Saturday, January 4, 2014

Back to the Ice!

Hello all,

My name is Dr. John E Ward, I am a Research Scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. Last year, I spent 96 days in McMurdo station working with the SuperTIGER balloon-borne payload.

After SuperTIGER's extremely successful (and long) flight during the 2012/2013 Antarctic summer season. It came to rest via parachute on February 1st 2013 at the following coordinates:

82°14.80’ S, 81°54.72’ W

Otherwise known as "the middle of nowhere".
The middle of nowhere.
It being so late in the season, with personnel and camps being removed from the field, there were no resources available to mount a recovery of the payload. Hence, SuperTIGER was left at that location until a full recovery could be attempted the following year. Well, that time has come!

Last year Ryan Murphy, our graduate student working on SuperTIGER at WashU, did a fantastic job updating this blog with the day-to-day happenings of life at McMurdo station. I am also going to try and share my thoughts and experiences from my second trip to "the ice" as one member of the SuperTIGER recovery team.

The science members of the recovery team consist of Dr. John W. Mitchell and Dr. Thomas Hams from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Grant Mitchell, a technician from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County along with yours truly. Furthermore, we will be supported in the field by three survival experts/mountaineers/camp managers/superheroes called Scott, Lance and Bill (the "groom" team).

Our route to the payload will consist of an LC-130 flight to the South Pole (Amundsen-Scott base) where we stay the night before taking a Twin-Otter flight to the SuperTIGER payload. Next, we will spend up to 10 days (depending on weather and travel etc) camping by the payload, deconstructing it and preparing it for removal from the field. The return trip will bring us and the payload back to McMurdo station via the Subglacial Lake Whillans camp. Once in McMurdo, we pack the SuperTIGER detectors into a shipping container for shipment back to the United States ... simple!

Yesterday, the science team arrived in McMurdo station without any major disasters. The weather is a balmy 35F (2C) and spirits are good. Since I'm still getting settled, it will take me a few days to get into full "blogger" mode ... but please stay tuned! I plan on updating people on our flight down and the first few days getting acclimatized again to life at McMurdo station, Antarctica.


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