Thursday, October 25, 2007

Working on the ANDRILL Core at McMurdo Station

I am spending a bit more time in McMurdo than I had planned to. My
field party, which was initially scheduled to go out into the field on
October 16, has been quite delayed. First, some drilling equipment
was delayed. Then a decision was made for half
of us to drive the equipment out, and the other half to fly out by
helicopter. I was scheduled for the helicopter. But in the process of
getting all of the equipment ready, I strained my back - and was told to
rest it for a week. Meanwhile, the weather has been very
unstable and no helicopters have been able to head into our field
area for the past 4 days! The overland survey headed out two days ago,
and one of their big vehicles had some mechanical trouble. Since
no helicopters can fly, due to the weather, they will have to wait
for another day to get a mechanic out there to fix the vehicle!

These are the realities (and occasional frustrations) of doing work in Antarctica!

On the brighter side, I have had the thrill of speaking to students at
two schools in Ann Arbor. I spoke with some of the fourth graders at
Logan Elementary school on Tuesday, and with ALL of Bach School this
morning. I had sent a powerpoint showing some of the images of where I
am, and of the project I am working on - and was able to have a real
time connection with hundreds of students while we all looked at the
same images! It still awes me that we are able to use technology in
this way and share such experiences. Since I will be in McMurdo, I can
continue to arrange these phone calls with interested parties. Once I
leave for the field, I may still be able to make phone calls, but I
won't be able to send powerpoints. Please let me know if you are
interested in setting this up!!

Thank goodness, my back is healing nicely. I'm not
quite up for shoveling snow for, but I expect to be able to do this within
the week, and be cleared to go into the field. I am VERY EAGER to
get out there!

Meanwhile, I have been very busy learning a new job working on the
core itself. I am helping to curate the core and cut samples from the
core using rock saws. Every morning the scientists gather around the
core that was brought in a day or two previously, and they decide
where they would like samples.
Those sample locations (depths in the
core, and size of samples) are then logged into the computer, and then
they need to be cut.Yesterday we took 150 samples from 30 meters of core, and that took all day!

At the drill site, we have just passed the 200 meter mark! The core
barrels coming up now have nearly 100% recovery - meaning that we are
not losing any rock. A meter section of core barrel comes back with a
meter of rock inside. It's very exciting to walk backwards in time, as
we burrow into the past. Thus far in the core we have seen numerous glacial
events, separated by periods of warmer, interglacial events. We are
now down to approximately 5 millions years before present.

Each morning, different geologists are giving us (the ARISE team)
short courses on different scientific disciplines. Today we were
learning about various methods for geologic dating. It's fantastic to
have a short course, and then get busy on the core, putting the
lessons to work. Yesterday's lesson was on geologic processes and
their resulting sedimentary structures. We can infer so very much
about the environment in which a rock is deposited by the structures
left behind. The core just comes alive when you know what you are
looking for!!

So - despite my disappointment of not being out in the field, I am
happy not to be out in bad weather, and thrilled to be having the
chance to roll up my sleeves and work on the core.

I will keep you all posted with news from McMurdo, the core, and the
status of my departure for the field.

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