25 July, 2001
I didn't think I was doing an archeology project.
We awoke to a perfect day for pit digging. Light winds, not to cold ( 1.3 F) and somewhat sunny. Around 9:30 this morning, Meg and I headed out to dig the monthly one meter snow pit. To save a little effort, we combined it with the annual two meter pit, that I would dig for the University of Arizona team. Yesterday, we had prepared our 110 sample bottles. Meg washed them in the clean room and dried them in the hood. I weighed each one and packed them in the crate. Today, we would dig a one meter deep pit and sample snow every centimeter for the first ten centimeters and then every two centimeters the rest of the way down to two meters. I volunteered to dig the pit so that Meg could do her other daily routines in the science trench and clean air zones.
Meg set me up in a good place, not too far away from the science trench, but not too close either. Happily, I set off to dig. It was fun to dig the first meter. I worked through it quite quickly. As I began to work down to the second meter I hit a rope. Archaeology!! I had found a lost civilization. Since, I knew that this rope was probably from earlier years of science in this area, I decided to go find Meg before digging any further. However to my amusement, I realized that my next challenge was getting out of the hole. I laughed out loud as I realized I had merrily dug myself into a pit a little too deep to get out of easily. I remedied the situation by carving a lovely set of steps and crawled back out to find Meg.
As I stepped into the science trench I said with a laugh, “ I found an Ancient Civilization!”, and thought not much of it. Meg and I went on and did our sampling, carefully cutting down into the snow with the special snow excavator. By lunch I had fifty of the hundred and ten samples I would need to finish the project. At lunch, I mentioned to Jack Dibb and Markus that I had found a rope. Jack, who’s been here every year for 14 years, replied, “ Oh, yea that was a path we had back in ‘97”.
Markus overhearing this, looked at me. Without a word, I knew immediately --- I going to be digging a second pit. The first pit would have compacted snow under the old path and would not give us accurate measurements. Oh well, at least it was a nice day for digging. I headed off for my second pit, another fifty bottles on my sled. We will use the data from the first pit as a comparison to the second pit. Something we call spacial resolution or comparing the data in two different areas. Meg and Shelly also used the first pit to collect some other data. They looked at the snow’s stratigraphy or layering for Mary Albert of CRREL. They also collected some other snow samples for Jack Dibb’s ion concentration research. I found it interesting that even my breathing in the pit could alter the gas concentrations for Jack’s research. Jack made sure that Shelly and Meg cut back away from the original walls of the pit to gather uncontaminated snow.
The pits should contain snow that has changed over time. The snow in the pits has been there between one day and five years. When we melt the snow tomorrow we will look for a change in the gas concentrations with depth. In the past scientists have found that the concentrations of Formaldehyde (HCHO) peak at about one half meter of depth in these pits. The deeper the snow the older it is and the more isolated from the current atmosphere. I hope that the data is interesting and proves our hypothesis. But, in any case, it was interesting just being in a pit over my head.
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