12 July, 1999
Tomorrow we and our equipment get shuttled by helicopter to our work site(s) on and around the glacier, the ice dam, and the lake. It has been a slow day of waiting for tomorrow to arrive. For some, the anticipation is akin to the night before Christmas. PSU grad students Michelle Cunico and Don Lindsay indicated that they will be too excited to get any sleep tonight. Principal Investigator (PI) Andrew Fountain cautiously stated that the slowness of the day is the calm before the storm=8A=8A.
Our gear will be flown as sling loads hanging beneath a helicopter to four different sites. Multiple trips will be made. PI Joe Walder (U.S. Geological Survey), PSU grad student Michelle Cunico and their gear will be dropped in the lake basin. During a separate trip, PI Andrew Fountain (PSU) and Joel Harper (University of Wyoming) will be set down onto the glacier to determine a site for the drilling equipment. They will have 30 minutes to make this determination before the helicopter will return from the staging area with the drilling equipment. Andrew Malm from St. Olaf College will go up with Andrew and Joel with his GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) equipment. Dennis Trabant (U.S. Geological Survey, from Fairbanks, who will be surveying the deflection of the ice dam) will be dropped somewhere on the ice dam to begin setting up his GPS (Global Positioning System). I will be dropped alongside the glacier to determine a spot for the group to camp. I will have 15 minutes to figure this out before the camping gear arrives to be dropped off. Steve Malone (University of Washington seismologist) will also be dropped off in the vicinity of the drilling gear with his seismic equipment. The helicopter will then pick up Dennis Trabant and take him to another spot on, or near, the ice dam to place another GPS. Joe Walder and Michelle Cunico will then need to be picked up from the lake basin and transported to the camping spot. The logistics of sling loading at our staging area down near McCarthy will be directed by Don Lindsay and UC Santa Cruz geomorphologist Robert Anderson. PI Fountain is right about the day today.
Andrew Malm will likely begin his work straight away. He will be running Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) soundings on the glacier. GPR sends a radio signal into the ice. The signal is reflected off of any boundary between two different materials, and received from the instrumentation at the surface. In this case, the reflecting boundary will be the bed of the glacier. Interpretation of the returning signals will indicate the depth of the ice. With this information, the drillers (Don and Joel) will know how far they should drill to hit the bed of the glacier. The GPR data will also give some information about the shape of the bed. This is important because it is possible that the steam drill will reach an apparent stopping point if it encounters a large rock lodged in the glacier. If the steam drill has not descended to the expected depth, as determined by Andrew Malm, the apparent stopping point will be inferred to be a rock, and a new hole will need to be started. Reaching the actual glacier bed and tapping the subglacial water flow is the primary goal of the drilling.
So, why are we waiting today? The helicopter lift was scheduled for yesterday (Sunday the 11th). The gear was going to be flown by the helicopters of the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park (our study is located within the boundaries of the park). However, a forest fire broke out over the July 4th weekend in the northern portion of the park. The park helicopters were diverted to fighting fire. A private helicopter service has been contracted to do the flying. Tomorrow is the soonest they could be here.
Tonight we will be feasting on salmon at the Wrangell Mountain Institute. They are an outdoor education facility located in McCarthy. They are hosting 16 college students for a summer of field-based education. They have generously invited us to dinner. Their support and interest in this project has been an asset. In return for the dinner, some of the members of the project will be talking about their research.=20
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