Saturday, November 01, 2014

Made it to McMurdo!

After another day's delay (that's why you didn't see a post from me yesterday...) we finally took off today.  It was a full flight, 103 passengers, and even a C-17 gets crowded with that many folks. 

But we made good time, arriving at McMurdo about 5 1/2 hours later.  Now we get to start checking out our gear, moving cargo around, and participating in more training...

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Further delays, walking around Christchurch...

When traveling to the ice, it's not uncommon to meet up with many others, also making the journey.  I sometimes start seeing other Antarctic program folks as early as LA, but more often in Sydney or Auckland, and definitely in Christchurch.  By now, in Christchurch, there are a few dozen participants (at least) trying to go South. 

So it's not that uncommon to hear the rumor that a flight has been delayed or cancelled, and the phone call came for me in late morning.  So now we're currently scheduled another day out, meaning hopefully flying on Saturday.  Of course they haven't gotten so formal as to give us a flight time yet, so I'm considering this quite tentative. 

I spent most of the day walking today, around town.  In the morning I went in search of a good bakery, and ended up with a ~3 mile round-trip:
The pie at the bakery was well worth the walk! 

Then in the afternoon I wanted to get down to see the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, which I've always enjoyed.  Then I went over to take a look at the progress on rebuilding the city centre (as they spell it here), stopped in at re:start, an outdoor mall made entirely out of shipping containers.    It's amazing what they do with shipping containers in this city.  Also along the way, it was really neat to see how they've brought art into the public spaces that are left open where buildings have been removed- the GapFiller project in particular hosts a wide variety of items, including one that I passed, the 'dance-o-mat' which is a dance floor with amplified speakers and lighting, coin operated and you plug in your own music player.  Of course it uses the chassis of a washing machine to house the electronics. 

It turned out to be a relatively long walk, but again, well worth it!  The total for the day ended up at around 11 miles...  nice to stretch my legs after all that flying!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time Travel and the standard SNAFU

Flying from LAX to Sydney, a 14+ hour trip, there's plenty of time to think about time zones and the international date line...

The first chunk of the trip to the Antarctic is now complete.  It all started with a 3-hour bus ride to Logan Airport, then a 6-hour flight to LA, 4-hour layover, then 14 hours to Sydney, then 3.5 hours in Auckland...  and customs in Auckland was slow enough that I missed the last flight of the day to Christchurch.  Delay point number one!  Overnight in Auckland.  Then the next day, I arrived in Christchurch, got issued my Extreme Cold Weather gear, and headed for the hotel, with plans to arrive the next morning at 8:30 to check in for the flight to the ice.  

No such luck!  at around midnight I was awakened by the phone, and the night clerk informed me that we'd been given a 24-hour delay, and that since my hotel was fully booked I'd move to another one.  So now I'm itinerant in Christchurch!

So that's the standard SNAFU.  But why did I label this post with time travel?  Well, crossing the international date line on a flight like this is pretty close to time travel; crossing 17 time zones and the international date line, we lose almost 2 days; it turns out that for most of October 26, 2014, I did not exist!  Even crazier is that the long flight left LAX at 11:50 pm, and arrived in Sydney at 8:30 am.  I got to thinking where the sun was while we were flying, and realized that the sunrise was following us, racing us, and we were losing!  I then went about thinking about how "fast" the sunrise moves around the world.  Well, the Earth revolves at 15 degrees per hour, and on the Equator, a minute of longitude is a nautical mile, so a degree is 60, making 15 degrees 900 nautical miles, meaning the sunrise races around the Earth at 900 knots!  No wonder it can beat a jet airplane...

Ok, signing off for now; better luck for us tomorrow perhaps!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Back to the Antarctic! Roosevelt Island, 2014

I'm headed South again.  This fall, I will attempt once again to actually get to Roosevelt Island, the location of the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution (RICE) project.  Our work there this season will involve geophysical borehole logging of the borehole that's left over from the ice-coring operation that was completed in 2012 (some of you will remember my ill-fated attempt to get to Roosevelt Island in January of 2013...

Hope things go better this time.  We'll be going in light, with a crew of three: myself, Dartmouth senior David Clemes-Sewall, and Maurice Conway, a highly experienced Kiwi field mountaineer.  We hope to be onsite for only a week or so, but if you check out my last attempt, you will see that weather trumps all down there. 
Here's where we're trying to get; a small ice-rise in the Ross Ice Shelf.  But first, I take a bus to Boston (I'm writing this on that same bus), then fly to LA, to Syndey, to Aukland, NZ, to Christchurch, NZ, wait (hopefully only) a day in Christchurch, and then to McMurdo station, Antarctica.  Then the really challenging flying is getting out to the Island.  Stay Tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

And finally home!

Our flight back to the US went off this morning without a hitch- about an hour later than was initially planned, but that's nothing in the Arctic.

The only downside was that one of the heaters was not working, and so it did get pretty darn cold inside the cargo bay, and people got out their layers of cold weather clothing::

It was a great trip with a terrific crew.  Thanks all!  Check back next time!  I expect to be heading to the Antarctic in November 2014...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trip to Summit!

Almost to the last leg.  Today Thomas, Adam, and Joanna got the cargo ready to be shipped while I hitched a ride on a flight out to Summit Station.  It was a great flight, and I got to see what is happening out there at Summit!

Looking out the back door of the herc at Summit- we got there in a relatively short time...

Here is the Temporary atmospheric watch observatory at Summit, where most of the atmospheric measurements are made:

It was a great trip, I got to look at many of the buildings.  And tomorrow, on to Scotia, then home!

Miles and Miles

Today was an exercise in the "possible".  Our plan A was that we would work all day with the helicopter at our site, and then head back to Ilulissat, spend the night, and then tomorrow get fly in a helicopter to Kangerlussuaq, first stop on the way home.

But first, we had to get out to our site, and weather has to be good.  So we started the morning like any other, an early breakfast and getting ready to go.  I almost never believe it will go off without any delays, but this morning it did!  We arrived at the helicopter ready to go, and shortly thereafter we took off for our site.

As it turned out, the weather was spectacular.  We visited 9 new sites and collected close to a kilometer of kinematic GPS at each one, bringing our total to about 18 km or a bit over 11 miles total.  So a greatly successful day.
I couldn't resist getting a quick selfie for the blog as I walked along in incredible weather...

When I called Kathy on the coast to check in, we learned that a new option had come up for our transport back to Kangerlussuaq; a Beachcraft King Air (also from Air Greenlnad, and we would be able to take it back to Kangerlussuqk.  We jumped at the opportunity...  But the caveat was that the King Air was slated to leave at 5:30, and we were arriving in the helicopter at 4:15...  still having to pack up our gear and get everything ready to go.

But we went for it, and just worked quickly and efficiently to get all of our cargo packed...  and it was less stuff than I'd thought! 
Here are the team and the cargo! all ready to go.

And here's the King Air- it was really fast down to Kangerlussuaq.  And now we're here, and I'll have a flight to Summit tomorrow before we head back home on the 18th.

What a whirlwind!  More after the summit trip tomorrow. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Where the day takes you...

Sometimes in the Arctic, the day evolves in strange ways, and you find yourself at the end of the day exactly where you started.  This morning started early for me when I got up to check and see if we had been able to procure more fuel for the helicopter.  The great news was that some of the fuel at a camp run by Alun and Bryn Hubbard and Poul Christofferson, all of them UK and researchers I've known for many years, was available.  So our plan was to find the fuel cache, have Daniel carry some fuel to our site in the sling (passengers aren't allowed when the helicopter is slinging), come back and collect us, and head out to our site.  The bad news was that the weather near there was not great, so we decided to cancel for the day.  We had a leisurely breakfast, and relaxed while thinking about what we'd be doing with our day.

Then came the call, and Kathy (one of our great support folks) said "Can you be ready in a half an hour?"  The weather had changed and we were on again.  We often "hurry up and wait", but now we were in "wait and hurry up" mode.  We made it to the airport as quickly as we could, and soon took off. 

So, as we were on our way to the fuel cache, we were looking for a bunch of barrels....  And we found them, along with more cargo that was to be flown out the camp (the cache had been landed by boat and was not on the ice).  But in addition to that, we found the aforementioned boat, the S/V Gambo, run by Alun:
Here a small inflatable heads out to Gambo, ready to ferry passengers.  Gambo has traveled a great many of the world's oceans, and is currently in Greenland supporting Alun, Bryn, and Poul's research.  In fact, Alun happened to be there at the cache, and as it was nearly lunchtime, invited us to have lunch with his crew aboard the Gambo.  Of course we accepted!

Thomas in the cockpit of Gambo, as seen from the companionway.  We had a great visit with the crew and Alun regaled us with stories of boats, helicopters, and small UAVs.  It was great.  We had expected to be standing around a pile of fuel drums waiting for our helicopter, but instead we were treated to lunch and conversation!

Seeing a hatch adorned with stickers from many expeditions, we had to add our own:
And then lunch was over, and it was time to go back to shore and await our helicopter.  We loaded up, and headed out towards our site.

As we got further inland, the weather did not look as good as it had before; there were some low clouds and the light was getting "flat", which is the precursor to what is known as a sector whiteout.   This would be very dangerous for trying to land, as it is impossible to see the surface.

So, in the end, we turned around and headed back home, arriving back around 6:30 in the evening.  We hadn't gotten any science done, but we had achieved one of our objectives, slinging our fuel in.

Strange how things go differently than you think they might!  Now we're hoping to fly tomorrow, when better weather is predicted. 

And maybe I should stop crossing my fingers.