Ice Stories: Dispatches From Polar Scientists » Kelly Carroll Mon, 15 Nov 2010 20:40:36 +0000 en hourly 1 An Airport Made of Ice Sun, 21 Dec 2008 19:29:14 +0000 Kelly Carroll MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– Our project takes us all over the continent to install equipment but to get there we have to leave from Williams Field, an airport near McMurdo Station. Willy Field has a runway equipped to handle the largest aircraft that fly into Antarctica. However, this runway is different, there’s no pavement here–this runway is made of ice.

POLENET’s Stephanie Konfal gives us a look at Willy Field.

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How We Commute to Work in Antarctica Wed, 10 Dec 2008 18:03:08 +0000 Kelly Carroll MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– They are many ways that people commute to work in the morning — some by car, or bus, or maybe walk or ride a bike. Getting to work in Antarctica can be just as varied. One of them is by helicopter. This footage, shot during our trip to Westhaven Nunatak, is an example of our commute to work.

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Why We Install GPS Systems Mon, 08 Dec 2008 02:32:34 +0000 Kelly Carroll DEVERALL ISLAND, ANTARCTICA– The POLENET project installed their newest high-precision GPS system on Deverall Island, Antarctica. These GPS systems tell us how much the ground underneath the ice sheet is moving upward. This has important implications on the movement of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and its interplay with the rock below.

Click below to hear more about it.

Deverall Island, the southernmost island in the world. It is located at the western margin of the Transantarctic Mountains on the Ross Sea Ice Shelf.

The frame that holds all the electronics, weather stations, satellite modems to transfer data, and the solar panels and batteries used for powering the system continuously throughout the year.

The ski-equipped de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft that is used to transport science teams to field sites in Antarctica.
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Holiday Weather in McMurdo Wed, 03 Dec 2008 00:05:52 +0000 Kelly Carroll MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– Thanksgiving Day weather at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, turned out to be pretty interesting, as weather always can change quickly here. Our holiday weekend greeted us with 50 mph winds, but it didn’t affect the great feast we had in the dining hall.

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Tango 1 and the Air We Breathe Wed, 26 Nov 2008 01:59:38 +0000 Kelly Carroll MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– We have been preparing for a week to move to our deep field location, Tango 1. Tango 1 is a camp deep in the Transantarctic Mountains about 800 miles from the McMurdo Station. The camp will need to be fully erected, meaning that three us of us will precede the majority of the team by three days to create the camp we will be working out of for a couple of weeks.

The Ferrar Glacier in the Transantarctic Mountains.

This is going to be a completely new Antarctic experience for me. My previous work in the Dry Valleys was remote in the sense that we were not at the research station, but we were always less than a 45-minute helicopter flight from resources. Tango 1 is truly going to be a deep field experience. I am very much looking forward to being there, and excited to be on the advance team…I mean isn’t this one of the reasons I got into geology in the first place?

From our camp we will have two Twin Otter aircraft, a 20-passenger STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) utility aircraft developed by de Havilland Canada, operating to facilitate the installations of three high precision GPS systems and seismometers.

Location of POLENET’s Tango 1 deep field camp.

Tango 1 camp, located at 86° 21′ S, 136° 57′ W, is approximately 220 miles from the South Pole. However, not only is this deep field experience different from the field sites I am used to in Antarctica, so is the altitude. Tango camp sits around 8500 feet in elevation. The elevation and latitude will make it cold and harder to work. This will be the highest elevation I have ever worked at and with that come its own set of unique considerations.

The Transantarctic Mountains.

Physio altitude is a term that describes what altitude your body feels like it is at. The barometric pressure does not affect the saturation of oxygen in the air (oxygen is consistently about 20% of the atmosphere around you) and neither does altitude for the matter, but altitude does change the density of that oxygen. As you go higher in elevation the same amount of space contains less oxygen. The lower the barometric pressure that oxygen gets less is that same space making it harder to breathe in the needed amount of oxygen. Antarctica is notoriously known for it’s low-pressure weather systems. As these low-pressure systems pass over you it will quickly change the altitude in which body thinks it at. Tango 1 camp at 8500 feet the physio altitude can change to make your body feel thousands of feet higher.

I will not have an Internet connection from Tango 1 camp but I will have a satellite phone in which I plan to keep you updated.

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It Takes a Lot to Get Here Thu, 20 Nov 2008 16:09:31 +0000 Kelly Carroll MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– Greetings. This is my first official day at the main US research base in Antarctic: McMurdo Station. I am very excited to start bringing you the stories of POLENET science and what life is like as we do our work from one of the most remote places on the face of the planet.

My first look at Antarctica from the window of a USAF C-17 jet.

This season a small contingent of researchers from multiple universities will be working to install and maintain very high precision global positioning systems and seismometers. It is our goal within POLENET to cover a large portion of the continent with these sensors to begin to understand the science of interaction between the great ice sheets and the earth below. This understanding is vital to understand the historical relationship of the ice and the rock in the past as a window of what to expect in the future.

GPS and a seismometer installed by POLENET in Antarctica.

This season we will be working mainly out of McMurdo Station using helicopters and Twin Otters, a propeller driven fixed wing aircraft, to go install new equipment, as well as service and upgrade equipment that we installed last year. One very exciting portion of this season will be working out remote tent camp far south in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains.

Just arrived after landing at Pegasus Field on the ice shelf.

The USAF C-17.

The title of this story is “It takes a lot to get here.” In a sense, that can be said about the many commercial flights from Ohio to Christchurch, New Zealand (the ingress point for all personnel going to Antarctica), to the US Air Force C-17 jet that flew me down to the ice, and all of the support running the facilities here at McMurdo Station. But I guess I meant the title to reflect a much larger statement.

The amount of planning for a project this size has taken years to get us even to this point in the story. Of course, it first began with the idea that Antarctica has so many unknowns that it would take observations on a massive scale to begin to break the secret of the earth that lies beneath miles of ice. This project from concept, to funding, to implementation of each field season has taken the dedication and ingenuity of many scientist and engineers all across the world.

I will look forward to bringing you this.

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