Tuesday, January 27, 2009

McMurdo - Jan 27, 2009 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: January 27, 2009
Location: McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Time: 10pm
Latitude: 77°50'46.42"S
Longitude: 166°39'59.78"E
Elevation: 34m (112’)
Borehole depth: 1511.951 m! <- Final depth for the season!
Temperature: -3°C
Wind speed: 5-10knots
Wind Chill: -8°C
Visibility: Unrestricted
Precipitation: None
Animals: 3 Skua and many seals
Breakfast: Eggs, pancakes, plum.
Lunch: hummus wrap with ***lettuce, green peppers, onions!!!*** and a plum.
Supper: A huge salad w/ all the fixins!!! Blueberry cheesecake for dessert! And a plum!

The past few days have been incredibly busy! On Thursday night we finished drilling the last meter of ice core for the season, and most of camp came down to the drilling arch for the event. It was the most photographed ice core this season! Once the core was safely pushed out of the drill into a core handling tray, we all congratulated each other with a well deserved glass of whiskey. We all had a lot to be happy about: the two main goals for this season were to get through the brittle ice and also to get past 1500m. Not only did we accomplish both of these, but we finished a day early!

On Friday we started cleaning up which included lowering the final racks of ice core trays down into the basement, securing the trays on the carts for the winter, turning off the AC units (which was cause for more celebration!), packing all of our tools and office supplies up for the season, and general tidying up of the arch. With everyone working, things went pretty fast and we were finished by Saturday afternoon. In the evening I began to collect everyone’s pictures on my external hard drive to facilitate everyone sharing their photos with everyone else.
This was kind of like herding cats, but by Sunday morning I had finally done it. On Sunday morning we helped take down the Jamesway that we had used all season and packing up the last few things. It was amazing to me that in the span of two and a half days, we went from production drilling to being completely done with packing and disassembling the Jamesway…the transition was very abrupt. A positive side of all of this was that since production drilling was over, we all transitioned to a single shift and were working the normal 8 am to 6 pm hours that the rest of camp was working. This was great because it was the first time since we started production drilling on December 22, 2008 that I was able to work with and hang out with my fellow core handlers whom I had become such good friends with.

The weather on Sunday began to improve and since our work was done, we were all scheduled to fly out on Monday. This was my last chance to take care of things at WAIS that I had put off, or didn’t have time to do. One of these things was setting up a slackline, which is like tight rope walking, but using tubular webbing that stretches when you walk on it. This turned out to be really easy: we attached one end to a Tucker (large tracked vehicle) and attached the other end to the large 953 bulldozer, and drove the 953 a little bit away to tighten it! This was a lot of fun and I kind of wish that I had thought of this earlier in the season. Another thing that I had always wanted to do but didn’t have the time/energy was to go on a run away from camp until I couldn’t see camp anymore and was just out in the middle of nowhere. So, I told someone in camp exactly where I was going and when I was coming back (in case something went awry) and then headed out. After jogging for an hour with nothing but the sun and the horizon in view and the sound of snow squeaking under my feet, I turned around and saw that camp was just a speck on the horizon, barely visible. All around me, in all directions all I could see was flat white ice sheet, the sun in the sky, and a few scattered clouds. This was a great moment for me filled with so many emotions: happiness, accomplishment, extreme aloneness (but not loneliness), and isolation. And I was cold. I took some photos and headed back. I am pretty sure that where I was jogging, no human being had ever stepped before.

On Monday the flight arrived right on schedule, right after lunchtime. We all spent the morning taking down our tents, taking the last few pictures, and saying our last goodbyes to the people who were staying behind. The camp population was at ~45 people and 23 are leaving on our flight, and another 9 will be leaving on the next flight scheduled for Tuesday. The remaining people will take down the rest of the buildings in camp and should be leaving around February 7th.

The flight was pretty uneventful except that as we were taking off the pilots buzzed camp, which scared the bejesus out of me because we were flying so low. Getting back to McMurdo has been very interesting and is making me wonder what it will be like to get back to New Zealand. There are so many people here that I don’t know! And there is fresh fruit & vegetables available at every meal! Holy moly! Even though the plums are as hard as a rock and are extremely sour, I eat one at every meal. The temperature here is very mild compared to WAIS. It is barely freezing. There is flowing water along all of the streets. The main ship that
resupplies McMurdo with food and equipment will be here in a few days and an icebreaker vessel has cleared a channel through the McMurdo Sound, so I can see ocean water! I walked down to the icy water and looked in and saw some algae growing in it: the first living plant that I’ve seen in 9 weeks. There are lots of seals and skua around, and I am hoping to see a penguin, but I think my chances are pretty small. If I see one, this blog will be the first to know about it.

Well, that’s all for now. We have a few errands to do here in McMurdo, but mostly I’m spending my time catching up on email, reading about what our new President has been up to, planning my trip to New Zealand, and resting. I’m scheduled to fly back to New Zealand on January 30.

Tent city with the sun and a halo around it.

Looking at some bubbles in one of the final ice cores.

The crowd gathered around the drill as the final ice core was coming up.

Me with the final ice core. Bottom depth is 1511.951 meters below the surface.

Me in the basement that is filled up with ice core trays. There is ~932 meters of ice core being stored in the basement!

The skeleton of a Jamesway as we were taking it down.

Me balancing on the slackline.

Friday, January 23, 2009

WAIS - Jan 23, 2009 - Tim

Name: Tim Bartholomaus

Date: January 23, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide Galley
Time: 23:00
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1511.951 m! And that's it for the season!
Temperature: -16 °C
Wind speed: 18 knots
Visibility: 1000 m
Clouds: overcast, but with occasional cloud breaks
Wind direction: 15°
Precipitation: Some snow, ~5-8 cm

Well, as John suggested, after our end-of-season celebration and toasting at the arch, most folks turned in pretty early. Although our drilling is complete, our work is far from over. In order to prepare for next year and leave our equipment in good shape to spend the winter here at WAIS, in McMurdo, or in any number of places back in the US, we had a lot of packing to do before we all hop on the next Herc flight. The way the weather's been, and because our departure date is so imminent, we want to have as much equipment and as many people ready to load as soon as the next plane touches down. Fortunately, most of what we have here at WAIS can winter either in the arch or on one of the large berms that the heavy equipment operators have been building out of snow.

Although the peak of excitement this week was the completion of the season's ice coring, the positive energy continued this morning when all of us core handlers showed up together for work (more or less. Folks not on a shift 1 schedule were given some slack to ease the transition back onto a more typical schedule). This was the first time we'd all been up and working together since we started drilling on multiple shifts sometime around December 20th. It was fun seeing everyone together again, and, with many hands, we made light work of the day's checklist.

One of the first things we did this morning was also one of the most anticipated: shutting off the four large refrigeration units that had kept the processing side of the arch down around -30 degrees C. Once the last of the cores that Spruce and I had logged last night was through the DEP process, all of the ice from the floor of the arch was lowered down into the basement for storage over the winter. When this was complete, the hatches were shut and the refrigerators were switched off, leaving an odd, but relaxing quiet around the arch. It was actually possible to carry on a normal conversation, and after the doors were left open, the temperature quickly rose to a comfortable temperature of only about -15 to -20 degrees C.

Other tasks for the day included dismantling the DEP for shipment back to the Desert Research Institute, inventorying all of the office and lab supplies in the arch and warming jamesway, and dismantling all of the sensitive electronic equipment that we don't want to get too cold. Some of this cargo, colloquially known as "DNF," for the Do Not Freeze stickers applied to them, was then brought over to the "Science" RAC tent near the center of camp where it will be kept indoors and warm until the plane is about an hour away. At that point, the cargo will be brought out and strapped onto extra large "Air Force" pallets prior to being loaded into the Herc. The final activity of the day was to sweep the entire processing arch and shovel barrels and barrels of snow off the floor and out the door. I've never seen the arch looking so ship-shape as it does now. In the end, I think everyone was pretty satisfied. It was really nice all working, eating normal meals, and hanging out together again.

After dinner, I enjoyed my last shower, I think, until I get to McMurdo, where one doesn't need to shovel snow to make water. And finally, many of us capped off the day watching "Hurricane," a great Denzel Washington movie about the wrongfully-imprisoned prizefighter made famous in Dylan's ballad.

Now we're one more day closer to flying out of here! There's talk of a Monday flight, which means that we might even have some time off on Sunday if all goes well tomorrow. I think every one of us has really enjoyed working and living out here at WAIS Divide, doing exciting science in such a unique environment, and with fun, interesting people. I feel really privileged to have had this opportunity. That said, thoughts in camp are starting to drift towards people's next plans. Personally, I can't wait to see my girlfriend in NZ, and adventure together for a couple weeks before heading back to Berkeley. There's more good stuff still coming down the pipe, for sure!

That'll be it from me- thanks everyone for reading our blog. Cheers, Tim

Thursday, January 22, 2009

WAIS - Jan 22, 2009 - John

Name: John Fegyveresi

Date: Jan 22, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1512 m

Woo Hoo!!!! We've drilled the last ice core of the season today at a depth of 1512 meters!

Hello Everyone! It's John here again for what will by my last Blog entry. First off let me start off by saying that I was actually supposed to be back in McMurdo today. Last night we were supposed to get a flight here at WAIS and I was scheduled to be on it. We had some rather quirky weather and only had a very small window open up for the flight. The plane made it all the way here, but just as it was about to land, a thick fog rolled in limiting the visibility too much for a safe landing. The plane circled over the camp for an hour and a half and finally turned around and headed back to McMurdo. Of course as fate would have it....about 30 minutes after the plane turned around, the fog broke and it became clear here at camp.

With all this being said, I'm quite glad that I got stuck here and was able to be here for such an important and exciting day. At about 10 pm tonight, the drillers pulled up the final ice core of the season from a depth of 1512 meters. We went in to this ice-core drilling season with a lot of questions. No one knew just how bad the brittle ice was going to be and everyone was unsure of just how far we'd get. An ambitious goal of reaching 1500 meters by January 23rd was set at the beginning of the season. To be able to surpass this goal...and a day ahead of schedule is a huge accomplishment for everyone here at camp and says a lot about the determination of everyone here.

About an hour before the final core was drilled, a whole crew from camp headed up to the arch to prepare for the big celebration. We all gathered around the drill and took a whole slew of photos and videos as the core was finally brought to the surface. Once it was passed into the handling side of the arch, we all made a toast and listened while
Bruce gave a speech congratulating everyone. Some awards were also given out for categories like "Best Ice Core Dancers", and "Longest Amount of Time in the Cold", etc. It really was a great night for everyone.

The celebration did end up closing down quickly however. A lot of people at camp (myself included) were up until 5:00 am last night waiting to see if the plane was going to land. This meant that a lot of people were very tired today. To make matters worse, the weather took a bad turn today and went incredibly south. We've had sustained 20-25 knot winds today, with blowing snow, and less than 1/4 mile visibility. The plane that didn't land last night probably won't come now until at least Saturday. Everyone made their way back to camp from the Arch after the celebration where we've all gathered in the Rec to watch a classic film, "The Princess Bride".

This really has been a great day and I'm thrilled that I was here (and not back in McMurdo). On a personal note I just want to add that my experience here at WAIS Divide (and in Antarctica) has been incredible....and that's mostly due to the amazing people that I've been surrounded by. Every one of the core handlers, drillers, and camp staff, has been such good people and I sincerely hope that many of us come back next year. There's also been a lot of talk in the air about hiking and I'm very much hoping to cross paths with a few WAIS folks on the trails once we get back New Zealand.

So, I guess that's it. Thanks for keeping up on the blog, and I'm honored that I was able to write updates for you all!

Take care everyone!


For anyone interested....I also have been trying to keep my blog up to date as well. Check it out if you want:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WAIS - Jan 21, 2009 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: Jan 21, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 10pm
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: ~1490 m

Well, I hate to say it, but the end of the 2008-2009 drilling epoch here at WAIS Divide is drawing to a close. Tonight will be my last shift, and as long as everything continues to go well, we will finish by tomorrow evening. With that in mind I’ve been trying to wrap a few things up before we leave.

Tonight before my shift I finished construction of the WAIS Pole. I got the idea from pictures that I have seen of the pole at South Pole and decided that WAIS Divide needed a similar pole. The pole itself is a ~1.5m long silver cardboard tube that is used for transporting the ice cores. I put some green netting (the same stuff we put around out ice cores) on the tube to give it some color. Then, to top it off, I filled up a weather balloon with water and blue food coloring to give a neat pattern, then stuck the balloon outside and froze it. Once it froze I peeled off the balloon, stuck it on top of the tubing and viola, the WAIS Pole was born!

The other major task that I had tonight before starting work was to break down the 3-walled backlit snowpit. This was basically a lot of digging. Since not many people have gone out there recently, the plywood that was covering the snowpit was covered with about a meter of snow! This wasn’t that big of a deal though…I really like digging in the snow. Since we were breaking it down, I had the pleasure of punching through one of the walls. Lots of fun.

That’s all for now…I’m off to start my last shift!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

WAIS - Jan 18, 2009 - Spruce

Name: Spruce Schoenemann

Date: January 18, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide Rec Tent
Time: Actually Monday morning
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1367 m
Temperature: -18°C
Wind speed: 8.7 knots
Visibility: Less than 1 mile
Clouds: Stratus clouds everywhere-no blue sky
Wind direction: 099
Relative Humidity: In the Rec Tent it’s very humid thanks to the showers!
Precipitation: none
Animals: the lint creatures from my wool long underwear
Breakfast (2pm): Cinnamon Raisin Bagel w/ Butter & Coffee
Lunch (6pm): Leftovers consisting of Eggplant Parmigan, Vegetables & Quinoa, and Shrimp Soup
Supper (12am): Spinach Tortellini, Honey Mustard Chicken, and Peas & Carrots

Hello to all the WAIS Divide blog followers! It’s Sunday! A day off for most everyone, except Shift 2. As you read in Bruce’s blog for Saturday, we finally had an all camp day off, and some excellent festivities, including the 3 mph sleigh ride and a sailing slide show. I really enjoyed putting together the slides of my various sailing adventures, which provided a nice change of landscape from the vast white ice sheet to the vast blue ocean.

This morning (2pm in the afternoon) I awoke and realized that the 2nd WAIS Divide Coffee House was underway. I hurriedly made my way to the galley for a breakfast bagel and then headed directly to the Rec Tent to catch the second half of the Coffee House. The finale of the show was John Fegyveresi’s guitar playing and vocals. He is an excellent musician and songwriter, and we all enjoyed his witty words.

While the rest of camp enjoyed their Sunday, Shift 2 headed off to the arch to start up the last week of drilling. It was to be an exciting shift since Bill Mason was going to try a new valve in the screen barrel section of the drill. The valve was designed to help pack the chips more efficiently in the screens so that the drill could get more ice per run. Rather than drill 2.5m ice, we were going to attempt to drill 3m of ice. The first core we drilled came out of the core barrel, through the F.E.D (fluid evacuation device), and on to the 4m trays in the core handling side of the arch. Both Tim and I could not believe how long that single piece of ice core was. We made estimates on the length and then measured it with the laser baluff. 2.95 meters! Wow! It was an absolutely excellent piece of ice core, with no breaks or fractures and a perfectly spherical bottom break. If we could drill 3 meters each run, then over the course of our shift, we could get 12 meters of ice from four runs down the bore hole rather than 10 meters. Unfortunately the valve seemed to be triggering too early in the drilling process and we were never able to break the 3-meter barrier. We reverted back to the 2.5 meters per run in order to maximize the amount of ice we put in the 1m holding trays since we are limited in the amount of ice we can drill by how much we can store. Speaking of which, the basement is almost completely full of carts. There is room for 3 more carts, and then we will need to start filling the aisle between the two rows of carts! I still find it hard to believe that we have drilled that much ice core this season. What seemed like an endless amount of trays and carts at the beginning of the season is now a packed storeroom of row upon row of 1m ice cores. At the rate we are going, we will probably hit 1500 meters by Thursday night, but we have enough trays to drill to a depth of approximately 1532 meters. Since we have the time, if all goes smoothly, will fill up every last tray before the season is over!

With the season’s goal in sight, everyone’s spirits seem to be a bit higher. There is a jovial, celebratory atmosphere in camp, and in less than a week we will all be gone, except for the ice cores, the only true WAIS Dividians wintering over.

Cheers from way down under,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

WAIS - Jan 17, 2009 - Bruce

Name: Bruce Vaughn

Date: January 17, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: Actually Sunday morning
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1360 m
Temperature: -16°C
Wind speed: 5 knots
Wind Chill: Seems warmer now that we’re used to it!
Visibility: Almost enough to land a plane
Clouds: Scattered clouds
Wind direction: Prevailing
Relative Humidity: Are you kidding?
Precipitation: none
Animals: Mostly the party kind
Breakfast: Oatmeal and toast
Lunch: Pizzas and carrot cup cakes
Supper: Pot roast & potatoes/veggies; Tofu stir-fry; peas; pecan pie

This is Bruce and I am the current science field leader who is way over due for writing a blog. Everyone else has been doing a wonderful job of keeping up on the unofficial (blog) news, and providing glimpses into the colorful and creative life that goes on here.

We have five more days of drilling, in which we fully expect to reach our goal of filling all the ice trays that we have, and reaching a depth below 1500 meters. The core quality is excellent and becoming less and less brittle every day. A plot of core quality vs. depth shows that we hit our low point in ice quality around 1070 meters, and we are now pulling up almost entirely ‘Excellent’ (0- 1 breaks) core at the 1360 meter depth. We now routinely bring up 2.5-meter lengths of ice, and cut them into shorter sections in the core processing area.

The last flight we had was last Tuesday, and between weather and aircraft mechanical issues our flight schedule has been pretty limited. We understand that more than half of the Hercules LC-130’s are down with mechanical problems, making it difficult to forecast actual departure dates. The CIRES crew is still in town, on day 4 of waiting for a flight. But there is plenty of food and good company for them! On Saturday, we suspended our work for a day for a much-deserved break beginning at 3 pm after a 17-day stretch of round the clock shifts. This will be the last such time-off for the season, because once we start taking things down, there will be a steady march to load and go, as planes become available.

Our community here on the ice is very much in the groove now just as we approach the end of the season. Its fun to watch as the season progresses and people get to know each other more and more. Perhaps because each of us is so dependent on the efforts of the many, there is a sense of community that arises spontaneously. In anticipation of an evening of fun, on Saturday afternoon we had a ‘Safety’ meeting that included gratuitous beers, and a participatory improv safety reminder put on by our esteemed camp supervisor “T”. It was a fun and upbeat way to engage the audience about the importance of being safe without being too square. Placards were used for “Funny” and “Not Funny” and “Applause” as different events were acted out by different groups of four. Scenarios covered appropriate and inappropriate party behavior in an engaging and humorous fashion, and far from stuffy. Nicely done. After an entertaining slide show given by Spruce on sailing tall ships, we all gathered for a sleigh ride – that in all honesty I thought stood a good chance of being a pedestrian yawner. Quite the contrary. Using the Tucker snow cat, ‘Dooley’ towed all of us at walking speed on one of the CRESIS sleds that is basically a sheet of thick flexible material only an inch or so off the snow. A Nansen sled towed behind carried a small Honda generator and large stereo (courtesy of ICDS) booming out the tunes. What started like a geriatric cruise quickly became a frivolous festival of walking, riding, sipping beer, dancing, snowballs, somersaults, group photos, human pyramid building, and general carrying on. A sort of traveling circus, really. A great time was had by all, and there were lots of smiles and a nice feeling of community that can only come from a weeks of sharing every day- hardships (not many), dog days of doing the same thing (many) along with the good times too, and blowing off some steam. Kudos to Brian Bencivengo for organizing the sleigh ride!

The traveling circus, a 2 mph sleigh ride at WAIS. Photo courtesy of Logan Mitchell.

The traveling circus, a 2 mph sleigh ride at WAIS. Photo courtesy of Logan Mitchell.

As we pace ourselves for the home stretch, it is comforting to know that we really are community in the greatest sense. Our merry band of ice-people is strong, capable, and full of spirit.


Friday, January 16, 2009

WAIS - Jan 16, 2009 - Gifford

Name: Gifford J Wong

Date: 16 January 2009
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Tent)
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Borehole depth: ~1330m
Wind speed: negligible
Visibility: Seems like miles and miles!
Breakfast: scrambled eggs (with extra Hot Peri Peri Nando sauce!), toast w/ Nutella, and orange juice.

Well… Friday was a full day, to be sure. Our work days are going incredibly well… in fact, today after lunch we asked the drillers to drill a full 2.5 meters in one, continuous run. In the past, due to the brittleness of the ice, we had the drillers “break” the core for us as they drilled. While this helped preserve to the best extent possible the integrity of the core, it took a little more time and required more “finesse”, if you will, from the talented drillers. With the help of some useful charting of ice core quality, the decision was made to drill a “full-length” core and cut the core at our “1m station” (refer back to a previous blog for details). The first cut… a success! No “reaction” from the core save for two beautifully flat faces! It was marvelous because the drillers can now drill “full runs” saving precious time and we get to inject something new to our daily routine – using a chop saw!
This bodes well for our target depth this season…

After dinner, Dave Ferris (driller this season, core “wrangler” last season) presented his talk on the history of Antarctica. It focused on the fabled exploits of the early Antarctic explorers, leaving out the obvious names of Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen. It was a fascinating tale that started with James Cook (and James T. Kirk) and ended with us at WAIS, more or less. History is an incredibly fascinating canvas, and Antarctic history is so compact and “portable”. Woven into Dave’s tale were little hints at how early Antarctic exploration colors today’s Antarctic Treaty System. From the original signatories to today’s growing club, history plays an important role – and I love that!

Finally… after much wrangling, Bess, Jonathon (Met Tech), John F and I got a chance to “practice” our improv skit for this Sunday’s Coffeehouse. I know it sounds a bit oxymoronic, but the fact of the matter is you have to practice improv with your improv partners so that “being on the same page” evolves from a wish to a reality. Despite only being able to have 2 or 3 practices before this Sunday, tonight’s “rehearsal” (the first) seemed to reflect the existing playful nature that Bess alluded to yesterday – thank goodness! Here are to huge laughs!

Anyhow, this is a snapshot of my Friday… I suppose it is getting late, but the take home message is we’re actually winding down with the end in sight. The last four carts of empty trays stand lonely adjacent to carts upon carts laden with ice cores! That is a sight that I couldn’t quite imagine at the start of the season. The calendar that lists potential flights actually has my name on it… and the projected date is just over a week away. Another sight I could hardly imagine when I first stepped off the LC-130 onto the WAIS Camp flightline. Crazy… but there you go – another (2nd to last) Friday at WAIS Divide.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

WAIS - Jan 15, 2009 - Bess

Name: Bess Koffman

Date: January 15, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 2030
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1300 m
Temperature: -17°C
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind Chill: ?? °C
Visibility: a few miles
Clouds: the whole sky
Relative Humidity: 90%
Precipitation: light snow
Animals: what we ate for lunch and dinner =)
Breakfast: Pancakes with strawberry sauce
Lunch: Fall-apart delicious beef, polenta, quinoa
Supper: BBQ pork, garlic/sesame sautéed kale, potatoes, cornbread, veggie soup, tempeh, zucchini and tomatoes.

Greetings to all our northern hemisphere readers out there! It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but hearing from a friend in Costa Rica that she’s been following the blog was all the impetus I needed to come back and write another post. Life, as you’ve heard, has been good at WAIS Divide lately. The arrival of airplanes means fresh fruit and vegetables for us, always a welcome change from frozen fare. The ice core drill has been working really well since the event that Dave F. posted about, and we’re on track to meet our depth goals by the end of the season! The ice itself has changed a lot during our time drilling. It went from slightly brittle to impressively brittle, to now what we call “ductile ice.” The ice is under so much pressure at the depths we drill that the bubbles disappear and the trapped gasses actually become part of the ice crystal lattice. This is called clathrate-hydrates. We’ve noticed an appreciable decrease of breaks in the ice, and it no longer shatters spontaneously. This is good news! As Dave hinted, the arrival of ductile ice will allow us to change our drilling and core handling procedures, becoming faster and more efficient.

Last night, while we were enjoying a science lecture on the NEEM project in Greenland by Bruce, the camp manager came into the Rec Tent and informed everyone that we’d get a plane at 0100 today! That’s one in the morning, for you analog types out there. What a plane means is that all the camp staff that are involved in weather observations (Jonathan), cargo & heavy equipment (Keith, Jason and Dulaigh), and fuel (Phil and Jake) as well as other functions (including camp manager Ben and asst. camp manager T-Bird) have to stay up through the whole period of time when the plane arrives, gets unloaded and loaded with cargo and passengers (“pax” in Antarctic lingo), and finally leaves. The plane took off from McMurdo bound for WAIS, then we had a thick fog roll in… as you may imagine, the plane could not land here and instead went to offload some fuel at the South Pole! So the one pax onboard got a free ride to the Pole, and all the passengers who hurriedly packed up in order to take the 0100 plane back to McMurdo had to stay up all night and then go back to sleep… as best they could! The bad news for camp staff was that we were scheduled for another flight today—meaning the whole rigmarole all over again. We had some pretty tired RPSC staff at camp today. Our blustery, foggy weather has stayed here, though, and pretty soon the flight got canceled. Looks like we’ll enjoy the company of Sylvain, Sridar and the CReSIS folks for another day!

This evening after a delicious dinner of BBQ pork, corn bread, garlicky kale, potatoes, and a few other things including dessert of flourless chocolate torte, I headed out to one of the arch-shaped tents (called a Polar Haven) to practice a song for next Sunday’s coffee house. This past coffee house was such a successful event that all of camp wanted to do it again! It sounds like we’ll have a lot of great acts, including some new performers. I’m working on a John Prine song with Jonathan, the “Lumberjack” of last week. I may also do some improv comedy with Giff, John F., and Jonathan, which should be fun. We goof around enough that it shouldn’t be too hard to make a show of it.

Thanks for reading! I’m off to bed….

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WAIS - Jan 14, 2009 - Dave

Name: Dave Ferris

Date: Jan 14, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: deep and getting deeper
Temperature: very warm
Wind speed: calm
Wind Chill: none
Visibility: forever
Clouds: beautiful
Breakfast: Leftover Middle Eastern food (see other blog)
Lunch: Hot chocolate with Bailey’s outside on the cliff overlooking the great WAIS with Natalie and Logan.
Supper: garlic shrimp and scallops over rice; FRESH LETTUCE SALAD!!!!

Hello, I’m Dave. I’m an ice core driller and I’m told, the first driller to post on the WAIS blog. This is my first year as a driller and I guess I come to it from a little different perspective. Last year I was a core handler and I also work with the ice core back in my lab at South Dakota State University. So why did I switch to drilling? Lots of reasons but the big one was to have a chance to work with the group that designed and built this drill. This drill is impressive to see. It’s a monster. The drill sonde (barrel) is 45 ft. long. The cable winch weighs 19,000 lbs. We hope to be drilling 4-meter (12+ ft) cores next season after we get through the brittle ice.

Someone once told me that ice core drillers were the rock stars of Antarctica. I can tell you that these guys are at the top of their profession. One doesn’t often get a chance, if ever, to work with the people at the top (even though it is admittedly a small arena). The drilling group (Ice Core Drilling Services, ICDS) is based out of the University of Wisconsin. There are 5 of them led by Jay along with Bill, Nicolai, Paul and Krissy. The rest of us are contract drillers (6).

Drillers say that ice core drilling is 99% boredom interspersed with 1% sheer panic. I came hoping to observe and learn during the 1% but have learned to long for and treasure the 99%. There’s a lot of pressure on these guys. If the drill shuts down, everything shuts down. Things are always changing. Mechanical things really don’t like to work well in the cold, computers even less. The ice seems to change about every meter. And these guys adapt continuously. They seem prepared for anything. Things happen completely out of the blue. Problems crop up that could never have been dreamt of. And these guys come up with a plan and materials to fix it, quickly. Very quickly. There’s no running to the hardware store or ordering replacement parts. We had a potentially show ending problem the other day. The problem had caused us to burn through a couple instrument sections and motors. We were down to the last ones. It was amazing to watch how they troubleshot the problem in only a few hours. A fix was quickly devised and a day later we are back up and running. Smooth as ever.

So, drillers are the rock stars of Antarctica. If so, I think I might only be a roadie at this point. But as a roadie I get a front row seat every night to the concert.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

WAIS - Jan 13, 2009 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: Jan 13, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 10:30 pm
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1,230 m
Temperature: -22.5°C
Wind speed: 2.7 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction: 317° Grid
Relative Humidity: 72%
Barometric Pressure: 28.85mm Hg
Precipitation: None
Animals: None

Today was a day of seeing my vision become reality, of reaching goals that I had set out for myself. No, we haven’t finished drilling, and I haven’t finished editing the journal article that I’m working on (almost done with draft 2 though!). The two breakthroughs I accomplished today are as follows:

1.) There are two options for going to the bathroom here at WAIS: You can go to one of the outhouses if you need to sit down, or you can pee at the pee flag. The pee flag is very convenient for guys and since all of the urine is concentrated in one spot, it keeps camp clean. Now, as you can imagine, if lots of people pee in the same spot in snow, you can make quite a hole. (People here joke that this is called “hot water drilling”) The one closest to the Galley that sees the most traffic was about 6” in diameter and a maybe a couple of feet deep. During the last “storm” a few days ago, a lot of snow was blown around and the pee flag hole was covered up. So someone started a new hole about a foot away from the original hole. After a few days, the original hole was also re-opened and now we had two holes! Well, I got to thinking that it would be a fun project to connect these two holes and, with the help of lots of tea, got right to work. This is quite a delicate task since the area around the pee holes is solid ice and if you pee on flat ice you will splash all over the place (including your shoes) which is not cool. You have to hit right at the rim of the hole – too far inside it and you don’t make any progress, too far outside it and you are splashing your shoes. It took me a couple of days, but at long last I finally created a channel connecting the two holes!! The channel even had a neat “S” shape to it! Well, I figured this was big news for camp and I went right into the Galley and started telling everyone. This was right at the beginning of my shift, so only a few people were up. I had to wait until morning when the rest of camp got up for breakfast to tell more people. The reactions I got were priceless. When I told Gifford, his face lit up with a huge grin and he said with a laugh “Oh that was you? That’s awesome!” Ben, the camp manager, gave me a huge heartfelt congratulations after he saw it. In general, all the guys were excited to hear about it couldn’t wait to go check it out and help deepen the channel. The girls in camp just laughed politely, at times being fascinated and at times being baffled by what entertains the men in camp. My shift partner, Susanna, (bless her heart) had to listen to me tell the story of how it happened about a thousand times and by this evening she was telling it for me. She even humored me enough to go check out the pee flag herself. At the time of writing, the channel is getting deeper quickly, it’s already a few inches deep!

2.) One of the disadvantages of working on the night shift is that all of my meals are out of order. I wake up and eat dinner for breakfast, eat leftovers from yesterday’s lunch at 3am, and eat breakfast for dinner. I never make it to lunch since that is the middle of the night for me. So, I thought it would be fun to make it to every meal that camp offers for 24 hours at least once. Here is how it went:

1:00 am Meal # 1: “Midrats” – French toast with real maple syrup (thanks Spruce!).
3:00 am Meal #2: “Leftover lunch from yesterday” – Cheesy scalloped potatoes (yay!), honey baked ham, vegetables.
7:30 am Meal #3: “ Breakfast” – Egg bake with roasted red peppers, baked potato squares, and bacon.
10:00 am – Went to bed at my “typical” bedtime.
12:30 pm Meal #4: “Lunch” – Grilled turkey and cheese sandwich, mashed potatoes, and tomato soup. It was really hard to get up at this time…my body is used to sleeping for 6 more hours.
2:00pm – Went back to bed but couldn’t sleep. My body is going berserk trying to digest all of that food, so I just laid there and rested.
5:30 pm – Finally fell asleep.
6:30 pm Meal #5: “Dinner” – Leftover Middle Eastern Food from last Sunday: Stuffed grape leaves, green beans & lamb over rice, lentil soup, and kibbe. It was really hard to wake up after I FINALLY fell asleep. My stomach is starting to hurt now.
8:00 pm – I went back to my tent to try to get some more sleep. Again it took me a long time to go to sleep. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this…but there is only one meal left…I can do it…
10:30 pm Meal #6: “Night Shift Breakfast” – Eggs, bacon, toast, and a fresh nectarine (!). I finally made it! Wahoo!! I am soooo stuffed…at least I know I’m not going to get cold at work tonight.

Notice that the largest amount of time between meals was only 6 hours between lunch & dinner, and this is when I was supposed to be sleeping! Well, needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep! In the end it was worth it because I got to hang out with a lot of people who I usually don’t get to see (since I’m usually asleep) and I got to eat lots of good food. But, I don’t think I’d do it again anytime soon. ?

Logan eating meal #6 & feeling fat. Photo: Logan Mitchell, Oregon State University

In other news, a plane came today. It brought freshies and it took away some people. One of the three people that left was Anaïs, and I am very sad to see her go. She has been such an integral part of life here at WAIS that I’m not sure what it’s going to be like now that she is gone. She has been the inspiration behind so many fun events in camp: the Olympics, she oversaw the construction of the three walled snowpit and the igloo, and she was always there if anyone was having a bad day or needed help with anything. She is a fantastic storyteller, could get anyone to laugh, and knew a ton about the science that is being done at WAIS and could explain it in a way that anyone could understand. Anaïs, we miss you already and wish you safe travel on your way back home!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

WAIS - Jan 11, 2009 - John

Name: John Fegyveresi

Date: Jan 11, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m

Hey everyone! It's Sunday here, which also means it's the first day off in 10 days......sort of. The past few days we've had some trouble with the ice core drill and it was actually down for maintenance for a day and a half. Because of this, the "day off" was actually spread out over two days. The 2nd and 3rd shifters actually got off Saturday, while the 1st shifters got off Sunday. Regardless, everyone still found time today to make it to the 1st Annual WAIS Divide Coffee House and Talent Show.

A few days ago, Bess got the idea of converting the Rec tent into a makeshift coffee house. Her idea was to decorate it, serve some coffee and cocoa, and have people from camp perform in sort of a "open-mic" format. It turned out to be an enormous success with almost everyone at camp attending and/or performing. Here's a quick recap of the performers:

The first act up for the talent show was Todd. Over the past few weeks Todd has been taking time-lapse digital photos of the ice-coring process and of some of the weather here. He compiled all of the footage and first played the weather videos to music. It was quite spectacular to see the clouds and sun moving over the WAIS camp at ultra high speeds. The highlight of Todd’s videos was of course the ice coring video. He managed to capture the entire 2-3 hour drilling and core handling process in time-lapse format and play it sped up in about 10 minutes. It was quite entertaining to watch people zip past the camera carrying trays and typing on computers. Bess and Gifford were working the core handling station during the filming and made sure to take full advantage of it. They choreographed several dances and even a few pranks in front of the camera. The next performer was Bess. She recited two excellent poems and did an amazing job. She was quite animated as she acted out several of the scenes to each of the poems. Following Bess, Jonathan (Weather Tech), sang and played a few songs on guitar including one song done entirely in French. Following Jonathan, Phil (Medic) read aloud from a book about Alexander the Great. It was a very heartfelt section about humility. When he was done, he told us a personal story about someone he worked with years ago as an EMT medic. After Phil, Renin (Cook) also told us a personal story about an experience she had while visiting family in Turkey...it was also a very poignant story. Next, Anais played us 2 songs on her bamboo flute and it was amazing. After that, Bruce told us all about an experience he had in Greenland where due to some very heroic and brave people, he survived a bad bout with altitude sickness. After Bruce, I went up and played/sang three songs on a guitar. I played two of my own songs and one from the "Into the Wild" Soundtrack. It went pretty well. While I was playing, Sylvain was busy creating some artwork. He used a soldering iron to burn an image of a penguin into a block of wood. It was very well done, and looked very professional. The caption her burned into it read: "In Antarctica, we are all Penguins". Next up was Susanne. For her act, she recited 4 verses from an Icelandic poem in the Icelandic language. After she read them, she translated them into English. Next was one of the funniest acts of the day. Marie and Spruce put on an act titled "Ballistic Batina, and Hubba Hubba Bubba do Bunny Boot Ballet on Bubble Wrap". Basically they dressed up as ballet dancers, put their big snow boots on, and danced around on bubble wrap. It was hilarious. After everyone stopped laughing, Ben (camp manager) taught us how to play a Chinese game similar to rock/paper/scissors...in Chinese. The last act was again Jonathon, but this time he was singing about how he's a lumberjack that likes to wear women's clothing. It was also pretty funny. Overall, the coffee house was a huge success. Everyone thanked Bess and we already decided to put another one on next Sunday.

When dinner rolled around, we were all greeted by another surprise. Dave (Driller) set up "Middle East Night". Normally, Sunday dinners are reheated leftovers. This gives John the cook a night off. In his place, some camp members usually whip something else up. Dave took it upon himself to create his own Middle East Night and prepared an entire 5-course meal consisting of all Middle Eastern Cuisine. We had stuffed grape leaves, green beans & lamb over rice, lentil soup, naan with za’atar, kibbe, and some other stuff I can’t remember the names of, but tasted wonderful. Everyone was extremely grateful to have such an amazing dinner on a Sunday night.

That pretty much sums up the day. Overall it was great for everyone here, even though a lot of people still had to work. I think everyone was glad to be able to make it to the coffee house. This coming week a lot of people are leaving camp, and it was nice to have one last gathering that we could all attend.

That's it for now I guess.... signing off,


Saturday, January 10, 2009

WAIS - Jan. 10, 2009 - Gifford

Name: Gifford J Wong

Date: 10 January 2009
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Galley)
Time: 2330
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Borehole depth: ~1100m
Temperature: -5.4°C (this morning – sorry)
Wind speed: negligible
Visibility: Seems like miles and miles!
Precipitation: My water-soaked pants from sitting inside an igloo for 2 hours
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, toast w/ Nutella, lox, and orange juice.
Lunch: Pork loin with apple sauce, French fries and peach cobbler for dessert!!
Supper: Incredible roast turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and corn chowder (plus more of that magical peach cobbler!)

This is the blog for the 10th of January, and I’m staring at the clock… 30 minutes left. I’m taking a quick break from my igloo time to drop in on the blog – I love that I can type a few lines and have them broadcast to the interested folks. Thank you for reading!! Today, er, tonight is my first night-before-a-day-off in 2009. Not too bad, all things considering, as its only been 10 days … but this being the 10th day, I am a touch hungry for something out of the norm. Thank goodness for “Saturday”!

I find it interesting how quickly shift-work can put you into a comfortable routine. Earlier you heard of how Spruce and his fellow shift cohorts have created a mini-community within the WAIS community. The same can be said for my shift. In a sense, I’m only able to hang out with folks that are awake during my meal times. In a lot of ways, this kind of schedule set-up makes sense since we can run the drilling/ice-core handling operations 24 hours a day. The downside, of course, is you can go for days without getting a chance to hang out with your friends (such as Tim, Spruce, Bill, Tanner and Patrick!).

The routine, of course, helps me, of all things, get out of my tent in time to get to work for my own shift. I usually wake up around 0515 … out of my tent at 0530 … stretch in the Recreation Rac Tent from 0545-0600 … breakfast until 0630 … work from 0700-1500 … and then struggle to avoid napping because dinner is at 1800. Sadly, I’m in bed by 2200, and then it starts all over again. “Weekend nights” like tonight are different, of course. First off, I’m still awake… secondly, camp folks feel compelled to stay up “later” on the nights preceding their day off, and that usually means F-U-N.

Tonight was especially fun. It started with Ben Partan (camp manager and Emperor of West Antarctica) collecting folks to play softball after dinner. He somehow roped in 18 people to play on an impromptu field (unfortunately, a Tucker was parked in our usual playing area so we had to make due with a field that put the sun behind the pitcher). The score was “a lot” to “a lot” by the time we called it good. We even got a couple innings of “pinch playing” from Tim and Spruce who were still dutifully logging core!

And then there was the igloo mentioned in Spruce’s blog – it was christened with a gathering of bodies and stories. Despite its ~2m diameter size, I found myself swimming in a sea of 10 happy people… one of the things we shared were middle names, and in no particular order: Julia, Ruth, Andrew, James, Franklin, Michael, Tarrant, Joseph, Giese, and J.

With this, I think I need to get moving again. For one thing, its already 2355! I also see that there is just a little more peach cobbler left… hmmm, midnight snack? Cheers from WAIS!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

WAIS - Jan. 8, 2009 - Spruce

Name: Spruce Schoenemann

Date: January 8, 2009
Location: Science RAC Tent, WAIS Divide
Time: Actually 0400 on Friday (end of my day)
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: ~1111m
Temperature: -16.8°C
Wind speed: 8.1 knots
Visibility: far and wide
Wind direction: 048° Grid
Relative Humidity: 74%
Barometric Pressure: 28.98 mm Hg
Precipitation: The drips of melting ice off my beard
Clouds: Blue sky to the horizon
Animals: I miss my dog, Titan
Breakfast: (Asleep)
Lunch: (Asleep) My breakfast was at 2pm: Grapenuts Cereal, Coffee, Cookies
Supper: Beef & Tempeh Stroganoff, Noodles, Green beans, Lemon Pudding Cake
Midrats: Pot Roast and Rice

Today it finally cleared! The wind is calm, the humidity is low, and the sun is out! There is no more flat light concealing the drifts on the walk from tent city to camp. It can be a clumsy walk when you can’t see a foot high drift right in front of you.

So what’s it like to live in a community with people working 24 hours around the clock? While everyone is winding up their day, I am just getting started. My breakfast usually occurs at 2pm, four hours before everyone’s dinner. By the time I get off shift at 11:30pm, the rest of camp has gone to bed. Tonight I enjoyed my “dinner” with the rest of the folks on my shift, which includes Tim, Tanner, Bill, and Patrick. We have formed our own smaller community within the larger community of WAIS Divide. Although we tend to miss many of the daily activities, we like to make our own fun.

Tonight we went out into the beautiful calm and sunny evening to work on a half built igloo that had been started yesterday. I was super excited to work on the igloo since I have never built one. Anais left us a note with the basic guidelines and we just went at it. We started on the next tier of blocks. The blocks slowly spiral upward, with each block supporting the next, and the angle of their slope gently increasing. Patrick and I stood in the middle to hold up the blocks while Tim and Bill quarried and shaped the blocks. We used an extremely technical measuring device (1.5m rope tied to a post in the center of the igloo) to measure the proper angle and slope of each block. After completing one tier, we needed to stop to let the blocks set up and seat themselves before increasing the angle to nearly horizontal.

And now the day is already over. It is hard to believe how quickly the days go by here at WAIS Divide. I have made a list of all the things I want to do before I leave, and time is running out. Only two and half weeks! Some of the things on my list include getting pictures out at the triple walled backlit snowpit, go cross country skiing on the ski-way, make a photo journal following the day in the life of a core handler, sew on a WAIS Divide patch to my jacket, and sled on the massive berms used for putting up camp in the winter.

Cheers from down under!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

WAIS - Jan. 7, 2009 - Tim

Name: Tim Bartholomaus

Date: January 7, 2009 (now January 8, after my shift)
Location: WAIS Divide Rec Tent
Time: 3 am
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 1080 m
Temperature: -13 °C (it's been warm since the storm a few days ago!)
Wind speed: 5 knots
Visibility: unrestricted
Clouds: mostly cloudy, with the ceiling several thousand feet up, but there's sun off on the horizon!
Wind direction: 20° (NNE)
Precipitation: none (the snow from the last storm stopped a while ago)
Lunch (breakfast for me): A bowl of rice krispies and two scones (I slept in, and missed the official lunch).
Supper (lunch for me): Chicken or tofu curry, Israeli couscous with herbs, tater tots, corn with peppers, seafood chowder, coconut cake.
Midrats (dinner for me): Seared salmon with orzo, mushroom quinoa,
Mediterranean veggies, citrus beurre blanc, Bailey's chocolate surprise

After the storm on Tuesday, the weather is starting to clear up. The winds have died down, the snow has long since stopped, and the clouds, although thick overhead, are starting to break up around the horizon. While, as Logan wrote, the storm was a touch disappointing and certainly fell short of a full-on Antarctic gale, I’m starting to look forward to the return of blue skies and still air. One of the biggest temporary impacts of the storm is flat, even lighting that makes it almost impossible to identify any textures or relief in the ground surface. When you combine that with the long snow drifts that have built up behind each obstacle larger than a 3’ by 3’ by 3’ tri-wall cardboard box, the typical walks between tent city, downtown WAIS, and the arch become something of a small adventure. Everyone in camp has been stumbling around, tripping over the new drifts as they are encountered, then stumbling off of them as one walks off the lee side.

In the arch, it was a fairly typical day for Spruce and I on shift 2.
Since I was up a bit late last night, I skipped lunch and got up a bit before 2 pm. After a quick, cold breakfast in the galley, then a stopover in Rec to wash my face and brush my teeth, I dashed off to the warming Jamesway next to the Arch. The warming Jamesway is actually one of my favorite places around camp. These Korean-War-era, former Army structures have a lot of character and, for one, are actually kind of dark inside, which can be a treat here in the land of the 24-hr sun. We’ve got a small heating stove inside that keeps it nice and toasty, racks and hangers to dry our gloves, boots and Big Reds, some office space at one end, and a bit of a lounge/meeting space in the other end of the 35-foot-long arched building. Altogether, this makes for a pretty cozy environment for we core handlers to drink tea and layer and delayer all of the warm clothing we wear while at work.

The first five and a half hours of our shift were uneventful. The drillers made great progress- we were getting a nice-looking 2.5 meters of ice core (about 15 or 18 years worth of ice at this depth) every 80 minutes or so. This was just enough time for us to keep up with our core logging as I described in my last blog (12/29/08). It was an impromptu 90's night on the iPod, and we were listening to classics by the bands Everclear, Gin Blossom and Oasis—some stuff I hadn't heard since high school. But then, just as the end of our shift was coming into sight, we got warned by one of our drillers that the next run might be "banged up a little."

Spruce and I walked through the door to the drilling arch to find the three drillers we work with, Bill, Tanner and Patrick, gathered around the cutter head at the end of the core barrel (together we five make up the "dude" shift, because we're the only shift without at least two women). Out the bottom of the core barrel stuck several large angular fragments of ice, not the cleanly broken, smooth surface we're accustomed to seeing. Today was the first time this had happened this season, so our handling of the situation was a departure from standard procedures; together, drillers and core handlers collaborated quickly to safely get the ice out of the core barrel without further damage.

After we five talked it over, the drillers took off the cutter head and we removed the largest of the chips by hand, then attempted to push the remaining portion out as we typically would. The core wouldn't budge. Again we conferred and, although we recognized that some of the ice still inside the core barrel was likely damaged, decided that the best way to get the rest of the ice out without further risk would be to disassemble the core barrel around its middle (the core barrel is modular, with about 10 equal lengths screwed together to make the entire 3.15-meter-long barrel). This worked well and we were able to feed two out of the three ice lengths into their protective netting on the cold, processing side of the arch. These two lengths looked only marginally worse than they might under typical circumstances, so we turned our attention to the last, more broken 1-meter-length. When we tried to push it out of the core barrel, some of the broken fragments jammed against the inside of the core barrel, seizing it in place.

Again, we took apart more sections of the core barrel, and then again, until the barrel was in four pieces. Finally, we were able to hand-clear the jams and push several of the largest fragments into netting. Many of the fragments, alas, had lost their absolute position within the ice core, but were placed into one of several zip-lock bags to preserve their position as nearer-the-top, nearer-the-bottom, or closer-to-the-middle. In the end, it was a real shame that one of the 3,500 meters of ice that we have drilled or will drill was badly damaged; some of the analyses planned for the WAIS Divide ice core will not be possible on this length. But through the patience, creative problem solving, and dedication of those involved, we were able to protect 1.5 meters of ice from damage, and salvaged large, intact pieces and nearly all of the mass of the broken core.

I've been impressed at how committed the people I work with are to drilling the best possible ice core. Nobody in camp is simply a hired hand—it's clear that everyone has a stake in this core and goes to great lengths to make sure things go as well as they possibly can. Although today's event was a real shame, our team handled it as best as we could. This kind of attention, in addition to the careful planning and new drill technology behind this project, will reduce the likelihood that other core is damaged and help ensure that the WAIS Divide ice core is one of the best yet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

WAIS - Dr. Julie M. Palais
(Antarctic Glaciology Program Manager)

Name: Dr. Julie M. Palais (Antarctic Glaciology Program Manager)

Date: 30 Dec. 2008- 2-Jan. 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m

Borehole depth: 875 m on Dec 30; 930 m on Jan 2. ~1060 m on Jan. 6
Temperature (Jan. 6): -12.2°C
Wind speed (Jan. 6): 17.5 knots
Visibility (Jan. 6): Unrestricted
Wind direction (Jan. 6): 313° Grid
Relative Humidity (Jan. 6): 85%
Barometric Pressure (Jan. 6): 29.02 mm Hg
Precipitation (Jan. 6): light snow

Animals: None (unfortunately; I miss my 3 dogs!)

Breakfast: Bagels Cream Cheese and Lox almost every day! Amazing!
Lunch: Smorgasbord (everything from lamb stew to vegetarian mixtures with couscous and vegetables). Meals were superb with great soups, breads, and other baked goods. Not good for the waistline.....
Supper: Dinner on New Years Eve included pre-dinner appetizers (sushi, foie gras, deviled eggs, smoked salmon, cheeses, dips); crab legs, beef tenderloin, green beans, tater tots and great desserts. (some of this information was borrowed from Renin's blog since I forgot to write it all down (she's one of the cooks, she should know!). It was GREAT!

In a nutshell my site visit was amazing! I should explain. I am the National Science Foundation (NSF) Antarctic Glaciology Program Manager whose program is funding the WAIS Divide effort. We have been planning this project for many years and so to see it all coming together was very rewarding. Thanks to all those in my office back in Arlington, VA who have helped to make this possible including some of the Senior Staff in OPP (Office of Polar Programs) including Dr. Scott Borg (Antarctic Division Director), Dr. Karl Erb (Director, OPP) and Mr. Brian Stone (Division Director, Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics), and my colleague Dr. Alexandra (Alex) Isern who has worked with me in the last year in overseeing the construction and support of the DISC drill and ICDS.

Dr. Julie Palais in the backlit snowpit at WAIS Divide. Photo: Dr. Julie Palais, National Science Foundation

(L to R) Dr. Kendrick Taylor (WAIS Divide Chief Scientist), Dr. Julie Palais (NSF Antarctic Glaciology Program Manager), Bruce Vaughn (Science Coordination Office Operations Manager) standing outside the arch facility. Photo: Dr. Julie Palais, National Science Foundation

(L to R) Geoff Hargreaves (National Ice Core Laboratory), Dr. Kendrick Taylor (WAIS Divide Chief Scientist), Anais Orsi (Science Coordination Office Operations Manager), and Bruce Vaughn (Science Coordination Office Operations Manager) inside the core handling arch. The baker's rack in the background contains the 1-meter long sections of ice core, wrapped in green turkey netting. Photo: Dr. Julie Palais, National Science Foundation

In this photo, the sonde from the Deep Ice Sheet Coring (DISC) Drill is being rotated so that the ice core can be pushed out of the barrel. Photo: Dr. Julie Palais, National Science Foundation

Close up picture of the 1-meter long sections of ice core. Photo: Dr. Julie Palais, National Science Foundation

A few examples of the many things that impressed me at WAIS Divide:

The field camp was very comfortable and expertly run by a number of folks including Ben Partan, the camp manager and his staff, who work for Raytheon Polar Services Company (RPSC). As noted above, meals (the mainstay of camp life) were provided by three amazing chefs (John Wight, Camille Frost and Renin Oliver). Thank you all for the wonderful meals! Of course Matthew Kippenhan, RPSC logistics is the go-to man from RPSC. This project would not have been possible without his many years of work on this project and expert planning in the off-season.

The Deep Ice Sheet Coring (DISC) Drill was built by ICDS (Ice Coring and Drilling Services)(Charles Bentley-PI and Don Lebar- Program Manager)(University of Wisconsin) (beautifully designed and built by a cadre of expert engineers, drillers, machinists- Alex Shturmakov, Jay Johnson, Bill Mason, Paul Sendalbach among others). The drill is a technical marvel and was expertly operated by a hard working group of drillers (Jay Johnson, Bill Mason, Krissy Dahnert, Elizabeth Morton, Dave Ferris, Tanner Kuhl, Bill Neiumeister, Nicolai Mortensen, John Robinson). I was very impressed with the drill and seeing it "in action" was wonderful after many years of helping to oversee its construction with other colleagues at NSF. It seems to be everything we hoped for and more. And the most important thing is that it appears to be safely and cleanly operated and is producing excellent ice core. Watching the drill going down the hole and then coming up to deliver ice to the core handlers is like a flawlessly executed ballet dance with everyone and every part of the system working in concert. And best of all, the core quality is excellent! Filming of the drill in action is being done by Marie Delgrego DRI/Reno and a wonderful time lapse digital video of the drilling operation was made by Todd Rampenhahl, one of the camp staff. These films should be available eventually for all to see.

Science Coordination, National Ice Core Laboratory and Core Handlers: In the field the Chief Scientist and the force behind the project is Dr. Ken Taylor from the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. He (along with Mark Twickler and Joe Souney- back in the office at the University of New Hampshire) and Bruce Vaughan from the University of Colorado have done a great job coordinating the project and hiring a wonderful complement of young, enthusiastic students/scientists to do the core processing and core handling (e.g. Anais Orsi, Spruce Shoenemann, Natalie Kehrwald, Marie Delgrego, Logan Mitchell, Gifford Wong, Tim Bartholomaus, Bess Koffman, John Fegyveresi, and Susanne Buchardt-our visitor from Denmark). It's pretty cool to see so many women involved in this project given that the first time I went to the ice in 1978 we were by far in the minority. Last but definitely not least are two representatives from the National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) in Denver, Colorado, Geoff Hargreaves and Brian Bencivengo who have been instrumental in getting the core processing line up and running with help from Eric Cravens back at NICL in Denver helping to develop the database being used by the core processors.

Other Science: Although I didn't meet them because they were off on their seismic traverse it should be noted that the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) is using the WAIS Divide camp as a base of operations for their geophysical/seismic traverse (Sridhar Anandakrishnan is the principal investigator) and there is also an atmospheric chemistry project on going to study the composition of the atmosphere around the drill site. The student working on that project in the field is a very competent, young scientist with an incredibly great attitude and strong work ethic named Sylvain Masclin who is from France.

All in all it was a wonderful trip out to WAIS Divide. I was able to see the drilling activities in operation and I was able to speak with most of the folks involved in the project. We were able to discuss the status of the project and I learned about the plans for the next couple of years when we will hopefully reach the bed at a depth of about 3500 m. Thanks to all for a wonderful visit!

Monday, January 5, 2009

WAIS - Jan 5, 2009 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: January 5, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 9:20 pm
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: ~1030 m
Temperature: -13.8°C
Wind speed: 22.5 knots
Visibility: ~50m
Wind direction: 321° Grid
Relative Humidity: 90%
Barometric Pressure: 28.78 mm Hg
Precipitation: light snow
Animals: None
Breakfast: French toast (my favorite breakfast here)
Lunch: (Asleep)
Supper: Asian rice noodles, stir-fried pork and veggies, Thai coconut lime chicken soup, veggie egg rolls and 1000m celebration cake!

Yesterday we reached a huge milestone, or more precisely, a kilometer-stone. That’s right, we have now drilled down past 1,000 meters! The age of the ice at that depth is ~4,550 years old. Can you imagine that? An ice core, 12cm in diameter, 1000 meters long, and containing a unique record of climate history over the past 4,550 years? That is so cool! (and also the most over-used pun in Antarctica!)

We have known for a couple of days that a storm would come, but it wasn’t forecast to be a huge storm, and it has lived up to its lack of expectations. But, it’s our first real “weather” in a long time, so I thought I’d write a little about it. Our first “storm” was on Dec 16th, but it only lasted ~12 hours and didn’t give us very much snow. Since then we have had extremely stable weather: mostly sunny skies with sparse clouds of all types and hardly a breath of wind.

After finishing my shift last night, I went to bed around 11am. By then the wind had started picking up, but there was still no snow and I could still see some blue in the sky. Susanne and I are night shift partners, so since the storm was forecast to be strongest this evening, we decided to “carpool” (walk together) from tent city to the Galley when we woke up at dinnertime (which is our breakfast). When I woke up at 6pm, I noticed that a lot of snow had blown in between my tent fly and tent body and was piling up quick. Also, the type of tent that we are using (Arctic Oven) has a hole in the top of it for a stove flue, (the fly also has a hole, but the hole in the fly has a flap covering it…I have no idea why they don’t have a flap for the tent body hole!) and this hole was allowing snow to blow in my tent! Luckily for me, my sleeping bag was not right under the hole, so the small pile of snow was next to me instead of on top of me. I scooped up the snow and put it outside, then plugged the hole with a pair of cotton socks that I’m not using. Hopefully that problem is solved. Next, I got all of my gear on (long underwear, fleece jacket, insulated Carhartt overalls, Big Red down jacket, baklava, goggles, beanie, and gloves) & stepped outside of my tent and what did I see? Tent city is about 75 m long, and it’s another 100m beyond the edge of tent city before you get to the first Jamesway of camp. Well, it was windy and snowing lightly, but I could still see a good portion of tent city, which means visibility is about 50m. Humph. I know you aren’t supposed to wish for bad weather, but I feel like a good storm is part of the Antarctic experience. This one just doesn’t quite have enough umph to qualify. I looked over my tent and found that the snow covering up the corners of my fly had been blown off. This tiny gap was allowing fresh snow to blow under the fly and accumulate between the fly and body. I got a shovel and covered them up…hopefully that’ll solve that problem. We’ll see how it looks in 8 hours when I get off my shift!

With all this good weather here, I have been very curious about what the rest of the climate system has been up to this season. It could be that this summer here is just an anomalous year, but I wonder if it is part of a larger trend? If anyone out there in internet land has been keeping up with ENSO or other climate parameters and feels like sending me some general info, I’d love to hear it. Also, while you are at it, it would be really neat to find out about significant cultural events that happened around 4,000-5,000 years ago (2,000-3,000 B.C.) and let me know about those also. Since we have limited internet access its hard for us to find this kind of stuff out, and it is really neat to think about what was happening in the rest of the world at the same time it was snowing in Antarctica and making what would eventually be a part of our ice core. You can email me at logan.mitchell “at” wais.usap.gov. We have limited internet access here, so please keep the email size below 25kb and don’t send any pictures. Thanks!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

WAIS - Jan 3, 2009 - Gifford

Name: Gifford J Wong

Date: 03 January 2009
Location: WAIS Field Camp (Science Rac Tent)
Time: 2030
Latitude: 79°28’1.2”S
Longitude: 112°5’6.0”W
Elevation: 1,759m
Temperature: -20.4°C
Wind speed: 2.4 kts
Visibility: Seems like miles and miles!
Wind direction: 326°
Relative Humidity: 69%
Precipitation: None
Altimeter: 28.87
Animals: I like the cracker variety … ?
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast, lox, and some foie gras with orange juice.
Lunch: Lime-coconut-chickensoup and flat-bread sandwiches (crabmeat, salami & ham & gouda, or veggie – I chose the first two). Peach cobbler for dessert!!
Supper: Lovely mix of flank steak, garlicy seafood soup, steamed
carrots, fries, and peach cobbler (from lunch)! Oh, and IBC Root Beer
(no joke)!!

Hello again! Life at the oWAISis resort/camp continues to roll along. Today my list of things done include: 1) work, 2) shower, 3) write letters and 4) play a few holes of golf.

Work was fantastic today (as it honestly is every day). As John hinted at in his blog yesterday, I got the opportunity to work with him logging ice cores while Bess took a day away from the cold, noisy and dry Arch. Working with a new partner presents both interesting challenges as well as exciting, new interactions. The process, as outlined by Tim a while back, is not without its inherent difficulties. We are dealing with surprisingly fragile, regularly irregular, and frustratingly dynamic ice. That said John handled the tasking swap like a pro! He even picked up on the hand signals that Bess and I developed for the 1-meter logging station (Tim’s “second station”). My friends who are behind “Discovering Deaf Worlds” (www.discoveringdeafworlds.com) would be proud!

The shower, in and of itself, is not worth noting. The process, however, may be interesting for some. As you might imagine, we are surrounded by “water” in the form of snow… but a snow-melter takes a lot of energy to run. We definitely try to conserve water where possible (save for drinking water – dehydration is a silly thing to find yourself ailed with out here!). A sign hanging in the shower reminds the shower-er how much water it takes for a 5-minute shower: one 55-gallon barrel full of snow. So, before I began, I checked the holding tank (which attaches to the water heater) and the melter tank – both were full. The barrel (which is unceremoniously dragged from outside, where the fresh snow is piled, to inside, where the melter/tank is staged) was completely empty. A quick shoveling of snow solved that dilemma, and I found myself ready to bathe!

Letter writing, it might be argued, is a lost art. I mean, text messages have their place, and emailed letters are a fantastic way to effortlessly communicate with anyone anywhere in the world! Phone calls are great (and satellite phones are incredibly decadent). BUT an actual letter received at a field camp hundreds of miles from anywhere is quite the little treasure. To bring this point home, for me at least, Dave the driller (he helped build the golf course) let me borrow This Everlasting Silence: The love letters of Paquita Delprat and Douglas Mawson 1911-1914. In this vein, a letter received warrants a letter sent. The previous planes (aforementioned in at least John’s blog, I believe), while few and far between, generously brought with them a number of cards, letters and even packages for me. So, tonight, between work and dinner, I wrote cards and letters (so if any of you are reading this – they’ll be on the next plane, I promise!).

And this brings me to the last thing “I did” tonight – play a few holes of golf. Admittedly, it was just 3 holes of “miniature” golf. In fact, it was the same course that was used for the WAIS Divide Olympics! A storm is coming in a few days and there was talk of tearing it down so that nothing non-snow-like blows away, but after 8 people played in tonight’s impromptu tourney, the decision was made to tear down the “golf course” tomorrow. The storm is due in 3 days… we’ve got time.

Well, if everything goes well, my shift might see the “odometer” creep past 1000 meters! I hear a sleeping bag calling my name… thanks for tuning in, and wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying 2009!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

WAIS - Jan 2, 2008 - John

Name: John Fegyveresi

Date: 1/2/2009
Location: WAIS Divide Rec Tent
Time: 9:39 pm
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 930 m
Temperature: -22° C
Wind speed: 5-8 knots
Visibility: < 1 mile and foggy
Wind direction: 335°
Relative Humidity: 71%
Barometric Pressure: 28.83 mm Hg
Precipitation: None
Breakfast: Pancakes, cereal, and coffee
Lunch: Lamb soup, veggies, and a few other things I can’t remember
Supper: Bread, shrimp rice, pasta/garlic medley

Hello again everyone. It’s John again blogging from one of the public computers over in the Recreation tent here at WAIS divide. First major order of business today and news worth mentioning: Happy Birthday Logan!

That’s right…today is Logan’s 28th birthday (or 4th birthday in dog years). Of course back home in the States, it still isn’t quite his birthday yet, so make sure to open your window, pop your head out, and shout “Happy Birthday” for Logan…..if the wind is right…we all just might hear you ?

Today was our first official work day of 2009. We hit quite a few small snags today with the drilling. No major problems, but it did mean that we were only able to pull up about 20 meters as opposed to our usual 35-40. Tomorrow I’ll be jumping in with Gifford on first shift as a substitute core handler. Bess hasn’t been feeling too well and the group down here feels it’s better if she just takes it easy for an extra day so that she can heal up. It’s been a while now since I’ve done some core handling, so it will be a nice change. It will be a lot of fun working with Gifford too.

We had a last minute flight that came in today. It was originally scheduled as a “Backup Flight” but was later upgraded. Basically, if a flight is labeled as “Backup”…it means that it is set to fly somewhere else first: like South Pole. If, however, the weather turns sour at South Pole, we would be the backup and it would fly here instead. In this case though, it was simply upgraded to a Primary flight…to a lot of people’s surprise. We had 5 people leave camp today, and only one new person arrive (Dave – Mechanic). 5 people leaving doesn’t sound like a lot, but when the camp population drops from 45 to 40, it is actually quite a noticeable difference. The flight came in at about noon, and was off again by 1:00. Several of us got great video clips of it leaving.

Later tonight, fellow core handler Susanne, gave us all a great science talk on her involvement with the North GRIP project a few years ago. This project went from 1996 to 2004 up in central Greenland and is in many respects similar to the project here at WAIS Divide. The ice core drilled at NGRIP is often considered the “sister” core to the one we are drilling. The annual snowfall and temperatures in North-Central Greenland and at WAIS Divide are very similar. It will be very interesting to compare both cores once we are done here at WAIS and see how Northern and Southern Hemisphere climates compare over the past 100,000 years.

Well, we have roughly 19 days of drilling left here at WAIS and we are still looking to be on schedule for hitting a depth of 1500 meters. Everyone is starting to think a little bit about the voyage home from here. A lot of us here are planning a few weeks to travel and hike around in New Zealand. There are hundreds of amazing trails and places to see there. Because many of the people here at camp were here last year, they are able to offer some great insight to which places are the best to see in New Zealand. I know I can’t wait to do some of the great hikes there.

Thanks again for keeping up on our adventure…and I’ll write again next
week! -john

Thursday, January 1, 2009

WAIS - Jan 1, 2009 - Logan

Name: Logan Mitchell

Date: 1/1/2009
Location: WAIS Divide Galley
Time: 10:00 pm
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: 910 m
Temperature: -21.3° C
Wind speed: 3.6 knots
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind direction: 335°
Relative Humidity: 71%
Barometric Pressure: 28.83 mm Hg
Precipitation: None
Animals: WAIS Divide Olympians
Breakfast: None (I was asleep)
Lunch: Leftover rice, quinoa, beef tenderloin, rolls.
Supper: None (I was asleep)

Happy New Year from WAIS Divide!! Today was the 2nd Annual WAIS Divide Olympic games with 4 events: Tower building, sled hauling, sumo wrestling, and miniature golfing. The weather for the games was perfect: Mostly sunny with a few high clouds that made for a perfect background for the pictures. The Games had about 20 participants (~1/2 of the entire WAIS Divide camp) including core handlers, drillers, one of the cooks, and lots of camp staff.

First up was Tower Building, organized by Tim and Bess. For this event a team of four people had to quarry snow blocks, then carry them 10 meters and construct a tower out of the blocks. The team with the highest tower after six minutes won! Before the event started, I thought that it would be a challenge to just get a couple of blocks and that the tallest tower might only be 4’ tall. Boy was I wrong! It turned out that every group was able to quarry plenty of blocks, and the real challenge was figuring out a good way to stack them up as high as possible. In the end, the winning technique involved building a small stairway next to the tower, then at the last second standing up your highest, skinniest block at the very top. The first place team constructed a 8’ 10” tall tower! I was on the second place team, and even though we didn’t get first, I was quite proud of our 8’ 4” tall tower.

The second event was a sled hauling relay race organized by Spruce and Gifford. In this event, different teams of four people were chosen, and then given a banana sled. For the relay, each person on the team had to don a harness which was attached to the banana sled with a rope. In the banana sled was one of the other team members. The duo then had to run 20 meters, go around a flag, and then come back and switch runners. Each person on the team had to pull the sled at least once, and the first team to complete 4 rounds first won! The harnesses that we were using are the ones we use in the drilling arch and are very tricky to put on and take off. They have four buckles: one over each should and one around each leg. A couple of the teams tried to leave the leg loops buckled and step in/out of them so they didn’t have to deal with the buckles, but even stepping in/out of the leg loops was very time consuming. The team I was on quickly figured this out and after the first person went we left the leg loops unbuckled which saved us precious seconds and allowed us to capture the gold! Wow, I never thought I would win a gold at the Olympics! Many thanks to my fellow sled relay mates for making it a possibility: Ben (camp manager), Billy (head carpenter), and Jonathan (weatherman), you guys are awesome!

Sled hauling event - 2nd Annual WAIS Divide Olympic Games. Photo courtesy of Logan Mitchell.

Sled hauling event - 2nd Annual WAIS Divide Olympic Games. Photo courtesy of Logan Mitchell.

The third event, sumo wrestling, was organized by Natalie. In this event, two people donned large pieces of foam that were strapped to their bodies, and then began wrestling in a 3m diameter circle. The foam suits were perhaps the comedy highlight of the Games because the armholes were not spaced out quite far enough apart, so when you wore it you looked like a tyrannosaurus: big foam body with tiny short arms sticking out in front of you. The rules were that if any part of you besides the soles of your feet touched the ground inside the circle, or if any part of you went outside the circle you lost. For example, if you fell on the ground laughing at how much your opponent looked like a tyrannosaurus rex, you lost. I was eliminated early on in this event. The final matchup was between the night cook Renin (see yesterday’s entry) and Zach (an electrician). Renin tried to bulldoze Zach, but Zach was quick and nimble on his feet and was able to deftly dodge Renin’s attack, sending Renin flying out of the ring. Way to go Zach!

The final event was miniature golf set up by Dave (driller), Bill (driller), Brian (NICL), and John. There were three holes complete with snow block obstacles, ramps, snow pits, and bridges. We used neon pink, orange, and yellow golf balls and went to town! The snow was pretty rough and didn’t allow the balls to roll very much which meant that a delicate mix of power and aim was required to navigate the course. When the dust settled, Spruce had the lowest total score with 10 strokes to complete the course! Tied for second place with 11 strokes was Gifford, Dave, Tim and I!

By the time the competitions were over it was 5pm, clouds had moved in, and everyone was freezing cold, so the Olympians retired to the galley for some hot coco. Everyone was tired, but had huge smiles on their faces. Bess was nominated the official scorekeeper and tallied up everyone’s individual scores. 4 points if you got a gold, 3 points if you got a silver, 2 points for bronze, and 1 point for participation. I was astonished when Bess announced that I had the highest overall point total for the games!! In second place was Tim, and in Third was Jonathan, Spruce, and Zach.

After all of this, I needed to get some rest before my shift started, so I took a couple hour nap. When I arrived back at the galley a few minutes ago I noticed that on the white board where the final results were written down, someone was accusing me of doping. I swear though, they were just multi-vitamins!

Many thanks go to Anaïs for organizing the Olympics and making the wonderful WAIS Divide Olympics buttons that were given to all of the participants!