Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WAIS - Dec 31, 2008 - Renin

Name: Renin Oliver

Date: 12/31/08
Location: WAIS Divide Kitchen
Time: 9:00 am
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 900 m
Temperature: -16 °C (3.2 °F)
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5 mp/h)
Visibility: unrestricted
Clouds: mostly cloudy
Wind direction: N
Precipitation: none
Animals: human
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal
Lunch: stuffed shells, tortellini
Supper: assorted appetizers (sushi, foie gras, deviled eggs, smoked salmon, cheeses, dips); crab legs, beef tenderloin

Welcome to the kitchen at WAIS Divide! It's the last day of 2008 and we've got quite the dinner planned for everyone tonight. Before I get ahead of myself, I should introduce myself. My name is Renin Oliver and I am the night cook/baker. I feed Tim and others a midnight meal (midnight rations or mid-rats) at the end of their shift, and then also I make breakfast for all of camp. In between I outfit everyone with cookies and fresh bread for the day, stock the snack shelf (nick-named 7-Eleven for how much stuff we have), and make the beverages for the day (grind the coffee, make the powdered milk, and the juice/gatorade/Raro (New Zealand kool-aid). As I work the night shift I normally am not awake for lunch, and barely wake up for dinner – but tonight's different! We have a great spread of food to send us into 2009!

Everyone get off early, around 3pm today, and that's when the appetizers and party begin! As it's a special day some people dress up, or just put on a clean shirt. I will wear the same thing I've worn for the last two holidays we've celebrated here, but it's just nice to not wear my kitchen clothes for a change. It will also be a great time to see everyone at camp at the same time, since right now there are shifts working around the clock, we sometimes don't see each other (even though there are only ~50 of us or so) for days on end!

This will be the first New Year's for many of us to celebrate it in the light. The dining area (aka galley) has skylights which can be covered, so it's at least a bit darker when we eat dinner and have our party. The arch has a nice stereo that will likely be brought down, so there will be a lot of music and fun to be had! Normally around midnight on New Year's Eve I have the TV on, showing the ball drop in Times Square, and do the countdown that way, so this year should be interesting. Everyone's watches are set differently, so we may just be jumping around celebrating 2009 for 5 minutes to cover all our bases. I don't know how many people will chicken out and go to sleep before midnight, as our days are long and people tend to sleep earlier here – but there will definitely be enough people to stay up and party into the new year.

Since I work the night shift, I'm used to sleeping at 9am and spending the whole night hanging out in the kitchen. Surprisingly enough I'm not by myself very often, as people on the night shift stop by for a snack, or others getting off their shift hang out and play cards in the galley – so it's definitely not very lonely. I think for tonight the weirdest thing for me (besides celebrating New Year's in the daylight) is to have so many people awake at the same time as me.

Other than that, I should get to bed so I can wake up in time for appetizers and the party, and a yummy dinner at 6pm!!!!

Happy New Year to everyone who will celebrate it in the dark!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

WAIS - Dec 30, 2008 - Spruce

Name: Spruce Schoenemann

Date: 12/30/08 (Actually 12/31/08 now that I'm off-shift and finished
with Mid rats)
Location: WAIS Divide Science
Time: 14:30 am
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 875 m
Temperature: -17 °C
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5mph)
Visibility: Unrestricted
Clouds: 1/8 cloud cover
Wind direction: 290 degrees (out of the northwest)
Barometric Pressure: 29.10 in Hg
Precipitation: none
Breakfast (actually lunch at camp, noon): Slept through lunch, so ate grapenuts cereal, yogurt, dried cranberries, maple syrup, and coffee
Lunch: (actually dinner at camp, 6 pm): Chicken Pot Pie, Veggies, Mashed Potatoes
Supper (mid-rats, midnight): Fancy Pasta w/ Turkish meatballs and veggies

Hello to all the WAIS Divide blog followers out there. Tonight was officially New Years Eve Eve. Yes, that’s right, Shift 2 gets two New Years Eves as we are off starting tonight until 3pm on New Years Day. To celebrate, we are enjoying our mid rats dinner so wonderfully prepared by Renin.

From Tim’s last blog entry I think you get a pretty good sense of the process of core handling and the science that will be done on the cores once back in the states.

So, I am going to take a more reflective approach to this blog, since it is the end of a year and the start of a brand new one. Looking back on 2008, I realize it has been a very interesting and exciting year. I want to share how I ended up here at WAIS Divide as a core handler in the first place. Last winter I applied to a number of graduate schools to start a Master’s program in paleoclimate science. As a backup in case I did not receive grant funding for the schools I applied to, I submitted an application to the Science Coordination Office at University of New Hampshire in late February. A few weeks later I got a call from Mark Twickler to set up a phone interview with him and Joe Souney. I was surprised and even more excited that I might have the opportunity to travel to Antarctica AND work on the WAIS Divide Ice Core Project. This would significantly help me gain direct experience in ice core research and paleoclimate science. My hour-long phone interview included questions like “How much time had I spent in isolated environments?” and “What experience did I have working extended periods in extreme cold?” My first response involved the trips I had made aboard ocean going Schooners for extended periods, as well as my experience working backcountry trail crews in Washington and Alaska. For the second question I shared my experiences working as a builder at 8,000 ft during the winter in cold and windy Estes Park, CO.

In late March I was offered a position as 1 of the 6 core handlers. Mark Twickler and Kendrick Taylor needed an answer by April 1st. However, I was still waiting to hear from the last few graduate programs that I hadn’t heard from yet. The deadline for graduate schools to send out final decisions is April 15th, so I explained my circumstances to Mark and Kendrick, and asked them to wait till I had heard from all the graduate schools. In the end, I turned down the one offer I received, to take this amazing opportunity to work in Antarctica on an ice-coring project I had heard and read about for the past few years.

My deployment to Antarctica wouldn’t be until mid November, so everything between April and November had to be targeted toward filling the gap of time effectively in regard to planning for re-application to graduate school, fulfilling prerequisite classes, and finding a temporary but worthwhile job.

I finished my work building lodges at the YMCA of the Rockies in mid May and moved to Boulder in June with my girlfriend who had just found a job working as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist. I enrolled in Physics classes at CU Boulder, and found a great job working on the city of Boulder’s ClimateSmart program in the Office of Environmental Affairs. I worked up until early November for the city of Boulder, while preparing applications for graduate school and leaving for Antarctica. Now I have been here 4 weeks and we have reached to almost 900 meters. I look forward to reaching our goal of a depth of 1500m and the satisfaction that will bring!

Thanks for listening to my story!

Monday, December 29, 2008

WAIS - Dec 29, 2008 - Tim

Name: Tim Bartholomaus

Date: 12/29/08 (Actually 12/30/08 now that I'm off-shift and getting to
my entry)
Location: WAIS Divide Galley
Time: 14:00 am
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 850 m
Temperature: -19 °C (-2.2 °F)
Wind speed: 7.5 km/h (4.5 mp/h)
Visibility: 400 m
Clouds: broken, fog
Wind direction: 260 degrees (out of the west)
Barometric Pressure: 28.93 in Hg
Precipitation: none
Breakfast (actually lunch at camp, noon): Turkey with cranberry sauce, beets, stuffing, sweet potatos
Lunch: (actually dinner at camp, 6 pm): Lamb, with mash gravy, fries, veggie and feta patty with curry sauce, fish chowder, roasted vegetables
Supper (mid-rats, midnight): "Mom's" grilled shrimp with spinach, spaghetti, grilled eggplant and rutebega.

There's a saying around Antarctica that some people like to use: "They lied about the job. I lied to get the job." Mostly, I think this sentiment is confined to some of the folks in McMurdo Station that work for Raytheon Polar Services Company, the US Antarctic Program's logistics and support contractor. Even McMurdo needs garbage collectors and dishwashers, while many people likely come south with grand visions of wide-roaming explorations similar to those of the "heroic age" of exploration.

I would not say that the "lies" saying holds true for any of our core handling crew. In fact, one of the questions on the job application was to the effect of "What experience do you have working long days at -20 degrees C?" It's an honest question, and I think we must have all responded honestly. Everyone seems to be holding up well to the conditions. When I interviewed for this core-handling job, it was described to me as very cold, very loud factory work. This is mostly accurate, although it's not as loud as it could be- for one, I don't need to wear hearing protection unless I'm working right next to one of the four very large refrigeration units that maintain the temperature of our working space between -25 and -30 degrees C (-13 to -22 deg F). However, unlike most factory or assembly line workers, one of our main goals is to handle our product (ice core) as little as possible because it is so brittle (see Logan's 12/17 or Bess's 12/22 entries). Our work on the "factory floor" comes after that of the drillers (who, incidentally, work in a warmer, quieter environment). Once the drillers produce the ice core and pass it to us, our responsibilities, in order of priority, include:

1) Protect the quality of the core so that chemical measurements can be later be made of the ice, trapped air, and dust brought up in the core. This includes keeping the ice cold so that trapped air does not diffuse out of the core, and not inducing any more fractures than are already present within the core.
2) Maintain the top-bottom orientation of each piece of core and its position within the 3,500 m-long (2.2 mile-long) entire ice core.
3) Make preliminary (but as accurate as possible) measurements of the length of each piece of core and any breaks or fractures within each core, so we know from what depth the ice came.
4) Store the ice core in a way that responsibility (1) is met.

Many of the blog entries thus far have discussed camp life, particularly the things that make us most happy: interesting people, beautiful landscapes, good food, fresh food, mail, airplanes, skiing, shenanigans, etc. However, a few people have asked me about what it is that I actually do for work. So, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the steps we take to meet the four priorities outlined above.

The core comes up in the drilling arch (as you might guess: a building shaped like an arch), which is separated from the core processing arch by a thin wall. Once the core barrel is rotated to horizontal, the drillers manually push the core out of the core barrel, from the drilling side to the core processing side, with what looks like a round sponge on a long stick. On the processing side, the core slide into green plastic netting that protects it and helps keep it intact in the event of cracks or spalls off the surface of the ice (on today's shift, we probably had an average of 5 fractures per meter of core).

As soon as we get the core, we measure the lengths of each of the three pieces of core the drillers give us with a slick little device known as a Balluff. The Balluff slides on a rail parallel to and above the core, shines a laser line across the diameter of the ice cylinder, and digitally reads out its position on the rail to the nearest millimeter. A button allows us to reset the Balluff position to zero, thereby allowing us to quickly measure the length of each piece of ice and note the positions of anything interesting (score marks, fractures) along the length of the ice. At this first station, we also count the fractures in the ice, measure the temperature of the ice (typically -31 deg C, mean annual air temperature at WAIS Divide) and of our work space (generally around -27 deg C), draw arrows on the ice surface to indicate the original up direction of the ice (we use pencil), and note the quality of the ice core. As soon as possible, we give our notes to the drillers, so they have feedback and can make any adjustments to their drilling technique, as necessary. From this first station, we slide the core in a 4-meter-long, aluminum tray over to another station that is similarly equipped with a Balluff.

At this second station, we re-measure the core as a double-check, note the type and positions of any fractures, draw hatch-marks across fractures (in case the core falls apart later and needs to be reconstructed), and put identifying marks at set depths on each fragment of ice. From the computer on which we log all of this information, we print a "birth certificate" that contains all of this information and that will travel and live with this ice core for the rest of its "life." From there the core is slid into 1.1-meter, stackable aluminum trays and put on wheeled rack carts. At this point, the core-handler's job is done and the core is passed to those responsible for measuring the electrical (properly, dielectric) properties of the ice.

The head scientist at WAIS Divide, Ken Taylor, has a machine (operated by Natalie and John) that can measure these electrical properties at roughly millimeter resolution along the length of the core. The dielectric properties (DEP) of the ice vary with the concentration of ions, or salts, within the core. It turns out that the salt concentration of snow varies with the season, with maxima each summer. These peaks in concentration are preserved as the snow turns into ice; therefore, each peak measured at the DEP machine corresponds to one year. The DEP machine therefore allows us to quickly, in the field, assess the age of the ice we've pulled up. Just yesterday we logged ice that was on the ice sheet surface, as snow, 3,500 years ago! Maybe one of our readers can shoot us an e-mail with what was happening in the world 3,500 years ago. Unfortunately, we scientists are at something of a loss on our ancient history.

So, that's what's happening on the "factory floor" here at WAIS Divide, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, for about another 3.5 weeks. As you might suspect, it's more complicated than it sounds, with the complications largely centering on how one measures the length of a roughly, irregularly fractured length of ice core. But that can rest for another blog entry.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

WAIS - Dec 28, 2008 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: Dec 28, 2008
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 10pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Borehole depth: ~800m
Temperature: -19.6° C
Wind speed: 4.3 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Clouds: very few on the horizon
Wind direction: 293° Grid
Relative Humidity: 77%
Barometric Pressure: 29.23 mm Hg
Precipitation: None
Animals: House Mouse (see below)
Breakfast: Pizza, fresh salad (!), melon (My breakfast was last night’s dinner at 6pm yesterday)
Lunch: Turkey sandwich with lettuce (!) (at 3am).
Supper: Toast, a piece of pineapple, cereal (mixed Cheerios and grapenuts), and a muffin. (at 8am)
2nd Breakfast (Camp’s supper): Leftover chicken soup (6pm tonight)

Lots happening here at WAIS today, how do I write it all down and not put you to sleep? After getting done with my 11pm-7am shift catching ice cores as they pop out of the drill, I headed down to the galley to get dinner (which is everyone else’s breakfast). The passing of days here doesn’t mean that much since my definition of day/night is all messed up, but the camp has Sunday off which meant that there was no cooked breakfast this morning. I also found out that I was supposed to be the “house mouse” for the breakfast meal. Since we are living communally here, everyone pitches in to help keep camp running. One of the rotating duties is house mouse which entails doing dishes, cleaning up the galley after the meal, and shoveling snow for the snow melter, since all of the water we use in camp comes from melted snow. So, I did my house mouse duties & then checked my email and went to bed.

When I woke up at 5pm it was still the same day (obviously, but it still catches me off guard all the time). Since it was (still) Sunday, it was time to scavenge through the kitchen & look for food. Over a hearty bowl of soup, I was surprised to find out that there were new people in camp! That’s right, new people! I knew a plane wasn’t scheduled to come today, so how did they get here? While I was at work the previous “night”, a group of people who are working on a geophysics project had driven into camp. This group is working and traveling along a 137 mile transect between WAIS Divide and Thwaites Glacier (north of here) using active source seismic techniques to learn about the ground underneath the ice sheet. The way this works is that they drill a ~50m deep and 10cm wide hole in the ice sheet with a portable drill that is powered by compressed air, then drop about a pound of explosives down the hole & blow it up! The energy from this explosion travels down through the ice sheet and into the bedrock below. When it encounters a change in density, some of the energy is reflected back up to a seismic monitoring station installed at the surface. A change in density could be caused by layering in the ice sheet, water at the base of the ice sheet, or different kinds of rocks below the ice sheet. From this they will be able to tell what the topography would look like if there were no ice in West Antarctica, and give scientists an idea about what to expect if/when we drill into the bedrock at the bottom of the WAIS Divide ice core. Pretty cool stuff.

After dinner a bunch of people started a softball game. This was incredibly fun! We have a real softball, two bats, and we used flags for bases. Probably the best part was sliding into the bases on snow.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

WAIS - Dec 27, 2008 - Anais

Name: Anais

Date: Dec 27th
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 8:40pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -19°C
Wind speed: 4 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction: 69°
Relative Humidity: 73%
Precipitation: None
Animals: 2 new bearded faces
Breakfast: burrito, mango/grape/ strawberry fruit salad
Lunch: delicious fresh vegetable soup, sandwiches with fresh lettuce, coleslaw, bayley’s chocolate delicacy.
Supper: wonderful fresh vegetable salad, pizza, melon and watermelon


I have to talk to you more about the plane. When we get a plane, life changes at camp. You may remember that last time we had a plane, it was very important for the camp, as some of the cargo contained spare pieces for the big 953 caterpilar that a lot of people were waiting on. This time was a little different. Sylvain got his regulator. He was anxious to get it. Brian and Bruce, who are part of the core handling group arrived, and they will change my workload (although I don’t know which way it will change just yet.. more or less?). Brian is working at the national ice core lab, and in a week, Geoff will be able to leave, and Brian will take over for him. Bruce will be the science coordination officer next year, so he comes now to see how things are done, where everything is, and then he’ll get to pack everything so that he can find stuff when he comes in next year. We also got a new equipment operator for the night shift (part of the camp staff). His name is Jason. Planes bring new people. New people are fun. They change the routine. Planes also bring mail. Mail makes people happy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get mail: If your friends are happier, it will automatically make you happier. Plus, often times, they get cool stuff to share.. This time, I got a care package from my family in France. It was a great package. My brother put in a huge box of fancy chocolates. Huge. 750g of chocolate.. 1 ½ lb. Can you imagine? It’s almost 8 bars of chocolate. So, all the people that were in the galley late last night got a piece (and there is more than half left..) Hmm.. Delicious. My father put in the package a large bloc of foie gras, a French delicacy. I gave it to John, the cook, and he said to give it to Camille, the other cook. When she saw it, she was ready to jump to the roof! She said she’ll make brioche for it, and we’ll share it on New year’s day. Perfect. We lamented for a minute on the lack of the appropriate wine, but it didn’t last long. My mother put in the box a very cozy wool shirt that I’m impatient to put on (but I’ll wait for a shower first..), and my sister put in a neck gaiter. I was very happy. I’m still very happy. Some would say I’m always happy anyways, but, yesterday, I felt especially happy. And now, even today, it seems like a continuing feast. If you look at the menu, you will see that we’re having fresh salad and fruits at every meal. It feels so good. There even are apples. Apples that you can bite in, not just bites of apples. After a while eating purely frozen food, I tend to develop a craving for biting into a fresh apple. In the past, when we had fresh food, it was just for one meal. One salad, one fruit per person. But this time, it’s a continuing feast. Last night we had plums and kiwi, this morning, apples and clementines, tonight melons.. It’s just great!

Maybe I should stop talking about food, or you are going to think that this is the only thing I ever talk about. Of course, I’m French, so I do talk about food a lot. And I often write to you after dinner, when it is fully present in my mind, but I can talk about something else, like ice cores. We are working on full 3 shifts now, and things are going really well. The drillers are producing 2.5 m of cores every run pretty reliably. Every shift got to do 6 runs in their shift last night. This is a sign that they have found the right combination of parameters to keep things going. It is hard to drill, because you cannot test anything at home: labs don’t typically have a trial ice sheet under them to drill several hundred meters long cores, and every ice sheet is different. In the brittle ice this year, the consistency of the ice keeps changing, so, even if you are not changing anything, sometimes, it works great, and sometimes it does not at all. Brittle ice coring is for smart people, there is no routine… On our side, things are rolling too. We get scared sometimes, as the ice pops, like rice crispies in a bowl, and breaks in different pieces. There is nothing we can do about it: it’s sitting in its tray, and popping on its own. We try to be as careful as we can. The drillers are giving us very good core, and so far, most of our cores stay in excellent quality, but the occasional one gets a lot of breaks. So far, we have drilled over 780 meters (200 this season), which takes us back 3500 years ago. If we are able to keep going the way we’re going, it will be a very good season. So we’re all very excited. I hope it keeps being as good as this for a while. We’ll see!


Friday, December 26, 2008

WAIS - Dec 26, 2008 - John

Name: John Fegyveresi

Date: 26 December 2008
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Time: 2200
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: 17°C
Wind speed: calm
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction:
Relative Humidity: 70%
Precipitation: None
Animals: Just the halibut we ate for dinner…
Breakfast: Pancakes, bacon, cereal, etc
Lunch: Quinoa medley, mushroom soup, rice, etc
Supper: Halibut, rice pilaf, and freshies! (fresh fruits and veggies)

Hey everyone. It’s John again. I think I last updated a week ago. Christmas has come and gone and it’s back to the “grind” again. We started up full bore with three shifts last night and are right back into the ice-coring rhythm again. Today when I left the Arch, we had already made it to 730 meters. With the help of the drillers making some modifications on their end, we’ve been able to consistently pull up 2.5 meters every run without issue. We’ve also had no major ice core breaks (yet).

Back home in the States, it was actually Christmas today…so several of us here made some satellite phone calls back home to friends and family. It’s still hard to believe that I can pick up what looks like a large cell phone, and simply dial up my sister who is thousands of miles away in upstate New York and talk to her as if she were just down the street. It was definitely nice to check in with people on Christmas. I know everyone here was really happy that the satellite phone was working.

As far as my own projects….Well, I have been continuing to look at chips and chip fragments from the coring runs to see if I can help the drillers get more efficiency out of the drill. I’ve also been continuing to take and analyze samples from my snow pit that we all dug two weeks ago. Mostly though, I’ve been helping out on the DEP machine. It’s a time consuming station to work at, and unlike the other handling stations, you don’t move around much there. This means you get colder a lot quicker. I am definitely glad that I’ve been able to help, but I have to make sure to take ample warming breaks. My ultimate science goal for this trip is of course to get some samples of ice to make bubble, sections from. I use bubble sections as a part of my graduate school research…so the more I can get, the better my data and findings will be.

On a side note we had a strange occurrence here at camp today. There have been several people that have been waiting to leave (and a few stuck in McMurdo trying to get here) but the flights have been cancelled 4 times. Finally….today….we welcomed the first flight in over a week. All of the new guys got off, and the 3 waiting to leave WAIS got ready to board the aircraft for a takeoff about an hour later. It was then, that we got word that weather all over Antarctica would be terrible tonight except for here at WAIS. So, something that hardly ever happens…..happened: The return flight back to McMurdo was cancelled. The 6 military flight crew of the LC-130 are now stuck here overnight and the plane is sitting out on the ski-way completely shut down. The pilot told us that in 11 years of flying Antarctic missions, he has never been stuck at a field camp….until now! Of course for us…this was exciting. Some of the science crew decided to give them all a tour of the ice core arch and give them the lowdown on what we do here. We also have an extra building here at camp for pilots to sleep in…just in case something like this happens. As of right now the weather here is beautiful, so in my opinion they are all getting a nice relaxing night here at camp. The new return flight is now scheduled for 7 am tomorrow, so they will probably go to bed very soon.

So that’s about it for today. Merry Christmas to everyone back home and thanks again for keeping up on our little adventure down here! -john

Thursday, December 25, 2008

WAIS - Dec 25, 2008 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: Dec 25, 2008
Location: WAIS Divide Galley
Time: 7:30 pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 700 m
Temperature: -16 °C
Wind speed: 2 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction: 040° Grid
Barometric Pressure: 29.06 mm Hg
Precipitation: None
Animals: None except the dead ones we are eating.
Breakfast: Leftovers (I was sleeping)
Lunch: Leftovers (I was sleeping)
Supper: Leftovers: Veg curry, spinach soup w/ chicken, mashed potatoes.

Merry Christmas to all of you intrepid blog readers from WAIS Divide!! Today was a pretty slow day with everyone recovering from last night’s extravaganza and enjoying a much needed day of rest. I have been working on the night shift (which goes from 11pm-7am), so in order to keep my sleep schedule on track I was awake from 5pm on Christmas eve until 8am (watching movies) on Christmas day, then slept till around 4pm. I got up, made a few phone calls on the sat phone to family, then worked on editing a research paper for a couple of hours. In a little while (at 11 tonight) I’ll head back to the arch and start my workday.

There is one thing that I wanted to add about the Christmas eve festivities. Bess (who provided motivation) and Jonathan (our local weatherman who provided the lyrics) joined forces and put together a mini WAIS Divide choir and we sang Christmas carols to everyone in the Galley just before dinner last night. After that Ben, the camp manager told us that there is a tradition in Antarctica for field camps to sing Christmas carols to one another via HF radio. Our HF radio wasn’t working well at the time, so we called McMurdo on our sat phone and they re-broadcast our singing to all of the other U.S. field camps (including the South Pole station). It is so amazing to me that our little WAIS Divide Choir was broadcast all over the continent!

That’s all for now, I need to get ready for work!

Christmas at WAIS Divide. Photo courtesy of Logan Mitchell.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

WAIS - Dec 24, 2008 - Spruce

Name: Spruce Schoenemann

Date: Dec 24, 2008
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: early morning of the 25th
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 690 m
Temperature: -16 °C
Wind speed: 8 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Clouds: Few at 4,000ft, scattered at 12,000ft, 3/8ths coverage
Wind direction: 025° Grid
Barometric Pressure: 29.06
Precipitation: None
Animals: Only Santa Claus (Billy)
Breakfast: Leftovers (I was sleeping)
Lunch: Pasta w/ Marinara Sauce and Coffee
Supper: Roast Duck Breast w/ Sweet Mandarin Comfit, Beef Tenderloin, Green beans, Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Cauliflower

Hello again to all those who are following the WAIS Divide Blog. This is my second entry for the blog and today is Christmas Eve day. Due to our strange three-shift schedule, I did not have to work today, however tomorrow on Christmas day our shift 2 will be the first to start up again at 3pm.

I awoke this morning to a warm tent (65° F according to my new keychain thermometer from Kendrick). It was another absolutely clear sunny day at oWAISes. I am starting to wonder if the weather ever gets bad here. All this talk about blizzards and white out conditions was just to scare the bejeezus out of us.

After a slow paced “breakfast” of ribbon pasta, marinara sauce, and coffee, I headed over to the Science RAC tent to burn some pictures of my Antarctic adventures thus far. I will be sending the photo CD home to my girlfriend and parents, so hopefully some of you might get a few pics by email.

On my way to the Science RAC tent I stopped into Comms to check with Ben about the arrival time of the LC 130 and found out that it was canceled. We were all expecting a primary flight to come in this morning with freshies for the Christmas Eve dinner since the last two on Monday and Tuesday had been cancelled. Folks were somewhat bummed since this meant there wouldn’t be any last minute Christmas mail.

During the afternoon I helped transform the Galley into a banquet hall for 44 people. We moved tables into two long rows, set up chairs and an extra table for the White Elephant gift exchange, and hung red, green, and white party streamers along the purlins. Around 4ish we started eating hors d’oeuvres and sipping boxed wine. John, Camille, and Renin helped prepare a scrumptious dinner of roast duck breast, beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans, and creamed cauliflower.

But the highlight of the evening that everyone was waiting for was the White Elephant gift exchange. Santa Billy (head carpenter) arrived to officiate the exchange, but prior to that he allowed a select few (mainly ladies) sit on his lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. The rules of the gift exchange were quite simple. You were given a number, the person with #1 picked the first gift, then #2 could pick another gift from under the tree, or, if they liked number one’s gift they could take it. Any one gift could be stolen up to five times. Through out the evening a few very popular items, like a knitted hat and scarf, were traded multiple times.

Following the raucous gift exchange, arch and table traverses ensued. This entailed someone climbing from the floor of one side of the galley arch to the other side without falling. We made sure everyone was safe by having a spotter. A number of us tried it successfully the first time, so we moved to the more challenging table traverse. There are two ways to go around a table; around the width of the table or end over end. After some demonstrations by Billy and Kiwi John on how to do this, Logan, Tim, Natalie, Ed, Bill M., Bill F and I attempted the strenuous circumnavigation of the table. Bill Mason was the only one able to fully complete the end-to-end traverse but almost everyone made it over, under, and back up around the narrow part of the table.

To wrap of the festive evening we all went outside to sled down WAIS hill (the 30 ft high burm that Dooley made for storing the camp gear over winter). People hauled the banana sleds and Nansen sleds up to the top and piled on 5-10 at a time for a short but exhilarating ride. I put on some cross-country skis with edges and attempted some tele turns on the groomed slope but didn’t have enough speed to keep going. By the time the sledding ended it was officially Christmas Day and everyone wished one another a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

WAIS - Dec 23, 2008 - Gifford

Name: Gifford J Wong

Date: 23 December 2008
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Time: 11:15pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -20.2°C
Wind speed: 4.8 kts
Visibility: Seems like miles and miles!
Wind direction: 20°
Relative Humidity: 70%
Precipitation: None
Altimeter: 28.93
Animals: Just the freshly decorated Christmas cookies in the Galley Rac Tent
Breakfast: “special” French toast with Nutella and melon balls (frozen) @ 0600
Lunch: Curry day – I had the one with chicken!! With fresh naan, dal and rice.
Supper: re-heated mahi mahi, rice noodles and peas’n’carrots @ 2045

Gifford here… another California shout-out to the lovely folks that read this blog!
I’ve noticed a lot of folks have shared some wonderful stories about WAIS Camp, in particular, and Antarctica in general. This IS a fascinating place, without a doubt… but there are times when things can become (incredibly) challenging. Yes, even life at a remote camp with swing dancing, Christmas cookie decorating, and a shower can be difficult.

Today I’ll take a look at how Antarctic science is not as easy as one might think. For example, our foray into 24-hour drilling started a few days (blogs) ago… we have been getting fantastic-looking ice core since. Unfortunately, the complexity in processing and adequately logging this ice core is quite high, and our computer system is finding it challenging. Remember, we’re doing things that, at least for the US Antarctic Program, have never been done before. This said, every one of us has put in quite a few “extra” hours to help the process along. Without meaning to sound melodramatic, a beaker’s life is not all fun and games (“beaker” is an affectionate McMurdo term for scientist), and sleep can be something of a luxury.

Indeed, a friend of mine who is working in the Dry Valley (Antarctic) LTER just wrote me about how she spent 24 hours watching an experiment only to go to sleep for 4 hours and then wake up for another 12 hours of sampling! We don’t have it nearly as rough – we’ve been blessed with pleasingly-short 8-hour shifts. Still, most of us have put in at least one 10, 12 or 14-hour day since arriving to WAIS (with one or two folks putting in even longer days!). Today, for me, was a 15-hour affair… (and it was so worth it!)

The regular 8-hour shift began and ended with no excess drama… we arrived a few ticks before our start looking for a smooth transition between shifts, and we ran a bit long as we needed to help out with ice core movement. We have these “wheeled shelves” (carts) that we use to store the ice cores on, and there were storage carts laden with ice that were ready to be moved from the “ground” floor (the Arch is actually somewhat buried by two years of cumulative snowfall) of the Drilling Arch to the basement. This procedure of shuffling carts to and fro between floors requires a minimum of 4 people, and each shift has 2 core handlers. The process is simple enough, and after a few lifts (and lowers) of the elevator, the Drilling Arch’s ground floor was prepped for another day or so of drilling.

After this quick dance with very old ice, Bess (my colleague and shift-partner) and I then hopped on a snowmobile and headed out to her snow pit to help make it deeper. She had already sampled down to 1.3 meters, and we were aiming to get to 3 meters today. I believe she’s chatted a bit about what she is looking at, and I feel lucky to be a part of this process. After much difficulty (we were using shovels and hand saws due to the nature of her sampling), we made it to a sampling depth of 3.1 meters! I’m sure I will sleep very well tonight!

But in reality, this camp and the science that is going on here is phenomenal. Sure, it may be a little tough getting to Antarctica, and doing science here may be a touch challenging now and again, but we have it so much easier than our predecessors from, say, the Heroic Age (of Antarctic exploration). Many folks in camp are reading books or articles from this period that outline truly difficult and challenging experiences, some of which do indeed lead to lost lives.

Thankfully, we’re not THAT challenged out here! And with that I see that it is 11:15… I think I hear a sleeping bag calling out my name. With that, I just want to say (while I can), Happy Holidaze to everyone out there (with some special love going to my family in Cali and my friends ALL over!!). Oh, and “Go Bears” – my Cal Bears are going bowling this football post-season!

WAIS - Dec 22, 2008 - Bess

Name: Bess Koffman

Date: 22 December, 2008
Location: WAIS Divide Science Rac-Tent
Time: 1940
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Borehole depth: 630 m
Temperature: -21.5°C (COLD °F)
Wind speed: 2.5 kts
Visibility: unlimited
Clouds: a few straggly ones
Wind direction: 354 degrees, N
Relative Humidity: 69%
Precipitation: none
Animals: just the crazy swing-dancers in the galley last night
Breakfast: Eggs, home fries, bacon
Lunch: Grilled cheese with tomato soup
Supper: pork loin, canned corn, mac & cheese

Bess here again. I realized I haven’t really introduced myself, so I’ll do a brief introduction here. I’m working on the WAIS Divide project as a graduate student at the University of Maine, in Orono. I study dust and trace element chemistry in the ice, and am particularly interested in how the chemistry of iron affects phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. Iron effectively fertilizes the little plants in the sea, much like you would fertilize your lawn to make it grow greener. I look at where dust comes from, how big it is, and how much iron it contains. My background is in geology, along with geomicrobiology (studying bacteria that live in/on rocks). I got my undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Minnesota, a wonderful liberal arts college nestled among cornfields. I’ve worked as a field science technician in Antarctica, in Maine, and in Nevada. I’ve also done a lot of outdoor education work, particularly with NC Outward Bound and the Chewonki Foundation. So my interests have been outdoors-focused for my whole life, and working here in West Antarctica is the icing on the cake.
So yesterday here at our field camp was a day off. Folks tend to sleep in a little then gather in the galley (kitchen/dining room) for coffee and breakfast. Our meals are reheated, or scavenged from the shelves of snacks, bread, and cookies that the cooks leave for us. After a half-cup of coffee (thanks to Patrick, our Starbucks guru), I headed over to the Rec Tent to see about playing mandolin. I’m working on learning to play the mandolin, because I love bluegrass music and I love being able to make music with other people. As I was tuning the mandolin, John Fegyveresi came over and pulled out a guitar. He helped me learn a new chord, A minor, and together we played a little. It was really fun. Soon I surpassed my experience level with the mandolin, so I sat back and just listened to John play guitar—he’s really good! We sang a few songs including “Take me home, country roads” and “Wagon wheel,” two great folk songs. The live music filled up my soul and made me smile.

Later, I went skiing out on the skiway (where planes come and go) with Natalie, Tim, and Eddie. I learned some new skate-skiing techniques, and Eddie helped me with my form. I raced back to camp to set up the galley for a dance class. One of the mechanics, Jake, is a really good jitterbug dancer, and together we decided to teach everyone what we collectively know about dancing. Yesterday was our first dance class, and we went over the swing and the jitterbug. I was really impressed with how quickly everyone learned both steps and spins. Pretty soon we were showing some aerial moves—flips and high kicks—and complex spins such as the pretzel. Before I knew it, people were flipping left and right! It was amazing. We had six couples dancing, and had to keep moving tables out of the way in order to accommodate everyone’s moves. Sometime in the next week we hope to teach a salsa and merengue lesson—I can’t wait! Yesterday’s dancing will probably be one of the highlights of my season down here.

Today was a big day: we began 24-hour ice core drilling. This means that us core handlers are working three shifts, around the clock, to process all the core. I’m on the first shift, which runs 7 am to around 4 pm. Today we had a lot of good-looking ice core come up, but we also noticed that the core is starting to get more brittle. Ice gets brittle because it’s under such great pressure at these depths, that when you bring it up to the surface, some of the air bubbles can explode, fracturing the ice. The ice is really sensitive to warm temperatures, bumping and jostling. It will even break with no provocation! We have to treat it very carefully to keep it from breaking. This ice will remain in a cellar below the drilling arch, where it will stay very cold and still for at least a year before it gets shipped back to the U.S. This will allow it to “acclimatize,” which we hope will make those bubbles less sensitive to bumps and bruises. As we progress through the season, we expect the ice to get more and more brittle. Our goal is to push through to deeper ice that is under such great pressure (imagine two miles of ice crushing it!) that the air bubbles actually become incorporated in the crystal matrix of the ice. When this happens, it’s called clathrate-hydrates and the ice becomes blue and clear, not opaque like it is now. So, stay tuned to find out if we get that deep!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WAIS - Dec 21, 2008 - Ken


Great news from WAIS Divide, all our equipment is working, the procedures have been developed, the crews have been trained, and the cooks are making it very difficult to the avoid eating too much.

We received the critical parts for the Cat 953 tracked forklift that is needed to load heavy pallets on planes and many other tasks. The piston bully which is used for snow removal and grooming is back from McMurdo after mid season repairs.

It took a few days of coring for ICDS to figure out a set of procedures that allows us to drill one meter of ice, raise the drill to break the core free from the ice sheet, and then drill a second one meter section without bringing the drill to the surface between runs. This produces clean fractures on the ends of the one-meter sections. For comparison, last year when we tried to cut the brittle ice from this depth into one-meter long segments the ends would shatter and damage the core. This is a new method that has not been done before and so far it is working very well. ICDS is now focusing on increasing the speed of all aspects of the operation that will not influence core quality.

Core handling operations are also going well. The new system for vacuuming drill fluid off the core is every effective. The new system for applying the netting around core is much better then last year, but it does require significant muscle power to prepare the netting for the next core. We are holding the temperature of the core processing area at -30 C to minimize the thermal shock to the core. The combination of new core handling procedures and a colder core handling area have resulted in excellent core quality and a hearty core handling crew. I expect core quality to decrease as we go deeper and get into the seriously brittle ice. We also cut a core that was drilled last year and left onsite for the winter. Last year when this core was cut the end shattered. This year after the ice had relaxed for a year, the ice cut smoothly. This validates the concept of leaving brittle ice onsite for a year so it can relax and be less susceptible to damage during shipment. The electrical measurements on the core are showing a nice series of annual layers that we can use to determine the age of the ice.

Our current bottom depth is 621 m, which is 40 m below where we started this year. Now that we have everything prepared, we will start production drilling with 24 hour/day operations.



WAIS - Dec 21, 2008 - Natalie

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: Leftovers

Hi. This is Natalie Kehrwald again adding to our WAIS adventures. Sunday is our day off at camp, which was welcome after our first few days of drilling and getting used to working in shifts. People who are adjusting to the night shift are given a bit of extra time to get ready for working from 11 pm until 7 am. Our camp is using New Zealand time to keep on the same schedule as McMurdo, but since we are in a different part of the continent, this means that “night” here actually includes the warmest part of the day. The fact that the sun will not set until late February also helps with working different drilling and core processing shifts.
Sunday is definitely the preferred day for laundry and showers. I walked into the recreation tent expecting to see many people waiting their turn to transform from scruffy to clean, but instead there was a group singing and playing instruments including guitars, a mandolin, and a Celtic drum. People waiting were drawn to the music and just hanging out or reading and it made for a really relaxing morning.

I went for a ski after lunch with friends, and on the way back we ran into a very bundled person flying a 6 meter long kite. Because we could only see the person’s nose sticking out of all of their layers, Bess and I yelled over to see who it was. It turned out to be Kiwi (so nicknamed because he is the only New Zealander currently in camp) who is a mountaineer and mechanic. We have a few gigantic mining bulldozers in camp that are used to dig out the drilling arch after winter, and to clear buildings after summer storms. In addition, we have snowmobiles and forklifts that we need to move cargo or conduct work in farther away locations. The mechanics in camp are responsible for keeping all of these machines running, and may have to repair snowmobiles outside during blizzards. But, since today was a day of play, we were able to spend a part of the afternoon flying kites. The 6 meter kite can be used with skis to take advantage of the wide wide open spaces around here, and we also flew a 2 meter kite that is mainly used for tricks.
When I came back to camp, I stopped by the galley where Bess was giving swing and jitterbug dance lessons. Our eating tables were folded out of the way, and people were laughing and doing flips in the air. Some of my flip attempts ended up in me falling or sliding around, but it was generally great to be surrounded by so many happy people. The walls of the galley tent are canvas and so we had to be careful to stay away from the edges so that we did not accidentally do damage to one of the most important structures in camp. We decided to keep up the Sunday dancing in the future, and I am off to dinner and a movie in the non-damaged galley. Life is good.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

WAIS - Dec 20, 2008 - Tim

Name: Tim Bartholomaus

Date: December 20, 2008 (only 5 days 'til Christmas!)
Location: WAIS Divide Galley
Time: 11:15
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -26 °C (-15 °F)
Wind speed: 8 km/h (5 mp/h)
Visibility: ~5 miles (8 km)
Clouds: Overcast
Wind direction: From the north
Precipitation: Light snow
Animals: None
Breakfast: Fried grits, "fancy fruit" muffins
Lunch: Pizza of many different varieties
Supper: Flank steak, chicken and veggie noodle soup, baked potato wedges, pastry with fruit, chocolate cupcakes
Photo notes: DSCN1088.jpg Me in front of our nearly complete seismic stations. The solar panel tower is behind my head. Largely buried behind the solar panel tower is the battery and electronics box. The top of one of the seismometer shields is visible within an excavation at the left of the photo.
IMGP1199.jpg A Nansen sled, hitched to the back of a snowmobile. One corner of the solar panel tower is visible at left.

Tim here; chiming back in. Yesterday, as John Fegyveresi wrote, he and Bob Greschke hauled equipment 5 miles out from camp in order to install an extremely precise instrument to measure shaking at the ice surface. Today, I helped Bob, who works for a science support organization known as PASSCAL, set up this instrument, known as a seismometer. The reason for this unusual mission, unrelated to my traditional duties logging and measuring the deep ice core pulled from the interior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is the specific flavor of my personal research interests. While I'm not in school at the moment, in the fall of '09 I hope to start a Ph.D. in glaciology, with a particular focus on the mechanics and geophysics of how and why glaciers and ice sheets move. In contrast, most of my peers are more interested in paleoclimate and what the chemistry of the ice and air bubbles within the core tells us about past, present and future climate.

Bob Greschke is working on a large-scale project called Pole Net that will establish an array of seismometers across Antarctica to identify and analyze earthquakes from around the world. When he got into camp on the LC-130 flight a few days ago and asked our crew "little boss," Anais, for an assistant, she correctly suspected that I'd be interested in this geophysics assignment. So we loaded up a sled with over 500 lbs of batteries, hitched it to a ski-doo, and drove way off past the end of the ski runway at camp. Once camp, with its 40-odd buildings and tents was nothing more than a smudge on the horizon, we stopped at the equipment cache laid out the day before. At this point, we were surrounded by the expanse of the great flat white (as surrounded as one can be by emptiness). Again, I have to reiterate how stunning it is to be out there. I think Antarctica has actually increased my appreciation for the high plains of the U.S. and other wide-open landscapes. There really is a simple, austere beauty to these places.

The work that Bob and I did out at his WAIS Divide seismic station was rather simple and compares well to assembling a very large erector set then threading it together with power and data cables. First, we bolted together the 5-foot-on-a-side tripod of solar panels and guyed it out to anchors buried in the snow. Then we quarried (with a wood saw and shovel) two large holes into the snow surface into which the battery and electronics box and the seismometer shield could be placed. Into the battery and electronics box, we placed ten large-capacity batteries. Although now, during the summer, there's plenty of sunlight feeding the solar panels to easily keep the batteries topped off, the set-up we installed will be sufficient to keep the seismometer powered through 5 months of continuous darkness. Finally, we leveled and connected the seismometer, and covered it with a series of shields to reduce the impact of air currents that could push ever-so-subtly, but measurably, against the sensor and also protect it from the weather.

When all was set, I stood on the snow 15 feet from the seismometer and swung my body weight forward- pushing my feet against the snow. On a little hand-held computer, Bob and I could then watch as the sensor recorded the shake in three directions: North-South, East-West, and up-down. This was my first time working with a seismometer and, as seismic methods are becoming increasingly used in glaciologic applications, I was happy to have been able to help out with it and extremely impressed with the technology.

One of the things that struck me while I was out installing this high-precision digital instrument was the long history of Antarctic exploration, and how the equipment we use reflects this. For one, we drove out to this remote instrument installation on a small snowmobile that had been painstakingly maintained by U.S. Antarctic Program staff since the 1970s. Although seismometers have been in use since at least the early portion of the 20th century, ours was equipped with a satellite phone antenna so that it could communicate with researchers in the U.S. But the most fascinating pieces of still-active history are the sleds used to tow equipment and people behind snowmobiles. These sleds are named for Nansen, the Norwegian explorer who nearly became the first person to reach the North Pole while using them in 1893. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that the sled we used today may well be over 100 years old, although the sinew, leather, and rope lashings are still present and in good repair. The wood frame is incredibly solid. Despite the abuse these sleds see in doing fieldwork, they are exceptionally well preserved- largely due to the cold and dryness of Antarctica. I marveled at the expeditions this sled must have seen. How much of the continent has it traveled? Which pioneering glaciologists has it met? And what would these pioneering explorers and scientists think if they could see the work we do on the continent now?

On Monday, we start our 24-hr shift rotation in the drilling and core processing arches. I'll be on the second shift with Spruce- working from 3 until 11 pm. I'm really excited- I think we drilled about another 15 meters today, but now is when we're really going to start making serious progress. I kind of like the idea that, even while I'm sleeping, or eating meals, or blogging, we'll be advancing the borehole, and getting more ice core. It's very satisfying to be part of such a motivated, hard-working and productive team.

Friday, December 19, 2008

WAIS - Dec 19, 2008 - John

Name: John Fegyveresi

Date: 19th of December 2008
Location: WAIS Divide field camp
Time: 7:15pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -21.7°C
Wind speed: 5 kt
Visibility: Good
Clouds: Thin clouds
Wind direction: Roughly from the North
Relative Humidity: 76%
Precipitation: None
Animals: A single skua flying around the cargo line
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos
Lunch: Turkey/Cheese Sandwiches
Supper: Catfish and Curry

Greetings everyone! It’s John here…writing from the land of penguins and skua. This is my first stab at updating the blog, so I’ll try to keep it interesting. I think it’s great that all of you are keeping up with our adventure here in Antarctica and I was thrilled when Logan asked me to be a part of the “Blog Update” crew. First off, let me start by telling you all who I am. Unlike Logan and the rest of the core handlers, I am actually down here at WAIS divide to do an independent study of the ice cores. Unfortunately, because the ice is so brittle this season, it will be difficult for me to get any good samples. What this means in a nutshell, is that I’ve basically become an adopted core handler. I’ve offered to help out the handlers whenever there is need. I most likely will not be doing as many shifts as the rest of the core crew, but I will still helping out when needed.

It is Friday night here, which would normally be cause for celebration as the work week comes to an end. Unfortunately here at WAIS, we work 6 full days, and so tonight is just like any other. The first update worth mentioning is the arrival of 4 new people! We have been without any incoming flights here at WAIS divide for several days due to bad weather and mechanical problems with the LC-130 aircraft. Last night, however, a flight finally came in bringing not just 4 people, but a new Pisten Bully and a load of fresh fruit and vegetables. The best way to describe a Pisten Bully, is that it kind of looks like a van but instead of wheels, it has giant rubber tank-like treads that it rides on. It roams around camp pushing and grooming snow out of the way to make it easier for us to travel on foot and snowmobiles.

It’s hard to believe Christmas is less than a week away. We’ve been so involved with getting the ice-coring process working, that we really haven’t had time to think about it. Some of the camp staff put up wooden cut-out Christmas trees in front of some of the buildings and there’s been a few Christmas songs playing at meal times as well. It will be weird that we will all be away from our friends and family for the holidays though. Luckily, we do have satellite phones and email here, so we can all still make calls back home.

We are having another game of softball tonight outside the main food tent. A few nights ago, we played a game and it was a lot of fun. It’s amazing that at even at -20 C, you can stay warm as long as you are running around playing a game. It also brings a little piece of home to such a remote camp, when we all get together to do something familiar like softball or movie nights. We all need a little time to unwind too, or you can really get a little stressed or even homesick. Luckily, everyone here, from the carpenters to the scientists, all seem to get along very well….so having fun isn’t a problem ?

…..So, how about science John?

Well….a lot of progress has been made on the ice core drilling in the past few days. We officially went to two shifts today and we will go to three starting Monday. All of the fine tuning and glitches in the ice coring process are slowly but surely being worked out. Every day that goes by, is one step closer to a perfected process. The drillers pulled up 10 meters this morning, and the core handlers logged it. By next week, we should be at peak production pulling 18-20 meters a day. As Logan said though, it’s hard to predict how this might change once the ice gets more and more brittle. Right now, the ice is still pretty stable.

In addition to my partial core handling role, I’m also doing a few other independent science studies while I’m here. Last week, with the help of the rest of the group, I was able to complete a 2 meter backlit snow pit. The pit basically consists of two separate pits dug into the snow, with a thin wall separating them. One side is left open for light to go into, while the other is covered with plywood. While inside the closed pit, the thin wall is lit up and allows me to see all the snow layers from the past few years. I am able to pick out individual snow storms and see changes in the type of snow between winter and summer months. Hopefully, this will tell me something about how the weather works here in West Antarctica.

There was also another interesting science story from today as well. One of the new arrivals yesterday, Robert, is in charge of installing a seismic station here at WAIS divide. Robert works out at New Mexico Tech, and is associated with a project called Polenet. This project involves putting several seismometers in the Arctic and here in Antarctica that will monitor earthquake activity from around the world. The entire station is self contained and solar powered, so doesn’t need to be monitored. It even has a built in satellite phone that calls in every few days to let everyone know it is still “alive and well”. The basic idea is that anytime a major earthquake happens around the world, this seismic station will eventually pick up the seismic waves as they travel through the Earth and reach Antarctica. Based on the arrival times of those waves, scientists will be better able to determine exactly when and where the earthquake occurred. Add to this a whole mess of additional stations here in Antarctica, and you’ve got a very accurate network of seismometers. Cool Stuff! I spent the day, driving the seismic equipment out to a remote location about 6 miles away from camp on a snowmobile with Robert. We had hoped to get the station up and configured, but ran out of time. What this means is that tomorrow, Tim is going to head out in my place and actually get to do the fun science stuff and actually setup up the equipment.

Anyhoo….I’ve been typing a while now and the softball game is about to kickoff, so I’ll talk to you all later!

signing off….


Thursday, December 18, 2008

WAIS - Dec 18, 2008 - Marie

Marie DelGrego

Date: December 18, 2008
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m

Hi, my name is Marie. I have never written in any blog before, let alone this one. I couldn’t figure out how to get the weather info, so here is my take on our weather. It has been incredibly warm today, for Antarctic standards that is. This morning I was walking from building to building in just my regular shirt. But to be outside for more than a minute or two, I would want my warm coat. The sky has been an incredible, most beautiful color of blue. Not exactly royal blue, not turquoise blue, some where in between and so vibrant you can’t stop looking at it in amazement. There has not been much wind, which is part of the reason it seems so warm to me. I’m a little kooky when it comes to cold though, I go skiing in shorts in the spring…. ? I grew up in Michigan with lots of cold and snow. There have been a few clouds here and there, wispy clouds that fade into broad ripples, very beautiful. And then there is the snow, as I’m sure you know by now, there is more snow here, than anything else.

Ok, pretend you are tiny, the size of a small pea. You are standing on a large white piece of Styrofoam the size of a city block that squeaks when you walk on it. Then imagine an extra extra large blue bowl, big enough to cover that huge piece of Styrofoam. This bowl has been placed over you, but it is not dark, it is incredibly bright and sunny. So bright you have to wear sunglasses or it might hurt. Add in that it is really cold, like standing inside of your refrigerator’s freezer. Now think about your happiest thought, one that makes you smile like never before. That…….is how I feel while I am in Antarctica. I want to cry I am so happy!!!

I am a videographer, not one of the scientists. I am here making a documentary for the WAIS Divide project. That is partly why I am so happy, I love to film things! I got a great shot of a LC 130 air plane today. I set up my camera at the end of the snow runway. I zoomed in on the plane. The plane took off and flew right over the camera by literally around 80 feet! It was loud and fast. It can take several hours to set up for one shot. When the documentary is done I will let Logan know how to access it and you all can see it too. Many of the others dug a huge pit in the snow. There is one pit that is almost 7’ deep 6’ wide and 12’ long. On three of the sides another pit was dug to expose light to the thin wall that now stands between them. They will put large sheets of plywood over the main pit so there is no light in it. When you go inside the main pit with the cover on, all you can see is the little bit of light that now shines through the snow walls. It is a luscious blue color and you can see each layer of snow like the layers in a cake when you cut a wedge out of it. This will be in the documentary too, it’s really beautiful.

As for the food today, the most important part is that it was delicious, as always. They treat us extremely well here. I mean it, gourmet food, really! We never want for anything when it comes to food. I have no idea what I am going to do when I get back to the US and my home. I can’t cook as well as the cooks do here, I am spoiled rotten. Not to mention my pants feel tight already….geez!

Well, it’s time to go relax a bit before bed, it has been a long day.

Ciao, and think warm thoughts for us here in Antarctica, so we can stay toasty warm. ?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WAIS - Dec 17, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell

Date: December 17, 2008
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Time: 11:00pm
Latitude: 79°28?1.2?S
Longitude: 112°5?6.0?W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -23.9°C
Wind speed: 3 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction: NW 319°
Relative Humidity: 77%
Precipitation: None
Animals: None
Breakfast: frittata & Finnish coffee cake.
Lunch: Chicken breast, lentil soup, fresh baked bread, wild rice, and chocolate birthday cake.
Supper: Seafood scampi (mussels & shrimp), orzo pilaf, mixed vegetables, and crème brûlée.

Hey readers, its Logan once again. First off I want to thank all the other core handlers for helping me out with the blog entries! It has been really interesting for me to read about what has been happening here at camp from someone else's perspective, and it has allowed me a lot more time to enjoy myself in the evenings.

Today was a very important day which can be summarized with one phrase: Happy birthday Natalie!! For her birthday, the sun came out, the wind died down, we all had yummy chocolate birthday cake, we drilled 3 meters of core, there was another pair of sundogs around the sun, and there was a camp wide softball game after dinner. The core drilling was very exciting because we were testing a drilling technique that is very important for determining how much core we will be able to drill this season. In a certain depth range in the ice sheet the ice changes from bubbly ice (where all of the air in the ice is trapped in bubbles) to clathrate ice (where there are no bubbles and all of the air that used to be in bubbles has been absorbed into the crystal structure of the ice) and in this transition region the ice is very brittle. It is so brittle that if you try to cut it with a saw it will shatter into tons of pieces and will therefore not be very useful to scientists. To work with ice from the brittle ice region you have to store it in a cold place for awhile while the ice "relaxes" and becomes more supple. Our plan is to store the ice we drill this season on 1 meter trays in the basement of the drilling arch (which is just a huge room dug into the snow beneath the drilling arch) for 1 year and then pack up the ice and ship it back to the U.S. The main goal for this season is to drill all the way through the brittle ice region, which is hundreds of meters thick, and we are just starting to enter into it. Our problem is that it takes about an hour for each drilling run which consists of lowering the drill down the hole (which is currently 580 meters deep) and bringing ice back up to the surface. The drill is capable of drilling ~3 meters of ice at once, but since we can?t cut the ice we were worried that our throughput would only be 1 meter of ice per drilling run (because we have to put the ice on the 1 meter trays). If that was the case we wouldn?t be able to drill very muchcore this season. The test we tried today was to drill 1 meter of core, break it (as if only drilling one meter), then drill another meter of core and pull up the two sections intact. Nobody has done this before and we weren?t sure if it would work, but it did!! That means (if it continues to work well) that we will be able to get plenty of core this year which makes everyone here very, very happy.

I personally am very happy that we are finally starting to drill some ice. My lodestar has always been ?work first play later?, but so far on this expedition I have gotten to play a lot in New Zealand and McMurdo before I got to work. So it feels nice to actually get a chance to finally do what I came here to do: get some good quality ice core that will result in awesome science.

For this blog entry I decided to compile some interesting statistics about life here:

- Days since my last shower: 5
- Days since my last sunset, or any kind of night: 18
- Relative cost of the fuel we use in camp: ~$15/gallon (this is so high because the fuel is flown in from McMurdo?)
- Gallons of diesel that the generator that powers the freezer units in the drilling arch uses every day (Yes, even in Antarctica I work in a freezer, and its kept at about -25 to -29°C): 300-400 gallons/day
- Price of that diesel: ~$5,000/day
- Percent of meals that I have a second helping: 100%
- Number of jackets I have here: 7
- Number of pairs of boxers: 7
- Amount of jet fuel an LC-130 uses: 700-800 gallons/hour
- Amount of spare fuel we have in camp (if we were isolated and no more flights came, this is how long our fuel would last): ~4 weeks
- Amount of spare food we have in camp (same deal): ~16 weeks
- Total depth of the ice sheet: ~3,500 meters
- Current depth of drilling: ~584 meters

That's all for now. We will add more stats as we think of them. Hope everyone is doing well and staying warm back home!

Photo courtesy of Logan Mitchell.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WAIS - Dec 16, 2008 - Anais

Name: Anaïs Orsi

Date: December 16th, 2008
Location: WAIS divide galley
Time: 8pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -21°C
Wind speed: 20+ knots
Visibility: less than 30 ft.
Clouds: low clouds covering the sky, but I can’t see them because of the blowing snow
Precipitation: light snow
Animals: a few bearded humanoids
Breakfast: biscuits and gravy
Lunch: tuna casserole and cheese and strawberries blintz
Supper: Meat loaf and Oreo cheesecake extravaganza

This is Anaïs. It’s my first time writing on the blog, although you may remember me from last year: I was here, at WAIS, as a core handler a year ago. It is actually pretty amusing to come back, and see what stays the same and what is different. The camp looks very similar. They Galley is still this warm and inviting yellow tent, and John, our wonderful head cook still prepares for us amazing delixiavouricious food... There are 3 cooks at WAIS divide, one for each shift of 8 hours, and John is the only one to be back. The other 2 cooks are back to Antarctica, but in other camps. Our 2 new cooks are first timers, although they have a lot of experience in cooking for field camps in other remote places in the US. The rest of the staff is the same way: some of the same faces, some newcomers, and some that have a lot of experience, although they have not been here. All around, I would say that no matter their path, they are a collection of very interesting and inspiring people. I am very impressed with our core handling crew: so much experience, stories and wisdom packed in so little years! One of my favorites times of the day is when I get to sit down at a Galley table and meet a new person. Each one has a story to tell, more than one story actually. Antarctica is the white continent. The people that you find there bring colors to it. They’re the ones that make my Antarctic experience go far beyond the awe one can feel when staring at the vast horizon.

Speaking about awe, my day started with diamond dust. Diamond dust is the name of the sparkling fine snow powder that you can see twinkling in the air on a very cold and sunny day. As I was walking toward breakfast, I recognized the shining snow and looked for the sun, as it is usually a good predictor for halos. This morning, I saw the most complete halo I had ever seen. It had a full ring around the sun, with rainbows on the side called sundogs, and an upward arc running through them. On the top of the halo, there was yet another wide downward rainbow arc. It was far too big to fit in my camera, and I had to stop and savor that moment. Upon entering the galley, I couldn’t help but tell everybody to rush outside to watch it. A morning like this was the sign of a wonderful day.

Today, we drilled the first core. Finally, almost a month after leaving home, we saw our first piece of ice. It is always a very important moment, one that everybody will remember. For some reason, we all take more pictures of the drill during the retrieval of the first core than any time after that, although we have many more drilling days ahead of us. The engineers have been working all year at improving the drill, and it is very satisfying to them to finally see everything come together. The ice was beautiful: perfectly cut, perfect break. Just the way we wish it to be for the next 3000 times… I do not seem to find a better way to describe the satisfaction of seeing everything work on the first try.

Tonight, the wind peaked up, and the visibility went down. We were supposed to get a plane, but Ben, the camp manager just announced that it “boomeranged”: it was on the way, but decided not to continue its journey, as the visibility here is degrading, and already too low for the plane to land; so it boomeranged back to McMurdo station. We were waiting for some really important pieces to repair out big forklift, as well as fresh fruit for Christmas meal, but this will have to wait. Maybe tomorrow?

At least, now, we have cores to play with!

Monday, December 15, 2008

WAIS - Dec 15, 2008 - Spruce

Name: Spruce Schoenemann

Date: 15 December 2008
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Time: late 11:50pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -21°C
Wind speed: 3.5 kts
Visibility: -1.0 mile
Clouds: 7/10ths Strato Cumulus
Wind direction: 313°
Relative Humidity: 71%
Precipitation: None for 9 straight days
Animals: We could use a dog!
Breakfast: French Toast, Bacon, Maple Syrup, Raspberry Compote
Lunch: Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches and Peach Cobbler
Supper: Chicken Pot Pie and German Chocolate Cake, yummm!

Hello to all those of you who are following the WAIS Divide blog. This is my first go around at the blog. My name is Spruce Schoenemann, and yes I am named after a Blue Spruce. Vermont is my home state, but I’ve spent a number of years living and working in numerous places, most recently Boulder, CO. This is my first time to Antarctica and my first time as a core handler, or should I say, soon to be, as we have not yet drilled our first core. Today we were supposed to start drilling but we were foiled again due to some technical difficulties with the drill.

Today I awoke to a beautiful sunny day at WAIS, my tent was warm and I sleepily got ready for the day. This entailed putting on my wool long underwear, Carhartt work pants, fleece sweater, down jacket, hat, goggles, boots and gloves, and grabbing my daypack for all the rest of my necessary outerwear.

The favorite part of my day is blue-collar yoga after breakfast, which goes from 7:40-8:00am. It is a great way to start the day by working out all the kinks and stretching the sore muscles from leaning over ice core trays.

Most of the day we spent readying the Core Processing side of the arch. This included leveling and aligning the 1 meter buffer table, preparing the FED (Fluid Evacuation Device), and de-burring and cleaning ice core trays. To give you a sense of how many trays we have prepped, imagine if you lined up all the trays end-to-end, they would stretch the length of 7 football fields. That’s a lot of work!
Tonight the weather was absolutely perfect; clear and sunny with no wind. About 10 of us went outside to toss the disk and huck the nerf football. We played outside the galley for about an hour until are hands got cold. To wrap up the splendid evening, Logan, Tim, Bess and I went out beyond the ski-way to take photos of each other laying out (diving horizontally) for the Frisbee. We got some fantastic shots of our aerial leaps as well as our snowy crashes. It was even more entertaining looking at all the pictures afterward as we warmed up in the galley with hot cocoa.

Before I head to bed, I want to say hello and goodnight to my parents. I want to thank my wonderful girlfriend Mary for supporting me in my life’s journey, which has taken me far away to Antarctica for a few months. I am also thankful for all my great friends whom I look forward to seeing again when I return. Have a goodnight and stay warm!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

WAIS - Dec 14, 2008 - Gifford

Gifford J Wong

Date: 14 December 2008
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Time: 11:30pm
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -21°C
Wind speed: 9.4 kts
Visibility: 1.5 – 2.0 miles
Clouds cover:100%
Wind direction: SE,117°
Relative Humidity: 81%
Precipitation: None
Animals: Just the rowdies in the Rec Rac Tent
Breakfast: Leftovers (tofu stir fry, an egg roll, and an English muffin with Nutella)
Lunch: Leftovers (Pizza, fish chowder, bratwurst and chili)
Supper: Leftovers (Potatoes au gratin, shepherds pie, baked chicken and green beans)

Happy Sunday, folks! Gifford here - the sometimes-loquacious, California-bred, helicopter-geek turned ice-core handler. As the menu above suggests, Sunday is the day that WAIS camp goes from “full-on” to “time-off”, and deservedly so. As the previous blogs noted, days can be long and grueling (even when recreating), so folks really do enjoy a rest. But don’t let a “day off” fool you – a lot can happen, even out at WAIS!

My day started with the empyting of the water trays that belong to the cooling units in the arch. There are four industrial a/c units designed to keep our work space climate-controlled to a wonderfully chill -25C. Unfortunately, they dump their excess moisture in these metal drip pans that must be manually emptied throughout the day and I pulled the 0600 shift.

After a quick empty, I took advantage of our satellite phone to say “hi” to my parents. As you might imagine, effective communication is essential, and WAIS camp packs such conveniences as a satellite phone. We still have a high-frequency (HF) radio, its glory days only going back a few decades… calls to home used to consist of you, the caller, the receiver (say, my parents), and about a dozen ham radio operators stretching across Antarctica and up through South and North America. My how times have changed!

0930 rolled around and Patrick, one of the Ice Coring and Drilling Services (ICDS) folk, began his “Coffee Corner”. Not only is Patrick an old hand at working in Antarctica, he also managed a Starbucks Coffee back in the US. Today we sampled an extra-bold Sumatran coffee and a medium organic, shade-grown Mexican coffee. I could fill the next couple paragraphs discussing the pros and cons of blade versus burr grinders, or the differences between materials used to make coffee presses – suffice it to say and despite our location, comforts do abound at WAIS!

The “big task” of the day involved me accompanying Bess (the Maine voice) to her snow pit site. Unlike John who is looking at stratigraphy and physical properties, Bess is looking at trace elements. The site and sampling techniques used must have a high level of “clean-ness”, so we placed this site well upwind of the predominant wind direction of the camp. We are in an area aptly called “the clean air sector”. We created a flag-line to her site from the arch as well as set up a tent at her site as equipment storage and emergency shelter. It was a nice way to recall those skills learned in Happy Camper school (and I must say our snow wall looks pretty nice and functional).

If you notice the weather notes, you’ll see that we had complete cloud cover. In a place like WAIS, where it is already expansively flat and incredibly white, an overcast day can turn a mundane drive on a snow mobile into a harrowing rollercoaster ride. The available light, termed “flat light” in aviation parlance, severely diminishes your ability to discern surface features. Not only do you lose the horizon (the sky and ground melt into one continuous backdrop of grey), you lose all of the bumps and dips that are wind-carved into the snow (sastrugi). We made it to her site and back with only a few unseen jumps and side-hills – yes, it was fun!

All in all, a great Sunday! My parents know I’m okay and not too cold, I now know the difference between fully-washed and semi-washed coffee beans, and Bess and I learned the important Antarctic lesson that you should always check behind your snowmobile when racing home to make dinner lest you accidentally leave a sled laden with backpacks and equipment behind.

WAIS - Dec 14, 2008 - Ken

December 14, 2008


We made significant progress this week. The weather has been mostly calm and clear, so camp has been able to catch up on removing the drifts. ICDS lowered the drill to the bottom of the hole with no noteworthy equipment problems. The fluid level in the hole was still above the pore close off depth at the same depth as last year thanks to the ICDS design of sealing the ice/casing contact using O-rings. The cooling system in the core processing area has brought the air temperature down to -30 C, which will be great for minimizing the thermal stress on the brittle ice, however it does come at the cost of significant thermal, noise, and wind shock on the core processing crew. We have been conducting training on the core processing and drilling procedures, and we had an accident response drill that included three simulated victims. We are all set to start drilling and hoping to recover our first core on Monday.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

WAIS - Dec 13, 2008 - Susanne

Susanne Lilja Buchardt

Date: 13th of December 2008
Location: WAIS Divide field camp
Time: 19.30
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -22°C ( °F)
Wind speed: 3 kt
Visibility: Good
Clouds: Thin clouds
Wind direction: Roughly from the North
Relative Humidity: 75%
Precipitation: Ice crystals falling, making a halo around the sun
Animals: Crazy scientists
Breakfast: Eggs, potatoes
Lunch: Burritos
Supper: Pizza and minestrone soup

Today we woke up to a beautiful day with a little more wind than the last few days. Everybody had slept very well, and we soon found out why. The generator by the arch had stopped running sometime during the night making it nice and quiet in ‘tent city’ where most people in camp sleep. Tent city is located a few minutes’ walk from the centre of camp. To many of us the very centre of camp is the galley, which is heated, and where everybody eats. Around the galley there are other heated jamesway buildings (like a very big tent) housing offices, medical equipment, showers and some sleeping quarters. Some 300 m from the galley we find the arch where the ice core drilling and core handling takes place. Since the generator was not running, there were no lights in the arch, so we could not continue our work in there and it was evident, that the first ice core would not be drilled today as we had hoped. We decided to go make sure our tents could withstand a storm, because the forecast said that we could expect strong winds in the afternoon. After about an hour, our tents looked good and the generator was up and running again, making it possible to continue making core trays ready to receive the ice core, which will hopefully start coming up early next week.

In the afternoon the people working in the arch (drillers and core handlers) did an emergency exercise. The medical crew in camp had arranged a scenario with three people acting the victims of an accident with a falling ladder. It was then the task of the arch crew to tend to them as good as possible. The camp medical crew was there, but just as everyone thought professional assistance was readily available, we found out that they were only there to film the events, so we were truly on our own. It was a very good exercise, and I think we learnt a lot from it – if nothing else, it showed how vulnerable we can be out here in the middle of nowhere, and that being dressed for Antarctic conditions does not make it easier to check for signs of life… After the exercise we all gathered to watch the film taken during the exercise to assess what was good and what could be done better.

After that we enjoyed a nice Saturday night dinner, and now I can hear laughter and loud voices from the galley which means I have been blogging for too long and that it is time to join the party.

Final comment: We never saw anything of the storm today – maybe we will tomorrow?

Friday, December 12, 2008

WAIS - Dec 12, 2008 - Bess

Bess Koffman

Date: 12-12-08
Location: WAIS Divide field camp
Time: 2300
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -18 °C (~0°F)
Wind speed: km/h (3-5 mp/h)
Visibility: unlimited
Clouds: high ceiling
Wind direction: NW
Relative Humidity: dry
Precipitation: light snow
Animals: we thought we might see a “beware of dog” sign posted by the skiway, but no such luck… it was just a piece of plywood painted black, likely for visibility observations.
Breakfast: Scones, scrambled eggs, bacon, canned apricots
Lunch: hamburgers and bratwurst on homemade bread buns
Supper: Chicken soup, cod fillets, rice, veggies, delicious challah
Photo notes:

Yet another new reporter… Bess here, representing the Maine voice. Today was pretty long. I know, I know, you’re thinking that all our days are 24 hours long and we have continuous sunlight, right? Well, of course that’s true. But on certain days, the time between breakfast and dinner just feels longer than our 10-hour shift. Today was such a day. For me, the day began (after breakfast, yoga, and brushing my teeth) with helping prepare to dig a snow pit. My colleague John needed to dig a 2-m pit in order to look at the stratigraphy in the snow and make some physical measurements such as density. So five of us gathered our clothes, snacks, water and hot tea and helped John load all his supplies onto the sled, towed by a snowmobile. We needed plywood to cover the pit, so drifting snow wouldn’t fill it back up. We had to bring flags to mark the pit so we could find it again (and so it wouldn’t become a tiger trap to catch the next poor sucker who drove over it!). We brought shovels and saws for cutting blocks out of the snow. Other than that, Marie came along to film the whole thing and brought her video camera and tripod. So we drove away, two on the snowmobile and three piled up on the gear in the back. The pit’s location was chosen to be a couple km from camp, near one of the previous ice core boreholes (WDC-05A). And then we got to work digging.
By 11:30, we had created a lovely snowpit with four big steps leading down to the lowest level, a full 7.5 feet below the surface. One of our tallest guys, Tim, was fully buried in it. The temperature was surprisingly cold down in the pit. The snow stays around -25 C, which is about -5 F. Pretty chilly!
After lunch I headed back into the Arch as a new team of snowpit diggers went out to dig a neighboring pit (allowing us to get a backlit wall, which shows the snow layers). The afternoon consisted of basic grunt labor, nothing too interesting. I was ready to sit down when 18:00 rolled around and we got to eat dinner. As I said, it was a long day.
Our after-dinner ski was definitely the highlight of the day. Natalie, Tim, Logan and I (your reporters) headed out to the skiway after determining that no planes would be landing. The skiway is a broad, groomed track that is well flagged on both sides, perfect for skate-skiing and classic alike. We skied out to one end of the track and stopped to admire the halo around the sun. It had been there all day. Logan had the idea to take pictures silhouetted against the sky, and that’s how our fun began.
It started with stationary shots. Person on skis, holding poles to the side, smiling. Then came the low-angle shots, with the sun blocked behind one’s body, making a great dark profile. It evolved into jumping, cartwheeling, and doing headstands and handstands. Logan and I did headstands facing away from each other and managed some pretty sweet scissor kicks. Once our hands got wet from the snow, we reluctantly put our skis back on and made our way back to camp. It was a wonderful, fun evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

WAIS - Dec 11, 2008 - Natalie

Natalie Kehrwald

Date: 12-11-2008
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 5:45
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -17 to -25 °C
Wind speed: 3 km/h
Visibility: Clear to the horizon this morning; now clear near camp
Clouds: Surface fog on the horizon (moving in); broken clouds at 10,000 feet
Wind direction: 280 grid
Relative Humidity: 77%
Barometric Pressure: 28.32
Precipitation: None
Animals: None
Breakfast: Blueberry pancakes
Lunch: Roasted chicken, couscous, and minestrone soup
Supper: My tummy is rumbling in anticipation

This is Natalie Kehrwald adding to Tim and Logan’s blog entries.

Everyone from the science team and ice core drillers are now here in WAIS and we can feel the excitement of getting closer to the beginning of drilling. The past few days have been great because each day would bring a huge LC-130 into camp carrying our friends and necessary cargo. When we could hear a plan in the distance, the whole camp would stop working and run or snowmobile over to the runway (also the skiway). The plane drops off cargo while it is taxiing to a stop, and then suddenly you are surrounded by your friends that just got off the plane. It is very fun to watch people’s faces as they experience looking at the wide, wide horizon of WAIS for the first time. Although the pilots are used to flying here regularly and often keep their planes running while picking up people or cargo to bring back to McMurdo, on this last flight they were interested in getting a tour of WAIS and learning about the ice core that we are drilling.

Now that everyone is here and settled, we have been spending full days getting ready to drill and ensuring that we are ready for changing conditions. Because we have been so lucky with the weather, this morning we were discussing ways of weather-proofing our tents while it is still nice out and while we can plan ahead. Some good ideas include:
Keeping all of your belongings inside a zipped duffel. This way if the wind blows your tent door open, your clothes, etc. will not be scattered across the ice sheet. I heard that this has happened more than once.
Make a wall about three feet high on the southern side of the tent since most storms come from this direction. This is basically like making a snow fort – you can saw blocks out of the snow and construct what you want out of them.
Make sure you have a supply of food and (non-frozen) water in your tent in case you are trapped in your tent by a storm. If you open your tent door and cannot see the next tent or the flag line, you should definitely not leave your tent. Our tents are set up on a grid somewhat like a Bingo chart (I am G6) so that we can easily know where the next tent is if a storm should develop.

This afternoon we can see a surface fog circling most of the horizon and it moves closer by the hour. My first day at camp a similar weather pattern developed, and the fog went from a line on the horizon to enveloping our camp within four hours. We have had remarkably good weather and that night’s fog was the only time it has been cloudy at all. I keep hearing stories of how last year there were only three completely sunny days during the working period and how unusual these days of sunny sparkling snow really are. I am planning to go for a ski after dinner (yum – the food here has been amazing) in order to take full advantage of the sun while it is shining.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WAIS - Dec 10, 2008 - Tim

Tim Bartholomaus

Date: 12-10-2008
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 11:45
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Visibility: Clear, clear to the horizon
Clouds: Some patchy clouds on the horizon
Precipitation: None
Animals: None but the camp folks starting to look a little scruffy
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy with pineapple and cantaloupe
Lunch: Salmon with orzo and green beans with slivered almonds
Supper: Prime rib with crumbled blue cheese, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies (including brussel sprouts- which were actually tasty), and lime meringue pie for desert (yum!)

WAIS Divide is amazing! Tim Bartholomaus here- after Logan's great start getting the blog going, we're starting a rotation in order to include a diversity of voices and distribute the reporting responsibilities. I got into camp on yesterday's C-130 flight, so today was my first full day out on the "flat white." And I'm really stunned. Every time I pick my head up, and look beyond the clear edges of our camp, I just smile and get all giddy. Being out on this expanse evokes so many interesting emotions. Certainly there's joy and happiness, but a sense of awe, appreciation for the rare privilege to live and work here for a couple months, and a touch of anxiety- just enough to give a thrill. The camp is really huge and extremely well equipped. We've all got so many sets of warm layers we could probably comfortably sit still in a storm at 40 below, but when I look out to the subtly textured, untrammeled snow that surrounds our camp, I am humbled. We are as close to the middle of nowhere as I could possibly imagine, and although the weather has been utterly lovely the past two days, the long and deep snow drifts that pile up behind the buildings in camp are good reminders of how fierce and unforgiving this landscape can be. Although there are flags (more like pennants on bamboo poles) marking trails all throughout camp, if one were to become lost or disoriented out on the great flat white, you could be seeing some tough times ahead, for sure. But well beyond these background, spooky thoughts, I am continuously impressed by the beauty of the light and shadows cast against the snow surface, how unlike anywhere else I've been this place is, and how lucky I feel to be here.

But I also feel like today was our first real day of work. Sure, we were pretty busy at times during our stay in McMurdo, but so much of that was in training courses, and the remainder where the little odds and ends to make sure that the project and ourselves had everything we'd need when we arrived in camp. Well, now we've arrived and there is Plenty to do. Today was a very busy day and I could write pages- but that would take a long time and in all likelihood, would be a least a little boring to some of you readers. Instead, I'm going to list a few things I'm surprised by and a few things I'm not surprised by.

- The camp is way bigger than I had imagined. There are 53 people here now- which I was expecting- but there's SO much stuff here- logistics and infrastructure stuff, recreation stuff, a large, almost entirely separate complex surrounding the drilling arch and an area about the size of two football fields dotted with cargo.
- The camp is Extremely well provided for. For example- There's even a separate little tent-building set aside for "science" office space, from which one may comfortably compose a blog entry. Our head cook, John, is the 11-year executive chef for a very nice restaurant in Acadia National Park, the Jordan Pond House. The food here in camp is excellent.
- I didn't sleep well last night. I always sleep well, but I woke up a couple times last night, including once at 2:15 am, and was taken aback by my brightly glowing tent walls. I'm almost sure it has to do with not being used to the bright, 24-hr light. I'm sleeping with a little mask on tonight.
- We (i.e.- the core handlers and I) joined the camp work/construction crews this morning for 15 minutes of yoga and stretching. I think this was actually my first time doing yoga in any kind of intentional way. One of the last things I expected at WAIS Divide was to be down on mats with a bunch of (mostly) dudes in Carhartts doing yoga to start out the work day. How civilized!
- I've taken a fair bit of pride in moving into my tent. I kind of expected I'd just treat it as a place to lay my head until the end of January, but during my limited free time, my "denning" instinct has come out and I've happily spent time in my tent, trying to get it organized and make it cozy and comfortable. I contentedly hung Christmas ornaments sent to me by my parents from the ceiling of my tent this afternoon.
- It's been a bit of a shock getting back into working mode, with schedules to keep. I'm really glad to finally be working on what I was brought down here to do, but I'll admit somewhat sheepishly that I had gotten used to the relaxed lifestyle in McMurdo.
- The corollary to this last one is the satisfaction one gets from working hard and efficiently as a team. Our crew has come together well and it's fun getting stuff done together.
- The excitement of being out here at WAIS divide has not dimmed one bit. Sure, I've only been here for 36 hrs, but I'm really loving the landscape and the camp.

Not surprises:
- Our tents, called Arctic Ovens, really are as warm as we were told. It was 65 degrees in mine when I got up this morning.
- It's about as cold working in -20 deg C (-4 deg F) temperatures as I expected. That is, it's really quite cold, and if you don't take care of yourself, you can get cold fingers or face or body quickly. But it's also quite possible to be warm, especially if up and moving around.
- I do miss my girlfriend, friends and family, and really wish I could share this place with them.
- Skate skiing out across the ice sheet, with a bit of an orange tint to the clouds off on the horizon, and the sharp, clear, lower-angle light of evening, is as cool as I thought it would be.