On the Ice

Installation of AWS on White Island

Yesterday Lee and I, along with 3 riggers, went to White Island to install a weather station. It was everyone’s first time visiting White Island, so that in itself was very cool. It also offered some great views, there was a cool atmospheric phenomenon witnessed, and it was great for me to help install my first weather station. In this post I’ll go over 1) the installation and 2) some cool photos of scenery and that mysterious “atmospheric phenomenon.”

1) The purpose of building an AWS on White Island is two-fold for us. One, we get an AWS that will gather more data about the atmosphere for us. Two, it will serve as a repeater, relaying transmissions from Windless Bight AWS, Lorne AWS, and Linda AWS to T-site at McMurdo. This means it will need to be able to see each of those AWS. For this reason, we needed to install it on one of the highest points on White Island; we chose Mt Heine.

We got off to a later start than expected. The helicopter that was assigned to us was running a bit late. It takes about 12 minutes to fly on helo from McMurdo to White Island, so around 1:20 pm we landed on White Island. This trip definitely showcased the versatility of a helicopter. When we were a couple minutes away from White Island, the pilots asked Lee and I where we were thinking of landing. All we knew was that we wanted to install the station on Mt Heine, but no one had any idea if there was a flat place to land. Turns out, there were a few good places to land, and we reached White Island safely. If we didn’t have helicopters, I don’t think this “mission” would have been possible.

We actually needed two helo rides out there because we had so much cargo, due to us installing a completely new station and the riggers needing to accompanying us with all their gear to mount the station into the rock. The spot we chose was, we believe, the summit of Mt Heine. When we had everything there, the riggers began setting up the guy wires. Things went fairly smoothly after that, and the summit of Mt Heine went from this:

Summit of Mt Heine, pre-AWS

to this:

Summit of Mt Heine, with the AWS

This whole installation would have been incredibly difficult and time-consuming without the help of the riggers, so a lot of credit must be given to them.

Unfortunately, Lee and I forgot to bring the power cable, so we were unable to complete the installation. As it turns out, we would not have had enough time to power up the station and test whether it was transmitting. We had already asked for a half hour extension for our pick-up time from the helo, and we probably had only 2 to 4 minutes of downtime before the helo came and picked us up in the end. We should be able to swing by White Island when we visit another AWS, so everything should work out, and we should get it up and running soon.

2) Being on White Island provided some cool views, so here are a few pictures I took…

West coast of White Island, taken from the helo on the inbound flight

Low clouds almost imitating the Royal Society Range skyline

Very, very cool-looking atmospheric phenomenon, the cause of which was unknown to us…

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