Mr Alan Elcheikh has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to projects in the Australian Antarctic Division Glaciology Program for over 10 years. He has been primarily concerned with ice core drilling, both in the development phase in Australia, and in field work in Antarctica. Alan has spent seven summer seasons in Antarctica all in field camps at remote locations (Law Dome, Amery Ice Shelf). The first four of these were on the ice sheet inland of Casey Station working on the Law Dome deep drilling. This project, which successfully retrieved a 1200 m deep core from the summit of Law Dome through to the underlying bedrock involved a new computer controlled drill and control system. Alan played a major role both in the development of the equipment and in its operation.
Following the completion of the deep drilling, Alan spent two more seasons on Law Dome as field leader in charge of work concerned with logging (and re-logging) the borehole, and measuring the temperature through the ice sheet.
In 1997–98 the Glaciology Program purchased a new intermediate depth electro-mechanical ice coring drill. Alan and his team succeeded in drilling to 270 m at the DSS97 site and making a number of holes to about 100 m as part of a cooperative project with CSIRO-AR to obtain air samples.
During these field projects he established a reputation as an enthusiastic, hard working and innovative field worker and a leader who promoted a harmonious and effective field party.
More recently Alan has worked on the development of a hot water drilling system for the AMISOR (Amery Ice Shelf Oceanographic Research) program. AMISOR is a major project for the Glaciology Program that involves drilling a number of access holes through the Amery Ice Shelf to allow measurements in the ocean cavity below the floating ice. Alan has had a key role in the intensive two-year development of the AMISOR hot water drilling system, and has carried out most of the detailed design calculations concerned with the capacity of the hose and instrument winches, the ratings of the motors and gearboxes, and the intricacies of the motor controller units. Alan has designed and constructed the electronic circuitry, made modifications to borehole caliper and inclinometer instruments, and become conversant with the host of scientific instrumentation that would be deployed in the borehole.
AMISOR has conducted two field seasons and throughout both of these Alan has been a major player, preparing equipment, ensuring it is safely transported to Antarctica, setting up the drill rig at the field station, and maintaining and operating it during both testing and actual drilling. In the test year, a number of problems were experienced with both the drilling equipment and the operation of the field camp. Two major failures of the drill system could have stopped the test program and therefore compromised the following years. Alan’s ingenuity and positive attitude lead to solutions for both the pump controller electronics, and the bursting of the water reservoir which enabled a successful test season to be conducted.
The first AMISOR “drilling” season over 2000–2001 was a resounding success with a hole drilled through the shelf, water sampling carried out, and instruments deployed. When the Niskin sampling bottles were releasing erratically, he cleverly arranged for the bottom detector switch from the CTD unit to signal to the surface to indicate when each timer unit released. When a problem arose with the borehole instrumentation, he rearranged things to successfully restore communication and retrieval of the all-important scientific data.
Finally, attention must be drawn to Alan’s outstanding willingness to take on all sorts of tasks that help individuals and projects to achieve their aims. A few examples from the AMISOR field station include: setting up communications systems, setting up the wind power generator, arranging power distribution to all areas of the camp, and volunteering for night-watch, just a few of the things that make it great to work with him in the field.
There is no doubt that the AMISOR program would not currently be on schedule, nor have achieved its current level of success, without Alan’s great dedication and enormous contribution.