Apologies to those fans who read our blog during Dartmouth IGERT’s first trip to Greenland during the summer of 2010. A lot has happened since that summer … a new cohort of IGERTeers arrived on campus, classes were taken, qualification exams were passed, and, as I type, there is a joint IGERT meeting occurring in Juneau, AK, between programs that focus on climate and the Polar regions. All fantastic stuff! Sadly, I’m not there (but more on that later).
For me, I definitely feel a lot has happened. I got to welcome the new cohort (though I missed the official welcome) in the fall, I didn’t take any classes, and I did just pass my qualification exam. I also got to participate in the NSF-funded West Antarctic Ice Sheet Ice Core Project, or WAIS Ice Core Project. I actually spent an Austral summer working for the Science Coordination Office (SCO) as a core-handler during the 2008-09 season. That, too, was a fantastic season! One highlight from that season bears repeating: I was accepted into Dartmouth College’s graduate program (with many conversations via satellite phone to my current advisor, Bob Hawley).
This season, I served as the SCO Representative (“SCO Rep”), a fancy title for “lead core-handler”. It was quite the experience for at least a dozen reasons … but that would make for an ill-reading blog. I can think of three that jump out at me: the job, the people and, of course, the ice.
The job: The job was this delicious dish of incredible fun and amazing opportunity peppered with flakes of spicy challenge. You are surrounded by so many talented and awesome people, from the SCO crew and the ICDS drillers (Ice Coring and Drilling Services) to the RPSC camp staff (Raytheon Polar Services Company) and other support groups (i.e. Air National Guard & Ken Borek). Amazing! This season, I got to wear a number of hats that made for an especially rewarding experience. Just as I deployed to Antarctica, I was asked by the NSF-OPP Glaciology Program Manager (Dr Julie Palais) to participate in the US Ambassador to New Zealand’s video-teleconference between McMurdo Station and Wellington, NZ. It was SO much fun. The kids were surprisingly engaged given we were over 6 flight hours away. I also got to overlap with the “1st-half of the season” SCO Rep (Don Voigt, PSU) … a seasoned researcher within the Polar sciences community. Huge shoes to fill, but a fantastic mentor and friend.
The people: The core-handling crew was quite the group. We all were, for the most part, graduate students … and it was an honor to be in charge of such a capable crew. The hard work and great attitudes exhibited by this season’s group was laudable, and their unflinching vigilance with respect to the ice made my job all the easier. What a fantastic group of young researchers! I’d gladly plop down on a glacier to log core with any of them. In fact, just inside the Arch, there were so many amazing people … people with high spirits and seemingly inexhaustible energy to people who managed small miracles to keep our season going.
The ice: Perhaps the biggest result from this season is our depth. 3331m(*). A number that is at once elegantly simple and incredibly complicated. It represents a huge reservoir of exciting scientific data … just waiting to be released or melted or scanned into being! It also symbolizes the gargantuan team-effort required to reach 2 miles deep into the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. As such, we were overjoyed to learn that we became the 2nd-deepest drilled ice core project ever (deepest core not drilled above a subglacial lake, =D)! Granted, records like this are meant to be broken, but it is wonderful to savor a wee bit of “victory”.
So … even though it was winter and thoughts drifted studiously across brightly lit desks and cozily-warm classrooms, polar research continued. I look forward to the inevitable cornucopia of scientific articles that will blossom from the WAIS ice core. In the meantime, I have a lot to do on my own research. To that end, I will be joining the 2011 GrIT (Greenland Inland Traverse) with Thomas Overly (fellow IGERTeer) to study near-surface snow properties along the traverse route. Unfortunately, there will be no internet, but know that I’ll be thinking of y’all … Cheers!