On the Ice

21 Nov: Dave’s Arrival and Schwerdtfeger AWS

Hey all, Dave here! I arrived on the ice on Tuesday, 15 November. As Carol mentioned, I arrived just late enough to miss out on flying to Laurie II and Emma. Oh well, I’m glad that Lee and Carol were able to get those sites finished!

Before I go any further on about my first week on the ice, I should mention that while I was in Christchurch, New Zealand en route to Antarctica, I experienced my first earthquake. It happened overnight, and I was woken up by my bed shaking. I was confused at first, but after about a minute of this I realized that it was probably an earthquake. I looked up earthquakes in the area and lo and behold, there was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit just north of Christchurch. Luckily, the epicenter was in a relatively rural area of New Zealand. There wasn’t much damage to be heard of in Christchurch itself, but there was some damage in small towns like Kaikoura, as well as to highway roads and rails. I feel fortunate that the damage wasn’t worse in Christchurch.

Ok back to the ice. Once I arrived in McMurdo, I hit the ground running with completing my trainings (field safety, vehicle training, outdoor safety, etc) so I could get out into the field ASAP.

The C-17 and I

The C-17 and I

This past Saturday, 19 November, Lee, Carol and I flew out to Schwerdtfeger AWS. Second time’s a charm! As Carol mentioned, we were prepared with multiple years’ worth of coordinates, as well as a good estimate of where we thought Schwerdtfeger was currently positioned given the ice movement and rate of change of the coordinates over the years.

One small battle we had to win before departing was the poor weather in McMurdo. Visibility wasn’t great in the morning at the airfield, and the Twin Otter had issues with icing on the aircraft. The three of us got out to the airfield around noon but had to wait for the flight crew (and the sun) to clear off the ice so it was safe to fly. At 1:45 pm we took off in search of Schwerdtfeger. It took about 50 minutes to get to Schwerdtfeger, and after approximately a half hour of flying in a calculated pattern over the area where we thought Schwerdtfeger to be located, the pilots spotted it!

Schwerdtfeger AWS upon arrival

Schwerdtfeger AWS upon arrival

Our goal for this visit was to raise the AWS and dig out the power system to get that up to the snow surface again. Given our relatively late departure and the limits of the pilots’ duty day (the amount of time they can be working in one day) becoming a factor, we had to get to work right away.

In contrast to the poor weather in McMurdo, it was gorgeous at the site. Low winds and clear skies made the 0 F (-18 C) temperatures bearable. I took pictures, Lee began checking the datalogger and data card, and Carol setup the UNAVCO GPS unit. Then we got to work clearing out snow to access the cables and digging down to retrieve the power system. After freeing the cables from both the snow and the enclosure, we measured the heights of the instruments and then began removing them. During this time, the pilots and Lee helped to get the power system up to the snow surface.

With all of the instruments removed from the tower, Lee and I installed the new tower section (which went on as easily as a favorite pair of gloves!). The three of us then took turns installing the instrumentation back on the tower, and as fast as you could say Schwerdtfeger, we had completed the raise! We verified Argos transmission and headed back to McMurdo.

Schwerdtfeger AWS after the raise

Schwerdtfeger AWS after the raise

When we returned to McMurdo, the poor weather had given way to clear skies. It was a pleasant way to end my first site visit of this field season.



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