After a solid month of waiting at McMurdo Station, I’ve finally made it to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Field Camp – commonly knows at WAIS.
Last Saturday, after the holiday schedule shutdown had worn off, we received notice from the McMurdo Air Transport office that our flight to WAIS was first priority the next morning. Sunday morning we woke up, and miraculously, the weather was great, and we transported out to the Williams Field Airfield – built on the Ross Ice Shelf about 30 minutes drive across the ice from McMurdo. After a bit of a delay and a few cups of coffee at the field galley, we finally got on the LC-130 Hercules, and the Air Force crew got things started – for a minute. After two attempted starts of the engines, they realized a maintenance issue, and scrubbed the flight for the day. We almost made it, but had to wait until the next day. Monday morning came, and we once again had decent weather at McMurdo and borderline weather at WAIS. This time we actually took off, and after a month of waiting, were finally on our way to McMurdo.
The flight from McMurdo Station to WAIS Divide Field Camp takes about three hours, however at the three hour mark we were still in the air. The weather at WAIS while were in flight had gotten worse, and the flight was forced to circle looking for a break in the clouds until finally, at the last minute, we swooped down, landed, and ran off the plane – finally at camp!
The first day was spent prepping for work, and getting our field gear setup. Except for the pilots and doctor, everybody lives on the edge of camp in “tent city”, a grid of various tents. My team has fairly nice “Arctic Oven” tents, which are very roomy for one person, and do get a little warmer than the outside. The photo attached to this post is a pic of setting up one of the tents – pretty nice – and thanks to Enerplex for the solar panel I now have strapped to the top of my tent, which keeps all of my cameras and gadgets fully charged from the 24/7 sunlight here. We also got basic comms and organization gear setup in the science tent, and took an initial look at the Drill Arch, where we’ll be working for the next three weeks.
It’s the end of day three now, and work has been going great. Over the next three weeks we have a ton of work cutout for us, and we’re all slowly getting more used to working in the extreme cold all day.
Communications is extremely difficult from such a remote location. The camp has no internet access, except for one daily 10-minute satellite pass, which is restricted to only pre-queued emails under 50kb. Because of that, I’m experimenting posting to my WordPress blog via Email. If all works, you’ll also see a small picture attached to this post – it’s small to stay under 50kb, but I’ll try to send as many as possible.
During my time at field camp, I’ll be filming and photographing as many activities as possible, higher res photos and video posted as soon as I’m back.
Cheers from WAIS Divide Field Camp, Antarctica