“Unscheduled Team Building”
Hello from Christchurch! We’re supposed to be in McMurdo. We were originally scheduled to fly down via the Airbus on the 26th, but upon arrival we found out we were getting bumped up to a C-17 flight attempting to get south before the storm. This was good news, but we knew the forecast wasn’t good and it would likely be days before the next opportunity.
The Vehicle- ARTEMIS
This season is all about Artemis, a large hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle built by Stone Aerospace that is the primary vehicle developed under SIMPLE. Artemis is a long-range adapted version of the successful ENDURANCE and DEPTH-X vehicles which carries remote and in situ instruments for characterizing the water, ice and any microbiology found within and below the ice including a CTD, ADCP, mapping and profiling sonars, imaging, HD video, a science tower with DOM, chlorophyll-a, turbidity, and pH sensors, as well as a water sampler and a protein fluorescence spectrometer to test for microbiological communities within and on the ice. At left is Artemis practicing her autonomous visual docking system in the lake.
Our team of eight is heading down during winfly in August to prepare the sea ice camp ahead of the arrival of Artemis and the rest of the team come October. We’re eager to get south and begin work, but unfortunately that first weather window wasn’t quite enough so we checked back into our hotels to wait out the storm. Which brings me to the next subject-
Flight Delay Activities
Delays generally work in 24hr increments, and B-259-M has made good use of the time to keep caught up with work, continue prepping for the field season, and if you’re Britney, write grants. You can’t get too far out of Christchurch while on notice for a potential flight, but there is plenty of opportunity for incredible day trips.
Arthur’s pass offers great hiking and waterfall chasing in an alpine setting on the South Island of New Zealand. With spring still a few days away here much of this pass through the Southern Alps is still covered in snow but as it melts the waterfalls grow even more spectacular.
A quick car rental and we were off, headed south towards Akaroa. Tucked into a valley on the volcanic Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is a small harborside town offering hiking, sailing, and wildlife boat tours. Upon arriving, a stop inside the information site informed us that the wind was too strong for any tours to leave so we turned to a cafe for lunch and mythical hot chocolates instead.
Wandering towards the water after, it turned out one boat was indeed heading out and we were just in time to jump aboard the 15 m powered “Canterbury Cat” to go find some Hector’s dolphins, Pohatu penguins, fur seals, and several species of birds including Spotted Shags and Albatross.
Banks peninsula itself is composed of beautiful layers of columnar basalt and iron rich ash that form beautiful sheer cliffs and arches along the coast. We made our way south out into the mouth of the harbor and the promised three meter rollers blown in from the Pacific where we finally caught up with some dolphins. Four of five joined us and spend a fair bit of time surfing and playing in the bow wake. Also spotted- gravity defying sheep dotting the cliffs. Apparently the grass tastes sweetest closest to the edge.
This one involved a bit of planning ahead, sizing wetsuits the night prior just in case we were delayed again. The next morning the weather still hadn’t broken so after another impromptu car rental and a quick stop at the dive shop we were off towards Cave Stream, along the way to Arthur’s Pass. Vickie, John, and Bill are experienced cavers (to say the least), and were prepared with both headlamps and plenty of guidance for navigating 600 meters of limestone cave filled with occasionally chest deep 7 °C water. Turns out caving is a great time, so as soon as we got through the first time we turned right around to head through again (after surprising a few other tourists).
Castle Hill is a beautiful region of exposed limestone boulders that has great hiking up and around the massive boulders. The early evening light make it clear to see why Castle Hill was one of the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings.
We’ve had a good time here in Christchurch but the team is eager for the last leg south. The weather seems to have finally cleared at McMurdo and we’re scheduled to head out this evening on a C-17 night flight. With any luck, the next post will be from the ice.