Longitude: 166° 49.10’ E
Temperature: 2 °C (36 °F)
Wind speed: 12 km/h (8mp/h)
Wind Chill: ~ -1 °C (31 °F)
Clouds: mostly cloudy
Wind direction: SE
Relative Humidity: 23%
Barometric Pressure: rising
Precipitation: 0

Life in McMurdo Station is very interesting. The Raytheon support staff work very hard 60 hours per week. The also play just as hard on their free time. I already mentioned that since it is Antarctica, and a storm could blow in at any time, the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) is very careful about who goes where, when, and how. If you have free time you can borrow/rent skis, climbing shoes, mountain bikes etc from the gear store but you can only use the equipment between McMurdo Station and Willey’s field airport – about 8 miles. You can not just ski anywhere due to crevasse dangers and potential storm/whiteout conditions. On a nice day you can ski the Castle Rock ski trail that took Sylvia, Anais, Gabby, John and I under 3 hours to ski. Or you can ski, run, or bike out to Willey’s field which takes about the same amount of time. You can also ride the 2-3 miles around Ob Hill or out to the Kiwi Scott Base. On station there are 3 places to go out in the evening to play billiards or darts, one bowling alley, one movie theatre, two climbing walls, and three gyms with weights and aerobic exercise machines. They also have unlimited movies and music on the TVs. Folks here also spend time on e-mail and the Internet and on an almost unlimited number of social get-togethers to do anything from play cards, to knit, to yoga, to almost anything that someone wants to organize. There is also a Chapel on station – Chapel of the Snows – that provides spiritual communion for a number of different religions. Antarctic support provides an opportunity for almost anyone interested in living and working in Antarctic to be a part of this program. There is every type of job here from hair cutters to barbers to cooks, and the list goes on. If you are over 21 (I think) and interested in working in Antactica then you should Google Raytheon Polar Services and find out about their job fairs. If anyone is interested in working in polar regions as a scientist then the route is a little different and involves working in college level science programs. There are outstanding programs available at many major universitites.

I had some exciting news yesterday afternoon. Ken put Anais and I on the fly list to get to the WAIS Divide camp today. That will leave Gabby, Sylvia, and John here to do the last of the packing and leave as soon as they can – maybe Monday. The organization to get out of McMurdo on a flight starts with going to “bag drag”. That means that you pack up all your personal gear again, drag it to a building where it is weighed and tagged and then jump on the scale with all your hand-carry items (lap tops etc) wearing your ECW gear. They flight crew needs to get the weight of every piece of cargo, including people and clothing, in order to fill a plane with the right amount of gear. Too much weight makes it dangerous for the planes to fly and land. Anais and I did bag drag at 7:30 in the evening yesterday to prepare for an 8 am flight to WAIS Divide. Fingers crossed but so far all the scheduled flights to WAIS Divide have been cancelled for the past two days. It is strange though since the weather here has been spectacular but the weather at the South Pole Station (we call it just Pole) and WAIS Divide camp are so crummy. I am very psyched to go as soon as possible and get on with our project though at the same time feel sorry for the three that need to stay and finish up here. They will be there soon enough I guess. Seems a little funny to want to rush out to the deep field and give up a dorm room and all this recreation intermixed with science/cargo work for my own tent and a ice core drill dome and ice core processing room that averages around
-20°F but I am really looking forward to getting there as soon as possible.

…..I got more news as I sat here writing today's blog entry- the flight was cancelled for this morning. Maybe later today but? Typically there are no flights on Sundays so it may be two more days before we get out. We are two flights behind and with the weather problems we have been having the Flight Ops (operations) might decide to get in there if the weather opens up anytime?

Today’s images are of - most of our team still here at McMurdo as we toured Scott’s Discovery Hut. From left to right ,
first row -Ken and Zach
second row- Sylvia, Gabby, Anais, Paul (from Ice Core Driling Services –ICDS- and on our drill team), John, and Nicolai (ICDS)
In the background is sea ice and a corner of Scott’s Discovery HUt

The other image is of a touch tank of sea critters here in the Crary Science building. These critters from the sea outside McMurdo and are part of someone’s research project. There are dozens and dozens of fabulous research projects going on here in Antarctica.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007
McMurdo Antarctica

Time: 9 pm
Latitude: 77° 49.98’ S
Longitude: 166° 49.10’ E
Temperature: 2 °C ( 36 °F)
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5mp/h)
Wind Chill: ~ -1 °C ( 31 °F)
Clouds: clear
Wind direction: West
Relative Humidity: 20%
Barometric Pressure: steady
Precipitation: 0

still. Not that I am unhappy to be in this spectacular setting with
four meals a day, nice hikes, and terrific people, but a tent in the
middle of West Antarctica at the WAIS Divide camp would be really nice
right about now. Ken and the drilling engineers were bumped off two
flights today because the weather at WAIS camp is not good enough to let
the plane land so they are back with us for another day or two. As I
said, the weather here is still terrific but it seems not as nice at WAIS Divide camp. The word from WAIS
Divide camp is that things are progressing well there and that we
should try and get there as soon as we can so that we can help with the
last of the organization before they start drilling and collecting core.

Everyone here is well. We have definitely learned a lot
about each other in our days together and I still think that we will be
a great ice core processing team. Funny how each person has started to
fill a niche and we are learning to rely on each other forseparate
tasks. My new colleagues are all very qualified and intelligent
individuals and a blast to spend time with. You can learn more about
all the team members on the science web site -

weather here is a little hard to take, for Antarctica. At or slightly
below freezing, blue sky, no clouds, and little wind. If I was home I
would think it was March and spring skiing. The are pools of water
forming on the sea ice on the most heavily used snowmobile roads and
water running all over the station forming little streams through the
think dusty volcanic surface. This whole of Ross Island is composed of
volcanic materials, compliments of Mt Erebus, and as the snow melts
away it becomes a very brown dusty dry almost desert landscape, with
the exception of the melt streams. I was even able to climb Ob Hill
today in a t-shirt and light jacket.Anais and I were on a scavenger hunt today looking for a power supply to take to the WAIS camp for one piece of her equipment and stopped to look at an automatic weather station map in the Crary Science Building and we could see that the temperatures at WAIS Divide camp are just slightly colder.

we got a tour of Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery hut. This hut was
built during Scott’s 1901-1904 National Antarctic (Discovery)
Expedition and is only a 15 minute walk from our dorm. It seems very
displaced next to “modern”McMurdo station. The hut has been left as it
was built and occupied over a hundred years ago. There are even still
items that Scott and his man used during this expedition hanging on the
walls inside the hut. Even penguins and seals that the expedition used
for food are well preserved in the intense dryness and cold. The NewZealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) - -maintains the four huts of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackelton, and Carston Borchgrevink in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, all relatively close to McMurdo
Station. Discovery was the first of the huts built on Scott’s first
trip to Antarctica. You need a guide to visit inside the hut but can
always just walk around outside. After seeing the condition of the
inside of the hut it is almost unbelievable that 35 men could survive a
year in a hut that I estimated to be only about 25’ by 25’. It was
expeditions like Scott’s that “broke” the ice barrier and initiated the
exploration of Antarctica. A lot of what we do here it built on what
was done over a hundred years ago.

The three images are of the continually browning McMurdo Station with Observation Hill in the background, and Scott's Discovery hut inside and out.

We have heard from many friends and students through our home e-mails about this blog. Thanks for all your well wishes and questions. It is great to have you all onboard. I encourage everyone to also comment on the blog which will give us a better idea of where all our readers are from and their particular interests in this ice coring project. Please tell your friends to join us throughout the research project. Thanks

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 12, 2007
McMurdo Antarctica

Time: 8 pm
Latitude: 77° 49.98’ S
Longitude: 166° 49.10’ E
Temperature: -1°C (30°F)
Wind speed: 11km/h (7mp/h)
Wind Chill: -6 km/h (21°F)
Clouds: clear
Wind direction: NW
Relative Humidity: 33%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0

Happy camper school was a blast. Always cold and a little windy but it was quiet and clear and very white. Happy camper school is a required class that you must take on your first trip to Antarctica (or if you have not been here or over 5 years like me) takes place on the ice shelf only about 3 miles from McMurdo but it could easily feel like a world away. Only half of that distance from McMurdo to happy camper school is on the land and the rest on ice shelf. The ice shelf is comprised of ice that comes from the glaciers flowing off the land on to the sea. The ice shelf is over a 100 feet deep in the location we were camping and moves about a 1 meter a day, not fast enough to really notice. In front of McMurdo and the Kiwi (Scott) Base on Ross Island there is sea ice. Sea ice is only ~5 meters think and slowly melts away during the summer. Within a mile of where we camped was the junction of the ice shelf and the sea ice. You can just barely see this junction from the top of Ob Hill but might not notice it form the ground level. By the time we come back form the deep field WAIS camp the sea ice here will have melted away and there will be open water in front of McMurdo and the Kiwi Base (called Scott Base). The open ocean allows the ship the “Greenwave” to dock here and deliver “freshies”. Freshies are fresh foods, machinery, and all sorts of supplies. The open water also attracts penguins and more seals to McMurdo. Currently there are about a dozen seals nearby that can surface through the openings in the sea ice near pressure ridges. The pressure ridges are caused by sea ice pushing against the land. These seals are all Weddel seals averaging about 500 pounds. So they are not the cute little fuzzy fur seals that may come to mind when you think of seals. From the land they just look like big brown blobs on the ice and the folks here call them sea slugs.

It was a beautiful night at happy camper school and nice to “play” out in the snow with friends. We built snow angels, ice walls, snow caves, and learned lots of terrific information about surviving in extreme cold conditions. Other than the six core handlers we had folks form other projects with us. Even though it is Antarctica we had relatively easy conditions and we actually had a pretty easy time of it. As a team we did a fantastic job cooking, setting up tents, building snow walls, and being out in Antarctica. We also made a quincy which is a kind of snow cave that is built by piling snow on top of all your gear and then digging out the gear. What it leaves is a hollowed out snow cave which is a perfect place to sleep a cold night in Antarctica. There were other quincys left by past happy campers at our camp location and I had one to myself for the night. Nothing is “warmer” and more comfortable than a quincy. During the 30 hours of Happy Camper school we had a couple classes and a final exam on setting tents, building ice walls, using a UHF radio and working stoves in Antarctica– and we arrived back at McMurdo Station by 4pm and I am now recovering.

This place – Antarctica – has many moods. Some of these moods are sutle and some very severe. The way to witness them is to watch and observe over time. The same way we need to watch and observe the changes in our own areas. One way to record these changes is in time-lapse photography. For a terrific time-lapse film on Antarctica go to on U-Tube and see the work of Anthony (Antz)who has been working in Antarctica since 1998 as a Satellite Communications Tech. .

The latest word here is that we are in McMurdo until Monday when we fly to the WAIS Divide camp. McMurdo is a nice place, great to visit, and the people are very friendly but we came here to collect ice at WAIS Divide and I am looking forward to getting to the real work.

The images are of our Happy Camper school setting up camp and of the Kiwi (Scott) Base with Mt Discovery in the background.