Sunday, December 7, 2008

How deep is deep enough?

Saturday 6th December

After 45 m deep drilling, the core drill thus gave up, due apparently to the electronic controls not very well bearing the interaction with seawater. The radar team might move to another location, or set the second drill in action: we'll keep you posted.

The radar team did well today, and escaped getting lost in the blizzard. Indeed, happily getting out after their day of being "snowed in", they went a mere 14 km in the field, when Kenny, following what would prove to be a life-saving (I thought we were missing a bit of drama here.) inspiration, issued the quote of the day: "we'd better get back to check the data". And soon after their come-back at camp, the blizzard came up and whited them out. As for the data check, the radar images were processed to get thermal layer profiles of the surveyed area. With the current data, this was possible for a depth of 350 m. The results allowed for the description of isochrones (the layers of ice dating back from the same period), which showed, after modelling of the data, to date back "only" a 1000 years. And this, of course, is not enough -ah, to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield, to put it in Lord Tennyson's words...-. So the current mission is to be able to modify the gain of the radar, to optimize the signal-to-noise ration, and be able to get data up (or rather down!) to 700 m deep. Again, we'll keep you posted.

As for base camp news, we enjoyed the visit of Sinterklaas! This was more than enough to give a festive colour to the day, especially because the presents included Antarctic made chocolate truffles, which ensured some severe finger-licking.

The otherwise quite virtual function of base camp manager took a very practical aspect today: there was a leak in the water tank from the washing container (aka bathroom). Now, this thing needed to be emptied, by the bucket. Tank capacity = 500 l, bucket capacity = 10 l. I have to confess I've experienced more thrilling afternoons.But hey, once this was done, the tank repaired and the bathroom cleaned, yours truly got her first driving lesson on the Prinoth. Prinoths are the tractor-like vehicles used to i) move stuff around ii) drive the convoys of sledges and iii) maintain a so-called structure in camp and on the "roads". One of the duties here is to manage the containers (waste, building stuff) and the equipment (spare sledges, which was what needed to be moved yesterday). And off we went, chasing at the mind-blowing speed of 10 km/hrs (which is actually the top speed of that thing). Nice!!!

So, if I can summarize my duties here: I answer the phone (BCM is responsible for contact with the field teams), I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (experimenting, helping the cook with the dishes, making social talk over cooking), I diagnose problems in our daily environment (and do whatever helping I can to the wise handyman who repairs it), and I drive trucks, with the sound system put up to maximum volume, singing to U2's Rattle and Hum while "chasing" over the ice.Tomorrow, I'll tell you a bit about my own experiment, before I start to feel like some unknown life form sucked my brains out!


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