Shichang and his expert drillers have reached 136 meters on our third core, and they may have an additional few meters to go to bedrock. This is by far a much longer core than we had planned. The deeper we go with the drill, the longer it takes to retrieve each meter section, so it seems like we are taking a long time to get those last few meters. It will take us a few more days to finish up our work here and get all of the cores down to base camp.
The other graduate students have been busy working on snow temperature studies and digging snow pits. I have been working with the rest of the crew hauling the cores down from the drilling site to the terminus of the glacier. We load the cores on a sled much like one you would use for sledding at home, and pull it down the glacier. We then bury them in the snow to keep the temperature stable and protect them from the sun. Each round trip takes about 8 to 9 hours. Once we have all of the cores down, we will haul them to the base camp and the vehicles by yak.
We are all doing well, but tired.
Bjorn writes from Golmud:
Susan, Qinghua, and I are headed back to Lanzhou. We are leaving a couple days ahead of the rest of the expedition in order to re-clean and make sure the melter system is working properly. It is our goal to begin melting as soon as the ice cores arrive. Of the three cores that have been retrieved we will melt the 70m core.
Yesterday morning, we packed up our gear early and after a 5 hour bumpy ride across frozen grasslands we arrived at the Qinghai-Tibet highway. About 25km north on the highway we stopped at the town of Yushuping. We spent about 4 hours there trying to arrange further transport to Golmud. Luckily, just as we were beginning to accept that we would have to spend the night, a tourist mini-van pulled up and agreed to take us. We sped across the plateau through the night and arrived around 4am. Susan, Qinghua, and I welcomed our hotel rooms with their beds and hot showers.
Early today we purchased night train tickets to Lanzhou. We will arrive at around 2pm tomorrow. After a good meal Susan and I will head to the lab.