This past week has easily been my favorite of the season! Dave and I had the opportunity to snowmobile out to Windless Bight and then once Lee and Elin got back from WAIS we were able to all head to Cape Bird. Windless Bight is surrounded by mountains and Cape Bird is at a penguin rookery, so the views at both of these locations were spectacular!
On 21 January, Dave and I snowmobiled out to Windless Bight. The ride was about 20 to 30 miles from McMurdo, and took about 45 minutes one way. We didn’t have much to bring with us, so Dave just pulled one 10 foot long sled behind his snowmobile and I didn’t have anything attached to mine.
Once we got the sled hooked in and our helmets on, we started riding the marked route to Windless Bight. The station is about 2 miles after the end of the route, but we had the GPS all set up so we wouldn’t get lost.
Then once we got to the site we quickly learned how fresh the powder was, and we realized our sled was definitely covered in snow.
Every step I took I fell in to about my knees and then near the tower the snow is looser, so we fell in almost to our waist. Windless Bight is working well, but it gets a lot of accumulation every year so we try and raise the batteries to the surface every year. We also decided to raise the lower temperature and enclosures about foot. After raising the lower temperature and enclosure, we got to work digging down to battery.
As for the scenery and the weather conditions, it was honestly perfect. It was a nice and clear day, so the views of Mount Erebus, White Island, Black Island, and Mount Discovery were perfect. The temperatures were warm and we didn’t even need to be wearing our jackets while we were digging. We got down to battery and then quickly learned that the black battery box was covered in an ice layer. This happens when the sun melts the ice around the black, reflective battery box. We then proceeded to chip away at the ice for about the next hour or two.
We eventually got it free and then we moved it up onto one of our ledges. Then we filled in the snow and put the battery box back at snow level.
Since we had snowmobiled, we could take our time and not feel rushed due to weather or other scheduling rushes. After we were done we ate some more cold pizza and brownies, and admired the mountains for the next twenty minutes. Then we headed back to base after about three hours at the site.
On 23 January, 2015 we took the helicopter to Cape Bird AWS. We needed to change the temperature sensor since Dave and Lee learned last year that the radiation shield had fallen off. The helicopter flight was cool because we were able to see the icebreaker channel and a lot of open water!
We landed near the beach and then we had to walk up lots of little stairs to the actual station. We got to the top and then we could see the penguin rookery on the other side of the cliff. I was freaking out! There were 10,000s penguins and they were loud and kind of smelled bad, but we were all very excited to see penguins, so it didn’t matter.
After our first quick looks at the penguins, Lee climbed the ladder and started to take off the old temperature sensor while I started to cut some of the wiring so we could get the old cable loose.
Then Lee put on the new temperature sensor, we secured down the cables, and our work was done!
We had about twenty minutes to hang around the rookery before the helicopters pilots needed to leave. We wandered down towards the water and spotted penguins on all of the icebergs.
That was our week! Both station visits were very successful and a lot of fun!
We have one more week in McMurdo where we have plans to head to Siple Dome, Vito, Ferrell, and Marble Point. We will also be in the process of cleaning up the lab for the season and packing up.
Till next time!