Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Last Minute Preparations…

Spending the Easter holidays on the North Slope of Alaska has proved to be a mix of work, work, and a little more work. I spent most of my time sorting through boxes that were packed and shipped to Barrow last fall, and getting everything ready for when Craig, John, and Baptiste arrive from LBNL tonight. They are scheduled to arrive in about 30 minutes. They will need to go through a mandatory safety briefing and check-in that could take an hour or so. After that we will gather at the apartment to devise a plan for our field research that begins tomorrow.

In preparation for field research, the UMIAQ crew did two things for us today that will accelerate our science. First, the crew pulled out our Big Beaver drill rig then replaced and checked all engine and hydraulic fluids. We typically do this every year in order to avoid any problems in the field. No one wants to check engine fluids at -20F. Scotty is the new mechanic who joined UMIAQ this year and he made short work by getting the right filters, draining and replacing oil, and running the engine and hydraulics through their paces. I purchased and replaced the battery yesterday, so it was great to finally see the Big Beaver start on the first turn of the key. Thanks Scotty, and welcome to UMIAQ!
Although we will finish this task tomorrow, we also looked at a few of the snow machines provided by UMIAQ and thought about our field requirements for the next few days. We will definitely need a wide-track, more powerful snow machine for pulling the sled-mounted Big Beaver out to our field site. We know from past experience that it is heavy and can be problematic to pull the drill through miles of tundra especially if there are patches of soft or deep snow.


Several modifications to the sled will be made this year including the installation of leveling jacks at four locations of the sled. In the past we have noticed that the sled can be unstable side to side, and front to back, on less than level ground. Drilling, especially drilling deeper permafrost cores can be complicated by shifts in the positioning of the sled. So the leveling jacks should eliminate that concern and give us a safer and more stable platform from which to drill. Craig and Ken Lowe (ORNL) will be making those modifications in the next day or two. We’ll be sure to let you know how those work when in the field beginning on Wednesday.