7 August, 2002
THE EXPERIENCE BEGINS….
It’s day 2 of training for the new TEA parcticipants. Over the past two days our brains have been flooded with information to help us prepare for our TEA experience. We’ve been given overviews by past TEA parcticipants and scientists that have combined information about polar research efforts with the nitty gritty details of life on a research team in cold climates. We’ve also gotten a chance to get to know our TEA colleagues, and discover what a multi- talented group they are.
This afternoon has been spent covering the finer points of documenting daily experiences through journal writing: format, content, and inclusion of pictures. As the grand finale to this presentation, we lined up like ducklings -- 6 penguin nestlings (TEAntarctica) and 6 eider ducklings (TEArctic)—and took off behind Public Affairs Specialist Marie Darling for a tour of CRREL, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab. CRREL’s complex is located in Hanover, NH and operates under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers. This tour provided us with some concrete information for our first journal activities and a chance to sample the big picture of polar engineering research activities.
To set the stage for our discussion of cold climate research, we entered the cold room, one of 24 walk-in coolers that are used to store samples and field equipment. They are also used as venues for experiments needing cold conditions. From our vantage point at –24F, the concept of polar climates became just a little clearer. Sandals and shorts will not be part of the ECW (extreme cold weather gear) kits that will be issued before heading to the polar regions!
CRREL’s research projects are diverse. Many are conducted with military or civil engineering applications in mind, but are equally applicable to everyday life in cold climates. One such CRREL development is an antifreeze additive for concrete that shortens curing time in low temperatures, whether pouring airport runways in Bosnia or a driveway in Fairbanks. Environmental remediation projects in polar regions have far-reaching applications in environments that may not be so harsh. We might not all need to create tunnels through hundreds of feet of ice, but scientists working at the South Pole do. They are using CRREL-developed machinery to create tunnels for electric and other utility lines. CRREL also maintains a reference library that is THE place to look if you need information about things polar. If it’s about research in cold places—it’s there!
To me, the best part of the visit was the Ice Engineering Research Facility. This was the domain of wizards and inventors: devising tests, creating scale models and monitoring systems, and answering those ‘what if’ questions we all need to ask. Picture a large indoor swimming pool tucked away in a secluded part of the facility. At CRREL, you’re not going to need a bathing suit or sunscreen, and there are no palm trees. The pool we visited is actually a place to grow ice for experiments. It was being cooled to 10F to create an ice film for use in tests of scale models of submarines. The tests will determine the stresses involved as real ships crash upward through the ice. In other rooms, simulations were being created to develop solutions to the problem of ice development in canal locks in the Great Lakes, and to investigate how ice causes scouring underneath bridge abutments, leading to instability.
Our next days of orientation promise to be as busy and information- packed as the first. We’ll be learning how to take images that demonstrate the science we will be involved in. Mentoring plans will be developed that will help us communicate with colleagues and expand our collective knowledge of polar regions and science. We will spend a day practicing survival skills that will be an important part of ensuring that we return home intact from our polar experiences. As for me, I’m just wondering if we’ll ever get to go swimming in that pool……..
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