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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1999-2000: VUWAE 44

Holocene Climate History from Coastal Ice (K015B)

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K015 B Holocene Climate History from Coastal Ice

Antarctica New Zealand 1999/2000

Holocene Climate History from Coastal Ice (K015B)

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1. Aims of this Project

This study investigates the regional Holocene climate of the South Victoria Land coast, using the snow and ice of the Wilson Piedmont Glacier as an archive. Ice cores are being recovered and will be analysed to obtain a detailed, continuous record of past climate. The principal idea behind ice core analyses is, that as snow accumulates, it preserves information about climate, by trapping atmospheric gas, dust particles, and freezing the isotopic composition of water and air molecules. Analysis of these parameters can be used as proxies to quantify past temperature, precipitation, sea ice extent, wind direction, and storm frequency.

The purpose of this year's study was to test the quality of the paleoclimatic signal, recorded in the WPG and to establish transfer functions between meteorological data, satellite images and the ice core parameters. For this reason six shallow ice cores (varying from 7 to 33m) were recovered from Lower Victoria and Baldwin Glacier (Fig.:1). Due to their different characteristics in catchment, altitude, and topography, a comparison between the cores from the two areas will allow the effect of local influences to be separated from the regional climatic signal. To help interpret the ice core record, a mass balance measurement device has been installed, borehole temperature measured and snow profiles investigated and sampled. The area has been surveyed using differential GPS.

The results of this year's investigations are two-fold: firstly, they enable us to judge the quality of an ice record retrieved from that area and hence are the basis for the decision to drill a deeper 200m core during the coming season. Secondly, they will enable us to establish transfer functions for the deeper core, to calculate absolute values for paleoproxies, such as temperature, precipitation and sea ice extent, beyond the time covered by meteorological measurements and into the geological past.

2. Planing


With the application process

The application procedure is very well organised resulting in a smooth process. However, the two year application mode seems somewhat too long and unflexible to plan PhD or Postdoctoral projects, limiting significantly the contribution of young researcher to Antarctic science.


With Antarctica New Zealand staff

Antarctica New Zealand staff appeared very helpful and competent

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Provision of maps and aerial photographs

The provision of maps was poor and badly organised. Consequently maps and aerial photographs have been ordered directly from USGS.


To Pre-season Information

The information received was valuable and timely. However, it would have been helpful to receive a blank copy of this report and the field manual significantly before leaving into the field.


To Medicals, documentation and flights to Antarctica

All this was well explained and organised.

3. Cargo

All the cargo handling, including transport to and from Scott Base and the storage at Scott Base and Christchurch, has been carried out with great care and professionalism.

Our cargo included a weather station, repair kit for the drilling system, mass balance measurement device, general equipment for ice core handling, and laboratory items for the work at Crary Laboratory (such as a microtome, camera, tripot, knives, tapes etc.)

4. Personnel

  • Nancy Bertler, Principal Investigator
    Antarctic Research Centre
    Victoria University
  • Dr. Warren Dickinson, Scientific Supervisor and Drilling Expert Antarctic Research Centre Victoria University
  • Nick Jackson, Drilling Assistant
    Cape Roberts Project Team Member
  • Mike Avey, Drilling Expert
    Cape Roberts Project Team Member
  • Richard Stutters, Field Guide
    Cape Roberts Project Team Member
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5. Preparations for the field



The reception was well organised, efficient and productive. The main issues of transport and time tables were discussed and determined.



The equipment requested from Scott Base was supplied in time and fully functional. This included a chain saw and a fuel pump. The Scott Base staff was very supportive and competent. In addition, equipment not available at Scott Base has been requested from McMurdo Station, including a generator (with American plug system and voltages), and a snow density kit.


Field training

The field training was helpful and appropriate. The exercises seemed carefully chosen and were presented and taught with great professionalism


Delays at Scott Base


6. Field Transport

i)Aircraft Operations
Date Point of Departure Destination Personnel moved General Comments (*all Helicopter used are Cape Roberts shift change or cargo transport shuttles)
19 Nov 1999 Scott Base Cape Roberts Camp Bertler, Dickinson no incidents, total weight contribution ~1000 lbs, (212)
23 Nov 1999 Cape Roberts Camp Victoria Lower Glacier and Baldwin Valley Bertler, Dickinson, Stutters no incidents, two landings, ground time 30 min, total weight contribution ~600 lbs (A-Star)
24 Nov 1999 Cape Roberts Camp Victoria Lower Glacier Bertler, Dickinson, Stutters no incidents, 2 shuttles, sling load for fuel, generator and ice core boxes, total weight contribution ~ 3000 lbs, (Kiwi 212)
25 Nov 1999 Victoria Lower Glacier Cape Roberts Camp Stutters no incidents, total weight contribution 200 lbs (A-Star)page 5
25 Nov 1999 Cape Roberts Camp Victoria Lower Glacier Avey no incidents, total weight contribution 250 lbs (A-Star)
27 Nov 1999 Victoria Lower Glacier Cape Roberts Camp Avey no incidents, total weight contribution 200 lbs (A-Star)
28 Nov 1999 Cape Roberts Camp Victoria Lower Glacier Avey, Jackson no incidents, total weight contribution ~500lbs (Kiwi 212)
30 Nov 1999 Victoria Lower Glacier Scott Base Avey no incidents, total weight contribution ~300lbs (A-Star)
03 Dec 1999 Victoria Lower Glacier Baldwin Valley Bertler, Dickinson, Jackson no incidents, 2 shuttles with sling loads for fuel, generator and ice core boxes, total weight contribution ~2200 lbs; 1000 lbs have been left at Victoria Lower Glacier (212)
07 Dec 1999 Baldwin Valley Scott Base Bertler, Dickinson, Jackson no incidents, 2 shuttles with sling loads for fuel, generator, and ice core boxes, stop over at Victoria Lower Glacier, between first and second shuttle for Bertler and Dickinson, ground time 2 hours, total weight contribution ~3600lbs. (212)

7. Event Diary

Date of Movement Personnel moved Destinations Personnel at site, working tasks, and general comments
14 Nov 1999 Bertler, Dickinson Arrival at Scott Base (Bertler) AFT, (Bertler & Dickinson)
  • preparation for fieldwork
19 Nov 1999 Bertler, Dickinson Transfer to Cape Roberts Camp (CRC) (Bertler, Dickinson)
  • Modifications on drilling equipment with help of Cape Roberts Team Members
23 Nov 1999 Bertler, Dickinson, Stutters Reconnaissance Flight to Victoria Lower Glacier and Baldwin Valley Glacier (Bertler, Dickinson & Stutters)
  • Reconnaissance and flagging of the proposed drilling sites and evaluation of safety issues on-site, such as crevasses
24 Nov 1999 Bertler, Dickinson, Stutters Put in to Victoria Lower Glacier Camp (LVGC), S77°19.810′/ E162°31.991′ (Bertler, Dickinson, Stutters)
  • Establishment of the camp
  • Crevasse detection in the vicinity of the camp
  • Installation of weather station
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25 Nov 1999 Stutters
Transfer from LVGC to CRPC
Transfer from CRC to VLGC
(Bertler, Dickinson & Avey)
  • Set-up of the drilling rig, preparing ice core storage
  • Start of ice core drilling
27 Nov 1999 Avey Transfer from LVGC to CRC (Bertler & Dickinson)
  • Cutting and logging of snow profiles
  • Snow sampling
28 Nov 1999 Avey, Jackson Transfer from CRC to VLGC (Bertler, Dickinson, Avey & Jackson)
  • Ice core drilling (four cores of 7, 10, 12 and 34m)
30 Nov 1999 Avey Transfer from VLGC to CRC (Bertler, Dickinson & Jackson)
  • Borehole temperature measurements
  • Set-up of glacier mass balance device
  • Site survey using differential GPS
  • Glacio-geomorphological investigation of the vicinity of Victoria Lower Glacier
  • Break down of camp
03 Dec 1999 Bertler, Dickinson, Jackson Transfer from VLGC to Baldwin Valley Glacier Camp (BVGC) S77°19.836′/ E162°32.019′ (Bertler, Dickinson & Jackson)
  • Camp set up
  • Preparation of drilling rig and ice core storage,
  • Drilling of 2 cores (12 and 31m)
  • Measurements of borehole temperatures
  • Cutting and logging of snow profiles
  • Sampling of snow
06 Dec 1999 Bertler, Dickinson, Jackson Transfer from BVGC to Scott Base (Bertler, Dickinson & Jackson)
  • Preparation for work at Crary Laboratory
  • Organisation of cargo sent to NZ
14 Dec 1999 Dickinson, Jackson Transfer to Christchurch (Bertler at Crary Laboratory)
  • Logging of the cores using a light table
  • Splitting the ice core into halves using a band saw
  • Subsampling for β-activity measurement
  • Packing for transport to NZ and USA)
  • Organisation of cargo sent to NZ and USA
11 Jan 2000 Bertler Transfer to K015
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8. Event Map

Event Map

Event Map

9. Weather

A weather station had been installed at Victoria Lower Glacier, S77°19.810′/E162°31.991′

Solar Radiation

Solar Radiation

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Air Temperature, 1hr Average

Air Temperature, 1hr Average

Relative Humidity - 1hr Average

Relative Humidity - 1hr Average

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Wind Speed 1hr Average

Wind Speed 1hr Average

10. Accidents, incidents or hazards

There have been no accidents, incidents or hazards.

11. Field Equipment


Field Clothing

The issued field clothing proved to be appropriate and satisfied greatly our requirements. However, a supply of more sustainable, warm working gloves would have been appreciated.


Field Equipment

The supplied field equipment was in good shape and very reliable. Tents (polar tent and macpac, type Olympus) and sleeping kits were comfortable and appropriate for the field conditions. The repair kits for tents and kitchen gear were sufficient. The safety and rescue gear was well chosen and in good condition.


Food in the field and at Scott Base

The 20 person day ration boxes were in general well packed in terms of nutrition and quantity. Nonetheless a greater variety would have been appreciated, especially for quick lunch meals. Some of the sweet energy suppliers, such as cookies and muesli bars, and some of the page 10 soup sachets might be well replaced by 'sandwich spreads'. The calculated quantities for breakfast cereals seem somewhat low. In contrast the allocated amount of frozen meat and vegetables appeared to be rather high. Some of the box ingredients appeared to be unsuitable, such as lasagne and sponge cakes in tins for example.

The food offered at Scott Base was both: delicious and nutritious.


Specific Field equipment

The requested chain saw and fuel pump were in reasonable condition and worked reliably, The PICO hand auger, generator, and snow density kit lent from the Berg Field Center performed well. A few modifications have been carried out on the drilling system: the drilling platform has been supplied with a chicken-wire coat for safety, the core barrels have been strengthened around the extension joints and the tripot has been fitted with snow anchor feet

12. Radio Communication


Radio equipment

The radio kit issued (one VHF radio, two batteries, one external aerial and one solar panel) worked reliably, with only minor communication problems. The capacity of the batteries appeared relatively low and had to be charged constantly, effecting the recharge capacity. A second VHF radio would have been highly appreciated in case of failure and to communicate between group members working at different locations on-site.


Reception and Transmission

The reception and transmission was in general satisfying. The external aerial was helpful, repeater stations were used during the whole time. The sked timing was suitable.


Information during skeds

The radio communication with Scott Base was very efficient, professional and highly appreciated.

13. Scott Base and Arrival Heights Laboratory Facilities


14. Refuge and Research Hut


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15. Environmental Impact

i)Event Diary:
  • Victoria Lower Glacier
    • Location S 77° 19.810′ / E 162°31.991′
    • Dates: 24 Nov 1999 to 03 Dec 1999
    • Total days: 10
    • Maximum number of people at site: 4
    • Total person-days spent at site: 29
    • Main activity undertaken: ice coring
  • Baldwin Glacier
    • Location S 77° 19.836′ / E 162°32.019′
    • Dates: 03 Dec 1999 to 06 Dec 1999
    • Total days: 4
    • Maximum number of people at site: 3
    • Total person-days spent at site: 12
    • Main activity undertaken: ice coring

Protected areas



Interference with terrestrial, freshwater or marine plants or animals



Collection of geological material

A total amount of 940lbs of ice has been sampled
Victoria Lower Glacier: ~ 540lbs
Baldwin Glacier: ~ 400lbs

Chemicals taken to the field



Use of explosives



Importation to Antarctica



Equipment left in the field

Two mass balance systems (in form of 25m of wire and two 2.40m metal rods) have been installed in to two of the drilling holes at Victoria Lower Glacier (S 77° 19.810′ / E 162°31.991′). Once further mass balance measurements are not required, it will be tried to recover as much as possible from the device.

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Environmental impacts

The environmental impact of our work has been less than minor. The only observed source of pollution were exhaust fumes of the generator, the chain saw and helicopters. All the work has been carried out on snow and ice surfaces.


Occurrence of incidents



Changes from the PEE


16. Historic Sites


17. Management of Science in the Ross Dependency

The support from Scott Base was very helpful and highly appreciated. The study of glacial ice cores for reconstructing paleoclimatic variability presents new ground within NZ science and hence there are a few issues, which are yet to be developed to cover all the demands. For this reason few additional requests have been undertaken to McMurdo Station, where such facilities already exist. As a result the freezer facilities at Crary Laboratory were used to log and split the ice cores. Furthermore ice core storage space has been dedicated to our project to store the cores until they have been shipped back to NZ.

18. Antarctic Geographic Place Names