Getting Water at WAIS

WAIS Divide Camp at  79.47° S latitude, 112.06° W longitude – high on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Plateau.

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. There are 40 or so people in camp who all need drinking and cleaning water.  There is no excess of H2O, but it is all inconveniently frozen.  I imaged lots of buckets everywhere on stoves, however, technology here at WAIS camp is state of the art and we have 2 snow melters.   Our drinking water comes from a remote snow “mine” using specially commissioned tools. That snow melter lives in the kitchen.

The other melter is  in the shower/laundry module. Many tasks around the camp, including the drill operations, are hard, dirty work. Cleanup is not just a luxury. For a 3 minute shower, you first go out back to the pile of snow, shovel a garbage can  full and drag it into the melter, filling it up.  Once melted, half is pumped into a reservoir. We all try to keep an eye on the level and pitch in to keep it full.