WISSARD Scientists on the Go!

WISSARD Scientists on the Go!

This has been an extremely busy time at the SLW field site.  The WISSARD team is busy collecting samples, deploying instruments, and some people are even packing up to prepare for the end of the season.

Drilling operations have concluded and the drillers are busy taking apart the hot water drill system to pack up and prepare to leave many containers and pieces of equipment at the SLW site for the winter. The traverse team built berms (mounds of snow) to store the containers.  Those containers are hauled up on the berms, and this cuts down on the drifts that could really cover those containers.  By being on top of the berms the snow does not pile up against the containers.  The drilling team hopes to have the system winterized in the next two to three days. 

Slawek is planning on leaving a string of permanent sensors in the hole.  Borehole sensor strings (seismic, temperature, and deformation) will be installed after other borehole operations are complete.  These strings are now being readied for deployment.

The surface geophysics team (Grace Barcheck, Marino Protti, Matt Siegfried, Dan Sampson) installed a local passive seismic network around the WISSARD borehole site and continued to service existing GPS stations.  Matt, Marino, and Grace took snowmobiles to the Whillans Ice Stream grounding line to install a 5 station seismic array and service the GPS station in this area.  That small team is expected to return to camp late tonight.

Through the use of the CTD (conductivity {salinitiy/saltiness}, temperature, depth) temperature and conductivity profile of the borehole and lake was collected.  The lake temperature is about -.5 degrees C  (31.1 degrees F) and the water sampled is about 100 times saltier than the overlying ice (about as salty as a mountain lake in the U.S.).  Jill is shown cleaning the CTD instrument in the photo below.

Cleaning CTD

(Photo:  Reed Scherer)

Scientists successfully collected a clean 9 liter lake water sample using a Niskin water sampling bottle.  Samples were stained and DNA containing cells were observed. Experiments were set up to measure growth rates; bacteria cultures were initiated; samples were collected for a suite of geochemical measurements.  All collection procedures followed stringent cleanliness standards.  They also collected a large sample from the lake for DNA sequencing, which will be done back in the United States. 

This photo shows scientists prepping a Niskin bottle for deployment.

Niskin bottle prep

(Phot0:   Reed Scherer)

John is transporting Niskin samples from the borehole to the laboratory.

John Priscu

Tristy is hard at work in the chem lab processing the water sample from the Niskin.  The water from these Niskin casts will be used to make more detailed metabolic measurements in addition to chemical speciation (part of chemistry), methane gas levels, and dissolved organic carbon characterization.


A sediment multi-corer was deployed four times between 6:00 am and 3:00 pm yesterday.  Six cores were retrieved during this period and will be processed over the next few days. Importantly, the sediment-water interface (where the sediments and water meet) was recovered. 

Initial observations indicated that it is a diamict (very poorly sorted sediment) that is typical of deposits formed under ice sheets.  However, the very high water content is unusual and is one of the lines that will be pursued with further analyses.  Ross (left) and Reed are shown below working with the multi-corer.  You can see two of the three collection tubes in this photo.  They are retrieving sediment cores from the borehole.

Ross-Reed Multicorer

Jill is carefully carrying one of those tubes of sediment back to the lab.

Jill with core

An in-situ filtration system fitted with several sizes of filters was deployed between Niskin casts. This system allows us to collect large volumes of lake particulate matter, which will be used for next generation DNA sequencing.  The water is passed through the filters and small particles are captured by the filters.  The particle are examined by the scientists.
The borehole was handed over to the geophysics team for deployment of a geothermal probe.  The geothermal probe has been reconfigured to operate on our light winch system.  I haven’t heard how the deployment of the geothermal probe went today…I’m hoping for news soon.  I know there were other instruments on the schedule as well.  I should learn more tomorrow.

One more thing I want to share with you is this special area that was built in the snow at the field camp.  It is a snow cave that is used to store the samples that have been collected.  They need to be kept at a certain cold temperature, similar to the one they were sampled in.  I saw a photo that one of the other WISSARD’s took for a magazine…that shows a cooler inside of this snow cave.

Samples on Ice

Scientists crawl in and out of this snow cave to store their samples.  Isn’t that interesting?  It’s like a built-in refrigerator here in Antarctica. 

(Photos above and below:  Reed Scherer)

Qinzee for storage

It’s been a very productive four days of science this week and I know that the team is really excited about the tools and instruments, data collected, samples gathered, and success of the drilling operations.

A word from John Priscu, Chief WISSARD Scientist: The success of the WISSARD project is due in large part to the hard work and diligence of our drillers.  They did all they could to advance our science goals and played an integral role as part of the WISSARD team.”

6 responses to “WISSARD Scientists on the Go!

  1. Betty,

    Three things. Did you get the email I sent about days of Old in McMurdo (with pictures)? When do you leave the ice? A big favor, can you get me any maps with place names for areas from the Dry valleys to Koetlitz (sp?) Glacier (either paper or electronic)?

    Jim Halfpenny

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