Buenos AiresFebruary 13, 2014
The LARISSA Project, our multidisciplinary campaign to instrument and monitor change in one of the most important areas of Antarctica for climate response, has gone south again. Hmm, that does not read as inspiringly as I intended.
The joint field season with the South Korean icebreaker, Araon, was excellent, and some significant work on bathymetry, oceanography, and sediment coring was accomplished — but we were unable to visit several important geophysical stations for repairs and upgrades. We contacted colleagues in Argentina’s Antarctic Program to ask if they could help us reach these sites. Argentina recently acquired two large new Russian Mi-17 Hip helicopters, with tremendous capabilities. With just a few flights, under good conditions, we can perhaps repair several of our measurement sites that have gone silent in the past two years.
Three of the LARISSA PIs, (Eugene Domack, Maria Vernet, and Ted) met in November with the director of Instituto Antártico Argentino (IAA), Dr.Nestor Coria, to discuss plans for this year and future years. We came up with a plan to visit several sites, and visit a small summer-only base called Matienzo, south of Marambio and located in a magnificent spot right between the Larsen A and Larsen B bay areas, on one of the Seal Nunataks.
We had a lot to do in a short time such as round up all the gear, test it, and assemble and check out some new instruments from available parts. We also needed gear that was in southern Chile, and we needed replacement parts from UNAVCO and PASSCAL (GPS and seismic science support groups funded by NSF). On top of all that, we also had to make everything fit in airline-checked baggage. Airlines will not let you bring more than six checked bags per person, no matter what. We managed to fit everything into 13 bags. We had a team of three—ok, good to go.
The flight went smoothly, but we knew that one of the real challenges would be incoming customs (adouana, in Spanish) in Argentina. They have many rules for importing equipment – understandably so – but we did not have time to really go through proper applications before departing (late November – it is agreed to try to go; late January — we go. Not enough.)
We met the challenge straight up — the bags arrived, and we walked over to an open lane, piled a small mountain of baggage on the x-ray machine, and told them quite clearly that we had cases of equipment bound for Antarctica, and we had a letter from IAA describing our expedition.
Argentine customs… let me put it this way. Dante never saw Argentine customs; that is why there are only nine levels. We learned many stories as part of the process. Here’s one. At the recent Grammy Awards, an Argentine singer won. They came home, victoriously flying in to the international airport, wildly popular now with the new recognition. The Grammy, however, is in customs.
It was a struggle, but I have to say (despite my humor above) that the Adouana Argentina staff really worked with us. Still, there is a limit to what can be done. We received permission to bring our gear into Antarctica for repairing the stations, but it must be returned in 60 days. All of it must come back.
But our main mission will be done – get all the instruments gathering data again. We are eager to get started.
So we set about learning more about Buenos Aires, spending the next few days eating huge steaks and drinking excellent red wine, walking through the city in summer while we pondered our next moves to prepare.
We depart for Rio Gallegos Argentina and on to Marambio Station tomorrow.