On the Ice

12 January: Commence an epic 10 days with Austin

At the time, we didn’t know it, but when we went to Austin on 12 January this began a stretch of very successful flights and field visits. Between 12 and 21 January, we visited the remaining 8 sites on our list in West Antarctica. That’s 8 sites in 10 days, but really 8 sites in 5 days of flying! Whew!

12 January was a good day of redemption. Elina and I felt compelled to get the visit to Austin completed (of course) but our Otter pilots, Jordan and Alex, were equally passionate about making it there. We all felt cheated by the cloud cover on our previous attempt. This time, the weather cooperated with us.

We departed WAIS at 7:45 am. One of the benefits of working at a field camp is that “transport” from the camp to the airfield takes all of 2 minutes. We can pretty much leave as soon as we’re ready. In McMurdo, we would need to wait for a shuttle to pick us up from Crary lab, then take the 30 to 45-minute drive out to the airfield before departing. But I digress….

On the flight to Austin, the Ellsworth Mountains are visible in the distance. They’re still quite far so it’s difficult to get a good picture, but given the flat and boring landscape at WAIS, seeing any topography carries that much more weight.

Part of the Ellsworth Mountains. I zoomed in quite a bit and did some post-processing on this picture…

As before, we stopped at “Turn 1” fuel cache both to and from Austin. We arrived at Austin and were greeted to much better conditions than previous.

Austin upon arrival, with Elina getting the GPS powered on for the duration of the visit to record the coordinates and elevation of the site.

The site visit went well. Austin gets a lot of accumulation, so despite raising the power system to the surface one year ago, it was buried about 5 feet down. We dug that out, brought it to the surface again, and swapped the batteries from the power system. It turned out the batteries had poor capacitance (ability to hold charge) so they were failing, and the station wasn’t transmitting. We also swapped the enclosure, just to be sure that we got the station working again. And it is!

The hole to get the power system (black box at top of picture), taken while I was on the tower.

Austin after our work was completed.

Cheers! -Dave

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