Monday, February 8th we enjoyed our annual Helo journey all over Ross Island. We first flew to Cape Bird AWS to try and fix the aerovane. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that the white plastic had ripped out part of the main frame of the aerovane. Lee was able to find the part about 30 feet away from the AWS. Our usual replacement of the nose cone and propeller couldn’t work this time, so next year we will need to buy a new aerovane and go back to the land of the penguins 🙂
Then we flew back to McMurdo, switched into a different Helo, and flew up to Minna Bluff. We have a special Taylor high wind speed sensor at Minna Bluff AWS, which is more robust since it’s maximum wind speed was 61.3 m/s or 137 mph. We’ve been noticing that it seems to reading 0 m/s and it takes a long time to get back up to higher wind speeds. Lee took a look and it sounds like there’s something loose in the cylinder. There might be some rimming stuck inside too. We decided that next year we will replace it with a new sensor we have in Wisconsin.
Then we enjoyed a ton of amazing views on the flight from Minna Bluff to Marble Point. We flew across the blue ice and through the edge of the Dry Valleys. It was incredible!
The we landed at Marble Point where we have 2 different systems. The original has been installed since 1980 and the newer one was installed in 2011. Both systems looked great! Then we flew over to Marble Point; the actual refueling station. The pilot wanted to get some more fuel before taking the long way back to McMurdo, since the helicopters can’t fly over open water.
On the way back to McMurdo, we flew along the edge of the Dry Valleys again. We also went along the dirty ice edge where there were about 10 Orca whales. It was a long and awesome day of flying!
Thursday, February 9th we made out last helo trip of the season. This time we were going to be dropped off and left alone for a couple of hours at Lorne AWS on the Ross Ice Shelf. We were prepared to add a 7 ft tower section, but we asked the pilot to take it back since it was already about 12 ft tall. The helo pilot left, and this was the first time this season that we weren’t working with close support.
Lorne was another AWS that lost power at some point over the winter. Thus, we wanted to recover the old batteries and replace them with a new 3-battery power system. I raised the lower temperature sensor (I’m a pro at this now… It’s the easiest thing to raise haha), and we detached the enclosure in order to get it out of the way while we were digging. Then we started the hunt to find the 2 briefcases of batteries. It took about an hour to dig down nearly 6 feet and loosen the cases out of the snow. Lee got the first one out and detached all the cables. Then I got the second one out just as I was about to give up and let Lee get it.
Then we filled in the hole, attached the enclosure again, and started plugging in all the cables. Lee tried to figure out why the pressure gauge wasn’t working, but no luck. We will need to go back next year and replace it with a new pressure gauge.
Our last item of business is our snowmobile trip out to Windless Bight tomorrow!