Lee and I were bumped off the flight today. We do have high priority because of our commitment to AMOS conference, but there was too long of a list with people with high priority.
There is an extra flight scheduled for tomorrow, so wish us luck getting out
We finally got our cargo – the replacement wind direction sensor for Minna Bluff. We were waiting for it for a long time, which is not surprising considering C-17 never came to McMurdo and all operations are done by Hercs.
Today was our second attempt to do a helo flight. We were hoping for Linda and Minna Bluff in one day. However, the weather at Linda was bad, without a visual on a horizon (which is needed to land a helo).
We did stop at Minna Bluff (with our helo waiting on the ground) for a quick change of the part. Minna Bluff is fully operational now!
I have been really excited to go on a helicopter ride – I have never been in a helicopter before. The last helo flight Lee took was during my happy camper training and I couldn’t go with him. It was a successful visit to Lorne AWS (this station was giving us a hard time!), but we did not get a single helo flight since then.
Today we were scheduled to go to Linda. The weather in McMurdo did not improve compared to yesterday, when we did not get to land at Lettau. It is not snowing, but it is really cold and the wind is quite brutal. Unlike Twin Otter flights, helicopters leave you at the sight to do your work and come pick you up after you are done. If the weather changes for the worse, you will not get picked up. I know it happened before to some members of our team.
Lee and I debated whether we even want to try going to Linda, considering high wind conditions and low wind chill factor. The thought of completing another station kept us going. However, once we got to the site the winds increased. Our pilot, Chris, said that it is 25 knots, there was a lot of blowing snow and visibility on the ground was quite poor. Once again Chris asked is we are sure we want to be left out there in the cold for 5 hours with a chance of him not being able to pick us up if the weather gets worse. Weighing in all the returning cargo we had to deal with back in McMurdo and realizing that getting stuck on the icesheet would mean missing all other opportunities this week and potentially our flight back to Christchurch, we decided to go back.
Dealing with cargo in cold wind proved it was the right decision. It would have been brutal out in the field today and I am glad we opted out. Hoping for good weather tomorrow!
Lee and I woke up to snow and windy weather in McMurdo. Despite this, we were still confirmed for our Twin Otter flight to Lettau AWS. Lettau is quite a ways away, so we hoped for good weather at the site and clearing up at Pegasus for our return. It was snowing even harder when we got to Pegasus and we spent a couple of hours on weather delay. At 10 am with the new forecast, however, we decided to try for Lettau.
Since the station is far away we were scheduled to refuel at the Wissard fuel cache ~90 mi away from our AWS site. The plan was to go to the site and refuel on the way back. It was sort of cloudy and I was snoozing on the plane, when I saw the fuel bladders really close. The light was so poor that I confused the snow surface with the cloud layer. It was a rough landing for our pilots, since the ground was so indistinguishable. Once we refueled we realized that the chances of us landing at Lettau are pretty grim – low cloud cover was even more persistent and landing at the sight would be too risky. We flew over to Lettau coordinates, but sure enough landing was out of the question. At the end of the Lee and I had a full day of flying, but did not get to visit Lettau site.
To make up for it, we did visit Willie Field AWS by the road to Pegasus and replaced the malfunctioning hardware part of the station. The station is now transmitting!
Wish us luck for the rest of the week, looks like we are gonna be busy all the way till bag drag.
Lee and I had quite an eventful day on Saturday, February 2.
We finally got priority + good weather for a Twin Otter flight. We had an ambitious day – to visit Schwerdtfeger, Marilyn and Alexander Tall Tower! site in one day.
It was our second day flying with Brent and Darin, they got to know us a little better and asked us a lot of questions about our science. They ended up helping quite a lot with everything, providing extra hands, advice and tools to fix some issues. And they also showed me how to make snow angels. I want to extend my appreciation and my support to all the KBA crew members. Every single person we worked with were wonderful at their job and very supportive with ours!
So, back to our Satruday. Lee and I were joined by Cole – a google maps volunteer, who carried a 360 degree camera. Scwerdtfeger, Marilyn and Alexander Tall Tower! are coming soon to google street view – how exciting is that
The first site we visited was Schwerdtfeger. None of the pilots or fixed wing ops can spell it properly, so the underground name of the station became Schwarzenegger (also misspelled). This station needed the most work – we were replacing all instruments with new set up and possible raising the tower. We actually tried to find this station on Monday, but coordinates on the AMRC website were way off (from 2003!) and we did not manage to find the station. This time we managed to confirm newer coordinates, which were within half a mile of the present station location. The station was too high to raise, so Lee and I preceded with switching the old instruments to new ones. The weather was really nice, the wind was light to non existent, so it was quite comfortable to work. Once we were almost done with the switch, we realized that both the solar panel and the battery power have sockets, and there’s no plug. We ended up making a hole in the battery box and hardwiring the solar panel cable into battery wires. Our captain, Brent, helped us a lot! In the end we secured the connection as best as we could and we hope it will work throughout the season. The station successfully transmitted!
Marilyn was an old station, which had issues with the wind measurements. It is due for a full replacement next year, so we just brought an old style aerovane (and an old style boom just in case) to troubleshoot. We found that the wires coming from the station to the enclosure were exposed and decided to replace the boom entirely. After replacing the boom we waited forever for the station to transmit. That’s when our dear pilots taught me to do snow angels! We created a whole village of them – once I actually learn how to resize pictures I will post a picture here! We never got a signal through Telonics, but as far as I know, Marilyn is transmitting and everything actually worked!
The last station on our list was Alexander Tall Tower! We are switching its transmission to Iridium – a completely new thing for us, so we were anticipating issues. The station is working and Lee successfully troubleshoot the problem with the lower anemometer. We successfully updated the OS and managed to get a couple of successful transmissions. However, since it is a new setup, we might have to visit Tall Tower! again (if we get a chance) to change the program and make sure we continuously get good data via Iridium. Wish us good weather and good luck!
On Monday, January 21, Lee and I went to Erin.
The station had old set up and was not transmitting. We installed all new instruments on it and it is now up and running.
Erin was a first station I got to work on myself a lot. First I took off all the instruments off the tower (and did not kill anyone!). The weather was nice, but the wind was quite strong, making it really cold to work on the tower, especially off the ground.
I had a lot of learning to do, mainly on how to trust my harness and use it as a stabilizer, rather then have it on as a back up. Installing an aerovane was tricky since all the new pipes we got this season does not want to fit tower sections. At some point I had two aerovane pipes on top of the tower, trying to fit at least one on and I ended up dropping one down (on Lee, but luckily avoiding his head! so sorry, Lee!). Lee helped me install new instruments and we were done fairly soon.
(I am still having issues with inserting pictures here, I will try to resize and rotate them elsewhere and hopefully will be able to update the last several posts)
The weather was finally good on Tuesday, January 15 for us to fly. Lee and I got really excited to go to Janet. Janet needed a raise and it was originally installed upside down, so in this case meant a raise would have required a complete reinstall of the tower. We were expecting a lot of digging. Luckily we were able to take three moral people with us to the field – they helped us dig out the station really fast.
The weather was perfect and everything was going really well. We managed to put the station together despite the fact that old tower was not particularly straight and welcoming of a new section. We also had a issue with a aerovane boom – actually we have issues with every single boom this season. Lee did wonders with the hammer though and was able to get the boom onto the tower.
With the help of all the moral people put new anchors and secure the new tower in place. Since we are not as experienced as the riggers are it was really nice to have extra people to support anchors as Lee and I tried to straighten the tower. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best we could do by ourselves.
Unfortunately for us the new battery we brought to Janet burned the charge controller, because we didn’t connect it properly back in McMurdo. So a perfect day of working hard, digging, putting the tower back and attaching all instruments did not end as well as it could have.
Luckily Lee and I took a spare battery from McMurdo to WAIS. All we need is another day of good weather to go back to Janet. Extra luckily for us the next day, Wednesday, January 16, twin otter went off to support the traverse operation. However, the weather at the traverse site changed fort he worse and the plane returned just in time to do a quick trip to Janet to fix it. Janet was fixed the next day and it is transmitting!
<picture of Lee at the tower>
Lee and I successfully made it to WAIS on January 9 (as scheduled). Our flight was just delayed a couple of hours, considering how the season has been going this is surprisingly on-time.
It was really exciting for me to go to “deep field” and see the camp life. Which is a lot different from McMurdo. For once, there is no Internet, hence I can’t post anything real-time. I have been writing notes on my laptop, so I will try to update you on everyone we have done at WAIS.
For the first couple of days we kept waiting for our cargo to come from Christchurch and good weather. We were primary for flights, but our sites (at least the ones we could go to without cargo) did not get good weather for the first few days.
<picture of Kominko-Slade>
While we were waiting for good weather at other sites, Lee and I snowmobiled to Kominko-Slade station and upgraded the operating system. The station did not need much, so we were back to the camp in no time.
<Lee updating the station>
In a week we learned that although the station is successfully transmitting, the ARGOs ID number is incorrect. So right after a big storm we visited the station again. Very lucky to not have to fly to this station to correct this minor error.
(I’m having issues with inserting figures, will update the post once I figure it out. Sorry about that!)
Hi All! This is my first post on the AMRC “On the Ice Blog” and it is long overdue! I noticed that Masha has been posting a lot so I will be brief about the things we did in common. An introduction is in order: My name is Joey Snarski and I have been working at the AMRC for about 2 years now. I am visiting McMurdo to replace a computer and complete other general computer maintenance.
I arrived at Pegasus Field (the ski-way) where the planes land. After stepping off the LC-130 aka a “herc” and taking my first few breaths of cold Antarctic air I was greeted by the looming Mt. Erebus. Mt. Erebus stands about 12,500 ft and is the farthest south active volcano on the planet. I rode into town on Ivan the Terrabus and stepped into the chalet around 10:30 pm local time. After a brief orientation, Lee Welhouse was kind enough to take me around town and get me set with bedding and a dorm and a bit of food. I was exhausted and just discovered I had happy camper training the next morning at 8:15 am. I hit pillow around 1:00 am and was out.
Happy Camper training was a blast. I did all of the same tests that Masha did with the white bucket and such. We had a rather small group of 10 but we bonded over our tasks and had unusually good teamwork which led to us typically completing our tasks sometimes hours in advance. I spent the night in a two man snow trench with another happy camper, John.
Looking out of the snow trench. To the left is the bunk where John would sleep. We also got pretty fancy and set pillars at the top of the steps which led down into the trench.
After Happy Camper I spent some time familiarizing myself with the place I would call home for the next 3 weeks. Lee introduced me to several key people who would be able to assist me with my work and any questions I may have since Lee and Masha were scheduled to fly out to WAIS soon (and they did! They finally had a successful flight!)
Since then I have spent much of my time working in our lab space in Crary Lab and at my desk in Mac Weather. In fact, the other day the weather observer on duty, Kyle, was kind enough to take me down to where he launches the weather balloons and actually let me launch it! It was kind of weird to let go of the balloon and the attached radiosonde. It’s typically against all instinct to let go of electronics like that.
To pass my free time I have been hiking down to hut point and capturing some great pictures. I was there photographing the same penguins that Alasdair photographed (as seen in Masha’s post). When the penguins weren’t standing on land they were typically swimming near the surface until they would suddenly dive down, probably in pursuit of food.
I have also been shooting a good bit of pool at one of two local bars, Southern Exposure or “The Southern” for short.
I expect to be going on some more impressive hikes soon and will be posting again once I have some more great pictures to share! Until then, stay warm!
Lee and I are scheduled to go to WAIS tomorrow morning, we have a few stations to visit in West Antarctica and we will (hopefully) get a chance to fly on twin otters from WAIS camp. I can’t believe I am going to WAIS before I visited any stations on the Ross ice shelf. I really-really hope we will get to return on-time to do a few of the long list of scheduled stations to visit this season.
The weather in McMurdo has not been that great yesterday and today, so it is at least not that surprising. Tall Tower! weather also has not been ideal – low clouds make it difficult to visit Tall Tower! during this season.
If we do get to fly tomorrow, Lee and I will be away from the internet for a while. We did get our WAIS emails: first six letters of the last name + first two letters of the first name @wais.usap.gov
I hope I will not get to update for some time