South Pole Science: SPICE Core

The South Pole Ice Core project, fondly known as SPICE core, is drilling down to 1,500 meters depth and sending samples back to the states that may date back to 40,000 years old. Ice cores are an important component of atmospheric science because they uniquely provide direct evidence of the past atmospheric chemistry. Scientists analyze the composition of various gases in air bubbles trapped within the compacted ice, and they can also melt down the ice to study different oxygen and hydrogen isotopes of the water that makes up the ice.

Ice cores from South Pole provide information on ice that formed about 400 km away, and is flowing down slope towards the Weddell Sea at a rate of 10 meters per year. It’s quite hard to imagine that we in this station are constantly flowing along with the ice below us! After processing the core back in the states, the data will be checked with other ice core records, such as that from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide.

The other night I snagged a tour of the SPICE Core camp and got to participate in the drilling! So exciting!! Here are pictures:

The drill control room, with Josh and Grant, two of the drillers.

The drill control room, with Josh and Grant, two of the drillers.

The drill controls.

The drill controls.

This program interface allows you to monitor the drilling fluid levels, when the drill hits the ice, and how far to drill the core.

This program interface allows you to monitor the drilling fluid levels, the depth of the drill, when the drill hits the ice, the speed of the drill and the approximate length of the core.

I got to be co-pilot during one of the cores! :)

I got to be co-pilot during one of the cores! 🙂 Obviously, I’m so excited.

The trench and the drill hole.

The trench and the drill hole.

Looking into the ice core.

Looking into the ice core.

Separating the core from the drill.

Separating the core from the drill.

Ice core being removed from the casing.

Ice core being removed from the casing.

Wiping the estisol drilling fluid off the outside of the core.

Kimberley wiping the estisol drilling fluid off the outside of the core.

Logging the depth, length, and any special features of the ice core.

Logging the depth, length, and any special features of the ice core.

Woohoo! Our final product, a two-meter core that is approx. 6000 years old!

Woohoo! Our final product, a two-meter core that is approx. 6000 years old!

 

A few weeks back the team even found a thin layer of ash in the ice that was about 3,200 years old and came from a volcanic eruption in the South Sandwich Islands! Sweet!

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In other South Pole news… flights were cancelled again today due to weather. We have at least two flights planned each day for the rest of the week with some foul weather on the way; things are going to be very busy around here! Only about three weeks left in my Antarctica adventure… time is flying by.

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