16 July, 1999

July 16

After learning that the lake was beginning its annual drain/flood, collecting as much data as possible was critical. Only one hole had been drilled, not completely to the glacier bed, and it did not yet have a pressure transducer placed in it to gather water level data (we were expecting to put in at least seven holes complete with pressure transducers gathering data). Surveyor Dennis Trabant had just completed placing his survey stakes yesterday, but had not yet started collecting survey data to record the changes in the surface of the glacier as the lake drained. In addition, there was concern that the drill site was in an area that would go through significant topographic changes (opening of crevasses, debris slides, shaking) as the lake drained. Joel Harper (drill operator) was extremely worried that his drilling equipment was going to be swallowed by the glacier. Last night was quite a night. It was as if a train was leaving and only half the luggage was packed.

Surveyor Dennis Trabant (USGS, Fairbanks) proceeded to set up his survey site, and surveyed the position of the reflectors he had set on the ice dam. He left camp at 10:00 PM (after already working 10 hours during the day) and surveyed until 1:30 AM. Joel Harper (University of Wyoming), Andrew Malm (St. Olaf undergrad), and myself left camp at 10:00 PM and hiked back out to the drill site. We broke down the equipment and got it ready for an emergency air lift the following morning. Don Lindsay (PSU grad student) stayed back at camp to wire a pressure transducer. He hiked out to the drill site at 11:00 PM to lower the transducer into the one hole that had been drilled. We got to the drill site at 11:30 PM. Don arrived at about midnight and set the pressure transducer into the hole. We worked by twilight until 2:15 AM. As we started back, the sunrise for the next day was commencing. We got back to camp by 3:15 AM. We were exhausted. I collapsed into my sleeping bag inside my tent and fell asleep instantly. However, by 7:30 AM the drenching sunlight which typifies high latitude summers was turning the inside of my tent into a greenhouse. The muggy climate drove me from my sleep.

This morning , the lake team (Joe Walder and Michelle Cunico) reported that the lake level had dropped another 10 feet overnight. There was no longer any doubt that the lake was draining. A call was made get a helicopter as soon as possible to shuttle out the drilling equipment. We heard back that the helicopter would be heading our way at 10:00 AM, if the fog that shrouded Valdez, where the helicopter was based, had cleared. Driller Joel Harper, PI Andrew Fountain, grad student Don Lindsay, seismologist Steve Malone, ice radar specialist Andrew Malm, and myself waited in camp. At 10:00 AM we got word that the helicopter was still socked in at Valdez. A loud boom came from the direction of the lake - calving and collapse of ice. Joel was nervous about getting his drilling equipment off of the ice.

Four of us would be going to the glacier to prepare the sling loads - PI Andrew Fountain, Joel Harper, Don Lindsay and myself. There was still a seismometer and seismograph at the drilling site collecting data. I would be breaking down and packing up that equipment. Andrew Fountain was also going to check the pressure transducer that Don had placedinto the hole the previous night. At 12:30 PM we were told that the helicopter had left Valdez and would be arriving at our camp at about 1:30 PM.

Loading the slings went smoothly on the glacier. By 3:30 PM the drilling and seismic equipment was off of the ice. We all breathed a sigh of relief.


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