Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The day we've been waiting for!

We had an amazing day today.  This is what we'd been going for....  Great weather, everything worked, we were efficient, we worked hard

First thing this morning, we got up, grabbed breakfast, and headed to the airport.  Daniel was ready to fly, so we loaded our gear and were off the ground by a little after 8am.  Today we were able to bring the whole crew out, which made our data collection very efficient indeed.  And there were some firsts!
Joanna takes her first steps on an ice sheet.  As you can see, it would be hard for the weather to be any better. 

Our strategy today was to 'divide and conquer', using two teams of two, we would visit as many as possible of the 9 sites we'd previously identified.  Daniel would shuttle each team in turn from one site to the next.  At each site, we'd measure the surface elevation along a 1 km transect using kinematic GPS. 
Here, Joanna and Adam get our GPS antenna sled/survival bags ready for hauling.  Once these were assembled, only one team would fit in the helicopter at a time, but we were able to get the sled into the helicopter without removing the tripod. 

The day proceeded very well and quickly.  The progression went something like this:  1) ready the GPS for measurement by measuring the height of the antenna from the snow surface.  2) start walking!  follow a GPS track to make the transect we're looking for.  3) prepare to be collected by the helicopter- this involves managing the rope, the sled, making some notes, and getting ear plugs in.  3) When the helicopter is in sight, crouch low and hang on to everything tightly to keep it from being blown away.  4) "Hot" load: the helicopter lands within 4 feet of you- when you get the sign from the pilot, carefully and deliberately move to the door, open, one person climbs in with the rope, the other hands in the sled and climbs in; the helicopter begins to lift off almost as soon as the door is closed.  5) 3-5 minutes of 'down' time flying to the next site.  6) "Hot" unload: the helicopter sets down and the loading operation is reversed.  7) Repeat.

This kept our pilot busy, and kept us busy!  one team did this at 5 sites, and one at 4.  All told our team walked 9 km today.

And here's what it looks like to walk along on the ice sheet!  Joanna out in front, navigating us to the next point, while I haul the GPS sled. 

In any case, great success!  We have plans for tomorrow, the only complication of which is that we used all of our fuel cache today, so we couldn't repeat today tomorrow if we wanted to.  We're hatching plans as I type, but you'll have to come back then to see what they are! 


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