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December 7, 2013

Snow Sampling

by Mary Tilton

Yesterday afternoon, I found out that today would be our very last day of sampling—bittersweet news because we are leaving soon and we’ve completed our work for the season. Andrew and I loaded the last of the sampling points into the GPS and we readied for our trip out onto the sea ice to sample some snow to check for the presence of carbon deposits (from fossil fuel burning).

We began our walk out to the sea ice toward the snowmobiles, dressed in our ECW gear, toting helmets, two boxes of sampling jars, and various tools to aid us in sampling. Andrew, Steve, Terry, Martin and I climbed aboard our three snow machines and started off toward our first sampling site on the ice road. We had four sites to start with, each about 2 km apart, and then we moved on to the ice runway (which is closed for the rest of this season). Flight operations have been moved to the Pegasus airfield which is located on the Ross Ice Shelf. The ten runway sites were considerably closer together, so sampling was quick. I located each site with the GPS while Steve wrote down the necessary information, Terry gathered the correct jars for sampling, and Andrew collected the snow.

Driving to the sampling sites

Mary walking to find a sampling site

Sampling time

Steve ready to record some data

Many times, the snow was so hard-packed that using a mallet or a shovel was necessary to fill the jars. After the ice runway sites had been sampled, there were several more sites moving toward land again, some about 5 km apart. The closer we got to Ross Island (where Scott Base and McMurdo Station are), the closer together the points became, and then we realized we were finished sampling for the season.

Andrew using a mallet to fill the jar

Terry enjoying himself on the snowmobile

Upon the completion of snow sampling, we drove back to McMurdo with our filled jars, fueled and put away our snowmobiles, and walked back to the lab to store the samples before they melted. We arrived back on base after lunch ended, so Andrew and Terry got some food from the 24-hour self-serve food area in the galley while Steve and I decided to wait until a little later to eat, getting a few things done around the office and lab.

There are a few things that need to be completed before we pack up and leave McMurdo, one of which is returning our equipment. I disconnected all of the wires from the GPS, wrapped everything up, and packaged all of the equipment back in the large plastic briefcase we received, returning it all to the technicians. The whole team took the rest of the day to complete their work and other obligations. We met for dinner then went our separate ways again for the rest of the evening.

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