Posts Tagged ‘Rothera’

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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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Flight preparations

November 5, 2012

Terry writes:

Mike’s Ablation Valley group left after lunch, the first Rothera-based field deployment of the season. I was informed by field operations manager (FOM) Andy Barker that we are scheduled to fly tomorrow morning to attempt Scar Inlet, Flask Glacier, and maybe Leppard Glacier. I continued charging batteries and repacking equipment. Set up Iridium dial-out setup on Old Bransfield porch. I dialed in and connected to the cGPS unit on Leppard Glacier. I also called the cGPS on Flask, which answered the call but did not connect. I will need to swap out the electronics at Flask.

After discussions with Tamsin and Malcy, I decided against bringing solar panel leg extensions to Flask, and just raise entire station if necessary.

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Battery news

November 4, 2012

Terry writes:

Unpacked equipment in my office. Moved batteries from charging shed to my office. Started minor remaining charging. Tested AMIGOS-1. Noticed some resetting that occurred a few times when first powering up, but then went away, similar to what I had seen in Boulder. Got an e-mail from Chris Hill that the batteries I gave him tested good, but that he would be unable to use them since they are gel-acid and his charger only works with wet-acid batteries. So I told him to just leave them in the AGUNSA warehouse and I would deal with them after I get back to Punta Arenas.

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A belated Halloween party

November 3, 2012

Field assistant Dave Routeldge and Terry (right) at the Rothera Research Station Halloween party.

Terry writes:

After breakfast in the tent, we broke camp, and then piled into the tractor with another group of campers, leaving Ian, Mike, and Mike’s Aberystwyth University post-doc Bethan to do a full day of Mountaineering Training. The three of them will be spending the rest of November and most of December doing fieldwork reconstructing the glaciological history of Ablation Valley on the East coast of Alexander Island on George VI Sound.

After getting back to the station, I did laundry, called Sue and her dad Red at his 90th birthday in Arkansas, retrieved my computer and electrical equipment, downloaded pictures from my cameras, and, most importantly, assembled my costume for the Halloween party that evening. The “fancy dress” room upstairs in Old Bransfield had just what I was looking for: black, elegant, glittery but still understated, except possibly for the shiny cowboy boots. My only slight disappointment was that I had to settle for a cotton rather than a leather skirt.

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Pitching pyramid tents

November 2, 2012
Terry attends camping training in near Rothera Station. Although researchers like Terry have camped on Antarctic ice many times, they have to attend this training to refresh their skills.

Terry Haran participates in camping training in near Rothera Station. Although researchers like Terry have camped on Antarctic ice many times, they have to refresh their skills before each expedition.

Terry writes:

Spent the morning on field training with field assistant Ian Hey, learning about British Antarctic Survey camping procedures and equipment. Then in the afternoon Ian and the other students in my group, including Mike Hambrey, Bethan Davies, and Alex Brisbourne, traveled by snow tractor about six kilometers up “The Ramp” to the field training area next to “The Kaboose.”

We pitched two “pyramid tents” (called “Scott tents” in the US program), wherein my tent mate Alex and I cooked dinner, talked about 60s rock groups (of which he was surprisingly knowledgeable despite being only 39 years old), and went to sleep.

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Training days

November 1, 2012

Terry writes:

I spent all day at training sessions, including Aircraft Familiarization, Station Communications, Environmental & Medical, Vehicle Familiarization (where we got to drive Gators and snowmobiles), and Field Medical Box (where we each got to give a dummy an injection of real but expired adrenaline).

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Punta Arenas to Rothera Research Station

October 31, 2012

Looking out to the west on the Dash-7 about 20 minutes before landing in Rothera Research Station.

Terry writes:

I attended a short Dash-7 flight briefing at the Almagro with my twelve fellow passengers. Then they all piled into two vans, while I got VIP treatment again as the sole US Antarctic Program/DAMCO passenger to the Punta Arenas airport, this time with Octavio and a driver. The four-hour flight to Rothera was uneventful until the final half hour or so when the Antarctic Peninsula and Adelaide Island sea ice, glaciers, and mountains came into view and people crowded around windows to take photos.

Got off the plane. Shook hands with Clem Collins, the aircraft operations chief who I had met during my previous visit to Rothera in January and February 2010. Following a brief orientation meeting, I touched base with science liaison Tamsin Gray, met my designated field assistant Malcolm Airey, and moved into my room in Giant house. My roommate is Mike Hambrey, who works with glacial geomorphologist Neil Glasser. I am to share a science office in Old Bransfield with Daniel Farinotti, who will also be doing GPS and radar work on Scar Inlet as well as on Starbuck and Flask Glaciers.

Took a short walk around the point and took a few photos. Lots of snow on the ground and lots of sunshine here. Got training all day tomorrow and part of Friday.

Rothera station looking north from the top of Memorial Peak during my walk around the point.

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One last look

November 24, 2010

Ted writes:

On Saturday, weather again looked to be clearing over the area of our lost “Site Beta” AMIGOS station, as well as over the Larsen C, so I joined a flight that was planned for another group (Dan McGrath and ‘Puma’, a Chilean graduate student) to get an overflight of our last unvisited site. The flight included the chief pilot for BAS/Rothera, Alan Meredith, and several BAS staff hands, Ben Tibbetts and Ian, to assist with the main objective, raising a Larsen C AWS station managed by Dr. Koni Steffen (also of the University of Colorado) higher to keep it from suffering the same fate as Site Beta. The difference is that the Site 108 AWS received about 2 feet of snow since last year. Site Beta received 30.

As we left Rothera behind us, we could see clearing ahead, and soon we were flying over the crest of the Peninsula. But below us the situation still was not good. Long streamers of blowing snow trailed off the surface, and from every rocky ridge. As we turned, I could see that the snow was moving about half the speed of the plane–and the plane was moving at 120 kts. Alan turned to me and said, “I’m sorry Ted, it’s just not going to happen.” I had to agree. We were still 20 miles from the site, and already there were low clouds building in addition to the snow streamers.

The plane turned east, and landed a short while later, in surprisingly calm air on the eastern side. “That turbulence we passed through on the way down,” (it was just a bit of bumpiness) “was the shear layer in the air. The high winds are above us now.” We spent the afternoon refurbishing a full weather station, raising it 3 meters higher so that it will survive at least 3-4 more years.

The team headed north on Sunday, November 21, arriving in PA around 6 pm. We’re now en route home, just in time for Thanksgiving, with several repaired stations and a plan to return next year.

The LARISSA AMIGOS Team of 2010/2011 wishes to thank AGUNSA, NSF, and especially BAS in Rothera for the excellent support we received, and for pitching in to help when needed.

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Success

November 22, 2010

Ted writes:

Clear weather finally prevailed on the morning of November 18, and after one last check of satellite imagery, we bolted at noon in our 1970s-vintage DeHavilland Twin Otter (with brand-new instruments and engines) off the runway at Rothera, headed for the Larsen Ice Shelf. Aboard were myself, Martin, and Jenn, BAS pilot Doug Cochran, and a BAS staffer named Andy “Boat” Wilson – known as Boat because he is a diver and a boatman for the base, and a sturdy guy to have along.

A few puffs of grey cloud passed by on our way upward, but then gave way to one of the most glorious spectacles in glaciology: the Larsen Ice Shelves and the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Spilling ice from the ridge, which sits in the southern storm track building snow, flows down like marshmallow cream through black, jagged peaks, and then spreads out to an impossibly flat, broad sheet of ice. Only the subtlest of rolls and ridges mark the history of the bending that the ice endured to reach the sea.

What we saw confirmed what we’ve learned from the data streaming in from the AMIGOS and other stations. While the west side of the Peninsula has experienced unusual snowfall, the east side, where our stations are, has been bone-dry and very warm all winter. Already there are melt ponds slowly filling, and the dry warm wind has scrubbed the surface down, exposing every crack and ridge.

Our first rendezvous was at the Scar Inlet AMIGOS site. Although the station is still functioning, two of the most important measuring devices have gone silent or intermittent over the winter: weather and ice motion. The camera is still working well for now. But as we circled the site, we realized that the landing last year was something of a miracle: the site is surrounded by dozens of narrow (2-foot wide)
cracks and slots. The pilot circled several times, determined to give us a landing if there was any chance; but the risk of bending a ski on the airplane was too great. We did manage to get several pictures of the site, and in some ways the news is good. The station is still standing, and with the anchors still firmly in place.

We then flew up the first major glacier feeding the Scar Inlet Shelf, Flask Glacier. A second AMIGOS there is working very well, but needed new software and a new snow reflectivity sensor. We use the snow reflectivity to gauge when melting occurs: the snow darkens quite a bit when it is wet. The landing went perfectly; right on the tracks from last year, and Doug pulled the plane right up to the station. The wind was brisk, but warm, right about at freezing. The station has about 70 centimeters of snow around it, but it is an oddity–everywhere around it is evidence of windswept snow surface.

While we were standing there, the camera came to life! It moved to the six set shots that Terry had programmed in months ago. I tried to remember the sequence, and started leaping around in the snow, trying to get in every picture. But the camera was too fast. So, in every one of those pictures, one second later, I’m standing right there smiling. Martin, Mr. Smarty-pants, let the camera come to him, by standing still, and Jenn just shrugged and kept working. Jenn and I opened the station and changed the software chip, while Martin removed the old snow sensor and installed the new one. A quick call to Terry confirmed it was all working again. We took off.

Martin’s main goal was to repair the GPS station on Leppard, and that was our next stop. Here again, the dryness and warmth of the winter and spring amazed us. There were crevasses and even melt ponds all over the glacier. We found the station, and as we had guessed, the solar panels had blown over during the winter. We had expected a major digging effort, but in fact the panels were just below the surface. It required about two hours to excavate them, stand them up again, and re-secure them. On the sat-phone again, the UNAVCO office confirmed we had a working station. Next!

It was getting late, now, the sun definitely lower as we rounded a cape on the ocean and approached the rusty-looking outcrop at Cape Framnes. Here Doug really had a challenge. None of us had seen this site before, and it was steep, icy, and loaded with narrow cracks. The outcrop was perfect for helicopters, deadly for an aircraft. We made three different low approaches, each one ending with some new Scottish swearing (Doug is from Glasgow), and a proper decision not to touch down. We eventually found a site 2.5 miles and 400 meters above our outcrop. Martin, Andy, and I hopped out, grabbed ice axes and the new satellite modem, and started hiking.

It was beautiful now, light winds, cool and refreshing, and we were walking downhill towards a stunning seascape. Walking and walking. The last 400 yards before the rock was a windswept blue ice surface, slick enough so that footing was tricky, but then we made it onto the rock.

The outcrop had a blasted appearance, shattered fragments covering a primeval surface of lakes, sand, gravel, boulders nestled between blue ocean, turquoise sunset sky, and pale blue ice. Truly: an end of the earth, and a spectacular place to be. The fix went quickly, and we paused to take in the surroundings before the hike back to the waiting plane.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank the people at Rothera and British Antarctic Survey. At every step they have been generous, helpful, responsible, and eager to see us get our work done. I especially want to thank Doug Cochran, who did an outstanding job of piloting, and made the right decision on every single landing and attempt (IMHO). He pushed for our success, but never lost sight of the far more important safety decision. Andy “Boat” was a ready, cheerful helper for whatever we had to do (and he practically dragged my lifeless body up the hill after Cape Framnes, after a very tiring, hugely successful day.) And, when we finally flew into to the Rothera hangar, at 20 minutes to midnight, both Clem Collins (a veritable institution at Rothera) and Andy Barker were there to help get the plane in and unload our gear. Thanks.

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