GIGL field recipes

In order to stay warm and have enough energy to drill all those holes, we eat a lot. Sumo wrestler quantities and calories. Everyone is pretty happy with chile rellenos, breakfast burritos, or bagels fried in butter, chocolate chip pancakes and steak, steak, steak (or in Carli’s case: boca, boca, boca). We have a Coleman stove that runs off of propane and we use about 40 pounds of propane every 10 days to cook and make water (no liquid water here!). We had an exciting day here yesterday when this arrived:



We were so excited for these 5 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit we did a little jig.

Typically we eat sautéd food (fried) and we drink high calorie beverages (hot chocolate, hot tang, hot coffee with sweetened condensed milk)

Steak (or Boca burger) fried in butter and chiles

3 frozen small cans of mild roasted chiles

4 frozen sirloin steaks (plus 1 Boca)

½ stick of butter (also frozen)

Boil 2 cups water, let cool 5 minutes and add meat and cans to water (meat in Ziploc, labels removed from cans). Let sit 45 minutes to defrost. Heat cast iron pan, melt butter and sauté chiles for 2-3 minutes. Remove steaks from bags, discarding any gross liquids, and cook until medium-rare. Sauté Boca in separate pan with butter and ¼ of chiles.

We’ve experimented with pancakes almost every day: Chai and applesauce, apple pie filling and cinnamon, pumpkin, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, mixed buttermilk and whole wheat mixes. And despite the boss Sarah’s disdain for not real maple syrup, pancake syrup.

We pre-wipe all of the dishes with paper towels and clean dishes with a small amount of warm water. Everyone is looking forward to the return of warm running water for dishes (and, of course, showers).

This Is Drilling

Today we finished drilling our final samples at the lower Taylor Glacier site, in a couple of days we will pack up and move to the upper Taylor Glacier site to drill our last samples of the season. So far we have drilled 60 holes and collected 114 samples. It is hard work and everyone is exhausted, so we thought we would show you what we do to drill.

Once we choose our drilling spot, we move the rig by pulling it across the ice:


After moving the rig, we secure it with ice screws and drill 1 meter sections of core in the following manner. The secured drill is placed into the core hole:


Drilling down a meter takes about 5-7 minutes (assuming nothing goes wrong) and the drill is pulled up:

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The drill has a head with pretty fierce cutters to cut through the ice and also holds all of the chips from around the outside of the core as it cuts into the ice. These chips have to be removed:

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And the cutters cleaned with a brush, which looks suspiciously like a kitchen scrub brush:


Then we use a core recovery tool (CRT) to pull out the core:

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The CRT has spring loaded clips that bite the core and hold the core in the CRT while it is pulled out. These clips are known as “dogs” and we are constantly cleaning the dogs in order to have unproblematic pulls:

20131211-IMG_2390After the core is plunged out, it is cut, bagged and boxed:

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Because the core samples weigh about 50 pounds each we cart them to their field site storage area by snowmobile:

20131211-IMG_2405Helicopters come to pick up samples every 3-5 days, some get packed into a huge box and are transported by sling load and some ride internally within the helos:

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But all have arrived safely in McMurdo for storage in the -20 degree freezer until they make the long boat ride back to the USA.

Sometimes each step can take 20 minutes and there are days that a single step will take four hours and we spend 12 hours working in the cold, blowing snow until we make our daily science collection goals. The ice surface is rough with sun cups so we have bruised knees, elbows and shins, and those dogs “bite” so our gloves have worn through on the fingers and duct tape is used as additional protection from cuts. But, each day is beautiful out here on the Taylor Glacier and we have been fortunate in being able to accomplish as much as we have.


The weather out here

Just a short post, it has been busy out here on the Taylor Glacier. Over the last week we have experienced almost every weather combination possible: howling 50 mph winds and incredible cold followed by days of warm sun and t-shirt weather. When storm systems come in, it can be calm with incredible cloud formations and, strangely in the Dry Valleys, snow.

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And, if the conditions are perfect the ice crystals in the atmosphere will act as prisms and treat us to a rainbow otherwise known as a “Sun Dog”:


Drillin’ for Ice!

We have started the drilling process! The weather here at Taylor Glacier has been so warm, that we have to drill for ice at night instead of the day. We had a shift last night that lasted from 1:30-10:15 am, which was very productive (6 holes that are 7 meters deep each!). If it’s too hot during drilling hours, the inside of the drill gets warm and sticky, and we run the risk of getting the actual ice drill stuck in the borehole.

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The hours of 1:30-5:30 am, the sun (which is always up where we are) is behind a mountain, so we are temporarily shaded.

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We tried to nap before, but most of us couldn’t sleep much, so we basically pulled an all-nighter, but we are happy to have our samples packed and ready to send back to McMurdo on the helicopter tomorrow.

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It was nice and peaceful when we had time to stop and enjoy the views.

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Thanksgiving and other fun…

This past Thursday we spent the first hours of the day drilling ice cores, and the second half preparing for the grand Thanksgiving feast of Taylor Glacier.


A helicopter arrived in the early afternoon despite deteriorating weather, and brought a wondrous and delicious surprise!


After the dinner, the weather turned a littler worse and we had a white wall of clouds and blowing snow approaching from upglacier (second photo is what it normally looks like):

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The helicopter pilots here are amazing, they pick up and drop off sling loads, which are boxes packed with supplies, and are tricky to maneuver.


In the meantime, we’ve had some fun exploring the area on snowmachines and Nansen sleds with our awesome drillers, Jayred and Gotez.

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When we aren’t drilling, here are a few photos that show what we are up to.

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A few members from I-159 (another science group camping and conducting research here on Taylor Glacier, ) took their kite out for a ride!


Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday!

I-184 on Taylor Glacier!

On Thursday morning we found out that we would be heading to Taylor Glacier at 7:30 pm that night! We spent the rest of the day preparing for the field, doing last minute laundry and sending off our final emails. We went down to the helo-pad about 45 minutes before our flight, picked out our helmets and weighed our small bags and ourselves. Getting up in the air and seeing McMurdo Station, Ross Island and the Ross Ice Shelf was an amazing experience.



We could see seals down on the sea ice, and our pilot was nice enough to fly us up Taylor Valley so we could see the toe of the Taylor Glacier.



At the toe of the glacier, you can see a small dark red stain called Blood Falls, which is oxidized iron from possible microbial activity. Scientists are currently studying this phenomenon to characterize the microbial communities and subglacial chemical reactions.


The view up the glacier was amazing; it’s hard to believe that the glacier is more than 60 kilometers long! The mountains and glaciers here are large, but without trees, animals or buildings it is hard to see a real scale. Melt channels at the toe of the Taylor that look tiny while flying over actually have cliffs that are hundreds of feet high.


We landed safely on the glacier and we were in awe for the first couple of minutes after landing.


It was pretty late that night but we did have time to set up one mountain tent before the rest of us slept in the endurance tent (cooking/office tent). Since we are camping on the ice, we had to drill into the ice to properly anchor the tent.


The next morning we broke into our food and Carli had a great time organizing everything for us! Here is a picture of her in her element:


Our first night we ate very well, halibut with lemon and dill, and pasta with vegetables.


The next day, we visited an ice cave where we will store our ice cores before the helicopter comes to pick them up.


The views next to ice cave were unbelievable! We feel so lucky to be here.


We haven’t collected any of our cores yet, the drillers are finishing up the set up of the drill (the Blue Ice Drill, also known as the BID), and making sure that they are drilling and extracting the core the same way each time for consistency.


We’re hoping to get our first cores tomorrow, as long as the weather cooperates. The last 2 days have been very windy, sustained wind of about 30 mph, with gusts up to 40-50 mph. Keep on checking the blog for more pictures and information about collecting our ice cores!

What are we studying?

Ice sheets and glaciers can provide records of climate including environment conditions at the time of deposition. Ice cores have been used to reconstruct past temperature, sea level, and ice volume on earth.


Satellite image of Taylor Glacier (

At the Taylor Glacier, an outlet glacier from the Earth Antarctic Ice Sheet, we are studying the dust particles trapped within the ice. Dust, or airborne mineral particles picked up by wind from places like the Sahara Desert or the Pampas of South America, are suspended in the atmosphere and can travel long distances in the upper troposphere. The dust particles eventually settle and land in places such as ice sheets, glaciers, oceans, and terrestrial biospheres. The dust in ice can tell us a lot of information about the climate during its depositional period. For example, dust concentration is inversely proportional to temperature. This means that during colder periods (for instance, the Last Glacial Maximum), the dust concentration in the atmosphere was higher due to windier conditions and more exposed continental shelves and lakebeds. We can look at the dust concentration in ice core records, and infer whether the climate it was deposited in was a Glacial or Interglacial (like today) time period.


Taylor Glacier aerial view

We will also measure the isotopes (strontium, neodymium and hafnium) of the dust in the ice. Rock, soil and dust from different continents will have different isotopic compositions due to varying geology in each region. This means that we can measure the isotopic composition of the dust in the ice, and we can figure out what continent or region that it most likely originated from. We are particularly interested in investigating a time period (55,000 to 6,000 years before present) where we believe that the storm trajectory in the region reversed due to the retreating Ross Ice Shelf. During the Last Glacial Maximum, moisture-bearing storms may have arrived at Taylor Dome (the point of accumulation for Taylor Glacier) from the north rather than the south as they do today. We believe that if there was a change in wind trajectories associated with the decreasing ice shelf extent, it should be reflected in the radiogenic isotopes, concentration, and size distribution of dust particles within Taylor Glacier ice.


This research has potential implications for predicting the climate shifts in circumpolar coastal regions that have been experiencing or will experience a decrease in ice shelf extent. We are very excited to finally go out and collect these samples to bring back to the University of Michigan and analyze in the lab!

Preparing for the field season

Getting ready for the field season is a lot of work. When we are going into the field with no access to electricity or plumbing we have to bring our own generators and receptacles for trash and human waste. It is very important to make sure that whatever we pack in, we pack out. We are here to collect ice cores and observe the environment around us, not to disturb it or introduce new invasive species or contaminate it. We also have to pack a lot of cold weather gear and survival equipment to make sure that we are as warm and safe as possible.

Additionally, we are responsible for planning out our meals and pulling all of the food and drink mix that we will need for two 2-week periods. We have to pay special attention to what kind of food items we bring. We can’t bring food in glass jars (like tomato sauce) because it will freeze, expand, and crack the glass.


Student Sarah Aarons excited about pulling food for camp

Finally, we need to make sure that we have all of the equipment that we need to perform our fieldwork and collect our data! Below is a picture of us packing our 120 ice core boxes, which are made of corrugated plastic lined with foam. After each ice core is collected, we will pack it and prepare it for shipping back to the United States.


Team member Luca Lanci behind ice core boxes with straps

After we have gathered all of our items to take out into the field, we pack it up, weigh it, and bring it down to the helo-pad for them to transport to our field site. We are scheduled to head out on Tuesday, which is right around the corner!

On a side note, we had a small amount of free time today and we took a walk to the historic Scott Hut, where we had a beautiful view of the sea ice and saw some live Weddell Seals!



Field Support & Camp Training (aka Happy Camper school)


On Wednesday morning we headed to a 2-day field support & training class where we learned the basics about cold related injuries and illnesses along, hazards associated with going into the field, and basic field and survival techniques. This class was very important for us since we will be heading into the field (Taylor Glacier in the Dry Valleys) on Tuesday, to conduct our field work and camp for at least 4 weeks.

After an introductory talk we then took a really cool ride in a Delta vehicle to the McMurdo ice shelf:

our ride (aka Delta)

our ride (aka Delta)
inside the Delta

inside the Delta

The ice shelf is right alongside one of the two volcanos on Ross Island:

Mt Erebus

Mt Erebus

We practiced making snow blocks for protection from wind:

cutting snow blocks

cutting snow blocks


and learned how to properly anchor tents in snowy conditions:

Carli Arendt stabilizing the Scott Tent

Carli Arendt stabilizing the Scott Tent

Sarah Aarons stabilizing the Scott Tent

Sarah Aarons stabilizing the Scott Tent


We slept outside in a large Scott tent (a larger double skin tent) where we were very warm all night. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, it was very sunny and almost eerily calm at times:
industrious fellow campers decided to make an igloo

industrious fellow campers decided to make an igloo

After setting up camp we cut a kitchen out of the snow and learned how to properly setup a stove without spilling fuel:


and then we made ourselves warm drinks and dehydrated meals (yum!). While we are out camping, it is important for us to eat a lot of calories since our bodies will be burning extra to keep warm. We also learned that the most important things are to keep hydrating, eating, exercising and to layer properly. After dinner we took a walk towards the island because the weather was beautiful but also because it is helpful to go to bed warm to stay warm all night. The next morning, we returned to our classroom on the ice shelf and learned how to properly operate VHF and HF radios, in case our satellite phone fails. To finish the day, we participated in a mock scenario where one of our team members went missing during white out conditions, and the remaining members had to brainstorm and come up with a plan of rescue while remaining safe. For proper simulation, we were sent out with white buckets on our head, since during true white out conditions, visibility is poor to none:

white out simulatio

white out simulation

We learned some valuable lessons about designating authority and listening to others.

We had so much fun camping out on the ice and we all feel more prepared for our outdoor camping field season!