Friday, January 25, 2013

Headed Home

Well, this looks like the end for this season.  I'm about to have breakfast, after which I will head to the airfield and fly back to Christchurch, the first step in heading home.

It's been an interesting ride!  Thanks for visiting on this trip, and tune back in next time!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pulling the plug

We had planned to make two more tries to make it out to Roosevelt Island, as it's getting late in the season, so today and tomorrow were our options.  The morning started out as usual, and a call from the field indicated that the weather was improving, so we had hope...

But today, something much more serious intervened.  Another airplane is currently missing in the transantarctic mountains, and all resources are currently committed to the search and rescue effort.  There has been an NSF press release about this incident, and it is being reported in New Zealand and also in the the global press.  We still don't know anything about what happened, and still have not been able to locate the aircraft.  

So it makes sense that all resources are being directed towards the search and rescue mission.  In light of this, a field season in which we failed to make it to the field seems like a very small problem.  We have spent most of the day trying to learn more about what is happening, and our thoughts are in the transantarctic mountains this evening.  

Tomorrow we start the process of "returning from the field"- stowing away our field gear, shipping cargo back to the US, and in a few days getting on a plane back towards home.  In the meantime, we are hoping for a positive outcome soon for the downed aircrew.  Fingers crossed, but this time not for our own flight but for the rescue flight.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I thought I had

The perfect trick for actually getting out into the field today; I had agreed to give the McMurdo Wednesday Science Lecture.  I figure- I have a commitment now- of course the fates would conspire to make me break it?

But no.  Weather report from Roosevelt Island:  Surface definition Nil, horizon definition Poor.  The surface and horizon are two things that the pilots really need to be able to see in order to land safely.  Not to be seen today, though.  

So that meant I had to give the talk I'd agreed to give :)

I think it went ok.  Here's the promotional poster they created for the talk- it looks pretty exciting!

We're on the board for tomorrow as well, but the weather forecast isn't great.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

High hopes, top priority.... FOG.

Well, yesterday restored my trust that there are aircraft in the vicinity, and they do fly, and in fact I can fly on them.  So for some reason I awoke this morning with higher expectations than before; partly that was also due to the fact that we were first on the priority list for this morning's flight.

But it was not to be.  Shortly before the fixed-wing coordinator called me, I got a call from Roosevelt Island; and it was foggy.  So, no flight today.  

I washed dishes again in the galley, and I was thinking about just how many plates there are to wash when there are almost 900 people on station.  But the guy across from me also washing dishes had been in the navy, where he worked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier- a ship that carries over 5000 people!  It made me wonder about what the galley looks like on a ship like that- more than 5 times the size!  

In any case, we're top on the priority list for tomorrow's flight as well, and I've volunteered to give a science talk in the evening if we don't fly, so perhaps having made this commitment, that's what's required for us to actually fly.  As ever, fingers crossed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Actually Flying!! Day trip to Siple Dome

What excitement to actually scramble to get ready for a flight this morning!  I got the call at 7am that we were "go" for a day trip to Siple Dome (SDM), where I needed to inspect the borehole casing on a deep borehole (1000 meters) that was finished in 1999 (see the early archives of this blog for some discussion of my work there back then).  So at 7, I learned I needed to be ready for transport at 7:30, so I kicked into gear and got everything ready.  

The De Haviland DHC-6 (AKA Twin Otter) that  took me to SDM.  I was the only passenger!  The flight to SDM from McMurdo was about 3 hours.  I had some time for a little light reading in addition to admiring the scenery...

Siple Dome is currently operated as a kind of remote gas station for airplanes- it's staffed by a crew of two.  Outside their little hut, there's a signpost with the distances to various locales.  The borehole is just a short snowmobile ride away.

Here's the video inspection system that I used to look inside the casing.  The issue was that concerned us was the possibility of damage to the casing due to firn compaction- I'd seen this before at GISP2, when I took a look at it back in 2007 (see the blog post:

The good news- all of the casing joints appeared to be completely intact, with no sign of damage or failure.  Below is a quick screen grab of one of the joints- you can see it as the white circle of snow- the snow collects in the hollow space formed by the joint.  

Ok, long day, time for bed.  We're first priority for a flight to Roosevelt tomorrow, but I don't want to get too confident (though I keep hoping!).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

And another Sunday

Another Sunday in McMurdo.  Not much to report, actually, as mostly the whole station shuts down.  

But I helped out in the kitchen again- more sweeping and mopping.  The crew really appreciates it as well, since it helps them get finished just that much more quickly!

Tomorrow, the primary mission is to another field camp, and ours is a backup.  So, we'll see how it goes...  still working to stay optimistic!  More tomorrow, either way.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday in Mactown

Well, the snow that was promised for today showed up, and in fact just about when it was promised! We were immediately canceled for a Roosevelt Island trip, but there was a possibility of a trip to Siple Dome; but that was quickly nixed as well.  

Here, you can see the snow in the air; what you can't see is Observation Hill behind me.  On a clear day, just above the buildings in the background you'd see a large, dark hill composed of volcanic rock.  Not today!  It underscores the poor visibility.  I spent most of the day working on improvements to my logging box.  It was already capable of logging data, but I have now made it easier to work with- I described it to a colleague over dinner as having been the "Volkswagen" model, and I'm improving it to the "BMW" version.  

At the end of the day, I volunteered to wash dishes again.  But this evening the dishes were finished quickly, so they moved me to sweeping and mopping.  My colleague Ross Virginia happened by ans snapped this shot for posterity!  Just looking for a way to be of use around here.  Tomorrow is Sunday, when all of McMurdo shuts down for the day.  I'd hoped to volunteer to help out with the McMurdo Marathon, but it's been cancelled on account of poor weather.  Then Monday we're back to playing Airplane Bingo- stay tuned!