Field and CPL Updates

2009-2010 Antarctica

January 25, 2010
Update provided by Kendrick Taylor
project update image
2009/2010 WAIS Divide field team. Photo: Brian Bencivengo

Core recovery for the 2009/2010 drilling season has ended as scheduled at a bottom depth of 2560 m (driller's depth), just a day's drilling short of our goal of 2,600 m. This season's core quality was stunningly excellent with only a few mid-run breaks.

RPSC opened the camp on November 1 and provided the logistics that were the base of the operation. A set of storms reminded the put-in crew where they were and kept the IDDO drilling and NICL and SCO science crews away until November 28, which was 10 days later than planned. RPSC worked through some Sundays and postponed some work allowing us to make up some of the lost time. The SCO and NICL crew opened the arch and packed up the kilometer of brittle (and some ductile) ice that was stored in the basement. Drilling operations started on December 11 and routinely produced 30+ m per day of perfect 3+ meter long cores. At these depths the gas bubbles have been forced into the ice lattice, making the ice almost glass clear. The cores occasionally had bands of volcanic ash, some razor sharp, others diffuse, that served as welcome treats. By working many Sundays and reducing the time required to take down the camp, we were able to make up for the lost time and meet our depth goal for the season.

The camp had a monotonous rhythm set by the 2.5-hour cycle it takes to recover each 3 m segment of ice core. But there was always something interesting going on, a new friend to share a meal with, a talk/slide show to attend, a ski with a friend or a solo off into the big white, the Winter Olympics, coffee house entertainment, a charity raffle, dazzling light shows in the sky. It never slowed down and everyone pulled together as a single team.

It takes a team to pull this off, most of who are in the attached photo. At home, Mark Twickler, Joe Souney, Alex Shturmakov and Tony Wendricks laid the groundwork for the operation. Matthew Kippenhan worked the logistics system to make sure we got the 40 cargo plane loads of stuff we needed. Tbird (Theresa Tran) ran a smooth, friendly, no drama camp. John Wight, Camille Frost and Erika Neal served up another season of great food from marginal ingredients. Eric Brown led our construction crew as helpfully as he has for the last 5 years. Jay Johnson and Krissy Dahnert led the drill crew in a professional and friendly way. Nicolai Mortensen kept the drill running with quick and effective problem solving. Lou Albershardt was working the drill controls as smoothly as she did for me on the GISP2, Taylor Dome, and Siple Dome deep core projects. Charlie Bentley stopped in to check on the drill operation. The first time he passed through here was in 1957. He was my master's advisor and still has a lot to teach me. Geoff Hargreaves and Brian Bencivengo organized the core handling and took responsibility for keeping the irreplaceable core safe for a very, very, long time in a very cold place. Bruce Vaughn herded the operation through McMurdo at the beginning of the season and got all the parts working as one team at WAIS Divide. For a third season Anais Orsi appropriately fretted over every small detail of the whole operation and kept everyone focused at the end of the season. The early career scientists that made up the core handling crew, and who will be working with this ice a second time at NICL, and then a third time in their labs, kept everyone motivated to do a quality job. They also provided lots of social energy despite working in a snowy and windy building with four noisy refrigeration units, from which they would go outside to the middle of Antarctica to warm up. This was Bess Koffman's and John Fegyveresi's second full season in that nasty place. Bo Vinther taught us a few core logging tricks; and following the tradition of Danish ice corers, provided good company. Almost a hundred others passed through camp spending months to days, and many hundred more in McMurdo backed us up. But the easiest job is being the Chief Scientist, because with a team this good, all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the show.