Saturday, November 17, 2007

A visit to the drill site out on the sea ice

Last night we had a day off and we had a chance to visit the drill site. We were picked up by the staff scientist and he drove us per Mattrack vehicle out on the sea ice. We followed the procedures for sea ice travel: checked out with Macops by radio and delivered our estimated time of arrival at drill camp, picked up an extra survival bag, because we had one person more in the vehicle than normally, and off we went. After about two hours we arrived at the drillsite. The drillrig is covered in a white fabric to keep the rig and the people on it away from the wind. The rig is situated on 7-8 m thick multi-year sea ice (frozen ocean) and there are around 380 meters of water below it until the drill pipe reaches the sea floor. The small blue building attached to the rig is the mud room. In the mud room the drilling fluid is prepared and recovered. Drilling fluid keeps the drill hole open and lubricates the drill string. The drillers on the rig floor keep and eye on the pressure of the drill bit on the formation it is drillling. Once a core section of 6 meters is completed, the core comes up from the drill hole and is further processed and cut into one-meter long sections at the drillsite lab. The fractures and physical properties of the cores are studied and measured there too. The whole-round core sections are transported to McMurdo Station by helicopter. There the core sections get split and imaged, before we get to describe the core. Check back later for a blog on the core process here in McMurdo. Lastly: some penguin feet we discovered out on the sea ice, but unfortunately the penguins had left. There was a group of them at the drillsite not long ago and the people there enjoyed the entertainment. They have very little entertainment there so I am glad they had a chance to enjoy themselves.

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