On the Ice

The 2018-19 AWS field team is on the ice!

Let the on-ice festivities commence! Hi, I’m Dave Mikolajczyk, and I will be guiding you, dear reader, along for some informative, entertaining, and hopefully never-boring stories that will describe the 2018-19 AWS field season. As it turns out, the story began before you even knew it….

The team arrived in McMurdo yesterday, Tuesday 27 November. We’ve got a full family this year (at least for the first few weeks): myself and Lee Welhouse from UW-Madison, Forbes Filip from Madison Area Technical College (MATC), Elina Valkonen from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Mike Penn from the PolarTREC program (Polar Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating). Mike will be on the ice for a few weeks, departing just before Christmas, while the rest of us will be here until early February. Also, Elina and Mike will be writing blogs of their own, and you can follow along with theirs here:

Elina: https://coldspell.home.blog/

Mike: https://www.polartrec.com/expeditions/antarctic-automatic-weather-stations-2018/journals

This field season promises to be a busy one, as we will be doing work for several projects. We will be doing the standard servicing and maintenance for the AWS network, with field work out of McMurdo, South Pole, and West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) field camp. For the joint UW-MATC project (for which a test AWS was installed last season at Willie Field) we will be installing 4 Polar Climate and Weather Stations (PCWS), all collocated at existing AWS (except at South Pole). In addition to field work, we will be installing some computer hardware in McMurdo that is used to acquire satellite data.

Lee and Mike will be going in about a week to South Pole to service our 2 AWS and install a new PCWS near the South Pole runway. They plan to spend about a week there doing that field work. Elina and I will be going to WAIS after Christmas, through about 20 January, servicing as many AWS as we can! Otherwise, anyone and everyone who is in McMurdo will be doing site visits around McMurdo and the Ross Ice Shelf.

Before arriving on the ice, we of course came through Christchurch, New Zealand.  We arrived in Christchurch on Sunday, 25 November. The following day, we got our completed our orientation and got our cold weather gear at the Clothing Distribution Center. Once all of that was done, we were able to get out and enjoy the city. The weather wasn’t the greatest (temperatures in the 50s F, cloudy, rainy) but it was still pleasant enough to walk around. The sun did peak through at times! I walked through the Botanic Gardens and enjoyed the colorful flowers, good smells, and sounds of wildlife.

A bumblebee and a flower.

The next day was flight day. We were originally scheduled to fly on a 757, but the morning of it was switched to a C17. That delayed our departure by a couple hours, but that was OK. It gave us some time to grab a bite to eat, get some last items at the grocery store, and snap this stellar shot of the crew:

The field team. From left to right: Lee, Forbes, Elina, Mike, me.

Then we boarded the C17 and headed South for McMurdo! The flight was very smooth with plenty of leg room, which is always welcome on these flights. As we approached McMurdo, the skies cleared and we got some great sights of the sea ice and ice-covered mountains.

The sea ice as viewed from the window.

The ice-covered mountains.

We’re on the ice!

That’s all I have for updates right now. We’re hoping to get our trainings done, cargo organized, and be ready to possibly fly this weekend at the earliest, or definitely by early next week. Cheers!  -Dave

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