We managed to get to 2 AWS via Otter and another AWS via Helo all in the same day. I’m not sure if this has ever been done during the duration of the AWS project!
Friday, February 5th we first headed out to Nascent AWS. This was a site that hadn’t been visited for 10 years, so we didn’t know what to expect. We planned to remove the AWS instrumentation and anything else that we could get. This site was a little different in that it had a gps that was still transmitting as of 3.5 years ago. We also had a 1 km resolution satellite image that was helpful. In the end the pilots were able to find it, and it was much taller than I expected!
The pilots and our boondogglers were extremely helpful removing everything! We dug down to recover the 4 solar panels and the CR10X enclosure. We had to dig down about 7 feet to get to the enclosure.
We removed as much tower as possible and then loaded everything onto the plane. We spent less than 2 hours on the ground, which was much faster than anticipated. It really helped to have 6 people helping!
Then we flew over to Vito AWS. This is an AWS that we have struggled to get working consistently for about a year now. The site has been visited 6 times over 15 months. There has been a lot of troubleshooting done with the enclousre/electronics/power system, but nothing has worked. Thus, we decided to completely replace the enclosure with the old AWS2B that was removed from Brianna in West Antarctica. We swapped the enclosure boxes and had to dig out the power cable a couple of inches. The we plugged in the power cable and waited for a transmission from the Teleonics. At that point, there was nothing else we could try and do. We heard the Teleonics beeping, but it wasn’t displaying the data like it usually does. We waited for about 20 or 25 minutes to make sure we could at least get 2 transmissions, yet the hex data never came through. We left Vito AWS not 100% sure it was working, which is not ideal. Once we got back to the lab, we found out it was working properly!
On the way back from Vito AWS to McMurdo, the pilots got a call from comms at McMurdo asking us if we still wanted to get on our Helo ride later than afternoon. It was going to be close, but we figured we had enough time. We got dropped off at the helo pad, and within an hour and half of landing on the Otter we were taking off on a helo.
We had planned to fly to Cape Bird AWS to check the broken aerovane, but it was too cloudy over there again. The same thing had happened to us a couple of days before.
As we turned around, I suggested that we try going back to Laurie II to replace the nose cone and propeller on the aerovane. The pilot checked in with helo ops and checked his fuel levels. He said he would be able to make it, but he warned us it was going to be really windy. Thus, we wanted to be on the ground for as little time as possible. I prepped the nose cone and prop while in the back of the helo and then handed it off to Lee. It was blowing at least 25 kts when we landed. Lee quickly climbed to the top and swapped out the parts while I took a picture :)… into the sun like a terrible photographer…. I didn’t want to face the wind.
Nascent and Vito AWS were our last flights with the Twin Ottter. There are still 4 sites that need to be visited with the helo, and we will be snowmobiling to Windless Bight. We have one more week in Antarctica!