All posts by pbromirski

Severe weather conditions

Oct. 30, 2015:  Working in severe weather conditions is a common experience in Antarctica. We landed under clear but hazy skies, weather conditions about -5°F with 15-20 knot winds. Over the next two hours, conditions worsened to -15°F with 40 knot winds. When visibility dropped to 50ft, the pilot ordered a rapid pullout, leaving the station’s servicing unfinished.

Servicing ice front station DR03
Servicing ice front station DR03

 

Flight Delayed — Humboldt State Reunion

Our bags are packed and checked, but weather at Yesterday Camp canceled our flight today. Hopefully we’ll be flying to camp tomorrow. We’re living out of our carry-ons, hopefully not too much longer, anticipating flying tomorrow…

There is no internet access from Yesterday Camp, so this may be the last post until we return after the installations are completed, hopefully in the first week of December.

While here, fellow Humboldt State grads from the mid-1980’s had a reunion at McMurdo — a long way in time and space from the days in Arcata, CA — an unexpected location to meet up again.

Humboldt Reunion.

 Flags of nations having a presence in Antarctica in front of the National Science Foundation chalet, with Hut Hill in the background. From left: Dean Childs, Peter Bromirski, Tim Parker. Dean and Tim are PASSCAL seismic instrumentation experts.

Flags of nations having a presence in Antarctica in front of the National Science Foundation chalet. Observation (“Ob”) Hill is in the background. From left: Dean Childs, Peter Bromirski, Tim Parker. Dean and Tim are PASSCAL seismic instrumentation experts.

Ice Camp Established

Our camp on the Ross Ice Shelf was put in today. We’ll be deploying to the camp in two days. A lot of prep work to get everything moved from McMurdo to Yesterday Camp (just east of the dateline near 79deg S) has been done today. We’re nearly ready to go, hoping that the weather holds and the LC-130 transport doesn’t have any mechanical problems. It’s been warm — in the teens. Small streams of melt water are running down the roads.

Because the sun never sets in the summer in Antarctica, a sundial works 24 hours a day.

The 24-hour sundial at McMurdo station (viewed from above).
The 24-hour sundial at McMurdo station (viewed from above). As you can see, it’s 1PM local McMurdo time.

HAM’ing It UP.

Ron Flick with his thumb on the pulse of McMurdo, talking to the world.
Ron Flick with his thumb on the pulse of McMurdo, talking to the world.

First Project Seismometer On the Ice (DR16)

The installation of a seismic station on the ice takes a team effort, including help from the KBA Twin Otter pilots. Our seismic stations differ from the Wiens/Aster project installed yesterday in that they also contain barometers to measure the displacement due to atmospheric pressure changes. DR16 is our station that is farthest south, away from the ice front (see map in Taking the Pulse).

Getting Started.

Loading our gear and the seismic station onto the Twin Otter at Willy Field, with Mt. Erebus in the background.
Loading our gear and the seismic station onto the Twin Otter at Willy Field, with Mt. Erebus in the background.

In the Air.

Inside the Twin Otter cabin -- room for four and the seismic station components that will be assembled and tested on the ice.
Inside the Twin Otter cabin — room for four and the seismic station components that will be assembled and tested on the ice.

In Route.

Reflection of the sun off the Ross Ice Shelf.
Reflection of the sun off the Ross Ice Shelf.

The seismometer and support electronics package are buried in separate holes separated by about 30ft.

Support Electronics Installation.

Installation of the box containing power, data storage, GPS, and telecommunications electronics.
Installation of the box containing power, data storage, GPS, and telecommunications electronics.

Seismometer Installation.

The seismometer is buried after leveling and aligning with true North and testing in in the bottom of a 40in deep, 5ft square excavation.
The seismometer is buried after leveling and aligning with true North and testing in in the bottom of a 40in deep, 5ft square excavation.

There is lots of activity and cooperation during installation.
Remember, today is tomorrow for those east of the dateline, e.g. in the U.S.

Panoramic video of DR16 seismometer installation, showing what the Ross Ice Shelf icescape looks like.
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Some majestic views of Antarctica on the way back to McMurdo.

The Royal Society Range.
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Mount Discovery: A Dormant Volcano
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Another view of the Royal Society Range.
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A Crevasse Near McMurdo.
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Our transport plane, Twin Otters, lands on skis in very short landing and take-off skiways.

Twin Otter Airplane Shadow on the Ice During Landing.
Note the ski shadows at the nose and under wing.
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Shake Down Camp Out

We were transported out to the snow camping area near Williams (Willy’s) Field, an ice runway.

The Crew.

Waiting for transport to snow camp.
Waiting for transport to snow camp.

Heading to Snow Camp.

A view of the terrain from our transport on the roadway to snow camp.
A view of the terrain from our transport on the roadway to snow camp.

The “field” training consisted of building a wall out of sawed snow blocks to shield out tents from the wind and each setting up our tents.

The Wind Shield.

The wall is intended to shield our tents from strong winds, which are common.
The wall is intended to shield out tents from strong winds, which are common.

Fortunately, we had great weather: sunny, low winds, and relatively warm near the teens.

Ralph Stephen and Mt. Erebus.

At snow camp. Ralph Stephen from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (one of our team) with Mt. Erebus in the background. Mt. Erebus is an active volcano, and you can see a plume of water vapor/gasses coming out of the top.
At snow camp. Ralph Stephen from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (one of our team) with Mt. Erebus in the background. Mt. Erebus is an active volcano, and you can see a plume of water vapor/gasses coming out of the top.

All of our crew are newbies, so we’re learning a lot.

Oceanographer Ron Flick Braving the Elements.

Kneeling in the "vestibule".
Kneeling in the “vestibule”.

Always something new …

Castle Rock.

One of the interesting rock formations seen from snow camp.
One of the interesting rock formations seen from snow camp.

Castle Rock

Moving to Yesterday Camp 11/10

Cold weather and survival training in Antarctica is extensive.

The logistics for 15 people living at a field camp in sub-freezing weather requires extensive preparation — tents, food, sleeping bags, snowmobiles, fuel, …

Today was snowmobile training — an important part of field operations since stations nearby (< 30 mi) will be installed by snowmobiles towing sleds carrying the instruments.

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At McMurdo Station, Antarctica

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First view of Antarctica from the LC-17, northwest of McMurdo.

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The cockpit of the LC-17.

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Deplaning at Pegasus Field, McMurdo. It wasn’t as cold as anticipated, a balmy 14F.

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Enroute from Pegasus Field to McMurdo Station.

Heading south

We’re scheduled to checking wearing our cold weather gear (see pics) at 10:30AM today (Saturday, we’re 4 hours behind California time and one day ahead). It’s about a 5 hr flight in the C-17 plane that will be taking us south — the workhorse transport plane.

Time to get ready to move…

We'll be wearing full cold weather gear when we board the "ice flight" -- might get toasty...
We’ll be wearing full cold weather gear when we board the “ice flight” — might get toasty…

There are a variety of cold weather gear to choose from. What you wear depends on how severe the weather is.
There are a variety of cold weather gear to choose from. What you wear depends on how severe the weather is.

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“ice flight” tomorrow — hopefully!

It’s been a busy few days in Christchurch, NZ getting ready for travel down to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Yesterday we were outfitted with our cold weather gear, which we’ll be wearing when we board the plane for our ice flight — hopefully tomorrow.

Weather conditions at McMurdo determine whether we will be on the ice tomorrow. If the weather turns bad (often wind conditions can become to severe), it’s possible that we’ll be forced to turn around and “boomerang” back to Christchurch.

Still no confirmation that we’ll be heading south…