On the Ice

10 Nov: Random work and Lorne visit

Sorry for the delay in posting blog posts. We’ve been running around McMurdo getting all kinds of things done, but nothing has been very blog worthy. George Hadmenos arrived on November 1st without any deals, so I’ve been doing some outreach activities and training with George for the past week.

Since writing the last blog post, there have been a few things that have been going on. First, the team back in Wisconsin gave me lots of great advice about fixing some major issues with a computer that manages our Ultra High Frequency (UHF) network of AWS. This involved four drives up to T-site which is about a 15 minute drive from our office up a decently step road. I take the classic Ford F-350 big tire trucks to drive up to T-site. On my final trip, I managed to get the truck stuck in some fresh snow. Unfortunately, this truck didn’t have shovel in the bed of the truck, so I couldn’t dig a path to get unstuck. Thus, I was forced to ask for help over the radio. I was initially embarrassed and annoyed that it happening, but looking back at it now it was funny. A very kind human used his truck to pull my truck out of the snow!

The stuck truck 🙁

Second, we took a trip to Willie Airfield and Phoenix Runway to mark with flags where we’ll be installing two new AWS. One new AWS will be installed near our other AWS at Willie Field and that will be for the MRI in collaboration with Madison College. The second AWS will be installed at Phoenix Runway. Willie Field is about 25 minutes from McMurdo, and Phoenix is probably another 20 minutes from Willie Field. After marking the locations of the tower with flags, we then drove back on a different day to drop off the tower sections and dig the holes for the tower sections. This time we took a mack-tracks which is a truck that’s specially designed to drive over ungroomed snow. These trips were done in collaboration with Mark Seefledt and Scott Landolt of project O-456 because they are installing precipitation instrumentation at the same locations.

Flag to mark where we’re going to install a new AWS

George and the mack-tracks

Finally, we managed to take a helicopter to Lorne AWS. This flight is only about 30 minutes grid west or true east of McMurdo. Lorne hasn’t been transmitting data since the end of March. We thought this might be due to a difference between the clock in the modem at Lorne versus the actual time. The first thing we checked was the modem clock and it was correct, so we knew the problem must be something else. I figured this wasn’t something we would be able to fix in the field, but I still called my co-worker, Dave Mikolajczyk, to see if there was anything else I should check. He suggested a power cycle, so we unplugged the power system and worked to raise the power system. This was when things got tricky. George and I freed the box most of the way around all the sides, but it was still too stuck in ice for the two of us to move it. The box weighs 250 lbs. since it has three 70 lbs. batteries. Knowing that, I removed one battery to make the box lighter, but we still couldn’t lift it. At that point, we only had about 20 minutes left of our 2 hours of ground time before we had to leave since the helicopter pilot needed to stick to his schedule. I decided to put the battery back in the case and plug everything back in. In the end, I didn’t plug everything back together completely, and I don’t think the AWS is getting power. George and I will be going back to Lorne with two more strong helpers from McMurdo, more ice picking equipment, and more time. With all those factors, I’m confident we’ll be able to get the power system raised. Also, the team back in Wisconsin figured out the reason Lorne wasn’t transmitting was an issue with the timing of the repeater it was trying to transmit through. Thus, once the power is properly connected at Lorne it should start transmitting again!

George digging at Lorne AWS


Carol after removing one of the batteries and still not being able to lift the power system

We haven’t been able to get on any Twin Otters flights due to priority and bad weather, but I’m hoping that will happen next week. I’ll keep you updated!


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