Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Final words on AGAP

With our survey plane now safely back in Calgary, and having had the initial workshop to present the initial findings now is a good time to close this blog with a final summary.

After AGAP-N was closed we moved to the American run camp of AGAP-South to conduct a few survey flights from there before flying back to McMurdo and packing up all the equipment. These were busy times as all the spares and aircraft survey equipment had to be carefully packed for the long journey home (McMurdo to Port Hueneme in California and then onward shipping to BAS in Cambridge.
AGAP South January 2009

After final packing we departed Antarctica on route for the UK, leaving nothing behind other than GPS coordinate in the case of AGAP-North and a field camp at AGAP-South which will be used for future seasons. In total the BAS and the USAP Twin Otters flew more than twice arround the world to complete the survey work.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

AGAP-North Final Days

As both AGAP-South and AGAP-North camps are up and running there have been a few visits from the USAP survey Twin Otter. With the the first USAP flight from AGAP-South to AGAP-North occuring a few days after New Year, this flight fell on our rest day and provided some welcome distraction to the routine that had set in.
USAP Twin Otter Visiting AGAP-North

As the season progresses FBL the BAS survey aircraft has been flying 2 to 3 flights a day to get coverage of the Eagle and AGAP-North grids. With most of the fuel almost used the attention will turn to the AGAP South grid which has a continuous supply of fuel flown in by USAP Hercs (C130s). With all the fuel drums now collected efforts have turned to clearing up the camp in preparation for the removal of the camp at AGAP-North. On the 10th January, after FBL departs the Australians and our GA will dismantle the camp so all that is left is the crushed fuel drums, parachutes and packing materials. And after the Chinese traverse passes through on the way back to the coast the camp will return to just a GPS coordinate on a large expanse of snow and ice on the East Antarctica Plateau.
AGAP-North Team

Some stats to date for AGAP-North
AGAP-North Flights 49 (with another 2 inc. transfer flight to do before AGAP-North closes)
Other flights 5 (3 out of Pole + McMurdo transfer + Pole transfer)
Nautical Miles covered to date 20 000+ (from depature of McMurdo)
Some 5+ Terra bytes of data collected todate

Friday, 2 January 2009

Chinese Takeway

The weather has been constantly cold at about -27 degrees C but with no or very little wind so it hasn't been too bad, but now with the wind picking up and the temperatures again heading below -30 degrees and also with the wind chill has made exposed skin painful so careful wrapping up is required.
FBL Shadow Over Dome A
Arial of AGAP-North

As the survey is progressing it is becomming more and more routine,so it was nice that the Chinese traverse rolled into camp on New Years Eve. The Chinese will be providing the logistics to help remove our camp from AGAP-N when they return North from Dome A. We first saw their traverse from the air the day before as we were returning from the days final survey. With all the building materials for their base at Dome A the landtrain was quite sizeable and contained 10+ vehicles with a further number slight further back been repaired.

After the Chinese were given the tour of our camp and FBL they took us across to their land train for the tour of vehicles and sledges. The accommodation was better than some Antarctic bases and the vehicles all looked in good condition. Tonight dinner is Chinese as we both swapped food items though maybe we did get the better deal on the food front though we are unsure about 1000 year old eggs! They were around for a few hours long enough for a group photo as they were keen to get up to Dome A and start building their base, but will return to take away the spent fuel drums.
Land Train Viewed From AGAP-North Camp
Arial of land train

Chinese/Australian/BAS Group Photo AGAP-N

New Year passed and was noted but the work and survey work continued relentlessly, since arriving we have flown survey continuously, and with the weather fax the pilots have been able to plan flights that allowed us to survey even though the weather forecasts were dubious.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas at AGAP-North

In Antarctic particularly when carrying out survey work Christmas is just another work day like all the others as when the weather is fine it is better to crack on and get the work done. Saying that Christmas is remembered as best we can with the opening of a few presents brought from home and a little more special food for dinner.

VP-FBL our Survey Twin Otter at AGAP-N

Having been at a AGAP-North a week we have carried out 16 survey flights which covers some 30+ survey line. The survey is split in to a grid that contains survey lines and a smaller number of tie lines, once flown this systematic grid gives a good coverage over the survey area allowing the scientists to say what lies beneath the 2 to 4 km of ice that covers the surface of the Dome A area. Work is continuous with the hours spent survey flying, checking data, archiving data and repairing equipment that has failed (Antarctic is very harsh on electrical equipment so a fair amount of time is spent monitoring and test equipment to keep it in full working order). As seen in the above photograph the international participation in this survey is immense with the Australians providing the logistical support for our camp here at AGAP-North, the Americans delivering the fuel by the way of airdrops, the Chinese will retrograde the camp at the season close by way of their land train from Dome A, the Germans provided logistical, financial and project management and the British contingent from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) provided the survey expertise, a survey Twin Otter and a logistical Twin Otter.

As time progresses here at AGAP-North thing are becoming more established as the finer points of camp life can be concentrated on to make the cold temperatures (daily average of -25 degrees C without wind chill, but as we have a nice constant breeze of 12 knots we end up with an effective temperature of about -36 degrees C). Occasionally you have the luxury of a bucket bath, having not washed for weeks it is quite pleasant to feel clean and refreshed again. Work progresses in earnest so BAS at AGAP-North going clear as we are about to depart on another survey flight.

Monday, 22 December 2008

AGAP-North The last outpost of AAD and BAS

Having spent a rather comfortable time at South Pole acclimatising in Ack camp the AGAP-North camp was less luxurious with only one heated tent the kitchen / dinning tent. The flight across for the personnel and the cargo involved the use of the German Basler from AWI flown by Canadian pilots from Enterprise in Canada. FBL the BAS survey Twin Otter followed a day later with the seasons first survey over Dome A for the AGAP survey teams.
AGAP-North Camp

AGAP-North camp which was setup by the Austrialians with the support from one of BAS's GA's, FAZ BAS's utility Twin Otter and AWI's Basler. The camp consists of a cook/dinning tent, a small weatherhaven acting as a science tent, toilet tent and a collection of Scott and Dome tents acting as sleeping quaters. From the camp there is nothing to see but snow to the horizon and the pallets of airdropped fuel which was delivered prior to the building of the camp.
FBL our Survey Aircraft and FAZ our Logistics Aircraft

With the full BAS survey team at AGAP-North survey flying can start in earnest, with the aim to use up all 4 airdrops worth of fuel before we depart back North. The daily survey flying routine is a long one, it starts just before breakfast when the survey rack heaters are turned on to warm up the equipment to an operable temperature. Once the racks are up to temperature a gravity still reading is done and the rest of the survey equipment is powered up and tested. The first crew (pilot and the operator) either flying 2 shorter flights or a longer flight and once they have returned to camp the aircraft is refueled either for the second short flight or for the second crew to go on a longer survey flight. Once all the flights have been completed for the day the data is checked and archived this can be a somewhat long and tedious task but does guarantee that any little problems in equipment can be spotted and rectified before the next days survey flying.

As we are surveying over the Dome A/AGAP region the scenery is some what barren though occasionally we do get to se some more interesting ice and snow features.
Antarctic Landscape Near Dome A

Life at camp is OK with our camp staff cooking up some good food and the tents for sleeping in though cold initially but soon become more comfortable once you have snuggled deep inside the specially made sleeping bags that were made for this season.