Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Welcome to WAIS Divide

I arrived at the WAIS Divide Field Camp on Friday, January 7.  Since our first flight was aborted, we caught a plane that night and arrived around midnight. 

Camp has three main sections, the Town, Tent City, and the Drilling Arch.

Town is laid out on a line. Most of the “buildings” are Rac-tents.  Rac-tents have half-cylinder metal frames with insulated fabric for the walls and roof.  Modules, really just specialized trailers, connect to the Rac-tents for the galley and for the washroom.  In the photo above, from the left to right: emergency shelter, medical,  rec  and washroom, galley, communications, and science.  Not pictured, are two Jamesways (1950s rac-tents) off to the left, and off to the right are a storage shed and two maintenance modules.  It takes 3 or 4 minutes to walk the length of Town.  The inside of a Jamesway looks like the photo below. 

We all sleep out in tent city.

It is arranged in a 8×8 grid, with an outhouse and pee flag in the middle.  Most of the tents are Arctic Ovens.  When the sun is out, they are magic.  Last night I measured an outside temperature of -3 F but 40 F in my tent.  Reading in bed is a lot more fun at 40 F than -3 F, but even better at 60 F, which is was the next morning. Tent city is a 5-10 minute walk from town.

The Drilling Arch is the reason we’re all here.

The Arch contains an amazing drill that is currently 2900 meters below the surface, and rising at a rate of 2 meters per second. But I’ll go into more detail in another post.  The Drilling Arch area has three structures near it. The Science Jamesway, where the other core handlers and I come to warm up, the MEC, a mobile machine shop for the drillers, and the generators. The drilling arch is about 10 minutes from either tent city or town.

Camp is pretty plush by camping standards.  There are lots of heated structures to warm up in and places to plug your computer in.  I’ll describe spaces in more detail in future posts and a start talking about the science behind why we’re out here in the middle of Antarctica.

One response

  1. Kristi Grimes

    Hey TJ! We are really enjoying following your blog! Looks like a great deal of experiences are being accumulated in a short period of time! Stay safe and warm. Craig

    January 15, 2011 at 4:48 PM

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