On the Ice

Flights to Laurie II and Sabrina, and weather canceled for Ferrell

At the end of last week, we had our first AWS site visits of the season. We kicked things off with a helicopter flight to Laurie II on 6 December, with myself, Elina, Mike, and Lee making the journey. Forbes stayed at the lab as there is still some work to be done on the hardware and software for the new PCWS.

Laurie II sits near the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, just east of Ross Island. The flight to the site is a nice one as we hug Ross Island and get a good view of it and eventually the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and the open waters of the Ross Sea!

The northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, as viewed from the helo. Elina’s head is on the left.

The surface conditions were absolutely ideal, borderline hot (haha), at the site. Temperatures hovered around 30F with calm to no wind and sunny skies. No coats were necessary that day, especially after doing some digging to recover the power system.

Laurie II upon arrival, with the crew and Mt. Terror in the background.

Digging out the power system.

Lee and I installing the new tower section. (Photo courtesy of Mike Penn)

Elina pointing out where the South Pole is (not pictured). (Thanks for the pic, Mike.)

Done with the raise!

Our first site visit was a success, and we looked to continue that the next day with a Twin Otter flight to Sabrina to raise the station. This visit to Sabrina was a long time coming… We spent essentially all of last field season trying to get there but couldn’t, mostly due to poor weather.

The field team for our visit consisted of me, Elina, Mike, and morale-tripper Dan Garcia, who works in town as a heavy equipment operator. This is Dan’s first time to the ice, and he was very happy to get out in the field with us and willing to help in any way he could. And help he did! It turned out that we needed all four of us to work well to get our work done in time….

It’s a long flight to Sabrina, approximately 500 miles (800 km) from McMurdo. As such, the Twin Otter needs to stop at a fuel cache along the way to refuel. This of course adds time, and the pilots only have a certain amount of time in a day during which they can work, called their duty day. It starts in the morning when they check weather and lasts for 14 hours, I think.

It took 2 hours 17 minutes to fly from McMurdo to the S+200 fuel cache, then another 1 hour 22 minutes from the fuel cache to landing at Sabrina. There was a strong head wind on the way there, but we made great time flying with the wind on the way back. Flight time from Sabrina to McMurdo was 2 hours 41 minutes.

Given this, when we landed at Sabrina, the Otter captain Lindsey said we only have 2 to 2.5 hours of ground time to get our work done. We typically like to allow for 4 hours for a station raise, so this time crunch meant we needed to work efficiently. At the outset, I knew there wasn’t going to be enough time to dig down and recover the power system, so we installed a new one. Perhaps we can revisit this site soon simply to recover the old power system. I thought the field team did great work. We successfully completed the raise in 2 hours 50 minutes. Not too bad!

At the S+200 fuel cache, refueling the Otter.

Sabrina upon arrival.

Elina, Mike, and Dan working hard while I take pictures of them.

All done!

As I was writing this, we got canceled due to weather to take a helo to Ferrell to raise the station. We had been put on weather hold today, but fog in the vicinity has prevented us from going to Ferrell. Additionally, Lee and Mike were hoping to go to South Pole today, but they’re on a 24-hour weather delay due to poor weather both in McMurdo and I think at Pole as well. Here’s to tomorrow!  -Dave

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