21 November 2016

Last BRITICE meeting within my contract

The BRITICE-CHRONO project, on which I am employed, has its annual meeting in November. I got my first taste of this event after the first cruise; that was both a good opportunity to meet my cruise mates again, and to see the project in a wider scope. The project involves onshore and offshore work, and I am not involved in the onshore stuff. It helps to be kept in the loop though!

What was the project about, again? We try to establish the pattern of retreat of the ice sheet that covered most of Britain at the end of the last ice age. We know very well where it was on land, but not quite in what way it disintegrated. On the continental shelf we are often still a bit in the dark. A lot of work still to do! If we figure out if it melted away homogeneously or some regions quicker than others, and what happens if the ice sheets retreats onland, and what might have caused the retreat (general warming? Sea level rise? Maybe internal mechanics?) we know more about what the West Antarctic ice sheet might do.

In order to find out, we would focus on eight transects going from onshore to sometimes quite far offshore, which would have been major drainage passages. Four are done by me, and four by by Durham colleague Louise.

I didn't have much of an overview yet during the first meeting. The first cruise was done, but the results still in progress. Things were already coming together a lot more the second time around; both cruises had been completed and we knew what material we had to work with. We also had quite a lot of results already! It is always highly motivating to step back from what you are doing yourself, and see everything in a wider perspective.

This time would be rather significant for me. It is my last month; I only have some two weeks of employment left after the meeting! Whatever I don't have to show for myself then, I am not likely to ever have to show. It would be a bit of a goodbye to all the BRITICErs.

We drove up with four: James, Ed, Catriona and me. We were late! James had rented a vehicle that could not be delivered on time and was delivered to the wrong location. Tom was already talking about one of "my" transects when we finally rocked up! And the project administrator gestured to me where the leftover sandwiches were, as we had missed lunch.

All transects were presented by their transect leaders. Most of them had ice really far out onto the continental shelf, which started to retreat really early. Exciting! Some amazing papers will come out of that. I even had a chat with James; he is away very often and not always up to date with my latest findings. I think I convinced him I had found evidence of ice further out than he so far had hypothesized!

Before we knew it the day was over. Time to check into the hotel, and then get a drink. I had a chat with Lou, who I have known since 2009, and who is my closest BRITICE colleague. She has another postdoc job lined up! That's good. More ice-related stuff. Then it was time for dinner.

  The view from my hotel room

We went to an adjacent Cuban restaurant. Soon the waiters started placing bowls of food on the table. There was sangria and wine too! And live music. This would have its consequences. I barely drink these days! But this was just the day to have a flashback. I rarely get to see all these people!

The food was great, the drink flowed freely, and our voices got increasingly croaked due to having to shout over the music. When we had all had enough we went down to the bar, where there was a dancefloor too. I ended up on it! But I didn't stay too late; there was another day coming up.

The next day started a bit hard; we had a rather long poster session, but only of posters on transects I wasn't working on. And I was hungover! Furthermore; my hotel room had been hot, with no windows you could open, and you couldn't open a window in the room we were having the meeting in either. I needed air! I sneaked out for five minutes. I felt better when the presentations began again. One about dates in general, one about problematic dates, and then it was time for a presentation by Catriona (about ice rafted debris) and me (on micropalaeontology). Mine went well, and Catriona's was very interesting! This stuff is coming together.

The meeting ended with a session by the modellers; they will have to take over now. We have pretty much all the dates and other information; now they have to see if they can produce an ice model that fits our results. And once they have that, they can let it loose on West Antarctica. That will still be a while, but it will be massively interesting!

 A pic I took during my short fresh air walk

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