Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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In Marambio

February 18, 2014

Terry writes:

Ted and Rob had decidedly mixed feelings about returning to Base Marambio, a.k.a. Base Mondongo, after their one-month stint in 2006, but they admit that so far the food has been surprisingly good (and tripe-free). Of course a vegetarian would have a tough time here.

Marambio Welcomes You

Marambio Welcomes You

Marambio Street Sign

Marambio Street Sign

Marambio Dining Hall

Marambio Dining Hall

The sleeping quarters are also a bit of a challenge. The three of us are sharing a room with three other men, none of whom speak much English, but more than any of us speak 
Spanish. The ear plugs we brought for the C-130 flight are even more necessary in Room 15 once the snoring cranks up around 3:00 a.m. But the worst part of our stay so far has been our frustration in trying to get to our field sites.

Marambio Bunk House

Marambio Bunk Room 15

We spent our second day here (Thu 2/13) repacking our field equipment in anticipation of a Friday morning helicopter flight. Then at 8:30 a.m. we awoke to bright sunshine and had our equipment moved to the pad only to find out that only one helicopter would be flying one field team to their site and it wasn’t us. Later that evening we were told that no helicopters would be flying Saturday, but that Sunday would possible.

Our Gear in Flying Boxes

Our Gear in Flying Boxes

All Our Gear

All Our Gear

Helo Flying Over Base Marambio

Helo Flying Over Base Marambio

Saturday (today) we again woke to bright sunshine but were told that Sunday nobody would be flying helicopters due to a poor weather forecast. So now our hopes are on Monday for which the forecast again looks good.

The Guys Looking Out Over Base Marambio

The Guys Looking Out Over Base Marambio

View from Base Marambio

View from Base Marambio

We took advantage of the good weather this morning to take a two hour hike down a few hundred feet to a point northeast of the runway and about 150 feet above the water. On the way, we observed an armada of bergy bits being blown to the southwest by a stiff breeze in our faces. We also found mounds of fossil clams and snails eroded out from local sedimentary deposits mixed with an assortment of igneous rocks that had been transported east from the Antarctic Peninsula by long departed glaciers.

Rob and Terry Start Their Saturday Hike

Rob and Terry Start Their Saturday Hike

Ted Joins Rob and Terry for Saturday Hike

Ted Joins Rob and Terry for Saturday Hike

Are They Lost?

Are They Lost?

Ice Puzzle 1

Ice Puzzle 1

Ice Puzzle 2

Ice Puzzle 2

Man and Antarctica

Man and Antarctica

Regarding Ice

Regarding Ice

Saturday night is party night in Marambio, and the pulse of the station picks up. Slightly. Everyone is issued two beers (yay!) and dinner is something fun — for this Saturday, steak sandwiches. Beef is kind of an “Argentina thing.”

So now, again, we wait.

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Leaving El Palomar

February 17, 2014

Terry writes:

Following the Night of the Tormentas, we ended up spending three more nights there, punctuated by sweltering days, humid nights, occasional storms, numerous power outages, and even losses of running water. We were hopeful that each day would be our last, and even got as far as turning in our linen one morning only to hear that there were continuing problems with getting our C-130 tested. Following that disappointment, we were issued new linens and were thrilled to see the plane takeoff and make four circuits around the base.

We were then told to have our new linens checked in and have our bags ready for pickup at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. We had our usual beers at La Fortunata that afternoon, followed by our first and only off-base dinner at Zarco, an Italian place.

Last Dinner Off Base at Zarco, an Italian Restaurant

Last Dinner Off Base at Zarco, an Italian Restaurant

The next morning went off more or less as planned, and we took off at about 10:00 a.m. for Ushuaia, about five hours south of El Palomar. There we dropped off half our passengers who were bound for Argentine bases other than Marambio, while we took a few photos of the surrounding sunlit mountains and glaciers, huddling behind a wall to shield ourselves from a chilly 30 knot breeze, and waiting for our C-130 to be refueled.

On Board the C-130 Flying to Ushuaia

On Board the C-130 Flying to Ushuaia

The C-130 Being Refueled

The C-130 Being Refueled

Thirty minutes later we were again airborne, this time heading for rainy Rio Gallegos. IAA maintains a very nice barracks area there (Rio Gallegos is another Fuerza Aerea base). We were served two meals, pasta and beef at about 4:00 p.m., and polenta and beef at about 9:00 p.m. Some of us read books, while the others watched “Battleship,” a US Navy recruiting film in English with Spanish subtitles disguised as a science fiction thriller. Spoiler alert: the Earthlings win.

Rio Gallegos DNA Building

Rio Gallegos DNA Building

Rio Gallegos Messhall

Rio Gallegos Mess Hall

The next morning we awoke to a cloud-free sky above a landscape reminiscent of eastern Colorado. We watched from the passenger terminal as our cargo was reloaded, and then stepped aboard the C-130 for the final leg of our now 14-day journey south. After an uneventful four hour flight, we touched down in Marambio.

Terry Enjoying His Stay at El Palomar

Terry Watching from the Passenger Terminal as the Cargo Is Reloaded

Rob Making the Best of His Spare Time at El Palomar

Rob Watching from the Passenger Terminal as the Cargo Is Reloaded

C-130 Cargo Plane being Reloaded in Rio Gallegos

C-130 Cargo Plane being Reloaded in Rio Gallegos

Boarding the C-130 for the Fnal Leg of Our Now 14-Day Journey South

Boarding the C-130 for the Final Leg of Our 14-Day Journey South

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Buenos Aires

February 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.

Sarah dropping the guys off at DIA with all their gear.
Sarah Dropping the Guys Off at DIA with All Their Gear
Terry and Ted with Gear at DIA
Terry and Ted with Gear at DIA
Terry and Rob at DIA with Gear
Terry and Rob with Gear at DIA

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.

Returning from Airport after Customs Victory - Sebastian Marinsek, Argentine Science Liaison, in front seat
Returning from Airport after Customs Victory – Rob and Terry Fight for Food after Long Day of No Eating, Sebastian Marinsek, Argentine Science Liaison, in Front Seat

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.

The Guys Watch the Super Bowl in Buenos Aires at Hotel Bar - Their Faces Tell It All -  Score 9 to 0
The Guys Watch the Super Bowl in Buenos Aires at Hotel Bar – Their Faces Tell It All –
Score 9 to 0
Terry Watches Super Bowl with Disappointment - Score 23 to 0
Terry Watches Super Bowl with Disappointment
Score 23 to 0
Rob Drowns His Sorrow - Final Score 36 to 8
Rob Drowns His Sorrow – Score 36 to 8
Port Building in Buenos Aires - Magnificent Architecture
Port Building in Buenos Aires – Magnificent Architecture
Casa Rosa the President's Palace - Buenos Aires
Casa Rosa the President’s Palace – Buenos Aires

We depart for Rio Gallegos Argentina and on to Marambio Station tomorrow.

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A weather-curtailed radar survey of Leppard Glacier

April 21, 2013

Rob writes:

On Sunday, 21 April, we launched a series of helicopter missions to the lower portion of Leppard Glacier. The main objective was to find a place to install a very sensitive seismic instrument that my friend, Won Sang, and his team needed to deploy. Unfortunately, the rock sites surrounding the glacier were too unstable, so the decision was made to place the equipment on the ice next to where Jenn, Erin, and I were preparing for our radar ski traverse.

Erin Pettit and Jenn Bohlander prepare for their radar traverse on Leppard Glacier, with a background view down glacier onto the Scar Inlet Ice Shelf.

Erin Pettit and Jenn Bohlander prepare for their radar traverse on Leppard Glacier, with a background view down glacier onto the Scar Inlet Ice Shelf. (Credit: Rob Bauer, NSIDC)

The ski traverse was planned so that we would cross the main section of the glacier, with the three of us roped up to each other and to the sleds, and with the radar antennas stretched between Erin and me. We had flown over the area prior to landing in order to see if we could pick a spot with a minimum of cracks—but a lot of those crevasses could have been hidden.

We put Jenn out on the front since she was the lightest, and it was her job to lead us along the route, moving slowly and looking for any sign of crevasses. I was next, tied to Jenn and a sled I was hauling.

Jenn Bohlander on Leppard Glacier, with a background view up glacier.

Jenn Bohlander on Leppard Glacier, with a background view up glacier.  (Credit: Rob Bauer, NSIDC)

Rob Bauer on Leppard Glacier, with Mount Alibi in the background.

Rob Bauer on Leppard Glacier, with Mount Alibi in the background. (Credit: Jenn Bohlander, NSIDC)

Erin brought up the rear pulling the final sled. Luckily we had chosen right and saw no hint of a crack, but the skiing was tough due to the really rough ice and little snow cover.

We returned to our starting point, where Won Sang and crew were working, just in time to be picked up by the helos that had come out to warn us of bad weather sneaking in on the ships location. We loaded up and flew back to the boat, where we made a tricky landing in the wind and weather.

R/V Araon, parked against the fast ice in the Larsen B embayment, awaits the return of the Leppard Glacier radar survey team.

R/V Araon, parked against the fast ice in the Larsen B embayment, awaits the return of the Leppard Glacier radar survey team. (Credit: Rob Bauer, NSIDC)

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First flight to Crane Glacier

April 18, 2013

Ted writes:

While we waited for a good weather window, the ship proceeded to a couple of different fjords in the same region as Beascochea, mapping the sea bottom and collecting shallow cores. Weather fronts and low clouds dominate the climate of the western Peninsula, where conditions are similar to the Olympic Range of Washington State: steady westerly flow of cool maritime air that brings almost continuous precipitation (here, snow). At last a gap appeared in the forecast on Wednesday, April 17, affording a window of opportunity for us to get to the first of our sites for science on the eastern side of the Peninsula.

Mountains surround Beascochea Bay.

Mountains surround Beascochea Bay.

The helicopters ready for take-off.

Helicopters ready for take-off.

It is tricky working from the west side. Weather can change fast on either side of the narrow spine of ice and rock that is the Antarctic Peninsula, and that means that flight conditions can end abruptly, potentially stranding a few of us off the ship for a few days. But the day dawned clear enough, with brilliant polar autumn sunshine on the mountains in the bay. We made our move, loading up several people in both helicopters for a survey of several sites and some quick work on our existing stations gathering data and replacing glitchy components.

Take-off is always a thrilling, dreamy experience, and to lift off in an Antarctic fjord is particularly spectacular. You sense a living power in the flow of the ice through impossibly steep, sculpted mountains. And then you head off into one of the many ice valleys and follow it, up, up, and onto the narrow snow plateau at the top of the Peninsula ridge. As we dropped onto the other side, into Crane Glacier, we noticed a buffeting wind. Cold air draining off the ice cap was pouring into the glacier valley, carrying powdery snow with it. This drew the air around the cliffs with it, causing the helicopter to lurch a bit, before our pilot settled it into the center of the main valley, flying downstream.

Cold winds blowing snow into the Crane Glacier drainage basin.  Above are "standing wave" lenticular clouds, similar to those seen in Colorado's  Front Range.

Cold winds blowing snow into the Crane Glacier drainage basin.
Above are standing wave lenticular clouds, similar to those seen in Colorado’s Front Range. (Credit: Ted Scambos, NSIDC)

We were looking for a site for a seismometer station, and for the first Extreme Ice Survey camera in Antarctica. Extreme Ice Survey is a project led by photographer-artist-scientist, James Balog, that had recently produced an award-winning documentary on a camera’s view of the loss of Arctic glaciers, called “Chasing Ice.”  The seismometer and camera would enhance the science of the Korean project in the area: to listen to the glaciers as they break away and retreat, and then to watch (with the camera) exactly what the events look like as the changes progress for a couple of years.

As we flew down Crane Glacier, I was impressed with how blue the ice was. Clearly there had been strong winds in March and April that have blown off much of the snow, and allowed the ice below it to show through. A large lake that forms most summers was completely refrozen, looking like some giant primitive painting of a blue jellyfish, swimming up the Crane.

A large refrozen lake of meltwater in the middle of Crane Glacier.

A large refrozen lake of meltwater in the middle of Crane Glacier. (Credit: Ted Scambos, NSIDC)

The helicopter approached our site warily: a rock outcrop about 500 meters above the glacier on the river, left side of the flow, right near the ice front. Our pilot, Carlos, asked us if this was the spot, and then patiently looked over the side, and felt the winds with the helicopter as he passed slowly alongside the landing area. Then he moved in and gently touched down.

The calving front of Crane Glacier - 6 km wide. Note the glacier  trim line of past glacier levels on the far side.

The calving front of Crane Glacier – 6 km wide. Note the glacier
trim line of past glacier levels on the far side.

Youdong Cho, mountaineer and Won Sang Lee, geophysicist, look over the outcrop of rock selected for a planned later deployment of the seismic instrumentation and the Balog camera.

Youdong Cho, mountaineer and Won Sang Lee, geophysicist, look over the outcrop of rock selected for a planned later deployment of the seismic instrumentation and the Balog camera.

The site was fantastic: rocks of many types strewn over a large bedrock hill that had been polished smooth by some past, much thicker version of Crane Glacier. We scampered all over it, giddy with being at this remarkable place, a perfect spot for this instrumentation. The ice front was right below, and a patio-sized area of flat polished rock was ideal for the seismic station’s rock-bolted base. Excellent.

We headed back after about 20 minutes exploring, a brief visit to the other helo group working on Foyn Point, and then back to the ship. Coming back into Beascochea, the ship looked like a tiny orange speck—but it was home to us and 80 others on board. Icebergs and sunlight played together in the fjord. A tight circle over the ship to look things over, and then we landed.

Video of Beascochea Bay, Courtesy Erin Pettit, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Helo pilot Carlos has found the Araon.

Helo pilot Carlos has found the Araon.

Iceberg in Beascochea Bay.

Icebergs in Beascochea Bay. (Credit: Ted Scambos)

The Araon in Beascochea Bay.

The R/V Araon in Beascochea Bay. (Credit: Ted Scambos)

That evening, we saw from satellite imagery that the eastern side of the Peninsula had far less sea ice than just a few weeks ago. The winds that had polished Crane Glacier, and the other glaciers on the east side, had also pushed the ice away from the eastern coast, creating a broad path for the ship to sail into. This would greatly accelerate our work, because the east side is much drier (a bit like Patagonia, but much colder of course) so flying is generally easier. Moreover, there would be a lot of interesting things to do for the other scientists on board—more cores, more mapping of the seabed, and more biological study.

The ship is now heading at top speed for the Larsen A embayment. We think we may be able to fly again on Saturday or Sunday.

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Cargo loaded and now aboard the Araon

April 13, 2013

Rob writes:

Hola amigos!

We have been busy sorting our equipment and organizing our transfer from land to sea. In the few spare moments, we managed to see the sights and take a few photos.

Jennifer Bohlander and Rob Bauer await the arrival of the Korean icebreaker R/V Araon at the Punta Arenas pier. The NSF-USAP icebreaker R/V Lawrence M Gould is directly behind Jenn and Rob. The super-structure of the Gould's sister ship R/V Nathaniel T Palmer can be seen to the left of the Gould.

Jennifer Bohlander and Rob Bauer await the arrival of the Korean icebreaker R/V Araon at the Punta Arenas pier. The NSF-USAP icebreaker R/V Lawrence M. Gould is directly behind Jenn and Rob. The super-structure of the Gould’s sister ship R/V Nathaniel T Palmer is seen to the left of the Gould.

Jennifer Bohlander stands in front of the monument of Ferdinand Magellan in the main square of Punta Arenas.

Jennifer Bohlander stands in front of the monument of Ferdinand Magellan in the main square of Punta Arenas.

Ted Scambos, Rob Bauer, and Jennifer Bohlander at their hotel Diego de Almagro in Punta Arenas.

Ted Scambos, Rob Bauer, and Jennifer Bohlander at their hotel Diego de Almagro in Punta Arenas.

Most of our time ashore was spent in the DAMCO and AGUNSA warehouses, looking at inventories and tracking down extra gear.

Ronald Ross and Jennifer Bohlander locate and inspect cargo items in the DAMCO warehouse that they had shipped to Punta Arenas over the past couple of months.

Ronald Ross and Jennifer Bohlander locate and inspect cargo items in the DAMCO warehouse that they had shipped to Punta Arenas over the past couple of months.

Ronald Ross, Jennifer Bohlander, and DAMCO warehouse employee Francesco.

Ronald Ross, Jennifer Bohlander, and DAMCO warehouse employee Francesco.

We are aboard the R/V Araon now and enjoying a relatively smooth ride. I think that will change here pretty soon, as the swells seem to be getting larger. We are tying everything down so that it does not slide across the deck of our rooms and lab space.

We’re all in great spirits and are looking forward to getting our boots on the ice!

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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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