|The LC130 at Waste Divide.
|Luxury travel in the LC130
I was working as a field guide for the British Antarctic survey (BAS) with a mainly American team as part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC). The ITGC is a collaboration mainly between the British and the Americans to study the Thwaites Glacier area of West Antarctica. There were a number of field teams at different locations around the glacier studying the rapid changed that have occurred in the are in recent years. In this post I will focus on the season in general, and discuss the science that was carried out in a future blog post.
The delays this season have focused around getting in and out of McMudro. In my previous post, written in late November, I mentioned the delays we had experienced in getting to McMurdo, and then in leaving McMurdo. Well the latter continued after I had written the post. After a couple of false starts I didn’t actually leave McMurdo until the 13th of December when I was flown on a LC130 to Waste Divide. Waste Divide is a major logistics hub for USAP operations in West Antarctica and is situated at about 79°S. It plays a similar role for USAP that Sky Blu does for BAS (a place I spent a lot of time back in 2015/16 and wrote about here http://blairfyffe.blogspot.com/2015/12/sky-blu.html), but being USAP is much more substantial.
Fortunately the four skidoos and a lot of
the science kit our team required had overwintered at Waste Divide and had already been flown down to our field site while we had remained stuck in McMurdo. This meant that
once we arrived at Waste Divide things moved pretty quickly. I was only on the
ground at Waste for a few hours before myself and two other members of the team
climbed aboard a Basler and headed off. We were flown down to a spot on the
Eastern Thwaites Ice Tongue that we called Cavity Camp, and would be our home
for the next few weeks.
|Arriving at the site that would become Cavity Camp via Basler.
There were three of us on first put in flight to Cavity Camp, and three more people arrived the next day. However, due to further weather delays it was another week or so before all eleven members of the team had arrived. The team consisted of eight scientist/technicians, two field guides and one journalist. The aim was to carry out various geophysical surveys of the area, and to drill a couple of holes through the iceshelf.
|Wetness on the side of the tent. It was not
cold where we were with some
very wet snow/rain.
|The full team in front on a trusty twin otter.
|It could get quite busy with eleven people in our cook/dinning tent.
|Accommodation was in a mix of mountain tents (in picture) and more traditional pyramid tents. This gave everyone their own space, but did require a bit of effort to maintain including building some substantial wind walls.
The Doston team headed off on the 8th of January, and after a few days of moving camp and equipment four kilometres we were ready to start drilling the second hole. Although we only had six rather than thirteen people, the ice was a little thinner in this location (about 250 metres), there was not geophysics happening concurrently and we knew better what we were doing. This meant the drilling went a lot more efficiently with the whole process being successfully completed in 24 instead of 36 hours. After that a few days of packing up equipment and tents, and we was flown back to Waste Divide by twin otter on the 18th of January, and then on to McMurdo a few days later. I had been out on the Eastern Thwaites Ice Tongue for 35 nights.
|Sewing up the tent after it was ripped in the storm.
I type this sitting in McMurdo. I was suppose to be leaving McMurdo a few days ago, but unfortunately the American Air Force C17 which was suppose to take us off continent seemed develop a problem with an engine when it landed, and thus could not transport us. In total three of the four flight I have had in/out of mcMurdo has been significantly delayed by weather/planes breaking down. Looks like another day of hurry up and Thwaite!
|A C17 with a broken engine leading to more delays. Notice the ladder below the rightmost engine. Seems to be a common theme!