On the Ice

9 Dec: Skip back in time to a visit to Gill AWS

As you’ve already heard, Dave Mikolajczyk and Marian Mateling arrived at the beginning of this week. I didn’t get a chance to publish a blog about the week before they arrived, so I’ll finish that up now.

After a few more cancellations, due to priority and weather, I managed to get to Gill AWS. This is a site we wanted to get to last year, but we didn’t have enough time. At Gill, I was tasked with adding a 5-foot tower section, installing a program on the datalogger, and installing a new pressure sensor.

On Wednesday, November 29th, I flew to Gill AWS with 3 helpers from around town. These helpers all were an incredible help and were extremely appreciative of the opportunity to get out of McMurdo. Drew, who’s a janitor, had been in McMurdo since July, so he was extremely excited to get out on the Twin Otter.

Upon arrival to Gill, I was very worried this site would be difficult to find since we had coordinates from 2011 and the site is on a moving ice shelf. Back in Wisconsin, I had found the 3 latest coordinates to make a line and calculate a rate of movement of the AWS. I gave the pilots the 3 latest coordinates, my calculated coordinates, and said good luck! As the plane started to descend I began to hope we would find it quickly. Within about 2 minutes, one of the helpers told me he saw the tower! I was shocked. After we landed, the pilot told me my calculated coordinate was within .10 nautical miles of the true location. I was happy it was easy to find!

As we stepped out of the plane, I noticed that the tower wasn’t as buried as I expected. I decided we would still remove all the instrumentation and add a 5-foot tower section. The lower temperature sensor was buried, so that was the only instrument we had to remove from below the snow surface.

Gill AWS before servicing

We got to work right away! Within no time, we were ready to add the tower section. I was extremely nervous to add the tower because I’ve never done it on my own before and these towers usually don’t fit together very well, but not this time my friends! The tower section slide on like a glove, and I was so relieved. I started to add all the upper instrumentation while the helpers from town raised the junction box for the power system. We worked like a great team although we’d never worked together before. Within 3 hours of landing we had all the instruments back on the tower.

Gill AWS after servicing

Then I started to try connecting our laptop to the datalogger to install a new program. This was where I started running into problems. I thought I was using the wrong settings to connect to the datalogger, so I wanted to call one of my co-workers back in Wisconsin. This didn’t work because the phone died. Then I was confused what my next move should be. I didn’t want to incorrectly install a new program because that would mean that we wouldn’t get data until we flew back, so I decided to not install the new program or the associated new pressure sensor. With that, I figured the team would want me to go back once I was more confident with the procedure to finish these last tasks. In any case, I confident I was leaving the site with everything still working like it was before we arrived, so I decided we should go back to McMurdo. The trip was little disappointing because I didn’t get everything done, but I really enjoyed working with my helpers from town!

From left to right, Drew (Janitor), Ryan (Food Supply), and Kate (MacCenter)

Sure enough, I was back on the Twin Otter two days later flying to Gill. This time I had a procedure of 15 exact steps that I needed to follow to install a new program and a new pressure sensor. I also got to take two helpers from town, and they were equally excited and appreciative of the opportunity to get out of town. I got to the site, followed my 15 steps, called my co-worked Lee 3 times along the way to confirm a few things, and I was done in about an hour.

Carol working at Gill AWS. Photo by Rebecca from MacOps

It turns out, someone will need to go back to Gill again since there was a minor error with a constant in the new program I was given to install.

With that, I’m writing this last blog on the C-130 on the way back to Christchurch, NZ. My field season in Antarctica is now complete, so now Dave and Marian will be taking over for me!

I wish I could have gotten to more AWS, but thanks for following along with my blog this season!


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