Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sitting comfortably in Christchurch.

Here I Christchurch New Zealand getting ready for my couple of weeks of travel and hiking. The flight up from McMurdo was quite interesting. There were two 4 star air force generals on the plane, as well as a 3 star general and several colonels. I guess there are only twelve 4 star generals in the entire air we had a pretty important flight. All the military types were really nervous and saluting like crazy. I only caught one of their names: General Chandler.

After returning all of my cold weather gear, and hopping a shuttle to my hotel, it was about 9 pm. A few of us went out for a cold beer but we were all too tired to stay out late. Before coming in to sleep, i stood outside the hotel staring up at the star filled night sky for about an hour. It was a bit hard to take in. It was as if my body said...."I can finally go to sleep properly".

This morning I got up and walked through the Botanical Gardens for a couple hours just smelling the flowers, and admiring the trees. It's amazing the things you take for granted when you are on the ice for 8 weeks. I went out for lunch with a fellow USAPer at a great vegan place. After that, I spent the afternoon just wandering around the city learning where things are. There's a huge city festival going on right now with a whole mess of street performers. It's a great week to be in Christchurch.

Last time up on Observation Hill (2 hours before my flight left)

4 Star General on the C-17 Flight (3 star general behind him)

Punting on the Avon River through the Botanical Gardens

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last Night in Antarctica

As far as last nights go....I can't complain about mine here in Antarctica. I spent the morning running around getting all my cargo back, but was able to finally relax once late afternoon rolled around. After I dropped my bags off for my outbound flight tomorrow, I headed over to the McMurdo Coffee House for some live Bluegrass music. Tonight was the last performance of the all Antarctic band: Phatass Bluegrass. On my way over, a giant ice-breaker was pulling into port....something I was not expecting. I sat at the coffee house for a couple hours, drank a few glasses of wine, talked with all my fellow WAISers, and even danced a little. It was a great time. I head out tomorrow right after lunch, so I definitely made sure to say some goodbyes tonight.

Ice Breaker Pulling In

McMurdo Coffee House

Phatass Bluegrass....doing their thing

Monday, January 26, 2009

...So what's my verdict on my first Antarctic Season?

I sit here in the computer room in building 155 in McMurdo finding it hard to believe that I just spent 6 weeks at a remote field camp. I already find that I'm asking myself..."Was I really just there?" It's a similar feeling I had the first few days back from thru-hiking the Appalchian Trail. "Did I really just spend 107 days hiking?" It does seem a little surreal now that I have unlimited internet access, warmer weather, and now open sea less than a mile away. A lot has changed since the last time I was here. An ice breaker has been in and so what was once a giant slab of sea ice, is now open water. I took a stroll this morning to try and spot a penguin...but no luck yet. I guess the important question now is.....what did I think?

From a personal science perspective, this season for me by default had to be a slightly disappointing simply because I was only able to obtain samples the last week and half of my stint at WAIS. I made up for it by doing some smaller projects like snow pits, surface studies, ice core chip studies, and by helping other scientists. As far as an overall experience, I thought it was an incredible season. We had phenominal weather at WAIS (Almost 4 weeks of sunshine). I was surrounded for 6 weeks by some of the greatest people I've ever met. From a project perspective, we were able to drill enough ice core to surpass our two goals of hitting 1500 meters, and getting past the brittle ice. Putting my 3+ week New Zealand adventure aside (which starts officially tomorrow), I would definitely rank this experience a 9 out of 10. The only thing that made it shy of a 10, was my experience in McMurdo when I first got here.

I have made a lot of friends down here which I know I will stay in touch with for a long time...and will probably see many times down the road.

......and so we get to it......the most popular question asked of me the past 3 days, "Are you coming back next year, John?"

....................Let's just say, that I'll get back to you on that. :-)


Back in MacTown!!

Well...I finally got to leave WAIS divide today. As scheduled, the plane arrived at 12:30 PM and as I write this, I'm sitting comfortably back in McMurdo. I really have no desire to stay here any longer than I have to, and luckily have been put on a flight for wednesday. This means I'll only have 2 days here. The other good news, is that instead of sharing a crowded room with 5 snoring roommates, I have a double room, with a single roommate (who's actually leaving tomorrow!) It was a crowded flight here, but I'm glad it's finally over. The first thing I did when I got here was have two full bowls of ice cream. Having to go 2 months without ice cream is quite a challenge. I'm starting to get very excited about New Zealand now....I can almost taste it.
I'll write a full update tomorrow about what I thought of the field season as a whole and how I would rate my experience at WAIS Divide. But for's time to relax a little.

The LC-130 pulling up the skiway at WAIS
So Long WAIS Divide! (See you next year!) Waiting to board the plane

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Heading back to McMurdo....*Fingers Crossed*

Well....if all goes well, the plane taking us all back to McMurdo will be here in a few hours. I'm scheduled to leave back to Christchurch on we'll see. There's actually 29 people scheduled to leave camp today, and two planes supposedly coming. I am slated for the first plane, so if only one comes, I still get to leave. I'll write again later....from McMurdo

Hanging on to the WAIS that I don't fall off of the world

Friday, January 23, 2009

Good News....Bad News....

Hey everyone! Well...the good news is that thursday night, we pulled up the last ice core of the season successfully from a depth of 1512 meters. It has been an extraordinarily successful year here at wais divide. Everyone was very nervous at the onset about the brittle ice and no one was sure just how far we'd get. The fact that we made it to our goal of 1500 meters AND 1 day ahead of schedule says a lot about the determination of everyone here. Being able to obtain 18 physical properties samples was a huge bonus as well

The bad that I've already had two flights canceled on me to leave here. I just found out that this morning (saturday) flight has now also been nixed which means that I won't go now until at least Monday. (There are no Sunday flights). I'm starting to see how Sridhar must have felt being kept here longer than expected. I spent the day yesterday helping the core handlers boxing up and packing all of the gear for shipment....but today I think I'm going to spend the day planning some NZ logistics. I've had all my bags packed now for 3 days and have been living out of a single carry-on bag hoping to get out of here. It looks like it's time to bust out the big bag again.....

I guess the way I should be looking at this is.....I'm surrounded by great people, in a great place....with plenty of good food to eat. What's the rush? right? NZ is not going anywhere.

I'll check in from mcmurdo....whenever it is that I get there....

Last ice core of 2008-2009 season
Celebrating in the Arch after the last core was processed
Brian and I toasting to a good season
"Breaking Down" the DEP for shipment :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Last week at WAIS...

And so starts my last Monday here at WAIS. The camp is buzzing with talk of our new president being sworn into office. Yesterday we had another successful coffee house and talent show where I not only played a few more songs, but also participated in a stand up improv show. It went over pretty well.

As a side joke, I also wrote a poem in honor of Brian...a fellow worker down here. Brian seems to think that one particular joke is extremely funny....and likes to tell it to everyone (multiple times). The joke is pretty lame and goes something like:

What do you get when you cross a brown chicken...with a brown cow?
Answer: Brownchicken-Browncow (said with best 70's style porno accent kinda like you'd say bow-chicka-wow-wow). I know....pretty lame right. Because he seems to enjoy it so much though...I wrote him this poem:

To Brian,

So clear an ear, and widen your eyes
For there's quite a story to convey.
Heretofore not much as passed,
'Til this tale of lust which I now relay.

It was on this one still and cool autumn night
the wil-o-the-wisp hovering o'er their feet,
Replete with sounds of crickets
Twas on old Wilson's farm that two lovers did meet.

She had eyes that glowed of wonder
and a voice that made men weep.
Oh so soft to his coarsen touch
twas the hottest chick he ever did meet.

He was an uncouth and scratchy stud
that all the men envied and admired
branded a raucous rebel from youth,
he set the ladies' hearts afire.

So on this here night;
....Of passion they were o'ertaken.
Old Wilson heard strange sounds of lust
Was quite disturbing....don't be mistaken

And so, these opposites did here attract
on old Wilson's farm as fate would allow.
These two dark and mysterious lovers did meet,
and became known as......Brown Chicken........Brown Cow

The end.

His response was something like, "Dude, can I get a copy of that!" other news,

Dooley (Heavy Machine Operator) and Nic (General Assistant) created an official airport Wais Divide Skiway marker by carving a giant "WSD" into the snow. Also, Elizabeth (Driller) has been knitting hats for people here at camp...and cranks a new one out every few days. I was pretty far down the list, but still managed to get a kick ass hat from her before I head out of here. It's unquestionably the most stylin' hat I've ever owned....:-)

John Robinson telling a story at the Coffee House
Dooley and Nic at the official WSD airport indicator
showing off my kick ass new hat

Elizabeth wearing one of her own...and already planning the next one

That's it for now....
off to getting more samples! woo hoo!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

One last wild Saturday night...

Last night was certainly a blast here for everyone at camp. Being the last week of drilling, we all knew that it was our last night to blow off some steam. There was a lot overall relaxing, but also a lot of silliness going on. At 9:00, we had a campwide "sleighride" on the huge sled connected to the back of the tucker snow-cat. We drove all the way to the end of the skiway and back. Jay (driller) hooked up a stereo to a small generator so that we had tunes to go with us, and we were certainly not short of snow to make snow balls with. The whole event turned into a crazy snowball fight. Once we got back, everyone sat around playing poker, yahztee and various other games. It was a great last Saturday night for me.

As far as a work update....I did cut my first samples yesterday and I was able to mount them successfully. It's nice to know that I'll get some useful samples out of this field season for the physical properties project.

Tomorrow is the last "Coffee House" talent show, and everyone is getting excited again for it. I hope to post some photos from it later in the week...

loading up for the sled ride
Camp photo

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finally getting some samples!!!

It's saturday today and tomorrow is the last day off for me before I head out of here. I got the word yesterday that I can finally start cutting thin section samples. It was unanimously decided that we are officially out of the brittle ice and that it is now ok to cut. This is great news for me, my advisor, and the physical properties project itself. I should be able to get about 20 samples by Friday when drilling stops.

In other news...Sridhar and the gang are still stranded here. Apparently there are only 2 working LC-130 Hercs on continent right now, and the AGAP field camp gets priority since they are trying to break down camp for the season. The earliest we'll get a plane is Monday now. I am slated to leave late next week (Thursday or Friday).

We are having one last Coffee House tomorrow where I'm hoping to perform a couple more songs as well as do some improv stand-up with 3 other people (kind of like the show "who's line is it anyway").

That's about it for are some pics from the week...

Jonathan (Weather) playing softball in a clean snowpit sampling suit
Lone tent on the ice sheet....
Awesome clouds over the ski-way

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wais Coffee House and People Leaving....

Hey everyone. This past Sunday we held the first annual WAIS divide coffee house and open mic. We had several people from camp perform music, poetry readings, and act out skits. It was quite a fun time. My fellow Penn Staters are here and have been busy getting their equipment ready for shipment out of here. They did have time though to squeeze in one seismic survey near camp (of which I was able to tag along for).

Yesterday was a sad day. 5 people left camp on the flight that arrived after lunch.....including Anaïs. Anaïs was also in kind of a hybrid role down here (kind of like me). She worked part time as the operating supervisor to the core handlers, and the other half of her time taking temperature measurements down the WDC05A ice core borehole. (for her research). Everyone here loved working with her and was sad she left. Luckily, her family flew all the way from France to meet her for some vacation in New Zealand, so I'm sure she'll have a great time there.

Not much else going on here. I'm now scheduled to leave WAIS for McMurdo next thursday or friday....and the rest of the core handlers are scheduled to head out the following monday and wednesday. A lot of people are starting to talk about what needs to happen to break down camp and people are getting a little bummed out that it's almost over.

Helping Huw (Penn State) out with a seismic survey
Loading up the Herc with Cresis gear
Saying goodbye to Anaïs.
Someone having a little fun with a skidoo

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kite Flying at 80 Degrees South

Good news! The drill is back up and running and we are again pulling up ice cores. It took over a day and a half to fully repair the fried electrical components. We are in jeopardy now of possibly not making 1500 meters by the end of drilling, but 1400 is certainly still possible. last night was the first night off in 10 days and everyone was happy to celebrate and relax. We started the night with a game of softball in which the new Cresis guys all participated and kicked some serious butt. Later in the night, we all held a big party in the igloo. We were able to fit over 10 people in it at a time before it started to get a bit claustrophobic. Not much else to update. Ken made it back to Christchurch without issue, and a lot of people are leaving camp this upcoming week. It has been really good seeing the Penn State guys the past two days. They've all told me that they had a very successful field season out on Thwaites Glacier.

Someone created a WAIS tabloid...
Flying a kite with Anais out at her science tent
Logan enjoying the igloo party.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Igloo Building and Sridhar's Return...

A lot of news here at camp. Yesterday we were down for an entire day of drilling. I guessed right when I said that our day off would probably get shifted so that yesterday was our new day off and we would again be working Sunday. This upset a few people, but with only 2 weeks of drilling left, most of them figured it will be over soon enough anyway.

I spent the day continuing to clean up snow pits and digging to find previous year's boreholes. I also helped Anais take her temperature measurements of for her research at UCSD.

The two big news stories of yesterday were that we finished the igloo we were building AND Sridhar and the Cresis guys returned! At about 6pm I saw a couple of lights way off on the horizon and I immediately knew it was snowmobiles coming in from Cresis. Leo and Huw drove for 10 hours straight on snowmobiles and Sridhar drove for 12 in a Tucker. It is surreal being 9000 miles from home and seeing a member of my Masters committee and other grad students that work on the same floor of the same building as me. From what they tell me, they will all be here for a week or so as well, so we'll have plenty of time to catch up.

As far as the igloo....well we started one as a half-assed joke a few days ago, and it turned into a real science experiment. I still can't believe Eskimos can build these things in a few hours. It took us 4 days and several hours of precision snow block cutting.

Standing in the 3 walled snow pit
Inside roof of the igloo
Outside the igloo
Sridhar's Tucker and the sleds full of gear
And just because some people have asked me about my new Arctic Oven is what it looks like....
Inside my Artic Oven
Outside of my Artic Oven

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drilling Difficulties...

Well, I wish I could say that we are quickly approaching 1200 meters with great momentum. Unfortunately this is not the case. For the past few days we've had several issues with drilling ice core. Some of them were simple mistakes, other mechanical problems with the drill. With that being said, we were still able to more or less "limp on" and obtain some ice. Last night though, we hit a major roadblock. At some point in the night, there was a major electrical failure with the drill and there have been no cores since about 11 pm. The drilling and handling staff here will be spending the day trying to get it repaired and working. What this means is that a lot of us will be working on other projects today, since there's no ice to log.

Yesterday Ken and a few others left on the flight, and we also got a few new people (including someone with A.T. thru-hiking connections!) During the afternoon yesterday, Anais and I spent a few hours digging down in the snow to find the borehole for the WDC05C ice core that was drilled a couple years ago as a test borehole for the main core (WDC06A). It was about 2 meters down, but we did find it. It felt like we were digging for a buried treasure. Just as we were about to quit, I hit something solid in the snow...and started hollering like a pirate!

Here are some pics:

MMMM Lunch (Salmon, Quinoa Pilaf, Marinara Orzo, Veggies)
Zack leaving yesterday on the plane (fortunately his shirt remained)
Ken and me, right before he left.

Woo hoo! We found the WDC05C borehole!
Me and Susanne loading up the snow melter a little high :-)
Jonathon (weather guy) being creative

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Staying till the end....

My original plan was to head out of WAIS mid to late next week, but it looks like I'll be staying until the last day of drilling on the 23rd. The chief scientist here (Ken Taylor) has asked if I can stick around to continue to help out....and of course I said "heck yeah". There's a plane coming in this morning that Ken is leaving on that's now on its third attempt to make it here. Yesterday it made it within an hour of here, and had to boomerang back to McMurdo due to mechanical problems. This actually happens quite. Not much else to update. We hit a depth of 1100 meters this morning and have only 400 meters to go now. I've started boxing up some of my lab equipment that I'm done with so that I don't have to do it all last minute. I'm going to be heading out to my snowpit one last time this morning to dig out the plywood. Unfortunately, after the storm we just had, it will be heavily drifted it will be a long morning of shoveling.
Talk to you all soon,


Halo'd sun with "Sun Dogs"
The core handlers' being goofy
(Anais, Gifford, Susanne, Logan, Tim, Marie, Natalie, Bess, Spruce, Me)

Monday, January 5, 2009

...The Day After.....

It's the day after our first storm here at WAIS and everyone survived. The drifting was pretty bad and there will be a lot of "digging out" today. Overall the storm packed at most about 35 knot winds with only a few hours of heavy snow. I would consider it a "medium" storm. We never hit an official lockdown at camp where everyone is forced to stay in the galley. I missed a small spot when covering my tent fly, so of course, blowing snow managed to sneak in and build up against my one wall. I woke up with a cold tent wall pressing against my face.

It is still blowing today, but the snowing and drifting has settled way down. We were supposed to get a flight, but obviously that is canceled. I took a couple of videos and pics and will post them all when I get home. Here are a couple samples:

Shot of camp during some of the snowing/blowing. Visibility down to 50 meters or so
Inverted footprints: During heavy drifting, footprints will flip upside down.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First storm of 2009...

As I sit here writing this, the first major storm of 2009 is starting to come through. We are already up to 30 knot winds with very limited visibility and blowing snow. It is supposed to get worse as the day progresses too. I'm actually a little excited about it. I have been here almost 4 weeks now, and have not experienced a true Antarctic storm yet.

In other news: We have a new tradition here at camp. For part of the gift exchange, one of our carpenters (Todd) made one of the electricians (Zack) a shirt with his picture on it (along with some random Arabic text). Everyone thought it was a funny shirt so we started a "Zack Shirt Time Share". Every day, a different camp member wears the shirt, and then after dinner, passes it on to another person. Yesterday was my lucky day...and I posed proudly for my photo.

Proudly wearing the time-share Zack Shirt
In other big news, we did hit 1000 meters and everyone made sure to get videos and photos of it. It's pretty hard to believe that for an entire kilometer down, there is a giant borehole in the ice. Of course the depth to bedrock is 3500 we still have quite a ways to go.

1000 meter core!
Another tradition that I'm trying to keep up here at WAIS is a friendly one of "Roaming Gnome". I told Christine (A friend of mine back at PSU), that I would take pictures at camp featuring cowboy spongebob. It's been a rather interesting experience finding new and exciting places to photo Mr. Squarepants.

Spongebob posing over an ice core.

I will make sure to get some good photos and videos of the storm's "before and after" and post them as soon as I can.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Closing in on 1000!!!

Sometime later today we will hit a depth of 1000 meters of ice. Everyone is anticipating it and we are all preparing for a little mini-celebration. The end of season is closing in fast. We have less than 3 weeks of drilling left. We are still deep within the "brittle ice zone", but it is starting to get slightly better as more of the trapped bubbles have turned into clathrate-hydrate crystals.
Very soon, the ice that comes up will be completely clear and very ductile. This will also make logging the core much easier as there will be less fractures, breaks, and spalls to document.
Yesterday I filled in for a fellow core handler and did a full day of logging core. It was a long day...but fun. Today it's back to working on some of my own stuff, and running the DEP.
No new real here are some random ones from my camera....
Passed out after the Olympic Sled Pull
Sled racing on Christmas Day
Sleeping on the LC-130 Flight