End of Season Field Reports

2006-2007 Field Season

Raytheon Polar Services Company (RPSC) Activities at WAIS Divide 2006-2007
RPSC Project Manager: Matthew Kippenhan

Field Season Overview:
The second field season for the WAIS Divide ice core project ended on 07 February 2007. The successful season focused on supporting 8 science groups and the second phase of construction on the arch interior. Science activities included regular twin otter and Basler Turbo 6 aircraft support from the camp. With many science teams traveling in and out of the camp, the average population tended to be around 21 persons including a camp staff of nine. However, the camp remained busy throughout the months with managing daily camp and flight operations scattered with many poor weather days.

Arch interior work started soon after the camp was up and running. Activities included hand excavating with electric chainsaws the main drill tower slot, winch pit, and the core storage basement. As the excavation at each location was concluded, the construction crew, lead by Billy Texter, installed floor footings and floor panels. Lighting and ventilation ductwork was also installed; however, a delay in receiving the fans and electrical distribution panels as scheduled will push their installment to next season. Four air conditioning units for the core processing area were installed but were not tested due to lagging electrical panels. Cursory temperature monitoring prior to closing the arch for the winter showed the core storage basement lingering around -14 F and upper core processing area around +4 F on nicer days. The core processing arch was insulated with R-12 fire resistant blankets. The smaller arch is now showing signs of snow drifting reaching its arch peak, which will greatly add to the insulation for maintaining a cold work area. During December, two ICDS team members arrived at camp to install the two large gantry cranes in the drilling arch area. These cranes will provide them with immediate heavy lifting support when the main drill is installed. There will be a moderate punch list of remaining items to construct or install in conjunction with installing the drill and core processing equipment scheduled for next season. RPSC is currently working on next season's schedule. Fortunately, despite the tremendous danger and effort of hand excavating over 15,500 cubic feet of firn, block by block, the construction crew only reported several muscle strains and pains.

Towards the end of the season, the NSF approved four additional LC-130 missions above plan that flew in the first shipments of drilling fluids that were previously staged in McMurdo Station. There is currently enough drilling fluid on site to conduct the first season's goals. A total of 28 LC-130 Hercules missions brought in approximately 435,000 lbs. of cargo, passengers, and fuel. After two seasons, a total of 1,356,181 lbs. of cargo, passengers, and fuel have been flown to the field camp. A major challenge for this season was winterizing the camp. Since the arch is into it's interior construction phase and not available as a large storage shed as last season, all camp cargo and equipment was winterized outside on a 400-foot snow berm. As one can guess, it is very time consuming building such a large snow berm and the process begins a month before needed.

As the camp was closing, the annual resupply vessel, the American Tern, arrived at McMurdo Station with several milvans of WAIS Divide items. These items consisted of the third bulk purchase of both drilling fluids, a second aircraft cargo sled, aluminum ice core trays, and ISC boxes preloaded with core tubes. These items will remain in McMurdo Station the winter months until the following field season begins.