Betty's Blog
Betty teaches 4th grade at Husmann Elementary School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Crystal Lake is about 60 miles northwest of Chicago. She has also taught "Science Methods for Elementary Teachers" at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Illinois.

Whenever possible, Betty enjoys the outdoors and the wonders that the natural world has to offer. She enjoys backpacking, skiing, orienteering, kayaking, gardening, travel, and photography.

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An Introduction to ANDRILL October 20th, 2006

            Scientists and educators involved with the ANDRILL Program will meet each morning during the drilling season to talk about the progress and results of the project.  Co-Chief Scientists Tim Naish (New Zealand) and Ross Powell (U.S) are responsible for leading these meetings.  We started our day today with such a meeting.  It was important to get the background information on the drilling system, in order to understand the logistics behind the drill rig and what the scientists and drillers hope to accomplish this season.  Remember that for more information, you can refer to the ANDRILL website and go to:

(or from the home page of click on “Science and Technology” and then “Technology Behind the Drill Rig”)

October 20-1

Approaching the ANDRILL drill site

October 20-2

The ANDRILL drill rig

            Lots of progress has been made so far.  The drillers used the hot water drill system to melt their way through the McMurdo Ice Shelf, which in this location was 85 meters thick.  This was done by making a progressively larger and larger hole in the ice shelf.  At this moment there is a 600 mm (millimeter) hole that’s been opened up.  The diameter is close to the width of a school desk.

 October 20-3

     The ocean floor lies about 940 meters below where the drill rig sits.  At this point, the drillers are deploying (installing) what’s called the sea riser, which is a pipe they hang from the drilling platform to the sea floor.  A sea riser has not been deployed to the sea floor from an ice shelf before, so this is exciting new technology to follow.  The team has to be extremely careful as they hang this pipe with a winch.  They clamp it off and add new sections as the drill rig takes the weight.  By the time this is lowered to the sea floor, they estimate that the weight will be 20+ tons.

October 20-4

     The team will need to get a feel for the tidal movements to track the effect of ocean currents on the sea riser.  Also, they must be sure that the sea riser stays away from the sides of the hole in the ice shelf, so they pump hot water through a reaming tool that surrounds the sea riser to keep it free from the ice.  I found it interesting to learn that sea level is 20 meters below the surface of the ice shelf.

   October 20-5

This is the hot water reaming tool.                                 

     Once the sea riser is in place, drillers use what’s called a P core barrel (P refers to the size of the barrel) which is a tube ahead of the sea riser.  A push-coring tool inside the P core barrel takes the first core sediment samples.  The push-coring tool is taken out and a new tool is inserted--a hydraulic piston corer (HPC).  The HPC will force a core barrel into the sediments to take up to three samples--each about 3 meters in length.  Eventually the sea riser is cemented into the sea floor at an approximate depth of 2-5 meters below the sea floor, and the rotary drilling takes place. 

 October 20-6     Each day scientists and drillers will retrieve cores from the drill rig and process them at the lab site at the drill rig.  Those cores will be transported from the drill site to Crary Lab, where the ANDRILL geoscientists will examine them.  I’ll be sharing much more on what individual science teams do….stay tuned!


(Photos by Ross Powell)





The Waiting Game October 21st, 2006

            At our daily meeting Ross and Tim gave us the latest news from the drill site….things are going well and the sea riser is within 4 meters from the sea floor.  At the moment the hot water reaming tool is attached to the guide wires and is reaming the outside of the hole to be sure it is clear.  The sea riser is hanging and getting used to the tides.  Everyone’s excited about the progress, and I can’t wait until the first core is brought into Crary Lab.


            After this briefing many of the ANDRILL team members had to stay around for the “Outdoor Safety Lecture” being held at Crary.  This meeting is required if you are planning on leaving McMurdo for a recreational activity.  This includes some of the more local hiking routes such as Castle Rock or Cape Armitage…both places I’d like to explore when I have some free time.  Basically a new electronic system called “E-foot Plan” has streamlined the process of checking out in McMurdo.  People fill out the online forms that will notify the Fire House that they’re headed out of town.  They still have to report in to the Fire House, and they have the final say on weather and conditions.  Also important…checking back in with the Fire House once you have arrived back in town, to avoid the launch of a search and rescue operation. 


            Our speaker gave us lots of information on the prevention and recognition of cold weather injuries.  All of these facts would directly apply to the ANDRILL team at the drill site.  The following is a list of critical points to remember:


**what are the ways we lose heat                

**what are some ways to preserve heat

**wearing layers of clothing                          

**drinking lots of water



 Oct. 21-1

            Our instruction went over the various stages of hypothermia, giving us information on what to do if we notice a partner showing signs of this condition. 

 Oct. 21-2

            Also important…stay on the flagged paths that have been checked out and established for recreation and public use.  Black flags on bamboo poles mean danger.  Red and green flags mean it is safe to proceed.  ANDRILL scientists and drillers know these rules as well…because they will be using various modes of transportation to go to and from the drill site.

            Ross and Tim were part of our ARISE meeting this afternoon.  This was very helpful because they were able to answer our questions about the drill rig, sea riser, and the initial phase of the drilling process. 


One of the big questions a couple people asked about was how much concrete will be poured into the sea riser to cement it into the sea floor in order for the rotary drill to begin working.  There is actually a huge technology in cements, and the type they use for this sort of project cures (hardens) in sea water.  They will pour the concrete down the sea riser and the cement oozes out of the bottom.  Once it hardens, they drill through the cement and back into the sea floor. 


The team at the drill site expects that about 30 meters of core will be brought up each day once the rotary drill bit is working.  The goal of the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) Project is to recover over a kilometer of sediment cores from the Ross Sea floor.  Once the drilling is completed for the season, the team sends explosives down the sea riser and they blow it to disconnect it from the sea floor.  The sea riser is removed to the surface.  I wonder how many of those parts can be re-used for future drilling projects?


              Oct. 21-3               

These are pipes that will go inside of the sea riser to collect soft sediments.

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