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