In the remote wilderness beyond Siberia, an international team has been working since February in the extreme cold to extract sediment samples from Lake El’gygytgyn (Lake E), a crater lake created long ago by a gigantic meteorite. (Julie Brigham-Grette of U Massachusetts is the lead US Lake E PI). Because Lake E has never been glaciated, researchers believe it may contain an undisturbed record of paleoclimate going back some 3.5 million years.By early May, the team hopes to collect cores through the sediment deposited since the meteor strike, down into and even beyond the impact rock (called breccia). Each sediment core is about three meters long and cut into roughly one meter pieces that weigh about 20 pounds. Scientists will use the data from the their analysis to validate what ice cores taken at other locations say about climate shifts, global warming, and other information.
Simply arriving at Lake E was a logistical triumph, with the trip from the US to the logistics hub in Russia, Pevek, sometimes taking the better part of two weeks.In late February the crew constructed camp, and delivered cargo to the lake in bitterly cold conditions. A helicopter flight every 10 days allows for personnel change-out and resupplies the camp with fuel, food and any other needed materials.Despite some equipment challenges, a blog entry from project partner International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) reported that the group may have reached the top of the impact layer in mid-April.
A middle school teacher from the US joined the team in early March and posted blogs and participated in Web events as part of ARCUS’ Polar TREC outreach program. Armchair travelers can tag along with Tim Martin here.