On the Ice

The End of the 2019-2020 Field Season

The last few days came and went so quickly, but we finished off the season well! On January 13 we were activated to fly out to Marilyn on a Twin Otter plane. We drove out with all of gear and loaded up the plane. We could see fog on the horizon, but we hoped that it was gone at the site. We flew with clear skies all the out, but unfortunately the fog was covering the ground and gave such horrible visibility. There was no way we could land or even find the tower, so we had to turn around and fly back. We were put back on the schedule for both Margaret and Marilyn for the next day, but again, both flights were cancelled due to weather and that left us with no more flying days.

Views on the way to Marilyn.
The pilot dipped into the fog to test it out – you could see the ground, but nothing in front of you. Boomerang was the only option!

Josh and I took a walk break earlier in the day on Monday out to Hut Point since we had heard that recently there had been penguins spotted near the open sea ice out there. As we approached the far side, I could see people with cameras and looked out and saw a group of penguins! It was very exciting, and I went to grab my camera when I heard a surprisingly loud noise (not from the penguins) and looked out towards the open water and there were minke whales! The pod swimming out there had about 6 whales and they just kept popping in and out of the water blowing out their blowholes every time they surfaced. It was an amazing way to relax watching the whales, penguins, and seals on a sunny and (nearly) 40-degree F day.

These Adélie penguins were waiting for the whales to move out before they jumped into the water!
A minke whale fin sticking out of the water (and a gorgeous view in the background)!

Since the weather was still nice on Monday night, Lee and Josh were able to snowmobile out to Windless Bight to fix the station since it had stopped transmitting. I joined up with them afterwards to head to Sarah (near Willie Field) to set it up with the new PCWS datalogger Josh had been working on all season and finally get all the parts working just in time to get it out to test! We hooked up all the sensors and Josh ran some code and found that it wasn’t transmitting, but there was data going through. Since we couldn’t easily figure out what was going on in the field, we decided to call it a night and head in so Josh could look into it more in the lab back in town the next day.

It was late at night, but the sun was shining bright as ever!
Josh hooking up the last wires to the datalogger for Sarah and about to test the code.

On Tuesday, Josh figured there was something going on with the modem out in the field since the other enclosure he had in the lab seemed to work just fine. We decided to head back out at night again and use the truck to drive out to swap out the enclosure. It was a bit snowy, but not horribly cold and windy, so we were able to do the swap fairly quickly. After running the code again, we saw it transmit! It was a great success to have a fully functioning PCWS test station out in the field to see how it lasts through the rest of summer and into winter.

Snow falling as Lee worked to plug in the sensors to the new enclosure.

On Wednesday, we cleaned and packed everything up to be stored or shipped back to Wisconsin and prepared for our flight off the ice on Thursday 16 January! After a few hours delay, we took off and made it to Christchurch around sunset.

The pilots let Josh and I come into the cockpit to see the last of the mountains and ice as we left and for when we landed in Christchurch!

It was a short, but successful first trip for me. The whole season went fairly well considering the technical and electronic issues that were encountered with the PCWS in the beginning, being lower priority for WAIS, and the weather delays towards the end of the season. Thank you for following along on this trip, I hope you enjoyed the stories and updates!



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