Pine Island Glacier (PIG) ice shelf is the floating extension of the Pine Island Glacier, one of the two largest outlet glaciers (Thwaites Glacier is the other) draining the West Antarctic ice sheet into the Amundsen Sea. Together, these two glaciers drain roughly one-third of the West Antarctic ice sheet, a volume of ice equivalent to raising global sea level one meter. The ice shelf is approximately 40 km long and 20 km wide.
Our path to the ice shelf begins in the United States, takes us to Christchurch, New Zealand, where cold weather clothing is issued, tried on for size and packed for the flight to McMurdo Station, our first stop on the frozen continent. There time is spent preparing camp and scientific equipment and loaded onto cargo palettes. It then will be flown to the WAIS Ice Divide Camp, itself a major field camp where a ice core over 2500 meters will be drilled to the subglacial bed. For us this camp will only be a jumping-off point. We will pack and board a small, twin engine Twin Otter airplane that will take us to the ice shelf. Additional field party members will be brought to the ice shelf from a camp on Thwaites Glacier and from a camp (called Matrix) farther upstream on the Pine Island Glacier.