5 November, 1998
Thursday, November 5, 1998
Hello again! I slept in this morning to catch up on sleep after my "Happy Camper" field training. I had a meeting to attend at Crary Lab for the Cape Roberts Project, so I had to be there at 10:00 AM. This was an exciting day for our project. Yesterday while I was gone scientists received word that evidence of a large volcanic eruption had been discovered in the most recent sections of core. This was the day we could all get a look at those samples! I want to include part of a press release that was drafted today.
"Ancient Antarctic Environment Rocked by Volcanic Eruptions"
"A scientific study of rock cores presently being drilled from the bottom of the western Ross Sea, Antarctica, has unexpectedly recovered the first evidence of large volcanic eruptions that occurred in the area around 25 million years ago. The evidence of this activity is contained in layers of volcanic debris that were erupted explosively into the atmosphere and then settled through the air and the ocean onto the seafloor. The thickness and coarseness of the main debris layer indicates a large volume eruption that generated an ash cloud reaching 50 to 70 km into the stratosphere. The discovery of these volcanic layers demonstrates a far more spectacular history of volcanic activity than was previously suspected for the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, but it is also useful because it provides material for accurately dating the strata."
Peter Webb gave us the latest drilling status, and he announced that the downhole loggers were going to the drill site to take measurements down the drill hole. We had a presentation by Hannes Grobe, from Germany, who works at the facility where the "working" half of the Cape Roberts cores are stored after they leave Antarctica. The working half of the cores are the ones that we drill from and other teams take their samples from. The "archive" half of the Cape Roberts cores are stored in an NSF funded facility at Florida State University. This is called the Antarctic Core Repository. The archive half of the cores are the ones that are pretty much untouched during the McMurdo sampling process. These can be used later by researchers.
After lunch I worked with Gary and Leo in the core sampling room, and a small room just outside that houses the drill we use to take our small core samples. Gary prepared the parts of the core we were going to sample by turning them over onto a tray…curved side facing up. An arrow on the tray indicated which way the sample came out of the drill hole. It was important to keep this orientation correct. Leo and I worked in the small room outside (which reminded me of a freezer with its big silver handle that opened like one). Leo would carefully place the core in an area under the drill bit. He wet the core and started to drill slowly, using water to cool the drill bit as friction heated it up. I assisted by holding each piece of the core very still so it wouldn't shift during the drilling process. After each sample was drilled, I brought the tray back inside the core sampling room to Gary. He placed the core back in the larger box it came from, and later Tom and Matt (curators of the core) put styrofoam pieces in the empty spots we had drilled out. This will keep the core from shifting during shipment. We drilled 30 samples today! Leo even let me have a turn at drilling. That was FUN!
While we were hard at work with the drilling process, Tom and Matt took samples for the other groups of scientists-based on where they had placed their flags. These samples where dug out with small tools, and the sediments were placed into small plastic bags, labeled with the scientist's name, and exactly where on the core the sample came from. This same process is repeated every time new boxes of core come into Crary Lab.
Back in the paleomag lab, Fabio measured samples using the spinner magnetometer. Leo, Gary and I went to ANOTHER room and Leo used an electric saw to trim up the samples so they would be 1 inch long. This is done so that the sample fits in our machines correctly. I helped out by drawing the orientation line on each sample with a pencil. I handed them off to Gary,who recorded information and placed the round samples on a tray to dry. Can you imagine doing all of these steps? Just wait…we haven't really begun to sample using all of our machines yet.
This was a long day in the lab, but I felt great getting into the science involved in this project. Watching all of the various teams examine the core, flag their sample areas, and working with Gary and Leo made me feel like a real scientist…even though I don't always understand every single aspect of the Cape Roberts project. I am learning a lot each day, and I hope you are, too. Talk with you tomorrow.
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