Back on 6 February, Lee and I finished our helo work for the season with our visit to Ferrell AWS. Earlier, we thought we had finished the helo work at Ferrell, but we’ve had difficulty with the freewave transmissions there. It seems as if that spot is a dead zone for VHF (very high frequency) transmissions, which are what freewave uses. When we landed, our helo pilot was trying to contact McMurdo via VHF radio but was unable to, even though he could see the repeater he was aiming for. This seems to be exactly what is happening to us with our freewave transmissions to White Island!
We want the Ferrell observations to be available realtime, so the purpose of our trip back was to reinstall the Argos antenna we had removed earlier this year. Lee, Jonathan Thom back in Madison, and I worked up a way to have both freewave and Argos transmissions at one station the day before we flew. It was all very last-minute, but fortunately it ended up working out.
One reason we were able to get out to Ferrell by helo on such short notice is because our fixed wing flights have been getting canceled due to weather. It’s tough when the weather here in McMurdo is good, but out on the ice shelf it’s too cloudy to land. We look out the window and think, how the heck aren’t we flying? But Antarctica is a big place.
The past couple days, we’ve been able to see (and feel) exactly why we’ve been canceled. There is a storm just north of us that is producing very heavy winds in our area. One night, the winds were whipping up the open sea water onshore. I don’t think the couple pictures I took did them justice.
The winds have been too strong for planes to take off, and not just for the smaller, Twin Otter planes. Even off-continent, redeployment LC-130 flights are being canceled. Some of our friends in other groups were scheduled to leave the ice yesterday but were canceled due to the winds. Their departure date has been bumped back a few days, as flights that were supposed to leave today (yes, they got canceled too) were full of passengers with higher priority to depart.
Now we sit and wait for the weather to clear in McMurdo. This downtime does give us the opportunity to start packing away our gear for the winter. Hopefully Monday will bring clear skies and calm winds so we can service at least one more AWS by Otter.
It’s started to snow in McMurdo…
An update on the weather, from the McMurdo intranet homepage: