Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Science On-Ice

The first 3 meters of sediment core arrived last night at 10:30pm! The schedule will be kicking into high gear soon. The on-ice portion of the ANDRILL science effort will encompass nearly 4 months by the time the last member leaves the ice at the very end of December. A work crew came in at the end of August at WINFLY (winter fly in) to break out the containers in which the drill rig was stored at Scott Base, tractor train it out to the site, and set it up. The drill team came in at the start of October to start lowering the sea riser into the ocean, deploying the drill string, and start drilling. The majority of the science team came in on the same day I did (the 9th - I've been here a week already!) Drilling should finish up by the start of December and the science and drill site teams will leave by mid- December. The folks breaking down and storing the drill rig for the winter should be done by the end of December. (Thanks to Jeremy Ridgen for the photo.) Of course, December isn't winter down here, but mid December is the time of summer when the sea ice starts becoming less stable and we want to be very safe with a heavy drill rig and camp out on the sea ice.

The main scientific goal for this portion of the SMS project is core characerization - otherwise known as description. This was one of the filters used to reduce the number of samples requested for our on-ice time. Scientists wishing to get samples to begin to answer specific research question were asked to wait til the off-ice portion of the SMS project. At this time, all teams from 50+ different institutions are working as a single unified group to get as many descriptive pieces of information about the core as possible to use communally. After we leave the ice, the science teams return to their home institutions with their on-ice samples and the descriptive data generated by the entire group. This information will be used to plan their next set of sample requests - these ones targeted towards answering specific scientific questions about the historical environment of Antarctica.

Make sure to check the other ANDRILL educator's blog entries, everyone has a different perspective and topics that they have chosen to write about! Some of my current favorites are Kate's Oct 12 entry about getting dressed for work here (with video), Robin's Oct 15 entry about surviving Happy Camper School (I still have to do that), Bob's Oct 15 entry about getting to the core (with prizes), and Ken's Oct 12 entry about ways to get to an Antarctic office.

Try this: Collect a large group of rocks, hopefully with some which are very different from one another and some which are very similar to each other - there should be a range in the characteristics of your rocks. My sample of McMurdo road gravel in the picture doesn't have much variation. Get into partner pairs. One partner leaves the room while the other chooses a rock. The partner with the rock should observe it carefully and record their observations in their science notebook. If you need a challenge, use only your sense of smell and touch to describe the rock! Once the description is complete, put the rock back and give the description to the partner who was out of the room. The second partner has to find the same rock his or her partner had using only the description. Think carefully about the features you might need to describe!

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