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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1998-99: VUWAE 43


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1. The Project operated in the Cape Roberts (CR) area from early September 1998 to the end of January 1999. This period can be divided into four distinct phases:
a.Set-up - September; during which the support team of eight deployed the main CR Camp and DS Camp onto the sea ice in preparation for drilling. The main activity during this period was hauling all buildings, equipment and fuel off CR and setting up the two camps. The team arrived at CR by Hagglunds all-terrain vehicles and lived on CR for eight nights until the main Camp was assembled and habitable. Later in the month they began deploying buildings and equipment to the Drill Site after a safe route was surveyed. This is a phase of the Project where environmental 'incidents' can easily occur because of the extreme cold temperatures adversely affecting both machinery and people. The period was incident free.
b.Drilling Operations - October and November; during which drilling and core recovery was undertaken and up to 46 people - support staff, drillers, scientists and visitors - were at CR. High levels of activity and occupancy sum up this phase. Drilling was a two-shift around-the-clock operation and, weather permitting, shift changes were done by helicopter. There was also a significant amount of travel done over sea ice, moving people and supplies between CR, the Main Camp and the Drill Site. Two sledge train trips were made to Marble Point to obtain more fuel. During this phase, mainly in November, some 100 people visited the Project.
c.Decommission - early December; during which a support team of seven returned all equipment and buildings to CR for storage. Drillers and scientists returned to Scott Base soon after drilling finished leaving the support team to decommission the Main Camp and store all buildings, sledges and fuel on CR. This was an eight day operation. The support team returned to Scott Base by Hagglunds vehicles.
e.Maintenance and Winterisation - January; during which a support team of four carried out essential equipment maintenance and winterisation of all plant and buildings on CR. Environmental monitoring and sampling was done during this period.

2. Unlike the previous season, this season for CRP went very much to plan - the key to this was thick stable sea ice. The set-up phase went very smoothly and efficiently. The drilling got off to a slow start mainly because of the difficult nature of the strata, but at completion a depth of 625 metres below-sea-floor was reached with a very high percentage of core recovered.

3. From an environmental perspective the CRP 'season' was also highly successful. There are no 'environmental incidents' to report. Once again all people involved in the Project demonstrated a high level of environmental awareness and responsibility. This was confirmed by the independent environmental review carried out in early November by the Environmental Manager for the Australian Antarctic Programme. As in previous years, Antarctica New Zealand's Environmental Manager also made working visits to the Project as part of ongoing environmental monitoring.

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4. CRP personnel first arrived at CR on 04 September 1998 and the last departed at the end of the drilling operations phase on 11 December. At the beginning and end of this phase 93 person-days were spent living on CR, while the main Camp was set-up and then taken down. A total of 2,130 person-days was spent at the main CR Camp, the majority in October and November. The average occupancy rate at the sea ice camp from 13 September to 07 December was 25 persons per night.

5.The 'maintenance and winterisation' phase on CR extended from 13 to 29 January 1999 with a total of 60 person days and an average occupancy rate of 3.5 persons per night. Refer to Appendix 1 for a breakdown of person-days during the 1998/99 Season.


6. A record was kept of non-CRP visitors to Cape Roberts during the drilling operations phase. Refer to Appendix 2 for a breakdown of visitors and main places they visited. However, Appendix 2 does not include CRP scientists based at the Crary Laboratory, McMurdo Station. The majority of these scientists, about 22, visited both the main Camp and the Drill Site and most overnighted at CR. About 30 Scott Base and McMurdo personnel (most not recorded in Appendix 2) were given the opportunity to visit the main Camp on shift change helicopters during the season. Maximum ground time of about 45 minutes meant they were restricted to the Camp.

7. Of the 81 'visitors' listed in Appendix 2, 26 of them were official Project visitors or specialists - media, Distinguished Visitors (DVs), environmentalists and divers. These people all overnighted at CR, usually for two or more nights. The remainder was predominantly DVs, media and senior NZ and US officials whose visits were usually no more than two to three hours.

8. In summary then, some 85 persons not directly associated with the Project visited CRP. Most did not overnight and the average length of stay would have been about two hours. About a third of these visitors only visited the CR Camp for a short time -long enough for a quick tour and a cup of coffee.


9. There were no 'environmental incidents' observed or reported to the Project Manager or the Science Support Manager (responsible for Drill Site area) during the operational phases of the Project for the 1998/99 season.


10. Two amendments to the CEE were approved prior to the 1998/99 Season. They were to use an additional drilling 'mud' and to use new rigid buoyancy on the Sea Riser called Syntactic Foam.

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a.Guar Gum Drill Mud. Guar Gum is an organic polymer extracted from lima beans. It is used in drilling as a viscosifier to shore up an unstable drill-hole formation. This season 1.25 metric tonnes of Guar Gum was pumped down the hole, along with other 'muds' appoved by the CEE. The Guar Gum was successfully used and no problems were experienced with it.
b.Syntactic Foam Floats. One hundred of these floats were transported to CR in September and the majority was fitted to the Sea Riser casing (four to a 5.5m length of casing). In an effort to avoid impacts, abrasion and damage to the floats that might result in material contaminating the sea ice or sea, a sledge with specially designed 'stocks' was used and special handling techniques were developed at the Drill Site for the floats. All were successful. Close inspection of the 28 floats deployed on the Sea Riser for CRP2 (hole) revealed no damage, abrasion or chipping of the Syntactic Foam.


11. No FOL spills were reported to or observed by the Project Manager during the season, either on CR or the sea ice. Day to day fuel handling was the responsibility of two support staff who are experienced and well trained operators. Wherever minor (ie. a few millilitres) oil or hydraulic leaks were observed, mainly at the 'hitching rails', contaminated or suspected contaminated snow was collected and put through the 'separator'. Snow collected in the outside drip trays was also regularly put through the 'separator' as a precaution. Other than minor drips/leaks the season was free from major hydraulic failures.

12. Fuel Storage. Fuel storage on the Project continues to improve each year. At the end of the previous summer secondary containment, in the form of heavy-duty tarpaulins, was added to the two fuel frames on CR. A plywood base had also been added to one fuel frame to improve the containment. The tarpaulins survived the winter intact. This summer the other fuel frame was also upgraded with a plywood base.

13. One of the first tasks of the support team when they arrived at CR was to haul the two laden fuel sledges (about 150 drums total) off the land to minimise any potential for a damaging spill there. Fuel 'farms' (dedicated storage areas) were then set up on the sea ice at the main Camp and the Drill Site Camp. These 'farms' were isolated from buildings and general traffic areas, and wherever possible all refuelling activities were carried out there. The two fuel farms were clearly sign-posted, and fire extinguishers and spill kits kept there. At the CR Camp a separate cache of 24 drums of 'fresh' fuel was stored about 100m from the helicopter pad for emergency refuelling. Nine drums were used. Helicopter crewmen were responsible for their own refuelling operation. No spills at this site were reported or observed.

14. During the summer season all fuel stocks were checked daily for leaks or damage. Special attention was paid to the fuel stored on CR. No leaks or damage were found.

15. Fuel Resupply. Two refuelling sledge trips were made to Marble Point, about 40 km south of CR, in late October and mid November to refill fuel drums from the American tanks there. The Project Manager accompanied the first sledge train to page 4 obtain first-hand experience of the operation. A total of 322 209litre drums were refilled with JP5. At the same time 15 empty drums were rejected for refilling at Marble Point mainly because of internal rust. A further 30 or more drums were removed from stock following external inspection at CR prior to departure on the fuel runs. The main defect was 'creasing' - indentations caused by impact - which can result in hairline cracks, especially in conjunction with rust. Both fuel runs were carried out successfully without incident. Refer to Appendix xx of the CRP EOS Report for the reports on each of the refueling trips.

16. Fuel Usage and End-Of-Season Fuel Stocks. Fuel usage for the 1998/99 CRP season was close to 400 × 209 litre drums of JP8/JP5/Jet A1. Twelve drums of Mogas (mainly two-stroke mix) were also used. An approximate usage rate through October and November was five drums per day - three at the Drill Site and two at CR Camp. At 30 January 1999 JP5 stored at CR totaled 229 drums:
a.North Fuel Frame - 58 drums.
b.Aalener sledges - 171 drums.

Small quantities of other FOL are also stored at CR, either on the fuel frame or in containers. Total volume would be less than 2,000 litres.


17. Waste generated at CR consisted of human waste, grey water (from kitchen, ablutions and laundry facilities), food waste, used or contaminated FOL, drill 'mud' residue and drill cuttings, drill pipe and miscellaneous waste, eg. packaging, timber, scrap metal, plastic, glass. All waste generated was disposed of in accordance with the CEE.

18. At the conclusion of the CRP season all waste, other than that able to be disposed of either in the sea or on the sea ice, had been removed to Scott Base. It is Project policy to remove all waste in the season that it is generated. In addition to not storing waste at CR from one season to the next, it was also practice to return rubbish to Scott Base at every opportunity, especially through the backloading of helicopters. Although not always appreciated by helicopter crews, it was nonetheless critical to waste management to 'keep ahead of it'. That way excessive amounts did not build up which were then difficult to shift, and the risk was minimised of having waste blow away or lost under snow cover.

19. Types of Waste and Disposal Methods.
a.Human Waste. At the CR Camp and Drill Site Camp free standing, unheated toilets were set up over holes in the sea ice. The holes measured approximately 1.2m deep × 0.6m in diameter. They were not drilled through to the sea. Ten holes were used at the main Camp and three at the Drill Site. Observations of sea ice breakup in this area from previous years suggests the contents of these holes could ultimately be dispersed well out in McMurdo Sound. Human waste generated while living on CR was 'tide-cracked' in the time honoured way. The plastic bags which contained the waste are returned to Scott Base for disposal.
b.Grey Water. Depending on the Camp population, between 1,000 and 5,000 litres per day of diluted (mixed with brine solution from the Reverse Osmosis plant) grey water was pumped into the sea beneath the Camp. Under-sea-ice video observation showed the current quickly dispersed this water in a laminar flow. A visual check of page 5 water clarity in early November showed clear water 1m upstream of the outflow and only slight discoloration downstream. At 3m downstream from source the water was clear.
c.Food Waste. This season all waste food was bagged and returned to Scott Base. Last season food was macerated and incorporated into the grey water, but this was stopped for technical reasons. Although this noticeably increased the volume of waste to be returned to Scott Base the Project Manager, for environmental as well as technical and health reasons, believes transportation to Scott Base to be the better disposal option and it will be retained for next season.
d.FOL Waste. Used oil and contaminated FOL that was recovered from the separator was stored in overpack drums. Two drums of used oil and contaminants and one of oily rags and used filters were returned to Scott Base by the sea ice traverse party in December.
e.Drill Mud and Cuttings Residue. Close to 40 metric tonnes of biodegradable dry 'mud' products and 2.6 metric tonnes of dry cement were pumped down the CRP2 hole. This quantity translated to about 600 cubic metres mixed. During the embedment and early coring phases of the drilling some cement grout, drill mud and cuttings 'escaped' from around the drill annulus up to the sea floor. An area of the sea floor, about 5m in diameter by about 1m thick at the centre, was covered. Total volume exiting to the sea floor was estimated to be 1.25 cubic metres or 0.2 percent of the total drill mud and grout used in the hole. As drilling deepened drill fluids ceased escaping to the sea floor surface. The majority of drill fluids used in drilling CRP2 were 'lost' to the formation. Drill mud and cuttings retrieved at the drill rig were disposed of either by spreading on the sea ice or dumping down the sea riser ice hole. At the completion of coring and down-hole logging CRP2 hole was sealed with a cement grout plug. Refer to Science Support Manager's EOS Report for more details.
f.Drill Pipe. Drill pipe discarded in CRP2 hole at the completion of drilling was:
a.HQ coring rod - 120m.
b.5" sea riser outer casing - 12.5m.
g.Miscellaneous Waste. This was efficiently disposed of IAW Antarctica New Zealand's guidelines. All waste was separated into 'burnable' and 'non-burnable' and some non-burnable items, eg. batteries, metal; further separated. Most was returned to Scott base via helicopters. Bulky and heavy items were returned by sledge traverse.


20. The CRP vehicle fleet functioned efficiently throughout the season and no fuel, oil or hydraulic leaks, other than minor drips, were reported. A flagged vehicle route from CR to the CR Camp and CR Camp to the Drill Site Camp was established and maintained throughout the season. All flags were recovered. No seals appeared to take up residence near the South Beach transition or around CR itself during the season so vehicle operations were made very easy. Only one road was made to the Drill Site this season. It was 26 km long and 'turned' the CR Crack to the north. Later page 6 in November the odd seal began to appear in the vicinity of the road. They were never a problem.

21. Helicopter Operations. Almost 229 hours were flown in support of the Project during the season. Most were shift change flights originating either at McMurdo or Marble Point. Helicopter pads were designated at both CR and Drill Site Camps. When landing at CR Camp pilots were instructed to avoid overflying CR itself on their approach. Only six helicopter landings were made on CR in support of the Project during the season - two in early December and the others in January. More landings were made on CR during the season by USGS personnel in support of an unrelated project.

22. A Twin Otter aircraft from Terra Nova Bay Base landed on the sea ice in front of the CR Camp on 21 November. It delivered an Italian TV crew to film the Project. Time on the ground was less than 15 minutes.


23. The two local areas designated 'restricted access' were parts of CR and the Granite House at Botany Bay which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). All CRP personnel were briefed about these restricted areas and maps were displayed for all to see. Personnel accepted the reasoning behind the restrictions and compliance appeared to be excellent. This was especially so of CR given its close proximity to the Camp.

24. The Project Manager approved all proposed visits to Granite House. Seven parties visited the historic site, the first on 21 October and the last on 27 November. Transport into Granite Harbour was by either skidoo or Hagglunds and approach to the site only by foot. The largest party numbered 10, the maximum permissible. A total of 47 made the visit, an average of seven persons per party. Each party had a nominated visit-leader to ensure correct visit compliance.


25. Contrary to popular belief CRP personnel do not have a lot of spare time to recreate in the Cape Roberts-Granite Harbour area. Having said that recreational trips were made as far north as Cape Ross and south to the Debenham Glacier ice caves. The most popular area was Granite Harbour as indicated in Para 22 above. Ascents were made of Mts England, Marston, Haystack and Doublefinger by small parties. The most common form of recreation, other than relaxing around Camp, was to take one of the local walks - to CR or the cluster of icebergs to the north of the Camp or to First View Point in Granite Harbour or up to the Piedmont repeater.


26. Permit No. 98/02 issued 30/10/98 to CRP approved (Appendix 3):
a.Controlled access to Granite House (refer Para 22),
b.Use of explosives to cut the sea riser casing at the sea floor on completion of drilling,page 7
c.Use of explosives under the sea ice to carry out vertical seismic profiling (VSP) as part of scientific down-hole logging.

27. One explosive device - a Colliding Detonator Cutter - was used to successfully cut the casing at sea floor (178m) to enable the rest of the sea riser to be recovered. At the surface the explosion was detectable only as a 'pinging' sound transmitted up the casing pipe.

28. Twenty four explosive charges were safely and successfully fired as part of the VSP experiment on 30 November. The Science Support Manager who was responsible for this, had ensured no marine life, namely seals, was in the area at the time of the explosions. Refer to his EOS Report for more detail.


29. A Hazardous Substances Register was compiled and advertised at CR early this season (refer to Appendix 3 of this report). The purpose of this register was twofold - to increase personal safety and health awareness, and to increase environmental awareness because of the risks most of these substances pose for the environment if not handled correctly. No incidents involving any hazardous substances were either reported to or observed by the Project Manager.


30. The Project Manager completed a Skua census over the whole of CR from 01 to 04 December. Bird numbers appeared 'healthy' and at least 59 pairs of birds were recorded and a number of nests observed with eggs present. Some nests already had broken eggs evident.

31. Antarctica New Zealand's Environmental Manager updated the census in late January. Eighteen chicks were counted. It was both interesting and disconcerting for members of the small maintenance team at CR in January to observe five incidents of adult birds killing apparently healthy chicks.


32. No further amendments to the CEE are planned for continued drilling in 1999/2000 season. However, the fact that the Project has been extended an extra year raises the question of whether the 'life' of the CEE can be simply extended to allow for this or whether a review of the process and/or the Project needs to be undertaken. The Project Manager and Antarctica New Zealand's CEO and Environmental Manager will address this issue in due course.

Jim Cowie

Cape Roberts Project Manager


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  1. CRP2 Person-days 1998/99.
  2. Visitors to CRP 1998/99.
  3. CRP2 Hazardous Substances Report.
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