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Herschel Island 2013: Permafrost Drilling

(Photo: U. Bastian) George taking sediment samples from the active layer while Michael is writing the protocol. (Photo: U. Bastian) George taking sediment samples from the active layer while Michael is writing the protocol. Monday the 22nd of July
 
Michael, George and Ute went to the last un-sampled ecological unit called „Jaeger". In German that means 'hunter'. It certainly sums up a bit the way they felt 'hunting' for all eight units which were described in 1989 by a scientist hiking across Herschel Island. Additionally the coring team had the company of a TV team, making a documentary of the North West Passage and its changing environments. They joined us for the following five days.
 
The TV team has also written their own blog, which provides a fantastic insight into our lives as scientists on such an isolated and remote island. At times they make me green with envy with their journalistic skills compared to my writing skills as a geologist.
 
But back to the actual day: It was hot, hardly a breath of wind and the mosquitoes were harassing us by the thousands. Their hum was pervasive.
 
(Photo: U. Bastian) The TV team filming the coring team close to Water Creek in Pauline Cove (Photo: U. Bastian) The TV team filming the coring team close to Water Creek in Pauline Cove Michael's team drilled a permafrost core on one of the rare Jaeger sites, east of Water Creek on a hillside across from Pauline Cove.
 
After describing the locality, the geomorphology (slope angle etc.) and vegetation they started digging and determined the size of the active layer. Further the stratigraphy and sedimentology of the active layer was examined and sampled. The digging was difficult. The sediments were strongly consolidated due to slumping on the slope. In addition, the gravel component of the sediment increased with depth. The size of the active layer was surprising. Only at 70 cm below the surface they encountered permafrost.

The sampling of the active layer included a core measuring 5 cm in height and 7.5 cm by 7.5 cm in width and length. This sample will later provide sedimentological and bio-geochemical information such as grain size, carbon and nitrogen content. Based on the core samples taken, the organic carbon on Herschel Island will be mapped.

(Photo M. Fritz) The TV team making a documentary about the North West Passage and visiting us on Herschel Island (Photo M. Fritz) The TV team making a documentary about the North West Passage and visiting us on Herschel Island The team also took samples to be able to characterise microbial communities and their potential to transform the existing organic carbon into CO2 or methane.

However, a core drilling was not possible on that day, as gravel and larger stones would have destroyed the teeth of our drilling equipment. After 13 cores our equipment was getting blunt and the drilling attachments are anything but cheap. The film crew was slightly disappointed as they missed out on spectacular shots of a screeching rotary drilling rig.

As a result the program was finished prematurely after sampling the active layer.
 
Click here to see the blog from filmmaker´s journey. 
 
 
Written by Stefanie
 
 
 
 
 
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