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Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

Curved ice line
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Day 22 - May 27 2006

Another warm clear day dawned and the heat woke me. It was too good to last. Today we got no mapping done, not because of the weather for a change, but because of technical problems. First we discovered that our radar keyboard was not responding. We took it inside the weatherport to troubleshoot it without success. There may have been some water inside it from yesterday's adventures. We set it out to dry and installed the backup keyboard. It worked, but about this time Sverrir came out to inspect the Skidoo and decided that he did not want us driving it. The starter flywheel had broken 4 of its 6 machine screws and was barely hanging together. So we decided to do some housecleaning in preparation for our weekly Saturday night meal and catch up on file backups and Outreach activities.

Preparing to drill the first ice core in the Drill Dome. From left to right: Sverrir, Stefan, Simon and JP.

Meanwhile, our hosts prepared to drill the first segment of ice core under the dome. There was great anticipation and high drama as the drill went down about 1.5 m, broke the core segment and pulled it out of the hole. The enthusiasm turned to dismay as the core came out of the drill barrel and appeared to be solid ice. This appeared to confirm our worst fears and what was observed from an over-flight last July, namely that in summer the surface melts into a pool of water or slush and the annual layers are lost. Suddenly there was talk of ending the season immediately and getting out of here as soon as possible before the place turned into a lake that we would be swimming in. As we stood and solemnly discussed the options, we suddenly noticed that the core was not completely solid ice. There was a faint indication of thin layers of looser firn (unconsolidated ice or compacted snow) sandwiched between the ice, representing colder winter accumulation that had not completely melted.

Bruce displaying the first segment of ice core brought up resting in a core trough. Note the narrow bands of white firn (representing incompletely melted winter layers) between thick layers of translucent solid ice.

We also knew that the last few years had been the warmest on record and that previous years might not have seen large scale melting. We were further encouraged when Lars and Andreas returned to camp with results from a 4.5 m-deep pit they dug about 6.5 km north of camp over the ice ridge. They reported minimal evidence of ice at their site. With this information we set about making a meal of shrimp and guacamole appetizers followed by the main course of beef tenderloin medallions, rice and mixed vegetables. Dinner was followed by a lively party that lasted until the wee hours of the morning as everyone let off steam from the last week and celebrated our first piece of core. At one point Andreas even decided it was time to don his toga, continuing a tradition which started as Toga Thursday in graduate school at the University of Copenhagen, in the Student Union. He was quite a sight, barefoot in the snow in his white sheet.

Andreas displaying his toga and being silly while letting off steam after dinner and celebrating the successful drilling of the first ice core segment.


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