Hey everyone, sorry for the silence but we've had an incredibly intense field season in the icy south with the ICECAP project (and a bit of my NASA-funded Mars analog work). I've just departed, currently in Hobart, Tasmania on my way home. A contingent of our group remains at Casey Station, an Australian base, until Feb. 2nd carrying out the remainder of the work.We spent three weeks (or was it four? or a hundred?) in McMurdo configuring and testing our new airborne platform, a beautiful old (1942) DC-3 converted to a Basler BT-67 with modern turbine engines, new avionics, skis and a whole slew of upgrades. We installed and flight tested our equipment there until Jan. 6th when a small subset of us set off for the other side of East Antarctica (Duncan Young, Dusty Schroeder and myself along with the two pilots and mechanic) in our plane loaded down with spares, tools, base station equipment and lots of fuel. Scott Kempf, Jamin Greenbaum and Isaac Smith left the continent in hopes of a more normal existence. Andy Wright (of Univ.
of Edinburgh) went the long way around to Casey, via Christchurch and Hobart. Don B. went home for a week to attend meetings. Gonzalo Echeverry stayed in McMurdo to be our man-on-the-scene in case we need spare parts or remote help. (He lives a bizarre solo existence in McMurdo until the return of the airplane on Feb. 2. If he doesn't
write a book about it I'll be disappointed.) Martin Siegert, ICECAP PI from Edinburgh and winner of substantial UK funding to pay for the aircraft hours, was also with us in McMurdo for a couple of weeks. Tom Richter continues to feed us technical advice from Austin.
Our transit across East Antarctica took us to the French/Italian base at Dome C (lunch there is highly recommended... and don't forget to have an espresso), the French outpost at Dumont d'Urville (where March of the Penguins was filmed), and then on to Casey Station where we
will conduct the bulk of the season's work. We are flying radial lines from the coast, over 1,000 km into the interior and back during 7-8 hour flights each day when the weather allows. In some ways this is a new approach to airborne geophysics in Antarctica, using a long- range aircraft that doesn't require remote field camps. In other
ways, it recalls the early 1970's when a C-130 was used to do the first long-range reconnaissance mapping of Antarctica. That model is unsustainable in today's cost-conscious world.
Bottom line is that having your own aircraft (under direct contract from UT rather than through NSF) that doesn't require deep field logistics, but can operate from deep field camps if needed, is the way to go. All we need is fuel delivered by ship, some sort of food (French preferred over Australian), and beds to sleep in every once in a while.
Don Blankenship and Jamin Greenbaum went separate ways after McMurdo but both ended up back on the continent at Casey Station yesterday, arriving on the same Airbus 319 that I departed on. We were also joined there previously by two Aussie colleagues. It is truly an International Polar YearThe International Polar Year (IPY) is a two year (2007-2009) program of international research and education focused on the Arctic and Antarctic. Click here for more information about IPY. project.
Despite the intense nature of this season and lack of sleep, things are going remarkably well. We've dodged bad weather a number of times and we're acquiring massive amounts of data. And everywhere we go, people want to see our cool airplane.
I've posted some pictures and a bit of video at