On our way down through the ice sheet: life at Little Dome C, Antarctica

A recap of Beyond EPICA 23/24 Drilling Season made by Tamara Gerber

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A great success for Beyond EPICA third drilling campaign: reached 1836 meters of depth in the Antarctic ice sheet

The international research project Beyond EPICA - Oldest Ice funded by the European Commission with 11 million euros and coordinated by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), aims to obtain data on the evolution of temperatures, the composition of the atmosphere and the carbon cycle, by going back in time 1.5 million years through analyzing an ice core extracted from the depths of the Antarctic ice sheet. By taking the legacy of last year's achievement, the complex deep ice drilling system worked days and nights, reaching a depth of 1836.18 meters by the end of this 23/24 campaign. In parallel with drilling activities, in the new processing trench at Little Dome C almost 1367 m of ice cores have been processed this season and sent to Mario Zucchelli Station to reach Europe

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From the logbook of the LDC camp - 2/24

Day 40 - We set up a new drill head and new cutters yesterday, and we are still capable to drill 4 to 4.5 meters cores.

Day 41 - Today, we send 48 ice core boxes to Concordia, which have been stored in the balloon trench, waiting for a cold flight to MZS on the 8th of January.

Day 43 - Yesterday the Australian traverse reached the drilling site a few km from LDC. This is a logistical traverse which will drop off some of the equipment they will need for deep drilling (probably next year). Today we had a visit from our Australian colleagues and neighbors, who took part in a pizza party and visited our camp.

Day 45 - After a few good runs, we get a problem while drilling. On the way up we saw that there were knots in the cable. We unwound the cable along the length that was damaged, cut off the damaged part (around 450 metres) and are now in the process of re-anchoring it.

Day 46 - After re-anchoring the drill we had some problems to set up the antitorque blades properly. Additionally, the top valve got blocked which in turn broke the shear pin of the motor. After replacing the pin, machining the valve, and changing the seals, we have finally been able to make a normal run in the late afternoon.

Day 47 - The first LDC personnel have started to leave the camp, so that we can gradually close it down.

Day 50 - In the morning we processed the last ice cores for this season. Processing stopped at 1,695 meters, resulting in 1367 m processed throughout the season. The -50°C refrigerated container was unloaded from the Laura Bassi boat and transported to MZS today. This container will transport our temperature sensitive cores (b-cuts) back to Europe.

Day 54 - We finished drilling just before midnight on January 18th. We reached a driller’s depth of 1836.18 m and a logger's depth of 1835.35 m. In total, we have drilled 1031.53 m (1026.88 m loggers length) this season in exactly six weeks (Dec. 8 to Jan 18).

Have a great day and see you next season!

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