Archive for the ‘In the field’ Category

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Rothera to Cape Framnes cGPS

November 27, 2012

Terry writes:

Got the go ahead for deployment to Cape Framnes and Leppard Glacier cGPS sites. Will also support Daniel Farinotti’s deployment by carrying a half load of the required 2.5 plane loads of equipment and supplies to his Starbuck Glacier camp. We again had Ian Potten as our pilot and Roger Stilwell as GA, but substituted communications manager Adam Bradley for GA Ash Fusiarski since Ash is Daniel’s GA. We took off from Rothera at 9:10 a.m. and headed for Cape Framnes at the eastern tip of the Jason Peninsula which divides the Larsen B region, including the last remnant of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Scar Inlet, from the still intact Larsen C Ice Shelf. The CAPF cGPS system needed a replacement of its GPS receiver.

Aerial view of the Cape Framnes continuous GPS systemperched on a rocky outcrop with sea ice in the background. Photo courtesy of Roger Stilwell, used with permission.

Aerial view of the Cape Framnes continuous GPS system
perched on a rocky outcrop with sea ice in the background. Photo
courtesy of Roger Stilwell, used with permission.

We arrived at the cape at about 10:35 a.m. and quickly spotted the solar panels powering the system perched on a rocky ledge. Ian made a couple more circling passes to try to see if a small snow patch very close to the instrument would be usable as a landing site as opposed to the more obvious site about a mile away up a blue ice slope to a much larger flat, snowy plain. During one of the circles, Ian spotted a dark circular spot down just above the sea ice a few miles southwest of the instrument. He suspected it could have been a penguin colony, and as we approached it became clear that it was a breeding emperor penguin colony containing a few hundred adults and chicks.

Hundreds of emperor penguins, including large darkadults and smaller lighter chicks, just a few miles southwest of the Cape Framnes cGPS.

Hundreds of emperor penguins, including large dark
adults and smaller lighter chicks, just a few miles southwest of the
Cape Framnes cGPS.

Ian stayed a suitable distance and height above the colony to avoid stressing the birds, but close enough that we could obtain some photos that could be used to count the number of individual penguins. After a couple more passes, we finally landed at 11:15 a.m. at the more distant but safer site about a mile from the instrument. We donned ice axes and crampons and were able to cram all the necessary equipment and tools into our rucksacks and proceeded downhill toward the instrument. At first we tried staying on some sastrugi to the left of the shortest path to the instrument in order to minimize our passage over blue ice. But after I stepped through a couple of thin snow bridges over some unseen slots, Roger decided to take us back to the more direct blue ice path where we could more easily avoid the obvious narrow slots. Our crampons held us well on the sloping ice and we arrived at the instrument about an hour after leaving the plane. We took some quick photos and noted that the receiver appeared to be logging data. We swapped out the defective receiver for the replacement, and then ran some tests, one of which, namely the ethernet test, was failing.

At that point we called Seth White of UNAVCO who suggested we put back the original receiver. I started removing connectors, but noticed that I had apparently bent a pin on the new receiver when attaching the multi-pin ethernet connector to the receiver. I was able to bend the pin back, re-attach all the cables and rerun the tests. This time the ethernet test passed, so we closed up the box and called Seth again. He said everything now looked good, so we packed up and headed back to the plane, this time taking the more direct route staying on the blue ice all the way. After arriving in about half an hour, Ian informed us that Andy Barker had relayed him a message from Seth that he had erroneously told us that everything was working and that the receiver was not tracking satellites most likely due to the GPS antenna either not attached or not attached correctly. Turns out he had been looking at data logged before I had discovered the bent pin, and that I must have incorrectly seated the GPS antenna cable the second time. So after a quick snack we started back to the receiver. Upon opening the case we could see that the satellite tracking LED was not lit, so we must not have checked it after fixing the bent pin. I removed the GPS antenna cable from the receiver and carefully reattached it, noting that this time it seemed to take up more threads than when I removed it, so I must have had it cross-threaded. After powering up the receiver we noted that it was now tracking satellites, so we again closed up the box and called Seth. He said he was sure he was now looking at new data and that everything looked good. We climbed back up the ice hill, noting that a new lead had opened in the sea ice to our right since our previous ascent. We got back to the plane, packed up, and took off for Starbuck Glacier at 8:00 p.m. after just under nine hours on the ground. We landed at Daniel and Ash’s scenic Kilo camp on Starbuck at 8:35 pm, unloaded their final equipment, took a few photos, and were back in the air at 9:05 pm headed this time for the Leppard Glacier cGPS.

Roger Stilwell and Adam Bradley next to the newly repaired CAPF continuous GPS system.

Roger Stilwell and Adam Bradley next to the newly repaired CAPF continuous GPS system.

Kilo camp on Starbuck Glacier installed earlier in the day by Daniel Farinotti and Ash Fusiarski.

Kilo camp on Starbuck Glacier installed earlier in the day by Daniel Farinotti and Ash Fusiarski.

Daniel Farinotti, the scientist on the Kilo project, and my office mate since arriving with me in Rothera at the end of October. He's happy to have finally gotten into the field, and received the last of his equipment so that he can begin his ice penetrating radar survey and automated GPS maintenance work.

Daniel Farinotti, the scientist on the Kilo project, and my office mate since arriving with me in Rothera at the end of October. He’s happy to have finally gotten into the field, and received the last of his equipment so that he can begin his ice penetrating radar survey and automated GPS maintenance work.

Our next stop at 9:40 pm was at Leppard Glacier, the site of another continuous GPS instrument. Ian was able to land just a few meters from the solar panels and antenna, so Roger and Adam were able to hop out of the plane and immediately started digging behind the panels. The goal was to uncover the box enclosing the electronics in order to copy some new firmware and a configuration file to the GPS receiver.

Adam and Roger begin digging in an attempt to uncover the lid of the continuous GPS electronics enclosure. Note that the snow surface is just touching the bottom of the bottom panel indicating an acculation of over 6 feet of snow since its installation in January 2010.

Adam and Roger begin digging in an attempt to uncover the lid of the continuous GPS electronics enclosure. Note that the snow surface is just touching the bottom of the bottom panel indicating an acculation of over 6 feet of snow since its installation in January 2010.

The box is almost identical to the one at Flask Glacier that we had visited three weeks earlier. The difference was that the box at Flask was buried under a couple of feet of loosely consolidated snow, whereas the box here at Leppard was under at least six feet of more firmly compacted snow (aka firn). After almost two hours of digging by Roger and Adam, they were down about 5.5 feet below the snow surface and still hadn’t reached the top of the box, let alone uncover its entire lid which would allow us to open it.

Roger poses at bottom of the 5.5 foot hole he and Adam have dug without reaching the top of the box.

Roger poses at bottom of the 5.5 foot hole he and Adam have dug without reaching the top of the box.

We also hadn’t yet exposed the bottom of the splices in the solar panel legs and associated cables, both covered in ice, that would allow us to raise the solar panels another couple of feet or about a year’s worth of accumulation at this apparently snowy site. So we decided to call it a day and head back to Rothera. We took off at 11:40 p.m. and arrived in Rothera at 1:00 a.m.

Closeup of one of the spliced solar panel legs and associated power and Iridium cables encased in ice near the bottom of the hole.

Closeup of one of the spliced solar panel legs and associated power and Iridium cables encased in ice near the bottom of the hole.

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Rothera to Scar Inlet AMIGOS to Cape Disappointment AMIGOS

November 25, 2012

Terry writes:

After a Mexican Night dinner and party, including dancing until 3:30 am, I somehow made it to the usual weather briefing at 7:45 am. Clear but windy forecast for Scar Inlet, so probably not flying. But the Scar AMIGOS showed diminishing winds all morning, so I received the word from Andy Barker we’d be flying after lunch with pilot Ian Potten, GA Roger Stilwell, with GA Ash Fusiarski serving as co-pilot. We took off at 3:47 p.m. and arrived at Scar Inlet AMIGOS at 5:24 pm. Ian landed somewhat farther from the AMIGOS this time at about 300 meters, so after putting on harnesses, we had a 15-minute hike with Ash checking for crevasses, followed by me, and then Roger pulling a sledge carrying AMIGOS-4, our tools, and a pallet to place under the new battery box.

New battery box on its wooden pallet platform, and suspended by ratchet straps and rope and lashed to the tower.

New battery box on its wooden pallet platform, and suspended by ratchet straps and rope and lashed to the tower.

Once at the tower, Ash and Roger quickly replaced AMIGOS-1 with AMIGOS-4, which I then verified was working properly. Then Roger attacked the snow and ice covering the old battery box while Ash and I used a couple of ratchet straps to suspend the new box above the snow surface. We then excavated a space under the box into which we slid the forklift pallet. In doing so, we uncovered another narrow crevasse just a meter from the new box but running parallel to it. Meanwhile, Roger succeeded in lifting the lid of the old box without damaging it, revealing ice filling the box and encasing its four lead-acid batteries, its charge controller, and a data logger once used to collect a temperature profile down to about ten meters below the snow surface. Roger closed the old box, we lashed the pallet to the tower, closed up AMIGOS-4, and hiked back to the plane and Ian. We then took off for Cape Disappointment at about 7:35 pm.

The old battery box with its opened lid showing it full of ice and fully encasing its contents.

The old battery box with its opened lid showing it full of ice and fully encasing its contents.

A narrow crevasse unconvered by Ash while removing snow from underneath the suspended new battery box.

A narrow crevasse unconvered by Ash while removing snow from underneath the suspended new battery box.

First image taken by newly fixed Scar Inlet AMIGOS4 showing Ash, Terry, and Roger walking back to the Twin Otter to be flown by Ian to Cape Disappointment.

First image taken by newly fixed Scar Inlet AMIGOS4 showing Ash, Terry, and Roger walking back to the Twin Otter to be flown by Ian to Cape Disappointment.

We circled Cape Disappointment a couple of times, and spotted the tower. It clearly had been blown over. Ian found a landing site about a mile or so to the northwest. After the usual skis-down touch-and-go pass, Ian landed us at 7:55 pm. We decided we would attempt a repair, so we loaded most of the equipment and tools we had brought, including a spare 70-pound, 12-volt battery onto three sleds. We still had our harnesses on. Roger and I donned crampons and Ash wore skis. Roger towed the largest of the three sledges which left Ash with a train of the two smaller sledges. We headed off to the toppled tower about an hour after we had landed.

The rock cage at the base of the tower next to the damaged battery box and the top of the upwind rock cage anchor that had been dragged toward the tower.

The rock cage at the base of the tower next to the damaged battery box and the top of the upwind rock cage anchor that had beed dragged toward the tower.

The three foil wrapped cable connectors that had been ripped from the battery box.

The three foil wrapped cable connectors that had been ripped from the battery box.

At first the tower was visible, but it soon dropped below our immediate horizon as we climbed a small hill. Most of our route was over moderately sculpted sastrugi. The tower soon became visible again near the top of the first hill. We then hit a flat spot for a while, but soon started climbing again. The last few hundred meters was over blue ice, so Ash traded his skis for crampons. The sledges were a bit hard to control over the ice, but we eventually made it to the scree patch surrounding the tower about an hour and 10 minutes after we had left the plane. We took a few photos, noting that all three plastic connectors on the battery box (the two solar cable connectors and the AMIGOS power connector) had been damaged when the tower blew over. The upwind wire cage had been ripped open by its guy wire attached to the tower. We measured about 12.5 volts on the batteries, but zero volts on the load output of the charge controller whose top light was solid red. We tried hot-wiring a battery directly to the power input on the AMIGOS enclosure and did succeed in getting the computer to boot up. I was able to reset the date/time using the ethernet interface since I couldn’t get any output from the serial port.

Opposite side of base cage.

Opposite side of base cage.

Downwind side of tower showing apparently undamaged weather sensor, albedometer, cameras, and solar panels.

Downwind side of tower showing apparently undamaged weather sensor, albedometer, cameras, and solar panels.

By now it was near midnight local time and the sun had dipped slightly below the horizon. We decided to disconnect the charge controller and the entire AMIGOS enclosure, which we then loaded onto the sledeges, leaving the 12-volt battery we had brought. On the way back I relieved Ash of the smaller of the two sledges he had towed which simplified the trip across the blue ice. The trip back was down hill a bit, so we made slightly better time. We loaded up the plane, Ian took off at 01:05 am, and we made it back to Rothera at 2:25 am. Several people had to stay on the job until we landed, including Karen, Adam, and Rosie doing communication and weather observations in the tower, with Clem and Brian in the hangar helping us unload our gear and park the Twin Otter. I got to bed at about 3:30 am, roughly five minutes or so earlier than the previous night.

Terry and Ash returning from Cape Disappointment AMIGOS6, which can be seen at the leftmost tip of the outcrop just above Ash.

Terry and Ash returning from Cape Disappointment AMIGOS6, which can be seen at the leftmost tip of the outcrop just above Ash.

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Training climb of Middle Stork near Rothera

November 23, 2012

Terry writes:

Still waiting for better weather in the Larsen B region, as a fairly significant storm has been slowly making its way across the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. In contrast, the weather in Rothera has been generally superb, with clear skies and gentle winds. I’ve been running every other day or so, doing some image processing work for Ted, and playing some guitar in the evenings. But this morning I heard that my current general field assistant (GA) Roger Stilwell and radio officer Karen Fowler, who I had met in Punta Arenas, were planning a ski outing. I asked them if I could go too, and they graciously accepted.

By the time we actually set out, Roger had decided to make this more of a mountaineering training (mostly for me since Karen has more Antarctic mountain experience). So in addition to our skis, we strapped on climbing harnesses and associated jingle-jangles as well as carrying crampons. Our goal turned out to be a ski/climb of Middle Stork, a 515-meter peak just west of Rothera Station. After a short skidoo up to the Kaboose, Roger rope-towed Karen and me up a 200-meter bunny slope to practice our skiing. Karen did great, and I … didn’t fall, which considering the fact that I hadn’t done alpine skiing in several years was a great accomplishment.

After another short rope tow, we roped up and skin-skiied into Stork Bowl, including negotiating a rather steep cornice ringing the east side of the bowl. We then zig-zagged our way up the steepening north side of the bowl. I had to change from skis to crampons part way up since my somewhat inferior skins and somewhat more inferior technique kept causing me to slip. But with Roger’s assistance–helping me with my crampons and carrying my skis–and Karen’s patience, we made it to the saddle between South and Middle Stork where we stopped for lunch.

Karen and Roger also exchanged skis for crampons and we continued up the steep southeast flank. We dodged a couple of small crevasses (slots as they’re called here), and summited at about 1 p.m. The weather on top was warm and windless, thus without the usual anxiety about weather and approaching darkness that mountaineering in Colorado usually evokes. We cramponed back down to the saddle, removed the skins from our skis, and attempted more alpine skiing in the bowl. This time I had several butt-falls but no face plants, and Roger had to haul me by my rope harness back up over the cornice, back to the skidoo and more rope towing to the Ramp. Many thanks to Roger and Karen for a fantastic outing!

Terry Haran on the summit of Middle Stork, with the North Stork and Laubeuf Fjord in the background.

Terry Haran on the summit of Middle Stork, with the North Stork and Laubeuf Fjord in the background.

The calving front of Sheldon Glacier with icebergs in Ryder Bay. Taken while descending back to the South/Middle Stork saddle. Roger Stilwell in the lower right corner.

he calving front of Sheldon Glacier with icebergs in Ryder Bay. Taken while descending back to the South/Middle Stork saddle. Roger Stilwell in the lower right corner.

Karen Fowler and Roger Stilwell on the summit of Middle Stork, with the mountains north of Mount Gaudry in the background.

Karen Fowler and Roger Stilwell on the summit of Middle Stork, with the mountains north of Mount Gaudry in the background.

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Stuck again

November 19, 2012

Hopeful that I would fly today based on the early morning Flask AMIGOS-3 image, but the forecast called for increasing clouds, which did in fact materialize, resulting in flat light conditions and even lowered ceilings, both of which making the weather unsuitable for landing on glaciers and ice shelves.

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Testing AMIGOS-4

November 18, 2012

Terry writes:

Finished testing AMIGOS-4 brought back from Scar Inlet on November 16. It is clearly working better than AMIGOS-1 for which I mistakenly replaced it. In particular, it seems to be connecting flawlessly to the internet during photo download sessions, something that AMIGOS-1 had problems doing reliably in Boulder and in fact has not succeeded in at all since the replacement. Repacked all the cases in the hangar awaiting the next flight window. Weather at Rothera cleared up (but not at Larsen B), allowing me to take a nice series of photos from Memorial Hill.

Memorial Hill containing remembrance placards for individuals who have died while working in the region. View is south toward Jenny Island and Marguerite Bay.

Memorial Hill containing remembrance placards for individuals who have died while working in the region. View is south toward Jenny Island and Marguerite Bay.

A northwest view across the new "Dutch" Lab, Bonner Lab, across the runway and South Cove, to the Ramp topped by Reptile Ridge.

A northwest view across the new “Dutch” Lab, Bonner Lab, across the runway and South Cove, to the Ramp topped by Reptile Ridge.

Looking north at Rothera Station, across iceberg-filled North Cove with Stokes Peaks in the background.

Looking north at Rothera Station, across iceberg-filled North Cove with Stokes Peaks in the background.

Looking west across Ryder Bay into which flows Hurley Glacier. The highest peaks, including Mount Liotard on the right, are hidden in clouds.

Looking west across Ryder Bay into which flows Hurley Glacier. The highest peaks, including Mount Leotard on the right, are hidden in clouds.

Southeast across Laubeuf Fjord to Perplex Ridge on Pourquoi Pas Island.

Southeast across Laubeuf Fjord to Perplex Ridge on Pourquoi Pas Island.

Northeast to icebergs in Laubeuf Fjord and Longridge Head, behind which is Haslem Heights of Arrowsmith Peninsula on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Northeast to icebergs in Laubeuf Fjord and Longridge Head, behind which is Haslem Heights of Arrowsmith Peninsula on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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The labyrinth at Rothera

November 17, 2012
At the bottom of the entrance tunnel, Terry pauses before starting the exploration of the labyrinth of passages.

At the bottom of the entrance tunnel, Terry pauses before starting the exploration of the labyrinth of passages.

Terry writes:

Retrieved items from the hangar we that we unloaded from yesterday’s flight to Scar Inlet, including AMIGOS-4. Made a short excursion with Ash and Daniel to “The Crevasse,” a few hundred meters up “The Ramp” which is the steep slope west of the hangar. After a short skidoo, we put on crampons, harness, and “jingle-jangles” (Rothera-speak for carabiners and other climbing gear), and rappelled down a near vertical ten-meter tunnel. Then we made our way along a fixed roped route, crawling at times, through a narrow labyrinth of spectacular ice formations. Many thanks to Ash who led our our little group, including more-or-less hauling me back up the entrance tunnel; and to Daniel for taking the accompanying photos.

Ash briefs Terry on the rappel down the tunnel.

Ash briefs Terry on the rappel down the tunnel.

Ice formations reminiscent of stalactites and stalagmites in rock caves.

Ice formations reminiscent of stalactites and stalagmites in rock caves.

Beautiful cathedral-like ceiling along the route.

Beautiful cathedral-like ceiling along the route.

Terry nears the end of the labyrinth near the tunnel entrance.

Terry nears the end of the labyrinth near the tunnel entrance.

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Rothera to Scar Inlet

November 16, 2012
Accumulation pole leaning towards Cape Disappointment.

Accumulation pole leaning towards Cape Disappointment.

Terry writes:

The weather looked very good at both Flask and Rothera this morning, so we took off at 09:35 with my new General field Assistant (called a “GA” in Rothera-speak) Roger Stilwell, Daniel Farinotti’s GA Ash Fusiarski, and pilot Ian Potten. We arrived at Scar AMIGOS2/4 at about 11:05 and did a flyover noting that the slots we saw so clearly nine days ago were not nearly as visible from the air. Also, the accumulation pole was still present, but bent over at a steep angle. Ian decided it looked relatively safe to land near the tower, so after a single touch and go, we landed at 11:15 about 100 meters from the tower.

This greatly simplified our logistics. We roped up without skis, and Roger and Ash hauled the first load of equipment with me walking in the middle. Ash did notice a fairly narrow slot about ten meters from the tower which he probed. He determined its bridge was relatively sound, as were the other slots we found with probing. I started taking photos, while the GAs returned to the plane for more equipment. By 12:04, I was taking the first voltage readings of the 12 volt power supply. The first reading was 0.34 volts with the power cable plugged into the CPU, and unplugged it read 0.44 volts, so clearly the batteries were essentially dead.

Power and solar panel cables leading to battery box encased in ice.

Power and solar panel cables leading to battery box encased in ice.

We uncovered the snow layer covering the battery box. It was encased in a solid ice layer extending to the base of the tower and enclosing the one power cable and the two solar battery cables. I worked on reviving the CPU using the replacement batteries and the new battery box while Roger and Ash attempted to free the solar panel cables from the ice. I quickly realized that the power cable connector on the new battery box had been damaged on the twin otter (since I hadn’t protected it), so there was nothing holding the power cable to the box.

Roger as able to come up with a scheme using a piece of cord that seemed to do the job. When I hooked up AMIGOS-4 to the computer, I could see it booting just fine through the serial port, but I could not get an ethernet connection. I tried three different cables and two different hub ports. Fearing that the hub had died. I decided we needed to swap out AMIGOS-4 for AMIGOS-1. Roger and Ash managed to unbolt the enclosure from the tower and bolt in AMIGOS-1. After reconnecting all the peripherals, I booted up AMIGOS-1. Again the serial port worked fine but I couldn’t get an ethernet connection. Finally I tried re-initializing the laptop’s local area connection, and the ethernet worked fine. I realized then that the AMIGOS-4 ethernet was probably okay, but by now it was 14:30. Roger and Ash realized they weren’t going to be able to free the solar cables from the old battery box, so somehow we were going to have to rewire them. We had two replacement cables, which I thought we could attach to the panels directly, but that would have required working over two meters above the ground, and besides, the cables were too short.

Roger then suggested cutting the cables as close to the old battery box as possible, and then somehow splicing the replacement cable leads to the cut cables. I then remembered that Seth had included some kind of cable splicing arrangement for the cGPS solar panels. So Roger and Ash retrieved the last and heaviest case of UNAVCO parts from the plane and we found the splicing kit.

Meanwhile AMIGOS-1 was cranking out data, including GPS and weather data that looked good. While Roger and Ash worked on the splicing, I attempted three sets of image acquisitions. The camera appeared to work fine, but, just as we had seen in Boulder before leaving, the AMIGOS-1 router was unable to establish an internet connection, and so was incapable of transmitting the images. Once the splicing was done, we tested each panel output and got about 23 volts from each cable. We then sealed the battery box with caulk as well as the power and solar panel connections to the battery box. Ian helped me strap the battery box to the tower. I disconnected the computer from AMIGOS-4 at about 15:55. We then packed up the plane and took off about 16:45. By now it was overcast and we could see a cloud deck covering the top of Cape Disappointment.

New battery box including cord for fixing broken connector and caulking toseal the box from water intrusion.

New battery box including cord for fixing broken connector and caulking to seal the box from water intrusion.

We decided it was still worth a look to see if we could spot the tower and possibly make a landing. We made a couple of passes, couldn’t see the tower, and had poor contrast that precluded a landing. We left Cape Disappointment at 16:56 and headed for cGPS LPRD. Again clouds and poor contrast prevented us both from seeing the LPRD and from landing (I had already seen LPRD nine days earlier, and determined that the bottom of the panels were on the snow surface). We left Leppard at 20:22 and landed at Rothera at 21:29. I’m going to test AMIGOS-4 over the next day or two while also monitoring the ability of AMIGOS-1 to dial-out. If I determine that AMIGOS4 is working better than AMIGOS-1, I’m going to suggest replacing AMIGOS-1 with AMIGOS-4. We think it could be done with about an hour on the ground. To date, AMIGOS-1 Single Burst Data (SBD) messages are working fine, but no dial-outs have succeeded.

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No flights for seven days

November 14, 2012
Snowy_runway

A panorama from the Rothera hangar to South Cove. On the right is a Basler aircraft called Polar 6 that has stopped in Rothera en route to Neumayer Station and operated by the Alfred Wegner Institute. All other aircraft on station are hunkered down in the hangar today awaiting a break in the weather.

Terry writes:

Haven’t flown since November 7. I have been doing eight-lap runs around the runway in between testing our instruments. Each lap is a little more than a mile. When its too snowy and blowy, I run on the treadmill.

On November 9, the Lake Ellsworth drilling team arrived via Dash-7, and about two hours later we had our first fire drill while I was doing stretches in my room. With the fire alarm blasting, I hurried into my boots and jacket. I hustled down to New Bransfield house, the primary emergency muster point, where each on-site person needed to check in. After a couple of minutes, the alarms ceased, and everyone went back to what they had been doing.

I decided to replace the ten-image 2001 UTC acquisition at Flask AMIGOS-3 with a 0901 UTC acquisition so that Steve Crampton, Rothera’s weather forecaster, could have it available when preparing his 0745 Rothera Time (i.e. 1045 UTC) daily weather briefing for the pilots and field teams. I first uploaded the changes to AMIGOS-2 in Boulder, then AMIGOS-3 on Flask.

On November 11, I worked as a “gash” all day, mostly cleaning the bar after the usual Saturday night revelry, cleaning the upstairs washrooms in New Bransfield, and washing pots in the kitchen. After that, I played guitar after dinner with three other guys in the music room in Old Bransfield.

The weather has been bad the last three days. It had been snowing and blowing in Rothera, and presumably in the Larsen B region. Still not getting the 0901 image on AMIGOS-3. Investigation showed that the updated schedule checker script did not finish loading, so I reloaded a copy this time to a temporary file, verified that the copy loaded ok, then renamed it.

I started getting Roger Stilwell up to speed on the AMIGOS and cGPS instrument upgrade and repairs, as it appears Roger will be replacing Malcolm Airey who will start working with another field group.

Looks like I’ll be flying tomorrow to Scar Inlet with Roger, Daniel, Daniel’s field assistant Ash Fusiarski, and a pilot to service the Scar Inlet AMIGOS-4 and Daniel’s Scar Inlet GPS, and whatever else we might have time for.

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Election news and preparations for flight number two

November 7, 2012

Terry writes:

I was happy to see this morning that my candidate had won. No flying or even a weather briefing, so I spent the entire day writing and dealing with yesterday’s photos. Noticed that the Scar Inlet slot nearest AMIGOS-4 seemed wider than I remembered seeing in previous photos that Ted had taken. Was informed that afternoon that we are scheduled to fly again tomorrow. Our equipment is still in the hangar, and I’ll try to make any lunch preparations tonight, so hopefully I won’t be the one to hold things up this time around. Oh and I’ll try to remember the Canon this time.

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Rothera to Flask Glacier

November 6, 2012

The weather brief at 0745 indicated good conditions over Larsen B sites, but deteriorating conditions at Rothera. We were assigned helper John Eager and chief pilot Alan Meredith. Alan said we needed to return by 1700. Did rush job to get dressed, load all equipment (so we could work at any of the five sites) and make three lunches for Malcy, John, and me. In my haste, I left the Canon camera in the Old Bransfield dressing room.

While I was making sandwiches in the kitchen at 0855, a PA announcement asked if anyone had seen Terry. I called Ops and said I was almost done. I rushed outside just as Clem pulled up on a Gator to drive me to the Twin Otter. The wind was already rising and the clouds were moving in. I hopped into the plane, with Malcy in the co-pilot’s seat, John behind him, and me behind John. Malcy told me we were going just to Flask not Scar Inlet nor anywhere else. We took off at 0910.

After 20 minutes, we had clearing to the west and clouds to the east. Another 20 minutes and it was all clouds. Then over the divide east of Larsen C, we had clouds to the west and clear skies to east all the way to Upper Leppard Glacier and Flask Glacier, whose fjord we entered at the AMIGOS-3 location, which I spotted out the window.

I undid my seat belt, stuck my head in the cockpit, and told Alan we were at AMIGOS-3 not cGPS FLSK. Apparently Andy had given him the wrong coordinates. I told him (which of course involves yelling to be heard above the roar of the engines) that we needed to go farther upstream which we did.

After a few minutes we spotted a solar panel installation, made a touch and go pass, and then landed. I remarked that the bottom of the panel was well above the snow, so it didn’t need to be raised. We unloaded all our equipment, I took some photos, and we started digging and immediately encountered an ice layer. We managed to get through the ice and exposed the top of a metal box.

It didn’t look like the top of the gray Hardig enclosure I was expecting. Malcy asked what was in the box, and I joked that maybe it contained whiskey. Then I noticed that the weather sensor was missing and must have blown off, and then that the antenna was mounted with the solar panel instead of separately, and then that the panel was too small, and then I said, “This is the wrong GPS system.”

Malcolm Airey standing next to what should have been cGPS FLSK but was actually a GPS that Daniel Farinotti needs to inspect and collect data from.

Malcolm Airey standing next to what should have been cGPS FLSK but was actually a GPS that Daniel Farinotti needs to inspect and collect data from.

I’m not sure it was the most embarrassing moment in my life, but it ranks right up there with pooping in my pants during class in the second grade. My coworkers were a bit peeved to have spent half an hour vandalizing someone else’s GPS, but they seemed to have taken it in stride. God (or maybe just Google) only knows what they said behind my back. So we piled ourselves and our equipment back into the plane and I provided Alan with the correct coordinates. He said it was another 2.9 miles up the fjord so off we went.

A few minutes later we located the correct site, made another touch and go pass, and landed at about 1115 Rothera Time (RT), about one hour after our first landing. Again we unloaded everything and I took some pictures. The bottom of the solar panel was 50 centimeters above the snow surface, which, if we’d had more time, would have indicated that we needed to raise the panel.

Alan had told us we needed to leave in three hours, and since I knew I had to replace the electronics at this site, I decided we would not raise the panel. We started digging, and again struck some ice, enough that Malcy need an ice axe to get through it, particularly a layer directly under the panel. We quickly reached the top of the enclosure less than a meter below the snow surface. After another 20 minutes, we had cleared a shovel width around the enclosure down to a depth about two inches below the bottom of the lid.

I took photos, and we undid the latches and raised the lid at 1217 RT. I took photos of the electronics inside. I could see the leftmost two LEDs were off, the next two were flashing, and the rightmost two were lit steady which I believe indicated that the system was still recording data, but just not able to send it back to Boulder. Continuing the detailed instructions I’d received from Seth White of UNAVCO, I powered down the receiver, and then turned off the three power circuit breakers. I asked the other three team members to swap out the WXT520 weather station while I swapped out the Iridium modem and the Trimble GPS receiver.

Correct cGPS FLSK unit that we repaired and upgraded.

Once we had completed all the equipment swaps, I took more photos, powered up the circuit breakers, and then made the first call to Seth at 1345 RT. He told me to latch up the box, he would run some tests, and to call him back in 10 minutes. When I called him back, he said that FLSK had answered the phone, but he couldn’t connect, so he had me unlatch and reopen the box, and start inspecting the wiring. I also told him I could only see one green LED lit. After a minute or two talking to him, I noticed that I hadn’t reconnected pin 2 on the timer circuit after disconnecting it in order to reroute the pin 1 and pin 3 connections. I reconnected pin 2, and Seth was then able to disconnect. I told him I could still only see one green LED, which puzzled him until I realized I was still wearing my sunglasses. I took them off, and then saw the same pattern I saw when I first opened the box. He said everything now looked good to him, so we closed up the box again and loaded up the plane.

Large open crevasses near the Flask Glacier grounding line about half way between AMIGOS-3 and AMIGOS-4.

Large open crevasses near the Flask Glacier grounding line about half way between AMIGOS-3 and AMIGOS-4.

I asked Alan if we’d have time to fly over Scar Inlet to see inspect the crevasse situation, and he said we did. I asked Malcy if I could sit in the co-pilots seat this trip, and we took off at 1430 RT. We again made a pass over AMIGOS-3 and I took some photos, one of which actually came out (barely). We flew over the heavily crevassed region of Flask Glacier downstream of AMIGOS-3, and found AMIGOS-4 on Scar Inlet about five minutes later at about 1445 RT. We made a pass around the station and this time I got better photos. Alan said that the crevasses around the station precluded landing nearby, but he didn’t see any problems landing off a kilometer or so to the east as Steve King had done last year with Ted Scambos.

I then gave Alan the cGPS LPRD coordinates (easier to do with the headset on). I didn’t get any photos but I could easily see that the snow level is up to the bottom of the solar panels, so we’ll need to raise them, probably by just extending the existing splints. And we should have time to do this since I don’t have to swap out any electronics, just upgrade the firmware and the configuration. We then left at about 1500 Rothera time or so.

Weather in Rothera was considerably worse than we had left. We landed at 1620 Rothera time under a 500-1000 foot ceiling into a northerly 25-30 knot wind and moderate snow. Andy B acknowledged a minor share of culpability for the cGPS error, and said that he had since rechecked all of our other four locations that he had given the pilots and they all looked good. Took lots of appropriate but gentle ribbing at dinner about my error earlier in the day. Turns out that the mistaken GPS was one of the units that Daniel needs to visit to collect data, so the fact that we uncovered it was not a wasted effort.

Was too nervous about the presidential elections to head to the bar and spent the evening downloading exit poll results. Most of the polls were still open when I went to bed around 2200 RT and there weren’t many real results available yet. Note that with the end of daylight savings in the states, MST is now four hours behind Rothera time, which in turn is three hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

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