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

Situation Report #47; Wednesday 18th 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), Florian Krauss (UNIBE), Martin Leonhardt (AWI), Michele Scalet (ENEA), Julien Westhoff (NBI), Andrea de Vito (ENEA)

Personnel @DC: Giuditta Celli (UNIVE, ISP)

Weather at LDC 5 pm: sunny, 10 knots, 639 hPa

Meteo at DC 5 pm: T = −37°C, Wind = SW 10 knots, Wind Chill T = −53°C (wind chill warning)

A day of records; Happy Birthday Julien

Today has long been billed as the last day of drilling. With the temperatures starting to fall, the need to think about closing down the camp and winterising all the drilling and camp infrastructure is becoming more urgent. The Italian ship Laura Bassi will make its final call at Mario Zuchelli Station in the next week and will take with it the ice cores we have processed and packed for shipping to Europe in the special -50°C freezer containers, plus any equipment we need to return to Europe for repairs and improvements. By the end of the month, most of the summer visitors to Concordia will need to have left the station for their travel back north, leaving behind only the essential staff needed for winterising the station, and then finally leaving only the winter team to face the long, dark, and cold winter months in one of the remotest and inaccessible places on Earth.

Drilling continued in the morning in a routine manner: the fourth core of the morning took us past the 800 m mark on the loggers’ depth, which signalled another little celebration and a group photo.

Having reached what was for most of us the post-hoc target depth for the season, and given it was the last day of drilling, it was time for a final round of experimentation with the drill. The shorter 3.5 m barrel system was replaced with the 4.5 m barrel system which had not so far during the season produced the longer length of cores desired. This time was different, with two runs of the drill producing first 3.88 m of core, and in the final drilling run of this season, a core of 4.52 m in length. This is a significant achievement for the AWI drill system: this is the longest core ever drilled by a European project. Its significance lies in the fact that at greater depths, where the time to winch down and up the borehole, incrementally longer cores recovered each run means that we progress faster with the drilling, and should cut the time needed to reach bedrock, and the Oldest Ice.

We all congratulated the AWI engineers for their achievement with another bottle of bubbly – we’re told by Saverio that this is the last bottle of the season. Time to go…..

Today was Julien’s birthday, which we celebrated with two cakes from Saverio. A good day for a birthday for Julien – I’m sure he will remember this one!

Finally, after a career of nearly 40 years, and well over 30 polar field seasons, Robert claims to have drilled the final ice core of his career today.

The last of the geophysics GPS sites was taken down, and the local base station GPS which has run all season was closed. That concludes the BE-OIC Geophysics Consortium survey requirements for this season, with everything achieved as planned.

End of day statistics:

Individual runs of the drill were recorded as: 3.50, 3.20, 2.84, 3.53, 3.88, 4.54 m

  • Drillers’ depth: 804.65 m; daily total 21.73 m
  • Loggers’ depth: 808.47 m; daily total 22.05 m

Rob Mulvaney & Frank Wilhelms - LDC, 19 Jan 2023

(Comment from Frank….. like James Bond, Robert will make a come-back….)