Friday, September 30, 2011

A Recent and Exciting '11-'12 Antarctic Field Season Development

Polenet Station deployment (via Twin Otter) on a remote nunatak in West Antarctica

For the past three years, I've had the incredible opportunity to live and work at a remote field camp in West Antarctica.  This field camp, WAIS Divide, is the site of an exciting ice-core drilling project.  Each year that I've deployed, has been somewhat different, but all very memorable.  During one season I had the unique experience of driving out on a short traverse about 50 miles from camp.  I felt like a true Antarctic explorer when I stood on the ice sheet miles from any human being with the thought that no other human had ever stood on that spot.  In 2009, I also had the unique experience of tagging along with the Penn State seismic team on a short traverse out of McMurdo up to Cape Royds.  We passed by Scott's hut at Discovery Point, the calving front of Barne Glacier, and the penguin rookery near Cape Royds on our way to Shackleton's historic hut.  This year, it looks like again, I have been presented with a very fortunate and exciting opportunity.

On "traverse" of of WAIS Divide in 2010.

Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds (with hundreds of penguins in the background)

The POLENET project in Antarctica (Polar Earth Observating Network) is an ongoing endeavor to install and maintain an entire network of seismic and GPS stations around Antarctica.  There are several Universities, PIs (Principal Investigators), companies, and groups involved.  Historically, Penn State has been heavily involved as we have several PI and Co-PIs with the project here.  In order to install and service these remote stations, various teams of scientists deploy out of McMurdo to "Base Camps", like WAIS Divide, and then fly out to the stations via small Twin Otter flights.  The incredible part of these smaller flights, is that it means flying over remote nunataks, going to beautiful places like Patriot Hills, and hopping all around West Antarctica by way of a tiny twin-engine Otter (not much larger than the Cessna 172's that I am licensed to fly).  This is all great John, but what does it have to do with you....

For a fourth year, I will again be deploying to WAIS Divide to work a short 5 week season.  There will only be 3 science techs this year, as we are only expected to drill about 100-150 more meters of ice.  I was very grateful and fortunate to be asked down for another season.  I will be able to again work on my surface studies and deploy some solar sensors for my own PhD research, so I am very excited.  The WAIS Divide camp is a great place to work and live out of in Antarctica.  The camp is always run very smoothly, and the people are incredible.  Every year I come home with great stories and wonderful memories.  Because of the short season, I was not scheduled to deploy this season until mid December....and so was recently approached by one of the Polenet PIs, and asked if I'd like to participate in the Polenet project before my WAIS Deployment.  

I said, so let me get this straight..."I go down before WAIS Divide for a few weeks, I fly all around remote parts of West Antarctica in a Twin Otter deploying and servicing GPS and seismic stations, I will work out of Patriot Hills (a private camp that very few people ever get to go to), I get to see and work in the Ellsworth Mountains (home to Antarctica's highest peak: Vinson Massif) and at Union Glacier, I get to possibly put some of my old computer engineering skills to work, I get to work along side UNAVCO folks (a company/organization I have a lot of interest in), I get to dig snow-pits and study the surface all over West Antarctica, AND I still get to go to WAIS Divide after?"


"'re kidding right?"


"DOH!  I really,really want to..... BUT.... I don't want to be away for 3 months straight again, it's just too long to be away from home, and I have some commitments back home that I can't miss before I go to WAIS Divide.  If only there was a way to split it up........*sigh*"

"You can come back home in-between deployments"

"'re kidding right?"


"woohoo!....sign me up please!"

So long story short....and if all my paperwork goes through (which some of it is still pending), this will be the plan.  I have already passed my physicals for WAIS anyway, so I don't have to do any of that, AND I've got all of my other paperwork submitted.  Just waiting on the final "ok".

If this does go as planned, I will certainly take LOTS of pictures and it will undoubtedly be another Antarctic season to remember!  
Polenet map showing location of several stations (w/ Patriot Hills and WAIS noted)

One view from Patriot Hills

Polenet Station

Some of the guts and inner-workings of a polenet station

1 comment:

Carri Westbrook said...

Finally - I was wondering if you had made a decison or not. That is going to be so awesome for you and exciting. I can't wait to hear all about it. See you in a couple of weeks.