Tango 1 and the Air We Breathe
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.
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.
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.
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.