11th November 2013
People and equipment are on the move in Antarctica as the first iStar programme heads out into the field.
Science Programme Manager, Andy Smith, reported that the advance team reached Sky Blu on 26th October. Sky Blu is a logistics depot where vehicles and equipment are stored over winter. It also serves as a refuelling stop for BAS aircraft.
The vehicles weren’t buried too badly, thanks to the way the depot was prepared last year and by not too much snow accumulation. By the 27th, everything had been raised and driven to Sky Blu where the vehicles (Polars) helped clear snow off the ice runway.
Over the winter, a motor had failed in one of the Polars which, and, although the vehicle still worked, this could have serious implications for whether we can use it on the traverse. A few days of bad weather (at Sky Blu and Rothera) slowed things a bit (including 98 knot winds at Sky Blu) and wrecked the garage at Sky Blu. Once the weather improved a Twin Otter was loaded with cargo to bring back the failed motor to Rothera.
The Dash7 took around 7 tonnes of iSTAR cargo to Sky Blu on the 4th. The Rothera engineers were able to fix the motor and that went back to Sky Blu with another Twin Otter on 5th Nov. In the meantime, at Sky Blu they were fuelling, replacing a damaged windscreen and loading cargo onto the sledges. With the motor re-installed, they were able to leave Sky Blu on 6th Nov. and begin the drive to Pine Island Glacier. By the 8th Nov they had driven about 175 km, which is great progress.
Meanwhile, at Rothera the first science teams have been going through their training and preparations. The Neutron Probe training is complete and the radar work is progressing well.