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16 May, 2003

Weather: Much better. The skies cleared and the winds died down so the temperature dropped to around –30c.

Camplife: Back to work drilling ice cores. We are a little behind so digging out tents and equipment that we are not using can wait for later. We will try to drill late into the evening so that we may be able to fly out of this camp by Monday.

Many people, students and friends, have asked some great questions so I thought I would post some of those. If they stem some more questions, just e-mail and I try to get back to you as soon as possible.


How many sites do you have to drill at? We are only drilling at two sites. We will spend about 10 days at each site depending on the weather.

How long does it take to drill and process one ice core? Each ice core is about 1m in length. Then length it takes to drill relates to how deep you have to go and get it. On average it takes about 15 minutes to drill and remove one core. If everything was perfect, technology, drill weather, a whole core (150m) can be drilled and processed in 5 days. We have not been so fortunate yet as we have had some nasty storms.

How long does it take to dig out a drifted tent? Do all the tents deal with this? All tents go through this. It takes about an hour depending on the drift size and the winds the previous day. This morning I literally had to kick my way out of the tent as the snow had drifted against my door. Different people have different ideas about piling snow around their tent so the wind does not make drifts. I have heard only horror stories where the piles of snow caused more damage than good and the person had to be dug out!!!

Where you nervous flying in the C-130 or the twin engine otter? I was not nervous as the pilots are trained in landing in these conditions. It is actually very fun because it is new and I am able to see out the windows to environments that I may never get to see again. The C-130 was quite noisy and it was recommended that we wear ear plugs. Once the plane was in flight we were able to move around but with all of the cargo it was a little cramped. The pilots for the otter have been fabulous. They do a fly by before the land and after they take off to say hello. It is amazing how close they can get to you. Once in the otter we can lay on the cargo to get comfortable as sometimes we do not have any seats.

At a new site do you have to dig another "poop tent"? Yes, this first one we dug we did not center the hole to well and had to do a lot cleaning! The tent seems to carry the atmosphere from the previous location however!

Are you responsible for a certain job each day or do you switch jobs? What jobs have you done so far? Because there are only 5 people at our camp we share the responsibilities. Since I am in the cook tent right now writing all of you I am able to melt some of the ice and snow to make drinking water that we can later boil for dehydrated meals, tea or hot water bottles that we put into our sleeping bags at night. Lou and Sue are the two people that run the drill. That is what their expertise is in and we do not bother them. The three guys, Greg, Ryan and myself process the ice cores as the drillers bring them to the surface. As for cooking, cleaning, maintenance we are share equally. The important thing to remember is if something needs to be done, we do it.

Are you getting homesick (what do you miss the most besides your family) or do you wish for warmer weather? Do you ever get tired of looking at ice? I guess everyone including myself is a little homesick. Just being away from everything you know and do is a little hard. What I miss the most would be how each day in the spring is a little different. Yes, right now all I see is ice and a lot of it. Seeing new birds migrate through, new flowers blossoming, people enjoying the warm air is something I really look forward to.

When you are in the cook tent, what are your conversations mainly about? We have solved the Worlds problems. The problem is we do not have any tv’s or radios to know what the problems are. We talk a lot about science, our professions such as teaching and what we have done in our spare time. I talk a lot about canoeing and camping, Lou does a lot of X-country skiing, etc… Because of the storms we have gotten to do a lot of reading and then we talk about each of the books. Our favorite book so far is ‘Holes”. When we get back we all want to go to the movie. Lars Sral is my new name for any of you who have read the book. We have also read ‘The Good Earth’ which is probably too deep for most 4th graders and a few true adventure books such as the ‘Proving Ground and ‘Saved’. Our conversations final end up with what we wish we could eat if we were back in civilization. Mikes Smoke house sounds good as well as Sammy’s Pizza.

Have you found anything interesting in the ice?

We have drilled at two different sites. Each going back about 300 years. The first site we could see all of these areas where it had gotten warm enough in the past to cause met layers. Picture a tube of snow with thick layers of ice. Sometime back in history it got warm enough to cause melting. Pretty rare were we are now. The new spot we are at has not had any melt layers and I know why…it is very cold and windy here!!!!!

How would you bathe in those freezing temperatures?

To say it so you understand, I STINK! It is way to cold to shower but each person brought bags of wet wipes, the same kind you use for little babies. Each morning I put the bag in my sleeping bag to thaw them out so that they are warm enough to wipe of my body. Fortunately, it is so cold that we do not sweat too much.

How do you choose where to drill for the ice cores? In the pictures it all looks the same. I agree it often does look the same. Dr. Joe McConnell and his colleagues have looked at the snow accumulations throughout Greenland over the past years. With that information they are able to make scientific guesses (hypotheses) on what sites would produce the best information for what they are studying.

Have you made any mistakes that you’ve learned from?

The head scientist enjoys this one. I personally seem to have forgotten my math skills. 109 + 109 should equal 218 but I sometimes forget to carry the one so I get 208. Each night we check our data sheet and have found a few mistakes. Maybe the cold is affecting my brain. Some other mistakes people have made: Each person brings a pee (urine) bottle to their tent each night. It is too cold to go find the toilet in the middle and leave your warm sleeping bag so we each carry a bottle. It may sound gross but after you use the bottle you put the lid an REAL tight and put it back in your sleeping bag so it does not freeze solid by morning! Ryan forget his bottle outside the bag and was frozen solid!!! Forgetting to close the tent door all the way so it is cold and icey in the morning. If we forget to cover up items at night they usually get completely filled with snow.

Our Coleman camp stove acts up and needs to be filled all of the time. The first night we let it go to low and everyone got real sick from the fumes. We are lucky to have Lou who has spent much of her time on the Greenland Ice sheet and Antarctica.

Can you tell us about any storms and what they felt like out there? We had an unusually strong three day storm. Most storms are short and strong, this was strong and long!!! Sitting in your tent it sounds like someone is always throwing sand on the tent. It is actually snow that is beating on the tent. The wind itself sounds like a freight train and when the gusts hit your tent it feels like you could blow all the way back to Eau Claire. The bamboo poles that we use to anchor things down whistle as the wind blows over them. The visibility is so low that you can barely see 100ft. It can be very dangerous so we hang tight and read a lot of books.

How deep is the ice and what is beneath it? The ice at the area we are collecting now is about 3000m or 9000ft. Beneath the ice is a layer of rock that makes up the surface of Earth. Many people think that there is water underneath the ice, however there is none in this location.

What do you do with the hole once you have drilled? Does it get filled in, or do you continue to drill? The hole is covered by a piece of plywood so it does not get filled in with snow and is marked with to bamboo poles with a red flag. This allows other scientists who are interested in studying temperatures down the tune can come back and find it. Other scientists will also come and drop a special camera to see the layers on video. If we would like to come back later we could drill deeper down. The hole will last for 10 years at this depth however will be covered with snow so it may be very hard to find. On deep cores the ice is more plastic like and will squeeze closed from the pressure.

What happens if the drill gets stuck? Ouch! There are a variety of ways to try to get it back up but if none of those work it is left there!!! It does not seem to be a problem in drill sites that are relatively shallow such as ours, however, in deep drill sites (1000m or more) it can be more common. During deep drilling, as the drill reaches closer to the Earth’s surface the Earth gives of heat and melts the ice. If the drill hits the liquid water it can freeze into place.

Another thing we are wondering is are your clothes keeping you cozy or are you chilly? I am wearing a lot of layers. I’ll go through the whole process from inside out. Underwear, thin layer of wicking material, next is a layer of thick fleece, followed by another thin fleece and finally a parka and pants. I like to use a head sock that covers my neck and then a hat under that. Mittens are best but sometimes gloves need to be used. With all of that I have stayed pretty warm. Feet always tend to be a little cold. I have some extra boot liners so each night I put my wet liners in my sleeping bag to dry and wear the other ones the next day. By the end of the trip my bag will smell like wet stinky feat.

Do you do laundry there, wear the same clothes over and over, or do you smell a bit?! I SMELL!!! After our first 10 days at camp we got to go back to town for a 12 hour stint. I washed my long underwear and two pairs of underwear for the next trip. Typically we wear the same clothes over and over and over…

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