07 February 2009

Along With Shelley (AWS) and Melissa

I finally got out into the field on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with the folks that run the automatic weather station (AWS) project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In 2006, I was here in December, and totally missed seeing their group here, since they came in January 2007.  When I arrived, there were four of them here working on that project.  Matt is the PI of much of the work they do there, and I've known him since soon after I started graduate school (although not before, when I had classes in the same building).  Shelley currently works there...she was a year ahead of me in the UW AOS program, although I did not know her well until I got into this Antarctic stuff.  John is a professor at the University of Colorado, and has been involved in Antarctic research for many years.  One of his students, Melissa, was along as well, and I had met her at the Antarctic meteorology meeting last year in Madison.  Matt left the first weekend I was here, and John later that week.  Shelley and Melissa were also out to WAIS Divide during my first full week here.  They said they would try to get me out somewhere with them this week.  

Last Monday, they tried to get me on the flight with them to service Sabrina and Lettau AWS sites.  These are on the southern end of the ice shelf, and would have been really cool to go to.  However, the flight people never got the email from Shelley, and for reasons I'm not sure of, they wouldn't let me go along.  Bummer.  At least the girls tried for me.  But they still had to service two local stations at Williams and Pegasus airfields, which were short truck drives away.  On Wednesday evening all three of us went out to Pegasus North AWS.  The drive there was almost an hour, even though it's only a few miles from McMurdo (this is the same airfield that I arrived at).  The main work there was to swap out the antenna.  I can't remember if there was anything else, I was having fun playing in the snow.  It didn't take too long, then we headed back into town.  Here are a few photos from that excursion, with the sky, Melissa (ground) and Shelley (tower), and me:

The plan for Thursday was for me to go to Williams Field with Melissa while Shelley stayed back and worked on packing things up (they were leaving on Friday).  Thursday morning, a return visit to Pegasus North was added to the itinerary, to change the electronics box.  We went to Williams Field first that morning.  Melissa was driving the truck, and upon arrival, pulled the truck just past the flags that line the snow/ice road.  The leading front tire got buried in some soft snow, and after only a few revs, it was stuck.  We had no shovel along, and it was pretty deep.  We waited for a vehicle to pass by (weather observers ironically), and they radioed for assistance for us.  One of the big tractors they use to groom the runways came by.  She was really helpful and dragged the truck out.  Overall not a big deal, probably something that happens fairly frequently.  At the site, we installed a new aerovane and acoustic depth gauge.  However, the new antenna was forgotten in the lab, so we made a return trip to Williams Field early that afternoon after lunch.  Between that, we went back to Pegasus.  There was a sharp difference in weather between the two sites, only a few miles apart.  Williams Field was sunny and dry, whereas Pegasus was more exposed to the McMurdo Sound and was cool, dark, and windy.  Here are pictures from Williams Field: looking out towards Pegasus, Melissa up on the tower, and my photo ops from each site that day:

On Friday, Shelley and Melissa were supposed to leave.  However, the flight was cancelled Thursday evening due to mechanical issues.  In its place they scheduled a LC-130 flight going north to Christchurch, for a medevac.  Roughly 30 of the 116 on the original C-17 manifest were put on the LC-130 flight.  Shelley was on it, but Melissa was not.  So Shelley left Friday morning, and Melissa and I went back to Pegasus again to try to fix some wiring inside the electronics box, I think to the wind speed sensor.  It was cold and blustery, at least compared to the lollipop weather we had been having.  That went pretty quick, and we were easily back for dinner.  Here's a picture Melissa took of me there:

It's really quite an operation to handle everything from the construction of all of these instruments and the associated equipment, shipping it here, dealing with the hassles of getting to these sites (LOTS of flight delays), and taking care of or mitigating any unforeseen issues that come up along the way.  I'm not sure I could handle what they did, especially Shelley and Melissa, who have been here since New Years.  It was a lot of fun getting to go along with them...I never get to do anything this "hands on" in my work.  I hope I was of some help, and glad I didn't sabotage their efforts with my clumsiness!

Melissa is still here, as the flight today was cancelled due to X-treme turbulence south of New Zealand.  We'll see if it goes tomorrow...I always have some insight on the pending flight decisions, being in the forecast office most of the day.  If things keep getting pushed back, my return might be as well!  Next post will be about another excursion I had with some of the met techs here to Ford Rock.  


Cooler Brian said...

Two apparel notes - first off, nice work representing Brewer fans in Antarctica. Secondly, are those Xtreme Cold Weather Gear shoes that you're wearing? They seem unique.

GoBrewersGo said...

1. Thanks, I hope I'm the biggest Brewers fan in Antarctica. I see some guy walking around in a Mets hat all of the time and want to point and laugh at him. Not a lot of sports apparel being worn here though, which is surprising to me in some ways.

2. Those are the "bunny boots" they give us, they are water tight and pretty warm, to the point that they keep moisture in almost too much.

Anonymous said...

Questions 3...I hope you brought the bunny boots home! I have a matching pink suit for you to wear!!!

Your favorite sister,