Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 7, November 10, 2013 -- Heading out tomorrow?

It's been a pretty uneventful ~week since the last post. Michele and I made it down to McMurdo on Wednesday and have spent the time since then getting our stuff prepared for our trip out to the recovery site. This involved meeting with our field team, James and Nicky, both experienced Antarctic field workers, to coordinate various things as well as getting all of our materials ready. Besides the tools we brought down, we also had to get into one of the containers to retrieve some recovery supplies we had left down here last season.

Our current plan is to take a Twin Otter from McMurdo to Mario Zucchelli Station (the Italian Antarctic base at Terra Nova Bay) and then make two trips from MZS to our landing site. Right now we are scheduled to leave in the morning, assuming the weather here, at MZS, and at the site cooperate. The Italian Pisten Bully will show up a day or two later to deal with the skiway grooming.

And tonight I'll be giving the weekly McMurdo public science lecture -- with the uncertainty at the beginning of the season, previously-made plans were unmade and they were left scrambling for a last-minute replacement. So now they're stuck with me!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 1, November 4, 2013 -- ...aaaaand we're back!

That's right folks, it's time for another edition of EBEX in Flight (though as you'll see, the name is a bit of a misnomer)!

Some of you may remember that at the end of last season, we had to leave most of the payload (gondola + cryostat) out on the ice for the Antarctic winter. Now we're going back to get it.

This season's recovery mission almost didn't happen. After making plans during the summer for our recovery, the government shutdown in October basically put our effort in limbo. Luckily for us, the fine folks at ASC (the Antarctic Support Contract, who run the logistics for Antarctic operations), the NSF (National Science Foundation, who fund Antarctic programs), and NASA's BPO (Balloon Program Office, who run the NASA scientific balloon program), were able reschedule our recovery mission once the government reopened, with the dates just slightly delayed.

Unfortunately, other projects weren't so lucky. Due to the effects of the shutdown, there will be no balloon launches by CSBF in Antarctica this year.

Our own recovery is going to (hopefully) be a much smaller endeavor than last year's 3+month deployment. First, the team is much smaller -- it's just me and Michele this time. Our plan is to spend a couple days in McMurdo getting our recovery stuff assembled and then get dropped off (with two support staff from ASC) at the recovery site to camp for 3-6 days while we break down the telescope and get it ready for transport back to McMurdo via the Basler. While we're out there, we're getting some help from the Italian Antarctic program who run a field camp at Talos Dome, not far from our landing site. They will be sending out a Pisten Bully team to groom a skiway for the Basler. If all goes well, Michele and I will be back in the States before Thanksgiving.

I showed up Monday afternoon in Christchurch after leaving Minnesota on Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow is clothing issue; Wednesday is our ice flight. Michele for some reason got put on a different Sydney-to-Christchurch flight, so he won't be getting here until almost midnight tonight.

I can't promise regular updates (I anticipate some very busy days, some very boring days, and some days where I won't have Internet access while we're out at the site), but I'll do my best to keep things here reasonably up-to-date.