NEWS directly from camp for the period 07-18/5 2015 – University of Copenhagen

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18 May 2015

NEWS directly from camp for the period 07-18/5 2015

A key element of daily life is the visits to the loo. The facilities are basic (a hole in a retired ice-core box), but the view is splendid. The red flag (on the ground in the front) is use to signal that the tent is occupied. Leaving the tent without taking down the flag ranges between the most serious offences according to the Camp Law.

A key element of daily life is the visits to the loo. The facilities are basic (a hole in a retired ice-core box), but the view is splendid. The red flag (on the ground in the front) is use to signal that the tent is occupied. Leaving the tent without taking down the flag ranges between the most serious offences according to the Camp Law.







Monday May 18th
As explained in yesterday’s report, we are now running camp 12 hours offset relative to local time to avoid drilling the relatively warm afternoon temperatures. “Monday” is for us therefore now defined according to the time zone UTC+12, which is also the time zone of the Fiji Islands and New Zealand. The result is that we are all jetlagged and that the meals seem very inappropriate relative to our appetite.

At 7am this morning (old time), we had spaghetti with meatballs, which seemed a little strange. We have had to install light in the main tent, as it gets pretty dark around the 1am “lunchtime”. We do not have any lamps in our equipment, but we were lucky to find an emergency light in the freezer that could be used (the freezer has windows, so an emergency light is not really needed given that the sun will not set again before we are all home again).

We started drilling the second shallow core and reached a depth of 15 meters. On the way, gas was sampled once. New cutters have been mounted on the drill, and the results is a very good core quality and smooth operation.

The main drilling teams had a very successful day with almost 30 meters of core drilled.

We still make experiments with the extended Hans Tausen drill and are having good progress solving the problems with packing of chips. The cores produced often have an extra break within the run, but in return, the core quality is excellent and the core breaks at the end of the runs are clean, so the cores fit very well with the neighbouring cores and there are no internal fractures or broken pieces.

Logged depth 113.19 m.

Other projects include maintenance of generators, repacking of food, and other recurring camp tasks.

Weather: Heavy clouds, snow, and moderate winds of 2-6 m/s from North. Temperatures remarkably stable: -11°C during day and -13°C during night. At the end of the day, weather started to clear up.


As nothing really happened during this 12-hour day, the picture is from Monday and shows the busy activities in the drill tent.

As nothing really happened during this 12-hour day, the picture is from Monday and shows the busy activities in the drill tent.




Sunday May 17th

Because of the day temperatures, we have decided to start working at night and therefore to swap our daily schedule around.

As always, Sunday morning is off, and instead of starting work in the afternoon, we all had eggs and bacon for breakfast at 7pm, marking our shift to the night schedule.

The daily report will follow the swapped schedule (“Monday” until further notice being defined as the period from noon Sunday to noon Monday local time (which is UTC, or two hours behind Danish/European time), so apart from minor activities in camp carried out by early risers, nothing happened today.

Weather: Daily maximum temperature -10°C, night minimum -17°C. Temperature in drill tent at 4pm 6°C. The cloud cover is becoming thinner, and we had sunny spells and patches of blue skies. Intermittent snowfall. Weak winds of 1-2 m/s from northerly directions


The Saturday night cooking team: Emily, Sune, and Lizzie. The light in the main tent mainly comes in through the red tent walls, making all colours look strange

The Saturday night cooking team: Emily, Sune, and Lizzie. The light in the main tent mainly comes in through the red tent walls, making all colours look strange



Saturday May 16th

The main drilling continued in the morning and two runs were made after lunch before high temperatures in the drill tent stopped the operation. We are now at 83,97 meters’ depth (logged depth). We have decided to change to night work in order to get sufficiently long and regular drill shifts.

The first of the shallow drillings was completed at 71 meters’ depth today. The atmospheric constituents have been sampled at surface and at 11 levels in the borehole.

In the lower sample, the CO2 concentration was 337 ppm, indicating that the air is from around 1980. At this depth, the ice is about a hundred years older, which is a relatively small offset compared to most polar ice cores, making the RECAP gas profile valuable for constraining the relative timing between climate shifts registered in the gas and ice samples, respectively.

After lunch, we moved one of our loo tents and transformed it into a bath tent. All field participants had a bath, and the Saturday night dinner party therefore started in an atmosphere dominated by unusually fresh smells.

Weather: Winds dropping in strength from 8 to 3 m/s turning from E to N. Temperatures of -17°C to -8°C. Snow in some periods. Dense clouds combined with ground fog in the afternoon led to low visibility and low surface contrast. At several times during the afternoon, we lost sight of the firn gas drill site, which is located about 100 meters from camp.

Night time at RECAP. Due to drifting snow and dense cloud cover, there is no visible horizon and poor contrast: Everything turns into a blueish continuum where surface features (e.g. holes in the snow or snow drifts) become virtually invisible.

Night time at RECAP. Due to drifting snow and dense cloud cover, there is no visible horizon and poor contrast: Everything turns into a blueish continuum where surface features (e.g. holes in the snow or snow drifts) become virtually invisible.



Friday May 15th

We continued testing the long drill, but we could not avoid packing of chips, and the runs ended with relatively short cores. We therefore decided to go back to the normal Hans Tausen drill, but had to stop mid-day due to too high temperatures in the drill trench.

In the late afternoon, drilling continued, and both before and after dinner we had long suites of very good runs.

Excellent teamwork between drillers and loggers kept things moving fast, and we stopped for the day just after midnight at 68.86 meter (loggers’ depth).

When everything is working, we can produce up to 10 meters of core in an hour, and in this case, more than half the camp population is busy either drilling, logging, or helping moving boxes etc.

The firn gas project continues in a stable mode, alternating between drilling and pumping air from the open pore space between the ice crystals.

Once the desired depth is reached, the lower 5 meters of the hole is sealed with an inflatable bladder, and from below the seal, air is pumped from the surrounding firn.

Another day or so will be needed before the first shallow drilling reach the depth of bubble close-off, where the weight of the overlying firn has compressed the ice to the point where air cannot be extracted from the firn by pumping any more. Below this depth, the gasses are extracted by crushing or melting ice samples from the cores, thereby releasing the bubbles trapped in the ice. This is not done in camp, but will be undertaken in our labs after the field season.

Weather: Winds of 6-10 m/s turning from South to East during the day. Light snowfall continues, and combined with the wind down the main street, drifts are forming between all buildings and tents. Temperatures stable during day at around -9°C and down to -17°C at night.


Drillers Trevor Popp and Dennis Wistisen inspect the drill head before mounting it in the fiberglass core barrel, seen in the foreground.

Drillers Trevor Popp and Dennis Wistisen inspect the drill head before mounting it in the fiberglass core barrel, seen in the foreground.





Thursday May 14th

The morning started out in an unusual way: For the first time during our time on the Renland Ice Cap, the sky was completely covered with grey clouds. The wind had turned to the South.

As we mainly had winds from the North in the first part of the season, we placed the firn gas shallow drilling North of camp in order for them to be in the clean air zone. Due to the change in wind direction, the shallow drill site is now downwind from the camp, but as the firn gas team is pumping gas from a depth of about 50 meters, this does not significantly influence the results.

The final drilled depth of the day for the shallow drilling is around 57 meters.

The main drilling operations also continued. We had some difficulty breaking the cores in the morning: The small spring-loaded knifes (called the “core dogs”) that holds onto the core cuts a groove up the core instead of engaging and inducing a core break. We think this effect is caused by a difference in the nature of the snow compared to the snow on the generally colder Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets from where we have most of our drilling experience.

Increasing density at depth and change of drill head to a slightly different design solved most of the problems. Core production was good during the day, and the logging team had trouble keeping up with the drilling.

In the afternoon, we decided to test our newest drill development: A longer version of our classic Hans Tausen drill with a fiberglass core barrel. Two runs produced high-quality ice cores of about 90 cms, but in both cases we could not continue due to hard packing of ice chips.

We will try to minor modifications tomorrow and will otherwise postpone further tests until we go into wet drilling, i.e. when drilling liquid is added to the hole to lubricate and compensate for the pressure difference between hole and ice.

Logged depth around 37 meters.

Due to the lack of sunshine, temperatures have been relatively low in the tents today, but we decided to mount a cooling system over the ice core extraction and logging table to help deal with the expected high temperatures.

Weather: Cloudy, winds of up to 10 m/s from southern directions, most strongly in the early afternoon. Snowfall from mid-day and into the evening. Temperatures up to -8°C during day dropping to -15°C at night.

The shallow drilling operation takes place a little away from main camp to get away from the exhaust from the generators and other pollutants. From left to right the tent with firn gas pumping equipment (partially hidden behind a stack of ice core boxes), a tarp used to provide shade, and the shallow drill.

The shallow drilling operation takes place a little away from main camp to get away from the exhaust from the generators and other pollutants. From left to right the tent with firn gas pumping equipment (partially hidden behind a stack of ice core boxes), a tarp used to provide shade, and the shallow drill.




Wednesday May 13th

Drilling of the main core commenced today.

The melt layers that we also experienced in the shallow coring operation makes drilling the upper layers of ice with relatively low density a bit tricky, but we feel that we are on the right track, and finished at a depth of 11.34 meters.

After drilling, the cores are logged so that we know the exact depth of all samples.

We also measure the electric conductivity of the cores using the so-called ECM system, where two electrodes with a large voltage difference between them are dragged over a cleaned surface.

Variations in the acidity of the ice is reflected in the measured current, and reveals both annual variations, anthropogenic pollution, and volcanic layers that are used to align different ice cores.

Finally, we cut the ice into appropriate sections (called “bags”), which are bagged and labelled individually, and packed in foam boxes for storage and transport.

Logging and measurements are also getting started, so the science programme is now in full swing.

The shallow coring reached about 42 meters’ depth, and we observe fewer clear melt layers as we go deeper.

Weather: Day temperatures around -10°C, but up to -2°C in the drill tent. Little wind.

The 5-6 cm thick melt layer of ice found in the shallow core at about 11 meters’ depth.

The 5-6 cm thick melt layer of ice found in the shallow core at about 11 meters’ depth.




Tuesday May 12th

Now that all buildings have been erected, it is time to clean up camp, also preparing us for drifting snow in case the weather changes. We therefore put in quite a lot of work into tidying up yesterday and today, and all cargo is now sorted and placed in places near where it will be needed.

There is now free passage on “main street” that runs from the apron (where the planes park and are loaded and unloaded) to the personal tents in the opposite end, along the way passing the generator tent, the ice core freezer, the drill tent, the main tent, and the medical tent. Main street is marked by the flag line which consists of flags from all participating nations.

We are now soon ready for the main drilling operation: The tower and drill was assembled today, and the logging table was set up with trays to receive the fresh ice cores and a band saw to cut the cores into appropriate lengths.

We also took samples from the surface to the bottom of the inclined trench at 3 meters’ depth so we have the measurements that link the ice core with present-day conditions.

The shallow drilling and firn gas sampling started today: A total of 19.6 meters of ice was drilled and firn gas was sampled twice.

The team was excited to get the first core this year on surface. The core shows clear melt layers that have formed during previous warm summers. This makes the drilling difficult, and is an indication of increasing temperatures in this area:

Only few melt layers were found in the core drilled at Renland in 1988, but we have already found several, including a prominent melt layer at about 11 meters’ depth. The layer is likely from 2003 which was the warmest years on record on the Greenland East Coast according to temperature data from the weather station at Tasillaq, 600 km South along the coast.

Finally, we worked on the last carpentry for the kitchen: a cupboard for pots. We are now almost out of timber, but as all major construction work is done, this is OK.

Weather: The temperatures keep rising: Todays’ maximum was -9°C, and even higher temperatures are forecasted for the next days. Clear skies and no wind today.

The shallow drill tower assembled on a Nansen sled. When drilling, the tower is turned into vertical position, and the drill, which is about 4 meters long, is lowered into an inclined trench. Two persons can lift all parts of the drill, and the whole setup fits in the back of a Twin Otter airplane or can be dragged behind a skidoo.

The shallow drill tower assembled on a Nansen sled. When drilling, the tower is turned into vertical position, and the drill, which is about 4 meters long, is lowered into an inclined trench. Two persons can lift all parts of the drill, and the whole setup fits in the back of a Twin Otter airplane or can be dragged behind a skidoo.



Monday May 11th

The weather remains warm and pleasant, and all team members work eagerly to get the camp up to shape and get ready for the scientific work.

We are going to drill three cores: Two shallow cores to 70-90 meters’ depth and the main cores to bedrock, at an estimated depth of 580 m, hopefully reaching at least back to the early part of the previous glacial period.

In the shallow drill holes, the gas trapped between the snow grains will be pumped out and sampled periodically as the drilling progresses.  The changing concentration of the different constituents of the atmosphere by depth helps us understand how air is trapped between the snow grains and ultimately forms bubbles in the ice.

The zone in the top of an ice sheet where snow is transformed to ice is called the firn, and this part of the project is therefore called the firn gas campaign.

Today, the shallow drill that will be used to drill the shallow cores was assembled, and the drilling site was prepared by digging an inclined trench that the drill can tilt into.

In the drilling tent, the workshop area was established, and the 3 meter deep inclined trench for the longer main drilling operation was cut into the floor of the tent.

Now that temperatures are creeping up and drilling is soon to start, we need cold storage for the ice cores. Some measurements are temperature sensitive and will be disturbed if the ice cores are not kept sufficiently cold, so we are bringing a freezer to ensure this.

It was a rather surreal experience to assemble a freezer on top of an ice sheet, but this has now been done, and we are ready for ice cores to be produced.

Weather: Temperatures up to -11°C during day and down to -21°C at night. A few knots of wind from predominantly northern directions. In the evening, clouds closed in from NW, but they had disappeared next morning.  


Field leader and amateur carpenter Sune cutting plywood for the kitchen furniture.

Field leader and amateur carpenter Sune cutting plywood for the kitchen furniture.




Sunday May 10th

Many people started slowly after the party, but the motivation of the team is amazing, and two building projects quickly picked up speed.

The floor of the drill tent was laid down, after which construction of the table for ice core logging and measurements was constructed.

In the kitchen, another team built a work bench and shelf with room for kitchen utensils and food boxes.

The meals play an important role in our field camps, because it is the only time of day where the whole team is together, and because it is great to relax in the warm kitchen/living tent after hard work in the cold.

It is a hard job to cook in a field camp: The work week is 6½ days long, and the kitchen facilities are limited. In the RECAP camp, for example, we have no running water, but scoop water out of a barrel in which we continuously melt snow. We all take turns lending a hand in the kitchen, and in general, ensuring good conditions for the cook is a high priority.

On the science side, bags for ice cores were prepared, and we made the initial tests for the firn gas setup.

Weather: Temperatures up to -12°C, dropping to approx. -20°C at night. Weak winds all day from Southern and Eastern directions (an unusual situation for our time here!)


We have been blessed by another day with little wind, which made the erection of the drilling tent relatively easy. We now have almost all main structures in place, and will therefore be more resilient in case the weather gets more rough.

We have been blessed by another day with little wind, which made the erection of the drilling tent relatively easy. We now have almost all main structures in place, and will therefore be more resilient in case the weather gets more rough.




Saturday May 9th

Saturdays in camp are special as Saturday night is party night!

Normally, the cook gets the evening off and the kitchen is taken over by eager volunteer cooks, but because we are still in the camp establishment phase, all hands were busy setting up the drilling tent and continued work on the infrastructure: heating, electricity, “interior decoration”, and preparations for the scientific activities, so Sarah cooked another great meal for us. We also had cake, celebrating the birthday of field leader Sune.

Another Saturday tradition is a bath or shower as preparation for the evening party. The newcomers still both looked and smelled fresh and our water supply is still not geared up to this, but the team members from the initial phase had the season’s much-needed first bath. After 10 days of hard work in the cold, one or two buckets of warm water feels like absurd luxury even when administered in a tent at -14°C.

At the evening party, we celebrated that the team is finally together in the camp and that we are well under way to establishing a fully functional camp.

The first ice core from the Renland ice cap was drilled in 1988, and for many years, it was the vision of our late colleague Sigfus Johnsen to drill a longer core from the Renland ice cap.

During the dinner, we had a special moment celebrating that this vision is now becoming reality, and commemorating our late ice core drilling colleagues Sigfus Johnsen, Henrik “Hank” B. Clausen, and Niels Gundestrup.

Weather: Another great day! Temperatures are slowly creeping up, daily maximum -12°C, and when there is no or little wind, working outside is a pleasure with just 2-3 layers of clothing.


The sun almost sets at night over the northern end of the skiway.

The sun almost sets at night over the northern end of the skiway.




Friday May 8th

Again today, the weather was fine at both Mestersvig, Constable Point, and the RECAP camp, so the entire team worked hard at getting all the remaining cargo and project participants flown in before the weekend.

With two flights from each location, all remaining cargo from our three Hercules flights from Kangerlussuaq to Mestersvig and all needed ship-based container cargo from Constable Point made it into camp.

Again, we would like to express our thanks to AWI for making the Polar 6 airplane available to the project and to the Bassler crew.

We are also indebted to the staff at both Mestersvig and Constable Point airports for their help handling our planes and cargo and for their support of our team members.

With the arrival of the full team, the camp was in just a few hours transformed into a beehive of activity, where all eleven team members worked on numerous tasks relating to the preparation of the science program and the completion of the camp living quarters.

On the science side, the winch and tower for the deep drill was mounted, and the frame for the drilling tent was laid down.

Our firn gas team, Todd Sowers and Emily Doyle, assembled their cargo and started preparing their setup, but mostly helped our other new camp members Bruce Vaughn, Johannes Freitag, and Principal Investigator Bo Vinther with jobs relating to the main tent: A second door was mounted in the tent, the covers were tightened up, drain, electricity and heating were installed, and we did our best to get food and kitchen utensils organised so our camp cook Sarah Harvey can get the kitchen up and running.

Finally, we worked on tightening the main tent base with snow late into the evening to keep our vegetables, drinks, and medicine supplies – not to mention our toiletries – above freezing.

Weather: Mostly blue skies with patchy high clouds. A thin ground haze developed during the day. Variable winds from northerly directions. Temperatures around -14⁰C early afternoon dropping to -21⁰C at 1 am.


 Unloading the Bassler aircraft: Barrels of fuel and drill liquid is rolled down a ramp onto a few sheets of plywood.

Unloading the Bassler aircraft: Barrels of fuel and drill liquid is rolled down a ramp onto a few sheets of plywood.


Thursday May 7th
From when we received the first good weather update at 8 am, it was clear that this would be a long and busy day.

We received five Bassler flights at 10:20, 12:30, 15:20, 17:50, and 20:00 with a total of about 12 tons of cargo, which we unloaded together with the incredibly easy-going and helpful Bassler crew.

We don´t have any lifting devices in camp, so we get to move every box a few times by hand and skidoo/sled.

The camp now looks rather messy with lines of cargo in several places and piles of tent parts in strategically chosen spots.

We also had the pleasure of welcoming our camp doctor Elizabeth “Lizzie” Elliot, so we are now 5 people in camp.

Apart from dragging boxes, we also finished the assembly of the main tent, which means that we are now ready to scale up to full camp size.

We also erected the last of the personal tents, so we are ready to welcome the entire team.

If weather stays good, the put-in phase will be completed tomorrow with another 4 flights and an additional 6 camp members.

We ended the day in the late evening with a beer and a lovely dinner flown in on the day’s last flight from Mestersvig. A spicy meal with vegetables was the perfect way to end the day as we were all tired and had kept ourselves going by filling up with less-than-ideal fare during the day. Many thanks to our camp cook Sarah - and see you soon!

Weather: Temperatures as normal: from -28⁰C to -16⁰C. Variable winds from N-NW of 2-6 5 m/s. Mainly blue skies with high patchy clouds and over Renland and more dense cloud cover over the main Greenland ice sheet to the West.

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