As promised, this post will be about our trip to Gill AWS, Lee and Mike’s trip to South Pole, and an update on the AWS team’s schedule (spoiler alert: Mike is on an LC-130 and redeploying as I write this!).
On 22 December, while Lee and Mike were at South Pole, Elina and I took a Twin Otter to Gill. We had been on the fixed wing schedule to visit Margaret first to raise the station, which is on the opposite side of the Ross Ice Shelf, and then make a quick stop at Gill to upload a new program. Margaret is notorious for having poor weather, as it is often covered in low clouds. The cloud cover on this day over the shelf didn’t look encouraging for any site visits, but we were put on weather hold for a couple hours. The thought was that maybe the clouds would clear up enough for a visit.
Turns out, they did! But only for Gill. We got contacted by fixed wing asking if we just wanted to go to Gill. We said yes, and since we had plenty of ground time, we had plenty of time to dig down and recover the power system, which was buried about 8 feet below the surface.
We took pictures and got heights of the instruments then uploaded the new program. After that, we started digging and didn’t stop until we got the batteries! There were a couple instances when we were in the hole and it didn’t seem like we were ever going to reach them. But of course, we did. It was satisfying to bring them back to the surface.
While Elina and I were at Gill, Lee and Mike were at Henry near the South Pole! And a day prior, 21 Dec, Lee and Mike serviced Nico from Pole. These AWS hadn’t been visited since January 2015 when we did a station raise and upgraded their electronics from the older-style AWS2B to CR1000s. Mike wrote some good blog posts about those site visits, as well as their experience at South Pole Station, that you can check out here: https://www.polartrec.com/expeditions/antarctic-automatic-weather-stations-2018/journals . Their main objectives at both sites were to replace the enclosures, power systems, and upper temperature aspirated shields. Lee said the fan on the aspirated shield at Nico was still running, which is amazing! Here are some pictures from their site visits, too:
Switching gears a bit, Elina and I will be heading out to West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) field camp soon (maybe even tomorrow, 28 Dec). Plans seem to be up in the air at the moment, as we’ve been asked if we wanted to leave a couple days earlier than our originally planned departure date, 29 Dec, but delays have pushed things back. If we do fly to WAIS tomorrow, there won’t be any internet connection for us, and as such I won’t be able to post any updates until we return to McMurdo. I’ll still write blog posts out there describing our work and experiences and post them when we return, which will probably be around January 20th. Our goal is to visit 9 AWS sites, but we only have 6 Twin Otter flights allotted to us due to fuel limitations. Hopefully we will be able to double up on site visits for a couple of the flights.
In McMurdo, Lee and Forbes will be working on preparations for installing the 4 PCWS in the McMurdo area and doing what AWS service work they can. Currently, we are not on the Twin Otter schedule in McMurdo, and since we’re waiting on getting some modems activated for our site visits by helicopter, we’re in stand-by mode. Hopefully things can pick up soon and they can get site visits completed.