On the Ice

Update

Sorry for the long time between updates, it has been rather hectic here, so this one will be a bit more comprehensive, unfortunately no pictures just yet(they’ll be put up in my next update which probably won’t be for a week or so after this, but more on why that is later.)

Before I get into the update/walkthrough of the last week it might be worth knowing I am just one member of a 3 person field team sent down this year.  The other members are Jonathan, and Melissa.

Tuesday January 4:

Our flight that arrived at Pegasus Runway at around 5AM.  For those who don’t know how the base down here works, there is a Ice and Snow runway system setup, called Pegasus, that is about 10 miles from McMurdo Station.  After getting off the plane you quickly go to the Delta trucks, or Ivan the Terrabus, which then take you onto base, which can take about an hour.  This is because you are driving on snow roads, which means you can’t go very fast or you destroy your roads, and this was compounded by the unseasonably warm weather the area had been getting prior to our arrival.

Next was a few meetings regarding rooming, lab space, and time tables for travel.  The group I work for is a bit different than many science groups, in that we travel all over the continent rather than stay in a single location.  This means we have considerable cargo shipped in and out of McMurdo, which was how the rest of the day was spent, working on sorting out the cargo line and setting up our lab facilities.

Wednesday January 5th:

So the day begins with yet more meetings, a “Happy Camper” refresher, and light vehicles training, down here you have to go through training for everything.  Last year Happy camper, also  known as Snow School, was a great experience, and the refresher reminded me of most of what I’d learned, but unfortunately I didn’t get to wear a bucket on my head in the refresher.

The rest of the day was again spent getting stations ready to be shipped out, part of the reason I haven’t updated as of yet was much of the day is spent working in an interesting(to me) but not all that entertaining to read about way.  So the next few days I will gloss over as they are primarily filled with the team building stations, battery boxes, putting things into cargo.

Today:

We finally got out into the field today, with everything in cargo(ready to be shipped to the sites we are heading to, and our test facility needs to be taken down so Melissa and I went out to take down some tower sections and remove some instrumentation.  Getting out into the field was great, if for no other reason than to get out and do something different.

To get out to our tower we had to drive a Mattrax truck, which isn’t as exciting as it sounds as the things are a bit on the slow side, but now it is one more things on my list of vehicles driven down here.

So we removed the instruments from the first one, which involved a lot of tower climbing, which is always fun.  Unfortunately we put our harnesses into cargo, so it was me hanging off of the tower with one hand and using the other to unscrew/remove equipment.  The second tower was the bigger problem.  It had to come out, which means digging down to the base of the tower and the guide lines to remove everything.  This is compounded by the fact that we were uncertain how deep it was, about 6.5 feet later we hit bottom, with Melissa doing most of the digging.  We also got kicked out for about an hour as the LDB(long duration balloon) group was doing a launch and the winds would blow the balloon in our direction.  We got some pictures from within the pit, which I will post later.

So for the next week I won’t be updating as I am going to Byrd station.  This is a Summer station, and I have one station to remove and two to install.  Jonathan and Melissa are headed to CTAM in a couple days with quite a bit of work.  This means we will all be camping out on various parts of the continent.  CTAM stands for Central Trans Antarctic Mountains.   Wish me luck to actually fly tomorrow, and to me successfully camping out.

Long story short:  The first week is amazing because of where you are, but not amazing to hear about the mad scramble of work.

Lesson learned: Don’t skip breakfast when you’re planning on being in the field for lunch.(This may or may not be what I did today)

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One Response to Update

  1. Caitlin Hart says:

    Hi Lee!
    Thanks for your blog! It’s nice to hear about other work being done in Antarctica. My friend Alyson is working on identifying volcanic eruptions in ice cores at Dome C.

    You should swing by there for a visit. From her emails, it sounds like all they do is drink, party and hot tub between work. Figures. Half the base is Italians!

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