Field Update: Nov. 27, 2010

After the move yesterday, we are catching up on servicing all of the vehicles, getting the camp organized again, and preparing for melting the next hole through the ice. The vehicle pool that we have out in the field is an important part of accomplishing our mission. We have two Caterpillar D6 bulldozers, a Multi-Terrain Loader (MTL), a Hagglund, a Pisten Bully, and two ski-doo snow machines. These all need to be maintained and serviced to ensure that we continue to have the benefit of their use for our project. We work these vehicles hard, but treat them well.

Richard Levy is refueling the ski-doo he rode yesterday and preparing to take it back out to make some measurements for a colleague back in New Zealand. Richard, who is the NZ lead scientist in the Coulman High Project, is a researcher at GNS-Science, a NZ crown corporation located in Lower Hutt, a suburb of Wellington. He was formerly the ANDRILL Staff Scientist at the Science Management Office in Lincoln, Nebraska before returning to New Zealand a couple of years ago.

He’s been instrumental in planning the NZ participation in both the Coulman High Project and up at the CTAM (Central Transantarctic Mountains) camp, where he will be going with Gary Wilson and Tim Naish later this month to do geologic fieldwork on the Beardmore Glacier. In the past few weeks, Richard has coordinated the gravity coring to collect sediment samples, and used the downhole camera to image the holes melted through the ice shelf and thereby observe the seafloor at the Coulman High sites.

Tamsin Falconer has been the ANDRILL Camp Manager for the entire season. She works for Victoria University of Wellington and is on contract with Antarctica New Zealand. She keeps track of personnel and cargo movements, organizes the daily work at the camp and surrounding areas, and communicates with both McMurdo Station and Scott Base. Here she performs maintenance on one of the ANDRILL ski-doo snow machines.

Yesterday, while coordinating the break down of the camp in preparation to begin the move to Site #2, Tamsin took Russell with her to sort out some issues. It was cold and snowing hard at that point, so Russell had to hang on. All of the excess food for the camp was buried in a big trench that had been made in the snow and this all had to be dug up and transported with us to the new site, where it was buried again. In addition to running the Galley and keeping us all fed, Russell focuses on issues of hygiene and food safety. He spent the winter in the Galley at McMurdo Station, so he’s been on the ice for a long time this year, but he’s the best cook that anyone could hope for. He’s impressed everyone with his fine cuisine, breads, and desserts. This is his first time in a field camp situation, but you wouldn’t know it from what he’s been able to do so far. Russell works for NANA Services LLC, a Native-owned regional corporation based in Anchorage, AK that provides food service and other personnel for the U.S. Antarctic Program through a subcontract with Raytheon Polar Services Company. Russell is always ready to lend a hand and keeps us all entertained with his stories and his guitar.

Dar Gibson is an ice driller from Vermont who came to ANDRILL from the IceCube Project, which has been drilling deep ice holes at South Pole Station for the past few years. These holes are more than 2.5 km deep and are used to place a network of photomultiplier tubes in the ice to detect muons and neutrinos as part of a physics research project funded by NSF-OPP. Dar rode one of the ANDRILL ski-doo snow machines yesterday and followed the containers and other vehicles during the camp move. On the first traverse out to camp in early November, Dar rode over 60 miles on the ski-doo while flagging the route from the Shear Zone across the ice shelf.

Tristan Bennett is often found driving the MTL, clearing snow and accomplishing a range of other tasks. He is one of the D6 drivers, along with Jeremy Ridgen (J.R.), who is the lead hot water driller and camp mechanic.

J.R. keeps everything working – he fixed the Pisten Bully a few weeks ago.

But he’s happiest behind the wheel of the D6, moving all sorts of things, from containers to big piles of snow. J.R. has been involved in a wide range of drilling projects, from Cape Roberts to AMISOR to ANDRILL and he’s worked closely with Alex Pyne on the ANDRILL hot water drill system

Will Ostrom, from WHOI, has demonstrated a wide range of skills out at camp. In addition to his knowledge of ropes and rigging, he’s tried his hand at driving the Hagglund and helped in many ways with the camp move.

Then there’s me. I’ve been driving the Pisten Bully all season, but I’m heading back to McMurdo soon. I’ll have to leave the PB and go back to walking from place to place. For the next month I’ll be working in Crary Lab, tracking down supplies, scheduling helo flights in consultation with Tamsin, and coordinating with the RPSC work centers to make sure that the camp gets whatever is needed to complete our work in the weeks ahead.

In the coming week, we’ll melt another hole through the ice shelf, collect additional gravity cores, run the CTD and camera down the ice hole to the seafloor and back, and deploy the second oceanographic mooring. Then we’ll move the camp again and start work at Site #3. The season is going well and the team is confident that we can accomplish all of the goals that we’ve set for ourselves this year. We’ve already proven that we can traverse our gear to this area of the ice shelf, that we can melt consistent holes through the ice and deploy a range of scientific instruments, and that we can all work together effectively to move from site to site. We have good people on site and we’ve had good weather. All is well at Coulman High Site #2.

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