Field and CPL Updates

2010-2011 Antarctica

January 9, 2011
Update provided by Ken Taylor
project update image
Krissy Dahnert next to the drill barrel of the DISC drill. Photo: Julie Palais

Dear WAIS Divide Enthusiast,

This week started shaky, but ended on positive notes.

The last shipment of ice from WAIS Divide to McMurdo was known to have been transported in an aircraft with a cabin temperature of up to +20 degrees C instead of the typical less than 0 degrees C. Geoff was able to recover data loggers from INSIDE the core boxes, which showed that at least one box of cores (4 m of ice) warmed up to -7C, and was above -15C for 6 hours. I suspect that at least 32 cores may have experienced these temperatures. We will know more when all the loggers are downloaded at NICL. We are having discussions with the 109th (Air National Guard) to develop new temporary procedures to assure this does not occur again, and hope to be able to ship all the ice we recover this year to NICL.

The drill cable developed a kink and we had to cut off 600 m and connect the cable head. We have reduced the drill's descent rate to prevent this from happening again. Fortunately, the length of the cable is longer than stated by the manufacturer, and a careful check of the cable length determined there is enough cable on the winch to allow us to drill to 3,360 m. Our depth goal for the season is 3,330 m so there is enough cable to get to our current maximum allowable depth. We are now limited by the amount of time we have to drill, not by the length of the cable. There were also addition problems in the electronics section of the drill. Nicolai Mortensen and Krissy Dahnert put in several long days to get the drill operational. Jay Johnson got pushed through McMurdo to WAIS in 30 hours to help out. These events delayed us by 3.5 days. The drill and core handling crews worked Sunday to make up some of the time.

The current depth is 2,892 m, and age is 33.4kyr, and we are drilling between 20 and 25 m/day. The core consistently comes up in 3 m lengths that are clear, with an occasional ash layer, and free of fractures. The core breaks align well and the azimuth marks are consistent. There is a hint that the layering may be inclined several degrees more than can be explained by inclination of the borehole.

New science arrivals to camp this week include Mark Twickler, TJ Fudge, and me (Ken Taylor). We also have a two-person media crew that is producing several short videos that will be heavy on the science. Transit time from home to WAIS Divide was 13 days, which is about typical.

Dave Ferris organized another charity fundraising raffle at WSD, with funds going to a New Zealand based charity assisting with relief from the recent earthquakes. In addition to the grand prize iTouch, there was a signed print from last year's Artist in Residence (Anne McKee), a signed copy of ALONE (book by Adm. Byrd), and a vintage GISP2 patch. The 40 people at WAIS Divide raised $2,000. By comparison, last year's Women's Soiree in McMurdo (population ~1,000) raised ~$1,800.

Heidi Roop gave a science lecture at camp and hosted the second PolarTREC talk that had 600+ participants in schools around the United States.

On a personal note it is great to be back at WAIS Divide. Paulene Roberts is our camp manager this year and her staff is doing a great job of supporting us. Camp is tidy, the food is good with a lot more freshies than the last few seasons, and the moral is good despite the setbacks.

Below are the two SITREPs from Giff and Krissy that provide all of the details.