Goodbye Taylor Glacier – Goodbye Antarctica

After three weeks of field work on Taylor Glacier, four of us left the field (incl. me) while eight are continuing until beginning of January. Here some impressions from an amazing time at an amazing place.

Spectacular Camp view

The spectacular scenery of our camp. Kitchen tent in blue, toilet tent in yellow.

Campt overview

Overview of our camp. The (really) small sleeping tents to the right, kitchen tent in blue, in the back our working area with the big science tent (laboratory) in yellow/grey and the storage tent in bright yellow.

Helo bringing fuel

A helicopter (helo) bringing fuel drums to our camp. All the logistic between McMurdo and our camp is done with helos. Even though we have seen tens of helos bringing and getting stuff, you never get sick of them. It’s amazing how precisely they can fly, even at strong winds.

Low-Tech ice core drilling at work.

Low-tech ice core drilling. We use this drill to explore the stratigraphy of the glacier at various places. This picture is taken at the glacier tongue where we found the oldest ice in Taylor Glacier so far (about 150’000 years old). It doesn’t look like, but it’s hard work, I tell you!

Sarah and Micheal with ice core

Happy glaciologists (Sarah and Micheal) holding an ice core section from 10 meters depth. This specific piece of ice has last seen the surface probably about 120’000 years ago (exact dating still work in progress), when it has fallen in form of snow about 150 km inland from where we are.

Helium balloon start

Another low-tech but efficient way to explore the stratigraphy of the glacier: helium balloon with camera. High resolution areal photos help us to better understand the folding of the ice.

Areal of balloon team

Areal photo of the exploration team.

Areal photo of melt channels

Areal photo of the melt channels at the glacier tongue – no, it’s not Mars!

Peter in the melt channel

On a day off, we find time to visit the spectacular melt channels of Taylor Glacier. Peter uses his crampon to stroll into the channel.

One of the mummified seals on Taylor Glacier, one of the mysteries of the dry valleys. They are several thousand years old and perfectly preserved in the dry and cold climate of the dry valleys. For some unknown reason, a seal made its way up the glacier and died. Ever since, it is perfectly conserved on the cold and dry glacier and slowly travels down the valley with the glacier flow. The theorie is that they wandered up glacier on the search of holes in the sea ice, not realizing that they go the wrong direction.

One of the mummified seals on Taylor Glacier, a mystery of the Dry Valleys. They are several thousand years old. For some unknown reason, this seal must have made its way up the glacier before he died on its journey. Ever since, it is perfectly conserved on the cold and dry glacier and slowly travels down the valley with the glacier flow. The theory is that the seal wandered up Ferrar glacier (which merges with Taylor Glacier) on the search of holes in the sea ice, not realizing that he is going the wrong direction… sad story.

Movie night at camp

Movie night in the camp. Sarah, Micheal, Kathy and Andy (front to back) enjoy the time after work inside the kitchen tent.

BID at work on Taylor Glacier

Our hungry Blue Ice Drill (BID) at work. Engineered specifically for the C14 work done at Taylor Glacier, this drill pulls out cores with 24 cm diameter. Each meter of core is 40 kg heavy and a pain to carry around. The good side? Lots of sample!

Cutting BIDs

The big BID cores hardly fit in a ice core box. That’s why we cut it right in the field. Peter and Vas (l.t.r.) are focused on making a straight cut – essential for good sampling and not so easy with a slippery, 40 kg heavy and round piece of ice.

Storing cores in the freezer

After cutting and bagging the ice, samples are stored in a freezer – yes, freezer! The strong Antarctic sun can melt the ice at the surface. We have to prevent this from happening. The colder the ice, the better the trapped gases in the ice is preserved for later analysis.


Bubbles in the ice

That’s what it is all about – the small bubbles in the ice which are air samples from the past. The composition of this air tells us a lot about the past climate.

The field lab melter in action

In the science tent Ed and Joe (front to back) melt small sticks cut from the big BID cores and run the melt water as well as the released gases through their sophisticated system. It’s pretty wild to build up such a lab for a couple of weeks at one of the most remote places on the planet, but it finally payed off.

Melter head close up

Close up of the melter head (golden piece) while melting an ice stick. The melt water-air mixture is sucked through the melter head into the system.

Filling the big melter

The other melter unit. In this big vacuum chamber almost one ton of ice can be melted at once. This pot is the main reason why we need the big BID cores.

Group photo

The complete field crew shorltly before we left the field (f.l.t.r.): Berni, Ed, Heidi, Peter, Vas, Andy, Jayred, Joe, Kathy, Sarah, Micheal, Andrew. It’s been a pleasure with you guys!

Reading Globi

… and THANK YOU READER for following this blog. It’s been a pleasure to give you insights in our work at the beautiful end of the world. “Globi und der Polarforscher” is surprisingly close to the reality, I have to admit :-).

To be continued…

Cheers, Berni

P.S.: Follow the Rochester blog for more reports directly from the field.


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2 Comments on “Goodbye Taylor Glacier – Goodbye Antarctica

  1. I very much enjoyed reading it, Berni! Thanks a lot! =) I’m looking forward to seeing you soon sometime 🙂

  2. Globi finally made it to the real Antartica !
    Thanks for all these pictures and information on your field work. Great to read about all this.

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