Racing Time on Oceania's Highest Peak

Racing Time on Oceania's Highest Peak
Location: Puncak Jaya, Indonesia
Team: Dwi Susanto and Lonnie Thompson
Purpose: Ice Core Sampling
Start Date: May 17, 2010

Indonesia's Puncak Jaya, earth's highest island peak and the tallest mountain between the Andes and the Himalayas, holds the last glaciers in the tropical Pacific. Ancient ice from such high, frozen peaks lets scientists examine past climates and understand mechanism of possible future climate changes--but with alpine glaciers melting, retrieving samples is a race against time, as well as against the dangers of extreme altitude. This month, an expedition co-organized by glaciologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University and oceanographer Dwi Susanto of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scales Puncak Jaya to drill out ice cores that may go back hundreds, or thousands, of years. Follow Susanto’s reports from the field here.

Core of the Matter

by | 7.26.2010 at 10:29am

A final note (for now) on the expedition to recover ice cores from the top of Puncak Jaya in Papua, Indonesia: the cores arrived safely on Thursday, July 22, at Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center, and are now in a special freezer. In coming months, the team hopes to extract and interpret climatic [...]

Ice on Ice

by | 7.8.2010 at 3:12pm

I have reached Jakarta, and so have the ice cores, which are being kept frozen while awaiting air shipment to the United States. The rest of the team has already returned to their homes. Next for me: back to sea level, on two research cruises that will add oceanographic information to the data we gathered on Puncak Jaya. [...]

Video: Flying Over Puncak Jaya

by | 6.29.2010 at 4:19pm

This spectacular video takes you above Puncak Jaya and vicinity via helicopter, and into the ice camp. Created by videographers David Christenson, Greg Chmura and Ario Samudro, it was forwarded  by Scott Hanna of the Freeport McMoRan mning company, which provided heavy logistical support for the ice-coring mission (including the helicopter itself). Click here to view the video.

Finished, as the Glaciers Fall Apart

by | 6.28.2010 at 10:05am

We have finished our mission at Puncak Jaya and removed the ice cores, along with all camps and people from the field. Currently, we are in the coastal city of Timika for a few days, drying out our field equipment and tents. These are the first glaciers we have ever drilled where it rains almost every day–and [...]

Decline and Fall of a Glacier

by | 6.21.2010 at 9:56am | 3 Comments

The glaciers around Puncak Jaya have long been in visible decline. From 1936 to 2006, they lost nearly 80 percent of their area–two-thirds of that since 1970, according to a new paper by glaciologist Michael Prentice of the Indiana Geological Survey, who has long been interested in the area. Satellite images show that from 2002 to 2006 [...]

The Ice Cores

by | 6.18.2010 at 12:21pm | 1 Comment

Maybe the most difficult thing about ice cores comes after the actual drilling: then you then have to get them out and transport them long distances, and make sure they don’t melt. Otherwise, all that work was for nothing. Here are some images showing how we handle them initially. (Courtesy David Christenson/Freeport McMoRan)

Images of Ice Drilling

by | 6.18.2010 at 12:20pm | 1 Comment

Here are some photos of the ice drilling, and the site where we are working. All come courtesy of David Christenson, Greg Chmura and Ario Samudro, the video/photography team from Freeport McMoRan, which has been helping us with all phases of logistics.

The Landscape We Are Up Against

by | 6.17.2010 at 10:12am

We have drilled a second core through the ice to bedrock, and are done at our first site. Unfortunately, the helicopter that we need to move the heavy pieces to our second planned spot is down for regular maintenance until next Monday, June 21. That means the team must wait it out at the relatively sheltered “saddle [...]

Drilling the Glacier to Bedrock

by | 6.14.2010 at 2:52pm

Yesterday we completed our first ice core at the Northwall Firn Glacier, down to bedrock, penetrating 30 meters through the glacier, until we hit bottom. The ice seems to contain visible layers all the way down–a sign that yearly accumulations have been preserved, instead of melding into each other. This means we should be able to [...]

Finally on Ice

by | 6.11.2010 at 10:08am

With the blessing of two wonderful days of clear weather, all our equipment was moved into place this morning. The ice coring can now begin. We anticipate finishing the drill assembly today and drilling by mid-morning tomorrow at three sites on the Northwall Firn glacier: the two “domes” and the saddle, where the team will [...]