Getting The Band Back Together : Shooting The Gap, More Training, Frankenstein’s Monster

In the past ten days only one flight has made it to McMurdo.  Thankfully for us our engineering team was part of it’s precious cargo and they have now joined Me, Catherine, and Britney at the bottom of the world.  We’ve been enjoying a barrage of Condition 2 weather, with brief gaps of ‘temperate’ (positive temperatures!!) and nearly windless weather.  In addition to Mick, Anthony, and Matt we’ve also been graced with the majority of our cargo which also had to make the flight down from the northern hemisphere.  The gents have set up their HQ in the lab, and after finishing up our final training yesterday, we’re ready to start cooking!

Mick and Anthony in Santa's Workshop

Mick and Anthony in Santa’s Workshop

All of Icefin's external modules after being unpacked

All of Icefin’s external modules after being unpacked

A close up of one of the modules

A close up of one of the modules

A close up of Matt Meisters handiwork

Another view of Matt Meister’s handiwork

Although we’ve all been chomping at the bit to get to work, and ultimately get out into the field and begin gathering data, the Antarctic weather has had other plans.  Day after day of Condition 2 weather repeatedly postponed our essential training needed to venture off base.  After nearly a week of cancellations we managed to sneak in Piston Bully, Snowmobile, and Sea Ice training between waves of storms.

Matt at the helm of a Piston Bully during training

Matt at the helm of a Piston Bully during training

Britney and Anthony going along for the blistering 5mph ride in the back of the Piston Bully

Britney and Anthony going along for the blistering 5mph ride in the back of the Piston Bully

After the rather conservatively paced Piston Bully training, all of us were eager to move onto a more sporty version of Antarctic transportation.  Luckily, the next day provided us with just that opportunity.

Prepping for snowmobile training under cloudy skies

Prepping for snowmobile training under cloudy skies

Leaving the base and heading out onto the sea ice to take the snowmobiles for a spin

Leaving the base and heading out onto the sea ice to take the snowmobiles for a spin

A first person perspective courtesy of Anthony

A first person perspective courtesy of Anthony

Getting some pro tips out on the sea ice, hut point in the background

Getting some pro tips out on the sea ice, hut point in the background

Mick West, freshly trained snowmobile operator, atop a five foot mound of snow out on the sea ice

Mick West, freshly trained snowmobile operator, atop a five foot mound of snow out on the sea ice

Yesterday morning we awoke to harsh Condition 2 weather, with heavy snow and harsh winds.  Our planned sea ice training was cancelled, par for the course at this point.  However, the afternoon brought warmer temperatures, the clouds burned off, and turned the bleak morning into a perfect afternoon.  We got the call to gear up and get ready to head out onto the sea ice.  This set of training focuses on the ability to profile cracks in the sea ice.  Although in places the sea ice is up to 8 meters thick, the large expanse is riddled with refrozen fractures that, if proper precautions aren’t taken, can be extremely hazardous.  Thus to venture out onto the ice one must know how to identify, and ‘profile’ these cracks to safely travel to field sites.

Step one - after identifying the crack, which is a skill in itself, exposing the sea ice hidden under nearly two feet of snow

Step one – after identifying the crack, which is a skill in itself, exposing the sea ice hidden under nearly two feet of snow

A group effort to clear out as much snow as possible from our trench

A group effort to clear out as much snow as possible from our trench

The wind was working against us so we had to build a wall to prevent out trench from refilling with blowing snow

The wind was working against us so we had to build a wall to prevent our trench refilling with blowing snow

Matt enjoying the first nice weather since his arrival to the ice

Matt enjoying the first nice weather since his arrival to the ice

Step 2 - start drilling holes to find out the depth of the ice

Step 2 – start drilling holes to find out the depth of the ice, Matt power drilling in the front, and the Britney-Catherine duo hand drilling in the back

The drilling continues!

The drilling continues!

The purpose of profiling these cracks is that each ice bound vehicle can safely cross a crack of a certain ice thickness and width, if the ice is too thin for too wide of a channel you’ve got to find a different, safe, place to cross.

The actual measuring of the ice depth, via an ingenious combination of a cable and tape measure with a bar shaped drop weight at the bottom.  Once the line is dropped through the ice, the cable is slackened letting the bar move to a horizontal position, a quick tug on the tape measure and the bar hits the bottom of the ice holding tape measure at the thickness of the ice.

The actual measuring of the ice depth, via an ingenious combination of a cable and tape measure with a bar shaped drop weight at the bottom. Once the line is dropped through the ice, the cable is slackened letting the bar move to a horizontal position, a quick tug on the tape measure and the bar hits the bottom of the ice, holding the tape measure at the exact thickness of the ice.

Members of the certified sea ice safety club

Members of the certified sea ice safety club

With training done, and everyone settled in, we’re getting revved up to start doing some testing to prepare for our caravan journey out to our field sites, where we can begin exploring the eerie world beneath the McMurdo Ice Shelf.

Cheers! -The SIMPLE Team

One response to “Getting The Band Back Together : Shooting The Gap, More Training, Frankenstein’s Monster

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s