Posted by: sioglac | Jan 4, 2012

Good things come in threes

Let’s give you a run down of my 2012 thus far:

January 1: New Year’s Day was unlike any other NYD I’ve ever had. We woke up late (10 AM breakfast) but still had an afternoon work day planned. It was windy, which meant we couldn’t shoot seismics since active seismics rely on very sensitive microphones (called geophones) buried just beneath the surface. So sensitive, the noises we want to hear (from explosives) are drowned out by wind and snow blowing on the surface. So Huw called the drill team back together to finish up drilling shot holes. This left Lucas and myself free to finish moving the four GPS we had to move. We didn’t get out of camp until 1PM and then the anchors holding the solar panel in place seemed deeper than usual (some were chest deep on me, which, short jokes aside, is a lot of snow for something that was installed only a year ago). From 1PM to 7PM, Lucas and I dug out two stations. We were moving slowly and morale was low. We didn’t even get to redeploy the GPS stations. We just dragged them back to camp. Off to a questionable start…

January 2: Lucas and I drove a GPS survey of the main seismic line in the morning. Lots of music to listen to and snacks to eat. Good start. The plan was to do a shallow seismic survey in the early afternoon to analyze how fast sound moves through the upper snow layers. Then, when the wind dies down in the later afternoon as Huw predicted, we will go back to the normal active seismics. Well a cable broke during the shallow survey and the wind never died down, so at 3 PM we called it a day on seismics. That left 5 people (Lucas, Matt, Rory, Atsu, and me) with nothing to do. Well wouldn’t you know it, Lucas and I had two more GPS stations to dig up. Now with manpower! With 5 people, we dug up each station in under an hour. The same stations that were taking Lucas and me 3 hours to dig up the day before. SCORE! All of our GPS units that had to move were dug up. Incredible afternoon.

January 3: Another windy day. No seismics. Lucas and I happened to have four GPS stations nicely packed up in camp ready to deploy. Last year, the crew was installing 3 units a day. Well guess what? Lucas and I hammered out 4 with enough time for me to cook for Taco Tuesday in the evening. Before we knew it, all our GPS work at the grounding zone was done. Awesomeness. Now we just have to wait for our plane to take us back upstream to finish off the GPS work up there.

January 4: Weather is amazing. No more wind. Active seismics are a go. And we are scheduled as a backup flight in the afternoon. While shooting, Lucas and I find out that our flight is no longer the backup–we are the primary mission for the plane leaving from Siple Dome. Well that was quick! But because it was an afternoon flight, we only would be visiting one site. 3:30PM rolls around and Lucas and I are on a plane heading upstream with some really cool Canadian pilots. Plane ride was incredible. We saw the “shear margin” between Mercer and Whillans ice streams, where the ice is totally broken and crevassed as the two streams move against one another. We saw picturesque views of the Transantarctic Mountains. Then we see our GPS station from the air. It was in perfect condition already. We download the data and are done. No shovel necessary. And with enough time to visit another station (the most work intensive one). We got halfway done with the work there before we had to pack up. We probably did about two days worth of work (including drive-time and the fact that we’d have to camp up there) in 3 hours with a plane. The pilots chipping in with the digging definitely helped some…

The past three days have been quite the pleasant surprise. Let’s hope the weather holds and we’ll get the rest of the GPS work done tomorrow. I’ll also go ahead and call 2012 a good year already, long calendar be damned.



  1. […] like last year and this was what we did for more than half the season. I talked a little about our active seismic work, but as my 9th grade English teacher taught me, why tell when you can […]

  2. […] McMurdo a week or three, fly to the Whillans Ice Stream, drive over 1000 miles on a snow machine, dig some holes, collect some data, come home. It’s been three years of that. Each year, I find myself with […]

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