Little Dome C - Beyond EPICA Oldest Ice Drilling Site (75.29917 °S, 122.44516 °E) – Season 2022/23

Situation Report #34; Thursday 05 January 2023

Personnel @LDC: Saverio Panichi (ENEA, Camp Leader), Frank Wilhelms (AWI, Chief Driller), Robert Mulvaney (BAS, Chief Scientist), Markus Grimmer (UNIBE), Romilly Harris Stuart (LSCE), Matthias Hüther (AWI), Gunther Lawer (AWI), Johannes Lemburg (AWI), Martin Leonhardt (AWI), Florian Krauss (UNIBE), Michele Scalet (ENEA), Julien Westhoff (NBI), Andrea de Vito (ENEA)

Personnel @DC: Giuditta Celli (UNIVE, ISP)

Weather at LDC 5 pm: cloudy, 10 knots

Meteo at DC 5 pm:T = −34°C, Wind = SE 10 knots, Wind Chill T = −50°C (wind chill warning)

Easy drilling after a difficult start; arrival of the French science traverse, drillers reach 500m depth; a BE-OIC EXCOMM meeting; establishing a geophysics survey site

After a few days of relatively easy drilling, we changed late last night to the 4 m long drill barrels again for another test (this implies changing the outer barrel, hollow shaft, and core barrel). With the long barrels we could hope for longer cores, which will become important the deeper we drill when the transit time down and up the borehole is significantly longer than at present, and the extra length of core will be welcome. However, the first two runs with these longer barrels showed that the drill motor is not yet well tuned to give us sufficient power to drive the core barrel without the motor cutting out. There is still hope that this can be solved, but we chose to switch back to the relatively successful 3 m barrel system (which allows us to recover cores up to 3.5 m long).

During the late morning, the French scientific traverse vehicles arrived in camp. This traverse team had set out from the French station Dumont D’Urville in early November and has been carrying out research at several sites along their route to Concordia Station, including drilling shallow ice cores and collecting the air from the porous firn layer. They will remain about 2km from us until the end of the season, drilling another 120 m borehole to collect firn-air.

Their arrival coincided with the recovery of the first long core of the day (with the shorter barrel) and the marking of the 500 m drillers’ depth. Time for a group photo and a little celebration, and Saverio provided us with a bottle of sparkling wine to toast our success.

For Frank and Robert, the celebration was brief as they had to leave immediately in the PistenBully 100 for Concordia Station to join a Zoom meeting (yes, even in Antarctica) of the BE-OIC Executive Committee to discuss the developments of the past week and make decisions about the project infrastructure at Little Dome C and Concordia for the future seasons. It’s a 2.5-hour drive to Concordia and they managed to arrive just a few minutes after the meeting started.

Following that, they had a short break for a cup of tea, then it was time to re-fuel the PB100, load up with some items of food for the BELDC camp, then start driving back.

On the return leg, they diverted 2.5 km off the main road to set up one of the BE-OIC geophysics survey sites with a large diameter aluminum pole for a precise GPS position, and two stakes to mark the positions of the ApRES (Autonomous phase-sensitive Radio Echo Sounder). The two instruments will be allowed to record overnight before being collected and moved to the next survey site.

End of day statistics:

Individual runs of the drill were recorded as: 0.76, 0.65, 3.05, 3.15, 3.21, 3.40, 3.46, 3.40, 3.26, 3.31 m

  • Drillers’ depth: 525.00 m; daily total 27.82 m
  • Loggers’ depth: 528.90 m; daily total 27.50 m

Rob Mulvaney & Frank Wilhelms - LDC, 08 Jan 2023