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4 January, 2003

The Auger Team Bores Again

Although we knew we had worked hard the day before, I think our auger team was not really satisfied having dug only three holes. So today we set off to dig four. We reached our goal, although it was not easy. We realized that we had a few problems with our equipment. First we found out the Berg Field Center (BFC) had given us a snow auger instead of an ice auger. As I described yesterday, an auger head is like a giant hollow screw that bores into the ice filling the tube (barrel) with ice... or at least it is supposed to. But an ice auger has holes along the sides of the barrel to allow ice chips to collect and secure the ice cores in the tube. However, our core barrel does not have holes in the side because it is designed to go through snow. Maybe 70 percent of the time we pull the auger up after boring, we pull up an empty barrel because the ice and slush just falls out. The auger is often stuck hard into the hole as well because slush collects on top of the barrel inside our four-inch hole and creates a vacuum preventing the corer from being lifted out. Even with three of us straining to yank it out, we would often not even be able to budge it.

A second problem we encountered is that the two teeth on the tip of the coring barrel are made of carbide and are very brittle in this weather. You must be careful not to hit the tip on the ice, but to lower it very slowly. This is not always easy to do, especially as you add 5 meters of extension poles onto your auger, as your hole gets deeper. Needless to say, despite our care, we have already broken two teeth and are now working with another one that is cracked.

Boring is a good workout for your arms. I don't have as much upper body strength as the guys, but am able to compensate by adding some hip action like you would when you golf or swing a bat. I look like I'm doing the twist as I auger, but the technique is effective and at least I feel I am able to do my share of the work...and I suppose I give them something to laugh about as well!

As I said pulling the auger out of the hole is strenuous. Aaron, Sean, and I seemed to have developed a pretty good rhythm though. We each take turns boring. Aaron is 6-foot 4inches, so he bores when the handle is high, then Sean takes over, and then, at 5'5", I bore when the handle lowers. We all work together to pull the auger out every 10 minutes or so when the barrel is full. Once out of the hole, the guys hold and balance the several meters of poles while I remove the barrel from the extensions, empty the ice out, and then reattach it. We are careful to communicate throughout this process to minimize the risk of anyone getting hurt. We use terms like "clear" to indicate that the barrel is detached and the poles can be removed. It would be easy to pinch a finger, be hit with a pole, or drop the barrel onto the delicate teeth of the auger if we did not communicate and work together. By the end of the day Aaron was commenting that we were working like a well-oiled machine. Again, I thought how amazing it is that people who have known each other for such a short amount of time can work so cooperatively and systematically if everyone is focused on the task, aware of safety issues, and considerate of one another.

Once we were back at camp, we enjoyed another lovely dinner. Tonight's special was scallops, pasta, and broccoli. After dinner, Sarah showed us the rocks she had collected that day. For the second day in a row, Brenda and Sarah had ventured west up Taylor Valley to collect rocks as part of Sarah's graduate work. She had found some beautiful ventifacts during her hike. A ventifact is a rock that has been altered by wind and sand. The photo below shows a piece of basalt smoothed out with many gentle depressions that have formed on the surface.

Every night we spend a bit of time together after dinner in the cook tent sharing stories and planning the next day. I think we have all been enjoying this time and from night to night the topics can be vastly different. Tonight's topic was the Simpson's. Aaron and Jake entertained us quoting famous lines and recounting their favorite episodes.

Sarah's ventifact.

Tux checks out Sarah's various ventifacts.

Aaron and Sean during our lunch break. Every day, it's cabin bread (crackers), peanut butter, jam, a chocolate bar, and raro (NZ Kool Aid) to drink. We snack on trail mix too!

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