First, let’s just talk about its age. This piece of ice came from about 192 meters deep in the Antarctic ice sheet below the South Pole. That gives this ice an age of roughly 2,500 years! WOAH! I’m holding ice that is over two thousand years old! The air inside the bubbles is quite a bit younger at about 1,500 years old. The reason for the large age difference is because it snows so little every year at the South Pole because it is very cold there (average annual temperature of -50 deg Celsius/-58 deg F) and far removed from moisture sources (aka, the ocean).
Now, let’s talk about the journey this little guy had. First, about a year ago, he was just hanging out doing his little ice guy things in the ice sheet and minding his own business. Then, a big drill came in and plucked him away from his home. He was brought back to the surface and packaged gently into a container. He then flew on a C-130 from the South Pole to McMurdo Station. He found his way into a refrigerated shipping container where he hung out comfortably at -30 degrees Celsius/-22 degrees F for several months. He then got to travel back to the West Coast of the U.S. on an awesome ship. (Hopefully he didn’t get too sea sick making his way through the Southern Ocean). Once he made it to dry land, he got driven all the way from Port Hueneme, CA to Denver, CO. I bet he really enjoyed the mountain views. Once in Denver, he hung out for a few months at the National Ice Core Lab. Then, I came along (with the help of many others) and cut this guy into a smaller piece, packaged him back up into a shipping container and then shipped him back to the West Coast to Irvine, CA. In total, that is about an 11,000 mile journey that took almost a full year!
Many thanks goes out to the ice core drillers, scientists, contractors, and everyone involved in making sure the ice cores made it safely from the South Pole to the National Ice Core Lab and back to our lab at UC Irvine. None of the science we do would be possible without the hard work and dedication of dozens (quite possibly hundreds) of people and countless organizations.
Until next time,