Things Are Heating Up…


Hello from McMurdo Station!  Wherever you are in the world, thanks for checking in with me today!

Since so many of you enjoyed the post from yesterday about the Crary Lab aquarium, I thought I’d include a short video I filmed this morning. Watch how the sea star moves…it was much quicker than I expected.

Susan, Dave, Rob and I traveled to the WISSARD test site by snowmobile today.  It was a fun way to get out there, but I have to say that the snow road is quite uneven and rough right now due to warmer temperatures, melting, and the way it gets torn up by vehicles repeatedly traveling over that surface.  The light was also extremely “flat” which means it was quite difficult to see the definition in the snow…piles or ruts in the surface were hard to make out.  It meant that often we were tilting from side to side as the snowmobiles adjusted to the uneven terrain.  Still, getting outdoors and to the test site was a welcome change from being inside of Crary Lab all day!

Here we are (Dave and I), ready to begin our journey from the Scott Base transition area onto the ice shelf.


Things are heating up…at the WISSARD test site!  Today marked the beginning of the process of melting snow for the hot water drill system.  This process is important, because the drillers need a large supply of hot water to complete the drilling.  It all starts with this huge pile of snow shown below.


Dennis, the Chief Driller for the WISSARD Hot Water Drill System (HWDS), carefully supervised this process.


The snow is dumped into the melter.


I took a peek inside the open melter…lots of coils and hoses!


The water is stored in the large red tank, which is modified from a dairy tank made in Wisconsin.



Frank Rack, P.I. (Principal Investigator) and Executive Director at the ANDRILL Science Management Office told me that the water supply would reach 3,700 gallons of hot water.  The task of melting snow to reach this amount of water takes several hours.  This hot water eventually gets re-circulated as the hot water drilling takes place.  Frank looks on as one of the driller works in a container that houses part of the hot water drilling equipment.


“The primary scientific objective the WISSARD Project is to gain access to the subglacial environments beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in the vicinity of the Whillans Ice Plain through the use of a hot water drill system (HWDS) and deploy scientific instruments through the borehole to explore these subglacial environments.”   (from:

The WISSARD Project requires a hot water drilling system that is pretty mobile and can be used in a deep field situation.  This test site is preparing our WISSARD team for the drilling system and scientific tools to be used at the deep field site in January.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been involved in the WISSARD Project because they completed the design, testing and deployment of a hot water drill system that could be towed into the deep field camp.

The WISSARD hot water drill system will provide access to sub-glacial (under a glacier) and sub-ice shelf (under an ice shelf) environments, through ice in Antarctica that is up to approximately 1,000 meters thick.


Ross Powell, my lead PI was out at the WISSARD test site today, checking on progress and working with his Northern Illinois University (NIU) science team and the guys from DOER (Deep Ocean Exploration and Research) on tools that will be deployed into the borehole next week.


Remember, these tools and pieces of equipment will be assembled inside of our NIU container.


I hope (be patient) that you can all load this video to hear Ross talk about WISSARD and what we are trying to accomplish with this project.

We rode back to McMurdo Station (about 9 miles to Scott Base, then a short truck ride to McMurdo) at about 7pm…dinner time!  Stay tuned for more science and action with WISSARD…coming to you very soon.  Have a great day!


15 responses to “Things Are Heating Up…

    • Hi Matt, We are 6 hours BEHIND YOU, but we are on the next day. So, for example, if you are at 12:00 noon on Saturday, we would be 6:00 am on Sunday morning. It’s hard to keep track of what time it is here, because it’s 24 hours of daylight right now. Walking “home” to my dorm room at midnight looks like lunchtime! Crazy!

  1. Your posts have been a breath of fresh air especially as now. been snowing a lot here however not catching you yet…it’s beautiful! XXOO

    • Hi Beth! I’m glad you are getting snow. Patrick says there is not much in Aspen yet. We have plenty of the good old “white stuff” here! I miss you heaps! Love you! xoxo Boop

  2. DO YOU EVER GET SLEEPY man sea star moves pretty fast but not fast enough oh finally caught up so if you look back at all your blogs since the beginning i will have posted at least 1 thing so look back because you didn’t see them cause i started late and sorry for starting late anyway good luck

    • Hi Seif, I have looked back at all the blogs and I always answer your posts….I hope you can see that! I love hearing from you, so please keep reading the blogs and writing me. I do get sleepy, especially because we work long hours each day. I have many things to accomplish and it’s just going to get busier this week as we test out the tools in the drill hole (called a borehole). Stay in touch! Miss you!

  3. I just found out about your blog from DKG. AMAZING! You have always been phenomenal to me! I had lunch with Carol C., Toni, and Marge the other day and learned that you get a lot less sleep than the norm and might be able to carve a few more hours out of the day to do all that you do! I read your reply to Darlene and think it would be great to get a bunch of us together to learn more about your adventures when you return to C.L. Thanks for all that you do to keep educating us!

    • Hi Sue! Great to hear from you! I will definitely host a little party to see all you when I get back. I can do a little slide show and tell you more about our project and our season down here on the ice. It’s great that you get together with those friends! I’d love to see Toni….haven’t seen her in years! Tell them all we’re going to make a plan. Stay in touch and keep reading my blogs! Happy Holidays!

  4. Hi Betty thank a lot for your amazing posts. Would be possible to know the exactly position of the test site? Is it on the Ross Island or on the cie shelf? ciao!

    • Ciao Matteo, We are on the ice shelf, just about the same location as the MIS drilling site for ANDRILL…the season we met down here. I can get more exact coordinates for you, but I know they are at the MIS site. We should have more “action” this week….stay tuned for more reports! Happy Holidays to you and the family! Baci, Trummel

  5. Hey Betty,
    I gotta say your last few entries have been awesome. Love reading about your life down in Antarctica. It’s funny because I have to read and then re-read the technical parts…so much like our students…having to go back and read the text again to really understand it.
    Keep up the fantastic expository writing!

    • Believe me, I have to ask a lot of questions each day, so I get the technical stuff right myself. There is a lot to learn about the process of science! I want to explain it all in a way that everyone can understand. Thanks for writing, Mal…have a great day! 🙂

    • I wish you were here, too, Lizbeth! I miss seeing children around “town” and Christmas won’t be the same without kids! Merry Christmas!

  6. HI Boop!! What an amazing adventure. Your posts are so interesting! Love reading about your life in Antarctica…we finally got a dusting of snow yesterday, nothing like you are living:) be safe, looking forward to seeing you on your return!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s