In a little more than two months, I’ll be getting on an airplane to go
to Antarctica. It is beginning to seem more real every day, especially
after having spent the last week with the AWS research team at the
University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. I had a very informative
week, but more than being informative, it was reassuring.
I try to be a
very competent, knowledgeable and capable man. I’m generally in a
leadership position in most of the things I’m involved in and I
generally know what I’m doing and how to do it. But not this time.
This time I’m not the leader. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing and I
don’t really know the people I’m going with.
This trip to visit my team changed all of that. I spent several days
actually being able to see and handle the equipment that we would be
installing, troubleshooting, and maintaining in Antarctica.
This is a terrible picture of the team. Trust me, they are good guys!
David Mikolajczyk (who will be deploying with me) and I sat in on a
meteorology class taught by Dr. Matthew Lazzara (the PI - Principal
Investigator of the AWS project).
This is a heavy duty wind speed sensor for locations with extremely high winds.
Dave and Lee Wellhouse (with whom I
am scheduled to go to the South Pole) showed me the instruments that
will be installed.
This is an enclosure that houses and protects the memory and parts that communicate with satellites to send the data that the Automatic Weather Station has collected.
They carefully explained what the function of each
instrument is, how it works, and we even discussed the power demands of
This is a new aerovane that will be going with us to Antarctica as a replacement. This instrument reads wind speed and direction.
Andy Kurth, the Electrical Engineer who designs the
internal electronic components, explained the extreme conditions in which
the equipment is expected to function and showed me a special extreme
low temperature freezer that is used to test the components to ensure
that they can operate in the extreme cold.
This is an extreme low temperature freezer used to test electronic components for use in the Automatic Weather Stations. Notice Han Solo?
George Weidner (the most
seasoned of the team) filled me in on very useful information that I
would need in Antarctica and some history of the program.
While learning about the hardware, sensor housings, temperature
tolerance ranges, and thermometer accuracy was important to me, there was
something else that I hoped to get from the visit. Going to Antarctica
is a big deal. Going to the Antarctic with a bunch of strangers could cause
some stress. What I was very happy to learn is that I’m not going to
deploy with a bunch of strangers, I’m deploying with a bunch of new
friends. Not only am I more familiar with the AWS equipment, but more
importantly I'm much more familiar with the AWS team!