On the Ice

30 Dec 2018: Camp life and Byrd camp visit

The population of WAIS has been at around 30 people. This consists of the typical camp staff (manager, field coordinator, cargo coordinator, mechanic, heavy equipment operators, medic, weather observers, chef, etc), science groups (AWS, POLENET, PASSCAL, UNAVCO, and various Thwaites projects), and two Twin Otter crews (two pilots and an engineer each).

The Science Module (center), housing all science projects at WAIS.

The two Twin Otters at camp. I took this picture from the snowmobile staging area. There are 4 snowmobiles available for general camp use.

A typical work day for us involves waking up at around 6 am and meeting in the galley tent (where we eat) to get the weather report from the Otter pilots.

The galley from the outside.

The galley, with decorations from Christmas still adorning the tent walls.

The pilots typically talk with forecasters in McMurdo around this time to see how the weather looks both for WAIS and for the locations where we want to fly. We will have some coffee and a bite to eat as we discuss options for the day. If we aren’t a go (bummer), the morning then has a pretty relaxed vibe for us. We can sit and eat, chat, and eventually have the morning camp meeting where James, camp manager, leads a discussion of the day’s schedule of activities, flights, and the upcoming weather forecast. If we are a go (yay), then we make a flight lunch, pack some snacks, get all of our cargo ready, and load up the plane.

Today me, Elina, and some POLENET folks flew on an Otter to Byrd camp to help get Peter and Caleb back to WAIS, as they had finished their work at Byrd. Their plan then was to take a Herc flight from WAIS back to McMurdo. Since the Otter flight was already going to Byrd, we took the opportunity to service Byrd AWS near the camp. It was a very simple visit, as we just needed to swap the data card and dig up the power system to the surface.

There are only 3 people at Byrd camp this year, so the setup is much smaller than WAIS.

Byrd camp… It’s quaint.

Byrd AWS on arrival. The Byrd camp weather observer, Jess (standing) snowmobiled Elina (crouching) and I to our site. Byrd camp can be seen on the horizon, to the right of Jess’ head (it’s very faint). The Otter at POLENET’s site, on the horizon and left of our AWS.

We only had to dig down a couple of feet to reach the batteries, which was a pleasant surprise. After swapping the data card and slapping one of our stickers on the enclosure, we were done.

Byrd after some TLC.

The three of us then drove back to the POLENET site to check on their progress (they were almost done) then went to camp to have lunch! The Byrd camp staff offered to host us, which was very generous. They were also probably excited to see other humans…. The camp chef made very tasty burritos.

The Byrd kitchen, with Jonathan fixing up lunch for us.

After a good meal and conversation, we loaded up the Otter and headed back to WAIS.

A bird’s eye view of Byrd. Fuel bladders are on the left, cargo line and tent city in the middle, and the kitchen module and mechanics module on the right.

Cheers! -Dave

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