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.



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