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….

-john
(lakewoodhiker.blogspot.com)

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