On Monday, 28 November 2016, Lee, Carol and I took a snowmobile adventure out to Windless Bight AWS to replace the power system and raise the instrumentation. We were on the Twin Otter schedule to fly to Gill AWS (as we have been for a while now) but our flight was cancelled. Since we didn’t have any other flights scheduled, and the weather was gorgeous, our day was open for us to do our field work at Windless Bight (WDB).
About a week ago, we staged a couple sleds and some equipment (tower sections, new power system, survival bags) so that it was ready whenever we decided to go to WDB. On Monday, once we reserved three snowmobiles for the day, we loaded up a truck with the rest of our gear to take out to the sleds. After fixing up the sleds, we got our snowmobiles and hooked the sleds up to them.
With snowmobiles full of gas and spirits full of gumption, we took off for WDB. It was about a 45-minute ride out to the sight, and it was a very pleasant ride given the clear skies and low winds.
The lower temperature sensor was half-buried in snow, the base of the enclosure was just above the snow surface, and the power system was about 5-6 feet buried. We weren’t sure whether we would need to add another tower section, but given the current height of the station, we can wait one more year before adding another section and just raise the instrumentation this year.
We began digging down to the power system and thereby freeing the instrument cables as well. This allowed us to keep digging for the power system and, at the same time, removing the instrumentation and enclosure from the tower. After many shovels-full of snow, we found the power system and pulled it up to snow surface.
With the old, 2-battery power system removed, we began reinstalling the instrumentation higher up on the tower. As Lee was checking the aerovane, he noticed that the propeller wasn’t moving at all! “Windless Bight” lived up to its name that day, as the propeller proved that there was literally no wind at times!
We re-filled the pit we had dug with snow, on top of which we put the new, 3-battery power system. The reason we swapped power systems is that we have noticed issues with our AWS using Freewave transmissions and the 2-battery power systems not handling the load as well as we would like. It is hoped that 3 batteries will help alleviate these power issues.
After completing the work, we had a bite to eat then loaded our gear back on the sleds to make the journey back to McMurdo. It didn’t end up being as a long of a day as we were expecting, because we didn’t install a new tower section, so that was a bonus. It also felt very good to successfully take advantage of the opportunity to visit WDB and get this work done!