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!

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