Posted on July 4, 2016
The Ice Arrived!
Several months after drilling the ice cores on Taylor Glacier, they finally arrived at our lab. A moment to celebrate that nothing went wrong on the way, and before.
I have to admit, it was a pretty special moment when I drove to Zurich Airport that rainy late afternoon a few weeks ago to meet the ice core boxes I packed last December on McMurdo Station in Antarctica. So much work for a few tens of kilograms of ice and now it finally arrives at the lab… Good Times!
From the drill site on Taylor Glacier the ice was brought to McMurdo Station by Helicopter where it was stored in a first freezer. There, we prepared the boxes for their long journey in an on-board freezer of a ship from McMurdo to L.A., followed by a transportation with a freezer truck to the labs in the U.S.. Special care is required for this transportation as all could be lost by a gap of a few hours in the cold chain. As an example, one of the special safety measures is that always two freezer trucks are used for the delivery to the labs: One loaded with the boxes, the other one empty as backup in case the main truck breaks down. All of this is organized by the U.S. Antarctic Program and works perfectly. Thanks!
The ice that made it to Switzerland is part of a collaboration between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and the University of Bern, for which reason our ice was brought to San Diego first. From there we had to organize the transportation by ourselves and had to work with carriers that are not used to handle such precious freight. It is always interesting to explain to a carrier that the freight does not have a “price” (which they need for their insurances), because this freight is just not buyable! Its effective price would be so high that no one would ever take the responsibility for the transportation. There is no other way to give a fictive price (way too low) and basically do the transportation without any insurance, a common way if you deal with shipping of research products.
Therefore, you take special care to minimize the risks during the transportation and we boiled it down to a fast transportation without cooling from San Diego via L.A. airport and Zurich airport to Bern within 28 hours. The boxes got loaded with cold packs such that they could stay cold for 48 hours without any external cooling. You probably understand now why it is a moment to celebrate when all the ice arrives as planned – still nice and cold – and you can place it in your freezer at the lab.