Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Sorry for not writing recently but I have been out of town for a little bit in the middle of nowhere called WAIS Divide. From McMurdo if you travel south east you would end up in the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is essentially the western side of the Transantarctic Mountains. I got flown out there on the 2nd of January and WAIS Divide was supposed to be the base camp for another project that was I was involved in on coast. WAIS Divide happens to the plateau of the the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet and from there ice either flows south out to the Ross Sea or west to the Amundsen Sea. The ice here is about two miles thick before you hit bedrock which is a mile below sea level. All this means is that WAIS Divide is a really good place to get an ice core which can be used to measure what what was happening in the environment at a certain time period. Those are the interesting parts of WAIS. It also happens to be one of the most depressing places on earth as all people do is work, although there is 24hr light it is usually cloudy, and there are no opportunities for recreation. So I can't say I really like WAIS all that much as I got stuck there in bad weather just waiting for a plane to come in for about a week, but it was a good place to stage from to do some other work.

The group I was assigned to wanted to work on the Pine Island Glacier, which is a glacier that's moving at a rate of 10 meters a day, pretty amazing for a glacier, and is melting very fast. Why the Pine Island Glacier(PIG) matters or is important to study is because all the theories predicting a rise in sea level around the world are based on Western Antarctica melting and getting water underneath it and the place where this would happen first is at PIG because it is changing faster than any other glacier in Antarctica. Truth be told the experts I was with said that there is a lot of modeling that has been done to make predictions and throw out ideas but that none of them are actually based on real facts. Hence the need to study this area. So shortly after arriving at WAIS we were able to fly out and do a reconnaissance of the PIG and these are some photos. To offer some scale the first photo is of some icebergs that broke off earlier this year and the big chunk in the middle is about three kilometers wide and 15 km long, it extends off the horizon. This was the view when we originally flew in, nobody had ever had a landed in this area and very few people have ever even flown over it.

Our goal was to land on the right side of the photo and set up a camp and then do a bunch of testing. The good thing is we were able to land. The bad thing is that we couldn't set up a camp, the area was to rough to take off with fully loaded planes without possibly destroying them. So instead we set up a camp on the left center side of the photo above. While we were at that camp we got a flight over the open ocean, down next to the icebergs in the photo above. It was probably the highlight of my season and kind of makes me want to be a pilot. Below are some photos

The big walls of ice are about 200ft high. We had walls like that on either side and were flying in what felt like slow motion. An amazing blue water and perspectives I have otherwise never had.

Below are some photos from and of camp. We installed a weather station that included the wind gauge and a bunch of other stuff. That is how I got the aerial perspective.

Here is one more photo of some crevasses we flew over on the way to placing a remote GPS site. This was all part of the same trip just a couple, this was just a day trip from WAIS before we got stuck there for a week. These crevasses are probably about 15-20ft across where they are open.

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