Taylor Glacier Put-In

It’s been over ten days since our much anticipated put-in to Taylor Glacier, and we are only now beginning to settle in to a regular daily routine here at camp. As things are going well now and it’s been some time since our last blog entry, I thought I’d write a bit about put-in and all the work, collaboration and (best of all) helicopter flights that took place to make it happen.

Taylor Glacier camp, looking down-glacier, on the first night. The first two days on the glacier were cold and cloudy.

Taylor Glacier camp, looking down-glacier, on the first night. The first two days on the glacier were cold and cloudy.

Put-in of the I-159 team occurred over a two day period, with helicopters dropping off our priority cargo at the campsite up to five days in advance. The first day people were dropped at the camp was Monday, November 17th. That morning, helicopters began shuttling both people and cargo to Taylor Glacier at 9am. The first group of people to go in was a team of five carpenters, or “carps” as they are commonly referred to here. They were tasked with the difficult job of building our fixed structures for the kitchen and dining tent, the lab “Rac Tent” and the enclosure for the large melter, all of which would take until Thursday to complete. I imagine that there are few other carpenters who commute to work on helicopters and level floors on blue ice.

Sorting cargo on Taylor Glacier

Sorting cargo on Taylor Glacier

Next to fly in were Kathy and Michael, along with Nicky and Kerry from the BFC. They arrived at 2:30pm and spent the afternoon hauling and sorting cargo, getting the Polar Haven operational and setting up camp. The last people to arrive on Monday were Andy, Jayred and Jake, departing McMurdo on a 7:45pm flight and arriving to Taylor Glacier at 8:30pm. Stepping off the helicopter, the first thing that struck me (aside from the realization that the stabil-icers I was wearing had already fallen off) was the incredible cliff face towering into the clouds above the camp. The rock in the hill was layered, with a dark dolorite intrusion contrasting sharply with two light-colored granite layers above and below. There wasn’t much time to admire the scenery however… there was much to do. Activities on the glacier that first evening included setting up mountain tents and drilling lots of “V-Threads” to anchor down tents into the ice. All the while, helicopters announced their approach with a reverberation booming up the valley, and we’d all pause our work to help unload cargo from the helicopters.

A 212 Helicopter dropping off a sling load at camp

A 212 Helicopter dropping off a sling load at camp

The next morning the work continued. After breakfast the endurance tent was raised and the floor to the Rac Tent began to be constructed. Around midday, Vas, Ed, Rachel, Sarah and Thomas arrived on a 212 helicopter and the Taylor Glacier population grew to a bustling 17 people. More tents were constructed and more cargo was delivered, hauled, sorted and tied down. Looking up the glacier, the clouds still remained low in the sky and those of us who were here for the first time could only guess at the true magnificence this place; we caught occasional glimpses of distant snow-swept peaks and immense glaciers pouring down through endless valleys. It would be another day before the wind and clouds lifted and the sky cleared.

Mountain tents setup on the first day of put-in

Mountain tents setup on the first day of put-in

In the following days the Rac Tent was completed and the lab began to be setup and equipment carried in. The two drilling teams – Thomas and Sarah on the Sidewinder and Jayred and Jake on the Blue Ice Drill – were able to begin pulling up ice cores near camp, and semblance of what our days might begin to look like took shape. More helicopters arrived, carrying everything from fuel and generators to lab equipment and sleds. Unloading gear from helicopters as their rotors and engines roared above our heads studded the calmness of working on the beautiful glacier with bursts of excitement and adrenaline.

The Blue Ice Drill (BID) setup outside the Rac Tent on a clear day

The Blue Ice Drill (BID) setup outside the Rac Tent on a clear day

Things have reached equilibrium at camp now and everyone has settled into their daily routines, whether it is drilling ice, analyzing samples or managing camp. Three times a day we all get together and pack into the Polar Haven to escape the wind and cold, warm up and eat a hearty meal. The peculiarities of living here have become normal – walking on sun-cupped ice, waking up extra early to allow ample time to get dressed and put on boots without standing up, dealing with everything left in a tent freezing solid, etc. It is an amazing place and these little things all add to the allure and unusualness of living and working in an Antarctic field camp.

Mike Jayred turning on a generator for BID drilling

Mike Jayred turning on a generator for BID drilling

Ed and Rachel successfully cutting large BID cores on their band saw

Ed and Rachel successfully cutting large BID cores on their band saw

Jake

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Greetings from the Ice!

This is Sarah Shackleton reporting from the depths of Crary Lab, McMurdo Station – Antarctica (S77.85/E166.67). A lot has happened since we left our respective institutions, and we still have a lot to do before we make it to our final destination of Taylor Glacier. Some highlights include several lengthy flights to Christchurch, NZ, a trip to the clothing distribution center (CDC) to get all of our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear, some jogs around Hadley Park in Christchurch, and an ‘Ice flight’ to our current destination. It’s hard keep track of all of the acronyms and fancy lingo people down here use, but it seems like pretty much everything has it’s own 3 letter acronym. Anyways, we made it down this Monday and in between trainings have been running around trying to locate all of our cargo to send to Taylor Glacier by helicopter (or helo).

Stepping off of the C17 and onto the ice!

Stepping off of the C17 and onto the ice!

I think we’ve been to about a dozen trainings so far, and learned everything from how to properly prepare a helo sling load, to how to sort our trash at the station. On Wednesday, we had snowmobile training at the SSC (Science Support Center), where we learned how to identify and fix some common problems with the machines. Those of us who are new (or haven’t been to McMurdo in a while) got to stay afterwards to try them out. I wish I had taken photos, because it was pretty epic. It was a beautiful day and we got to ride around on the sea ice and over a bumpy course to learn how to balance when the terrain is rough. Taylor Glacier is going to be a much different experience because we’re working on blue ice, which is much more difficult to get traction on and can be pretty rough on the snowmobiles, so operating them there will have its own set of challenges.

On Thursday Rachel, Kathy and I did the ‘food pull’ for the food that we’ll be bringing out to the glacier. It was in an upstairs room of the Science Cargo building that was set up like a grocery store, so it pretty much felt like a normal trip to get groceries except on a much huger scale. I was glad to see that there was a significant stock of coffee and hot chocolate. If/when we run out of things in the field, McMurdo will send a load out to replenish our stock.

One of the aisle's of food in the food store.

One of the aisle’s of food in the food store.

Our group's 'food pull' - definitely a lot of snack food...

Our group’s ‘food pull’ – definitely a lot of snack food…

When we’re not in trainings or prepping, we’ve had some time in the evenings to explore the station and relax. The first night Michael, Thomas, Andy, Jake and I hiked up to the top of Observation Hill (or ‘Ob Hill’). We were treated to an incredible view of the station and Mount Erebus, an active volcano 40 km (or 25 miles) away. The last few nights, we’ve had time to hang out at the Coffee House to relax before getting some sleep and preparing for the next day’s adventures. It’s been great getting to know everyone over the last few days and I’m really looking forward to working with them over the next few weeks at Taylor Glacier!

Learning from Thomas about the sidewinder drill set up: we'll be teaming up to collect cores using this drill once we get out to Taylor Glacier.

Learning from Thomas about the sidewinder drill set up: we’ll be teaming up to collect cores using this drill once we get out to Taylor Glacier.

Michael, Andy, Thomas, and Jake at the top of Ob Hill

Michael, Andy, Thomas, and Jake at the top of Ob Hill

View of McMurdo from the top of Ob Hill. This is around 10 pm - the constant daylight will take some getting used to.

View of McMurdo from the top of Ob Hill. This is around 10 pm – the constant daylight will take some getting used to.

Scott Hut

Scott Hut