The Snow Catcher and The Ross


The Russian Team's Cool Car

The Russian Team’s Cool Car

Welcome to the latter half of our field research up here in Barrow! In fact, we are leaving here a week from tomorrow (Thursday). Since the winter is ending, researchers are finally starting to come back to the tundra and the ICE-MITT Team is getting some long deprived social interaction. We met a team from Russia, though it was not very easy to communicate through our language barrier. They’re starting  a two month road trip, driving from Barrow back to Russia over the sea ice and towing all of their supplies behind them. The most interesting part about them was their vehicles, though, which were tank-like trucks outfitted with these giant rubber inner tubes for wheels– not to mention that they were a little deflated. They were reminiscent of the Boston Duck boat, an amphibious vehicle that can travel over water or land. Or you could say they were like the piston bullies, the ruggedized “people-carriers” that take you out on the sea ice and ice sheet around McMurdo, the US base in Antarctica.

Ross Invading their space- jk , they're really friendly

Ross invading their space- jk , they’re really friendly

This realization of the end of our season is exciting, sad, and scary all at once. On the one hand, we are going to leave and embark on our journey home, finally to meet with all of the communities and schools that we have been corresponding with for so long. On the other hand we are leaving (frowny-face). Not only that, but also the fact that we have three ICE-MITT boxes left to fill—AKA 6 meters of ice left to core.

Rachel And Ross talk to the Russian Team

Rachel and Ross making friends

This extra space is not a mistake; we have not fallen behind schedule. One of our proposals in this study is to get spatial as well as temporal variability with our ice cores. This means we wanted cores form the beginning of the season as well as the end. Because Rachel and I actually have to make it back to Dartmouth on time to start class, we are missing most of the tail end of Barrow’s winter. Therefore, we have to put off filling those last few boxes until our final days here, giving as much temporal variability to the collected samples as possible. Ross and I are now referring to these three days of rapid coring as “stuff hits the fan week”, because we are attempting to successfully do in three days what took us the better part of our first three weeks. Stay tuned!

an Ice Anchor

An ice anchor

Though we are having a little down time in week 5 with no actual coring happening, we have finally erected the snow catcher! Lucky for us there have been 30-40 mph winds almost everyday because the snow catcher is designed to catch blowing snow.

Milton Academy flag ripped by so many days of wind storms

Milton Academy flag ripped by so many days of wind storms

Why do we do this? Well, as you all know by now, we are studying the brine networks in sea ice and the role that they play in heat and chemicals moving up and down through the ice from the ocean into the atmosphere and vice versa. One  highly debated subject is that once salts move through the ice, how can they get from the surface into the atmosphere to react with tropospheric ozone? One hypothesis for this process is blowing snow picking the salts up off of the ice and moving them into the air.

The first day setting up the snow catcher

The first day setting up the snow catcher

Thus the snow catcher! It’s a metal contraption that is held to the ground with five cables tied around ice anchors. You hang what look like butterfly nets from multiple rungs on the mast in order to catch the snow at various heights; we hung our nets at 0.5 m, 1.5 m, 2.5 m, 3.5 m, and 5.5 m from the ground. We left her anchored over night through a serious gale and returned this morning to check out the haul. DSCF1227Though you usually don’t expect too much snow in the top baskets, the wind was such that every single basket had caught substantial amounts of blowing snow.

Next day

Next day

We put snow from each basket into a vial and take note of what height it was caught at. We will melt down the snow (thank god, one less thing to keep frozen!) and carry it back to Dartmouth with us. The reason we can melt it down is that, opposed to our normal MicroCT procedure, we run these samples through an IC or ion chromatograph. This machine measures the ion concentrations in fluids and can decipher what those ions are. Specifically we are measuring Br, Cl, SO4, and NO3.


snow filled net

A snow filled net

For Your Entertainment

Yesterday was the best day to be the undergrad in the group. Rachel flipped the snow mobile, while I was on it, which was witnessed by a fellow research group riding home behind us. Mwhahahah. I can no longer be teased about my snowmobile flipping.

Later that same day, Ross and I were driving to pick Rachel up to go out to dinner with the aforementioned other research group. On our way over:


Site Flag at Site 3 still standing strong, through frozen

Site Flag at Site 3 still standing strong, through frozen

Ellyn: (seeing that the windshield is covered in ice) Um… Ross, do you, uh, maybe want to scrape the windshield?

Ross: We don’t even have an ice scraper.

Ellyn: Well, remember that time I was scraping the windshield? Yeah, that was with our ice scraper.

Ross putting the snow into vials

Ross putting the snow into vials

Ross: Where is it?

Ellyn: Under the backseat like in all cars.

Ross: (so full of disdain) Ehh, it’s okay.

Still driving, Ross and another car awkwardly almost hit at an intersection (in his defense there are no stop signs anywhere).

Ellyn: Hey! Those are the guys we’re about to go get dinner with.


Rachel changing out the nets for a second round of collection

Rachel changing out the nets for a second round of collection

Ross: Oooh, that’s embarrassing.

Then to my great pleasure, as the other team is driving behind us, the most wonderful thing happens. There is a curve in the road that Ross cannot see because of the ice on the windshield. So, he drives full speed ahead right off of the road down a small hill and into the snow, very gracefully I might add, with no apparent effort to stop.

Ellyn: (Hysterically laughing at this point) Do you want me to scrape the windshield now? **answered by a very unamused look from Ross, before he can’t help himself but crack up, too**

blue ice!

Blue ice!

The fellow research group pulls up on the road behind us, having seen the whole thing. Multiple spectators gather and we all watch as Ross pulls a multi-point turn that finally gets the truck unstuck from the snow bank and back on the road. (Again, hysterically laughing)

Rachel: (when at last we pick her up at the end of the road) Ross, did you do that so I wouldn’t  feel so bad about flipping the snowmobile today?

Needless to say, Rachel was very thankful to be upstaged.

Team Strut

Team strut



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