Note on the successful completion of Taylor Glacier field season 2014/2015: Amundsen, Bill Wilson, and Shackleton would be proud.


Edward A. Wilson’s (Scott’s Chief Scientific Staff) illustration of the Royal Society range. Taylor Glacier located is slightly to the right off this picture, between the Kukri Hills (cannot be seen from Hut Point) and the Asgard ranges

Hi all. Apologies for the late updates. I had two blog posts ready (one after Christmas & New Year and one while we’re in MCM) but never got the chance to really post it due to various reasons. There’s another blogpost right below this post about our Christmas in the field, New Year, camp pull out and Icestock music festival in MCM, so please read that one too. Anyway, the purpose of this particular post is to celebrate our successful completion of Taylor Glacier field season. I think the I-159 Taylor Glacier 2014/2015 field team managed to ran a logistically smooth and successful Antarctic field campaign in the manner that would make Amundsen proud, completed so much scientific sampling and on field measurements that would make Edward A. Wilson proud, and displayed so much human endurance and hard work that would make Shackleton proud. Well, the Shackleton comment might be a bit hyperbolic – our field condition wasn’t as dire as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and we weren’t eating pemmicans and frozen solid butter, but the first two remarks I honestly think weren’t hyperbolic at all – especially the Wilson one.

With a team of only 13 people (10 people during the first half of the season, and 8 people during the second half of the season) we drilled about 800m – 80,000 lbs worth of Taylor Glacier ice with the IDDO Blue Ice Drill and some hundred meter or so with the Sidewinder drill. The age of the ice that we drilled ranges from 8,200 years to 130,000 years old. From those ice we melted roughly 20,000 lbs worth of ice with the big ice melter for the 14CH4 measurements on site and shipped about 4,000 lbs worth of ice (both from BID, sidewinder drill, and chainsaw samples) back to the US for further analysis. The ice that we shipped back to the US will be analyzed by six different institutions: University of Rochester, Oregon State University, Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Desert Reseach Institute – Nevada, Harvard University and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. To quote Daniel Baggenstos – one of the pioneer of the Taylor Glacier horizontal ice coring work and a former team member of our project: “It’s gud.”

With the risk of sounding like an actress who have just won an Academy Award for best actress, I want to personally thank every team members who are involved – especially because the majority of the logistics, ice drilling, and on-site gas measurements are there to support the big melter operation which is my own Ph.D project.  First off I want to thank our awesome camp manager Kathy Schroeder (pronounced: Schra-der) for her impeccable work in supporting our camp logistics, arranging helicopter flights, making the depot inventory list for next season and providing us with some of the best field meals in Antarctica that would make Scott roll in his icy grave underneath the Ross Ice Shelf. Also thank you for introducing me to a whole new dimension of greatness in cinema art that is Bollywood movies. Then I want to thank Mike Jayred and his two drill assistants Jake Ward and Peter Sperlich for their tireless work day in and day out drilling with the BID and doing repetitive and tedious work drill run after drill run out in the wind – I calculated that for the reccee and main melter work combined they must’ve done more than 600 drill runs total. I also want to thank the OSU folks, Ed, Andy, Thomas, and Rachel – especially Andy who stayed for a full season for setting up the field GC system, helping with the reccee work for the big ice melter and measuring our Essex tanks. Then I want to thank Isaac Vimont for coming down and helping me with the melter, thanks for lifting all those heavy BID cores, powering through those damp and cold Tyvek suits and rubber gloves in the morning, and Scott-ing up through potential carpal tunnel when spraying the melter. Thank you for putting up your own Ph.D work on hold and coming down here to help me in the field. I also want to thank you Sarah and Jeff for helping with the melter reccee and their knowledge of the stratigraphy. Special thanks for Sarah and Andy for putting up with my insane troll logic arguments throughout the entire season. Finally last but not least I want to thank Vas – my advisor for everything – almost literally everything. If I mention all the stuff from Vas that I’m thankful with it’ll take an entire blog post or maybe two so I’ll just save those to pad out the acknowledgement section in my Ph.D thesis (if it ever happened).

Anyway it’s been a great season and it’s my honor to work with this team. These people are really awesome.

– Michael


Camp pull out diaries: Icestock and Two Smoking Drill Barrels

Hi all, again sorry for the late update. I wrote the majority post in MCM, and the reason for the late update is that I was procrastinating until the last night in MCM (more like last couple hours before the off-ice flight) to upload the post and for some reason (probably a combination of dying hard drive on my laptop, wonky internet in MCM, and maybe even wordpress server being finnicky) I couldn’t upload the pictures to wordpress. I guess that’s what I got from procrastinating. Then my luggage got stuck in LAX on the way back and my camera was in the check in luggage so I couldn’t upload the post. So initially this post was supposed to be a quick status updates and bunch of picture galleries. However because it’s late, it’s not a status update anymore and more like a journal for our pull out both from the field and McMurdo.

Chrismas dinner in Taylor Glacier.

Christmas dinner in Taylor Glacier.

Basically we had a great and chill Christmas in the field; Kathy cooked a great Christmas meal of cooked game hens, mashed potatoes, stuffings, and some carrot dish thing – it’s all fancy and we sang Christmas song together and exchanged white elephant gifts. I got a box of Cheez-it for my white elephant gift and it was great until Peter spilled the water jug all over my Cheez it two days later.


Sarah and Kathy (and Peter) watching a dramatic Christmas movie


Work on the glacier went really smoothly after Christmas, weather really died down and there were no major hiccups. On the melter side we finished our blank extractions, and the OSU and SIO folks managed to finally get their hand on the BID drill and drill on MIS5/4 area and down at the 130,000 years old Eemian site before New Year. Since there were no helicopter flights on the 2nd and 3rd of January – we decided to not have any day off after Christmas and try to push so that we can get some folks out on the 1st.


McMurdo station Icestock music festival stage


Isaac, Andy and I managed to get out on the 1st January. Pack up was fine and everything went smoothly. Since none of the workstation in McMurdo were open on the 2nd or the 3rd all three of us practically have 3 days off from work – more than enough to switch back from our night shift schedule to MCM schedule. On January 2nd McMurdo was having its Icestock music festival. The main stage setup was really charming – it was half a Rac tent on a moveable gigantic platform truck. Everyone in town were having a good time.


Chili contest during Icestock

Jeff, Sarah, Jayred and Peter joined us in McMurdo on the 5th. Helo Ops were really overwhelmed by the amount of slingloads we had, so I basically spent two days being on call and unpacking the slings on the helopad. In McMurdo we also had to crawl back into the melter to take pictures of the yellowish mystery matter that froze on the bottom of the melter and send the pictures to Vas. Initally Vas decided to COMAIR the melter back to Rochester for testing to make sure that the yellow residue didn’t affect anything – so there were some emergency scramble and meeting with NSF rep about it. However, we finally decided that the melter will just go on vessel but with priority unloading.

Kathy joined us on the 8th and she did an amazing job with cataloging the depot inventory lists and organizing the entire pull out. By then we were practically finished with cargo, I helped Jayred to dry the BID drill barrels indoor. Jeff, Andy, Isaac and Peter left the ice on the 10th. The rest of us spent almost a full day on the 10th to return our BFC (Berg Field Center) gears and wash all of our kitchen utensils from the BFC. After the BFC gear returns we practically had nothing else to do, so we spent the rest of our time in McMurdo just chilling, watching Kathy’s Bollywood movies, and hanging out in the galley.


Isaac crawling into the melter to take pictures and scrape off the yellow residue on the bottom of the melter

The rest of the team – Kathy, Jayred, Sarah and I left the ice on the 12th. It was a pretty uneventful return to civilization. Kathy and Jayred stayed in Sudima hotel near the airport while Sarah and I stayed at the Pavillions hotel near the botanical garden. I still don’t understand why people who aren’t leaving on the next available flight back to the States stayed at the airport hotel – there were nothing to eat besides the overpriced room service and airport food. Anyway I stayed for one extra night in Christchurch, while Sarah, Jayred and Kathy all moved to YMCA hostel near downtown because they’re traveling in New Zealand (or in Jayred’s case Tasmania) afterwards. We all had a nice dinner at Pegasus Arm’s restaurant near the botanical garden and I bid farewell to the three of them afterwards.

In all, it was a really smooth pull out. Due to the circumstances, we had a lot of time in McMurdo (except Kathy) and it was really nice to have a non hectic pull out schedule. Compared to last season, it was also really nice that at least the four of us got an extra day in Christchurch just to hang out and re-adapted ourselves back to the civilized world. It’s been a wonderful season and I’ll miss everyone once I got back to Rochester. Thank you all!

– Michael

RochesterIceLab on the radio

Hello everyone.  Last week, Vas and I were invited to speak on the monthly science roundtable show on the local NPR affiliate: WXXI.  Evan Dawson invited us on his show to speak about a recent publication based on N2O isotopes which Vas was a contributing author on, as well as the goings on with our lab and the science we are pursuing.  A recording of the show is available for listening here.