Lots of Ice Core Boxes
Today Joe and I spent the day in the United States Antarctic Program’s Science Cargo office. We were helping to label the 77 insulated ice core boxes ready to ship into the field. An ice core box is a large white insulated box that stores the ice cores once they have been drilled. The box is white to reflect sunlight and keep the cores that are inside it cold. The insulation (a two-inch thick foam layer on all sides) also helps to keep the cores cold. If the air temperature is cold enough (as it is on the polar plateau) the ice core boxes can be left outside, but if the air temperature is too warm, as it can be in the Antarctic coastal areas, the ice core boxes must be put into snow pits and covered with snow. These pits create instant coolers to keep the core boxes frozen until they can be shipped back to McMurdo. Once in McMurdo, the boxes are stored in the Ice Core Transit Facility (a giant storage freezer) until the cargo ship arrives. The boxes are then loaded into the shipˆs giant cargo freezer and transported all the way back to the United States
The USAP Cargo office is a very busy place. The people work hard there to keep track of all the science cargo that is being shipped to, from, and around Antarctica, the UPS of the ice. All boxes must be labeled with their weights, sizes, their TCNs (Transportation Control Numbers) and their special handling instructions, e.g. Do Not Freeze, Keep Frozen, Fragile, Flammable, etc. Once a piece of cargo enters the United States Antarctic Programˆs cargo system, it can be tracked and located at any moment during its journey.
Cathy flew out to Taylor Dome today to help Josh and Rick with the task of digging out the traverse equipment. Rick has already been out at Taylor dome for more than a week and Josh flew out there on Saturday. They have been sending back reports of extremely harsh weather conditions, temperatures of around −50 degrees C(−58°F) and wind chills of close to −100 degrees C!! These conditions are making their work very difficult indeed. The equipment has been sitting out at Taylor Dome for 33 months and is almost completely buried. The best that the Taylor Dome crew can manage at the moment is a one-hour digging shift before they have to come back into their shelter to warm up. Let’s hope that the weather improves soon..