During the third US ITASE field season (2001-2002) the field team traversed1825 km from Byrd to within 125 km of Siple Station and return to Byrd. The traverse was comprised of 12-14 members, two Challenger 55s and various heavy and light sleds. The bulk of the JP8 fuel used by the Challengers was air dropped to three sites along the route. Route selection was based upon the science objectives of the US ITASE researchers and safe route selection was aided by examination of RADARSAT images and an onboard crevasse detection system. Eleven integrated science programs were supported by US ITASE in 2001-2002. Science was conducted both during travel and at six sites. Continuous shallow (~120 m) and deep (>3000m) radar over 1800 km comprised the travel component of the science. Near real-time shallow radar information was used to finely tune the location of six study sites and to tie these sites together via identification of long distance subsurface marker horizons. At each site 3" and 2" diameter ice cores were collected that will provide samples for stable isotopes, major soluble ions, trace elements, organic acids, b activity, stratigraphy, porosity, permeability, and density. A total of 771 m of ice core was collected during the 2001-2002 season exceeding even the ice core recovery success of the previous US ITASE season. Atmospheric sampling of surface air and air to a height of 23 km was also conducted as well as high precision GPS surveys to determine mass balance, ice flow direction, and ice velocity. As of the 2001-2002 field season US ITASE is well equipped to undertake its fourth season (2002-2003) to the South Pole and a new generation of traverses to be proposed in East Antarctica from South Pole to Northern Victoria Land (2003-2005). Recommendations that will make US ITASE even more efficient in 2002-2003 are described in this report with details related to 2001-2002 logistics and science operations. Several of the major recommendations are highlighted as follows:
1. Upgrades to
the older Challenger 55 to make it par with the new 55.
2. Purchase of two 3000-gallon fuel tanks mounted on a solid sled system to replace fuel drums for greater efficiency, cost-savings, and safety.
3. Purchase of a fifth Berco or if available from McMurdo another similar size sled to replace several less durable, lighter sleds. This item will not be necessary if item (2) is supported.
4. Retention of the New Zealand owned Alanaar sled for at least 2002-2003 as a heavy-duty fuel sled. This item will not be necessary if item (2) or (3) are supported.
5. A new permanent structure for working on equipment and berthing for four people to be mounted on an existing Berco.
6. LC-130 support for 2002-2003 is expected to be significantly less than for 2001-2002.
7. To reduce impact on South Pole Station in 2002-2003 US ITASE plans to stay 5- 10+ km outside of South Pole at its last work site for the season. US ITASE also plans to winter vehicles and sleds at this site. Finally, it is hoped that the success of the US ITASE platform for science can act as a model for future science logistics (e.g., a roving base camp, a resupply system for AGO sites, and future traverses in East and West Antarctica).
US ITASE offers the ground-based opportunities of traditional style traverse travel coupled with the modern technology of GPS, crevasse detecting radar, satellite communications and multi-disciplinary research. By operating as an oversnow traverse US ITASE offers scientists the opportunity to experience the dynamic range of the Antarctic environment. US ITASE also offers an important interactive venue for research (currently eleven integrated science projects) similar to that afforded by oceanographic research vessels and large polar field camps, without the cost of the former or the lack ofmobility of the latter. More importantly, the combination of disciplines represented by US ITASE provides a unique, multi-dimensional (x, y, z and time) view of the ice sheet and its history. In its current four year cycle, US ITASE will sample the environment of West Antarctica over spatial scales of >5000 km, depths of >3000 m, heights in the atmosphere of >20 km, and time periods of several hundred years (sub-annual scale) to hundreds of thousands of years (millennial scale). During the first US ITASE field season (1999-2000) team members conducted a short shakedown program utilizing two Tucker SnoCats. Weather delays in McMurdo resulted in a short season and only 50% of the program planned for that season could be completed. During the second US ITASE field season (2000-2001) one Tucker SnoCat and one Caterpillar Challenger 55 were utilized. The SnoCat engine failed early in the season. After hauling the SnoCat back to Byrd Surface Camp loads were double-shuttled by the Challenger for the remainder of the season. By seasons end all of the work not completed during the 1999-2000 season was accomplished and ~90% of the 2000-2001 tasks were completed. This report documents the accomplishments and recommendations of the 2001-2002 field season.
Members of the 2001-2002 US ITASE Field Team
* partial field season
# unable to accompany field team due to injury sustained in McMurdo during recreational trip
Brief Description of US ITASE 2001-2002 LogisticActivities
During the 2001-2002 season the US ITASE traverse included:
LC-130 fuel drops were made early in the season to provide JP8 fuel for
the traverse. The traverse route planned for 2001-2002 extended 2000 km
from Byrd Surface Camp to Siple Station and return. Early in the season
it was decided to revise the number of site visits from 7 to 6 (deleting
the farthest site Siple Station) changing the total traverse distance
to 1825 km because of initial concerns over fuel consumption. By later
in the season, however, we determined that the estimated fuel consumption
estimate was correct and there would have been sufficient fuel for the
originally planned traverse. As it turned out issues related to terrain
and weather played the key role in determining the farthest point reached
by the traverse. The farthest point reached by the traverse was 50 km
short of site 6 and a straight-line distance of ~125 km from Siple Station.
At this point sastrugi were encountered that were sufficiently large (~1m)
to cause the sleds to heel to the point at which damage could occur to
the structures on the sleds. To avoid damage to people, scientific equipment,
and traverse equipment travel was limited to ~ 5km/hr (compared to usual
travel speeds of 10-12 km/hr). We were unfortunate enough to also have
encountered the sastrugi in flat light conditions limiting our ability
to make detours around the sastrugi. Once stopped we experienced two storms
that lasted a total of four days, with 30-65 knot winds that resulted
in snowdrifts as high as 3m around vehicles and sleds. Forecasts provided
by McMurdo indicated that we should expect at least one more storm after
a short 24-36 lull between storms. We conducted as much science as possible
and extricated the traverse line during the lull between the storms and
began our 825 km return trip to Byrd. By this stage we had completed almost
90% of the traverse, and almost all of the science objectives. We decided
that it was not worth pushing the traverse through poor conditions at
the extreme limit of its distance from McMurdo Station.
Two LC-130 fuel drops were made early in the season to provide JP8 fuel for the traverse. The traverse route planned for 2001-2002 extended 2000 km from Byrd Surface Camp to Siple Station and return. Early in the season it was decided to revise the number of site visits from 7 to 6 (deleting the farthest site Siple Station) changing the total traverse distance to 1825 km because of initial concerns over fuel consumption. By later in the season, however, we determined that the fuel consumption estimate was correct and there would have been sufficient fuel for the originally planned traverse. As it turned out issues related to terrain and weather played the key role in determining the farthest point reached by the traverse. The farthest point reached by the traverse was 50 km short of site 6 and a straight-line distance of ~125 km from Siple Station. At this point sastrugi were encountered that were sufficiently large (~1m) to cause the sleds to heel to the point at which damage could occur to the structures on the sleds. To avoid damage to people, scientific equipment, and traverse equipment travel was limited to ~ 5 km/hr (compared to usual travel speeds of 10-12 km/hr). We were unfortunate enough to also have encountered the sastrugi in flat light conditions limiting our ability to make detours around the sastrugi. Once stopped we experienced two storms that lasted a total of four days, with 30-65 knot winds that resulted in snowdrifts as high as 3m around vehicles and sleds. Forecasts provided by McMurdo indicated that we should expect at least one more storm after a short 24-36 lull between storms. We conducted as much science as possible and extricated the traverse line during the lull between the storms and began our 825 km return trip to Byrd. By this stage we had completed almost 90% of the traverse, and almost all of the science objectives. We decided that it was not worth pushing the traverse through poor conditions at the extreme limit of its distance from McMurdo Station.
Major Scientific and Logistical Accomplishments of the 2001-2002 Field Season
Between 16 November 2001 when the US ITASE team arrived at Byrd and 4 January 2002 when the team departed the field the following major scientific and logistic goals were accomplished:
(1) Two Challenger 55s traversed a total of 1825 km on the main traverse and ~200 km of day trips.
(2) Continuous radar observations (crevasse detection (400 MHz), shallow depth (400 MHz), deep (2.5 MHz)) were made over the 1825 km of the main traverse route and ~200 km of day trips. In addition, intermediate depth radar (100 and 12.5 MHz) data were collected over 200 km.
(3) Six out of the original seven projected science sites were occupied for periods of 2-6 days depending upon workload per site.
Ice Cores 1
70.964 m (1)
70.008 m (2)
18.00 m 4
1) only primary cores listed here.
2) 12 km from the original site 5 (new location determined from surface radar.
3) 50 km from the original site 6.
4) depth limited due to drill circuitry failure produced as a consequence of moisture penetrating circuitry housing during storm.
Details of the 2001-2002 Traverse and Recommendations for Future
The information presented below does not guarantee perfect US ITASE seasons
in the future, however, it is intended to be an important step in the
evolution of research style oversnow traverse capability. Several discussion
items follow. They represent the combined thoughts of the members of the
US ITASE 2001-2002 traverse. They are offered as a starting point for
discussions with OPP/NSF and Raytheon concerning the 2002-2003 field season.
Heavy Over snow Vehicles US ITASE operated with two Challenger 55s during the 2001-2002 season. Each vehicle pulled between 30,000 and 45,000 lb.. Both vehicles performed extremely well, requiring only routine maintenance (oil changes, filters, and steering alignment). The Challenger used during the 2000-2001 season required replacement of 3 bogie wheels. US ITASE was also fortunate to have two skilled mechanics on the traverse. One also served as Camp Manager. The addition of a second mechanic for this season was particularly valuable.
Heavy Over snow Vehicle Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) A second mechanic's position should be maintained for future US ITASE traverses.
(2) The older Challenger should be fitted with factory available wider tracks to decrease vehicle ground pressure and increase access to tracks and under body similar to the newer Challenger.
(3) The older Challenger should be fitted with a rear winch and cable, heavy-duty hitch, and counter weights similar to the newer Challenger.
(4) The older Challenger should be fitted with a VHF base station similar to the newer Challenger.
(5) Blockage problems for engine screens in freezing fog and diamond dust conditions should be investigated to prevent overheating and 1-3 km frequency stops to clear screens in fog conditions. This may be resolved through the addition of pusher fans or reversible fans.
(6) Tooling will be required to change fuel settings for the higher altitudes encountered on the traverse to South Pole.
Over snow Sleds and Permanent Shelters
Four Berco sleds (3000 lb. each) and one Alandaar sled (6000 lb.) were used during the 2001-2002 season. A description of the use for each follows:
(1) Berco 1 ("Blue Room") serves as a science facility (warm space for computers and wet chemistry preparation) plus berthing for up to 9 people. The Blue Room has a solar/wind powered 12 volt system with a bank of 10 batteries.
(2) Berco 2 affords kitchen space. Seating for 14-15 is possible during special dinners, and up to 10 "comfortably" on a routine basis. The kitchen also offers berthing for 4 people. The kitchen has a solar/wind powered 24 volt system with a bank of 10 batteries.
(3) Berco 3 was fitted at Byrd with a Polar Haven left over from the two previous US ITASE seasons. It provided space for work on mechanical, ice coring, and radar equipment, berthing for 3 people, and overflow space for dining.
(4) Berco 4 provides space for 100+ ice core boxes (= 900+m+ of 3" ice core) plus some science cargo. The new ice core freezer intended for the 2001-2002 season did not arrive in McMurdo in time for transport to the traverse necessitating burial of ice cores at each drilling site to maintain temperature and collection on the return leg to Byrd.
(5) The Alandaar sled loaned to NSF by Scott Base in 2000-2001 to temporarily replace a Berco not available at that time was used as a fuel sled during the 2001-2002 traverse.
Over snow Sled and Permanent Shelter Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) The Alandaar sled proved to be an excellent, if not essential sled, carrying 50+ fuel drums, 6 100 lb propane cylinders, and various other items. We hope it will be possible to keep this sled for the 2002-2003 traverse. It is not clear that the Berco sleds could have transported this load.
(2) Retain the Polar Haven mounted on Berco 3 as a workshop and berthing space. More ideally replace the Polar Haven with another permanent shelter that provides a warm workspace and berthing for four people. The additional berthing will relieve the crowded berthing for nine in the Blue Room. The Polar Haven was a last minute addition to US ITASE and proved to be extremely valuable. Its value will be even greater on the traverse to South Pole. We also suggest the addition of a two panel solar array, with two new 12 volt batteries to power an existing 1800 watt inverter.
(3) VHF base stations should be installed in Bercos 1, 2, and 3 to eliminate the need for constant recharging of batteries in the portable VH Fs. While traveling it is essential that all sleds carrying people can communicate.
(4) Addition of a fifth Berco for the coming season would aid greatly in the transport and recovery of fuel barrels and scientific equipment. Over the past three US ITASE seasons the traverse has been gradually streamlined to reduce the number and variety of sleds. One more Berco would allow further streamlining. If another Berco is not available another similar size sled from McMurdo is requested.
(5) With one season of experience using the kitchen Berco some small modifications can be suggested such as:
(a) Place outside water melter in an insulated box (this could be the old black water box initially used in 1999-2000 to store water).
(b) Replace the ships two-burner stove with a four-burner stove and oven to create more counter space.
(6) Blue Room shelter requires some structural work and caulking after two seasons of traverse.
(7) Cargo roller frames (20) are requested for the Berco sleds to aid in unloading T-3 and T-4 pallet assemblies from C-130s.
Two snowmobiles were used during the 2001-2002 season. Both were older when first used by US ITASE in 1999-2000.
Snowmobile Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) Two replacement snowmobiles are requested for 2002-2003. Considering the low temperatures to be encountered during the traverse to South Pole we would prefer to have either two Yamaha VK540s or two rebuilt Alpine II, but not Skandics.
Several types of fuel were utilized during the 2001-2002 season:
(1) Quantity 120, 55 gal drums of JP8 for the Challenger 55s to travel ~2000 km. During the 2000-2001 traverse fuel consumption was ~.75 km/gal. (an average of heavy loads and return light loads). The 2001-2002 traverse assumed .75 km/gal. plus ten extra drums. Using as a basis for fuel consumption the heavier loads towed in 2001-2002 and the need for small extra fuel supplies to do side trips an estimate of .6 km/gal. yield a greater margin of error for future fuel consumption estimates. In addition most of the 2002-2003 traverse from Byrd to South Pole will be uphill suggesting that .6 km/gal. should be a reasonable estimate for next season.
(2) Quantity 22, 55 gal drums of Mogas for snowmobiles and five generators.
(3) Quantity 12, 100 lb. propane cylinders for heating the Blue Room. Kitchen, and Polar Haven and for cooking.
(4) Quantity 22 gallons of white gas were on board as back up for propane stoves but were not used.
(5) Generators were used during 2001-2002 season for melting water, drilling, 24-hr onsite atmospheric chemistry measurements and radar experiments. One Herman Nelson was used for thawing motors.
Fuel and Power Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) The Mogas estimate for 2001-2002 was greatly in excess of the usage. A total of 10 drums of Mogas should be sufficient for 2002-2003. This estimate is based on 5 gal/day for melting the 20 gallons of water required by the team (total 250 gallons for 50 days), 150 gallons for other generators (ice coring, radar, atmospheric sampling), plus 100 gallons for snowmobiles. Total 500 gallons + 10 drums.
(2) Assuming .6 km/gal. JP8 and an estimated main traverse length from Byrd to South Pole of 1400 km a total of 93 drums will be required for the two Challengers plus 7 spare for a total of 100 drums.
Special Note: The 120 drums of JP8 handled in 2002-2002 and the 100 drums planned for 2002-2003 require considerable handling. 100 empty drums weigh a minimum of 5000 lb. and the drums are handled many times (e.g., loading onto aircraft, offloaded on ground or airdrop, at each airdrop site, shifting empty for full drums on sleds, retrograding). As a solution to all of the handling of drums we suggest that each Challenger have a sled dedicated solely to fuel. Each fuel sled would have a 3000 gallon fuel tank integrally attached to a sled. The tanks could be directly filled from LC-130 wing tanks reducing the need for any JP8 drums. If each sled tank contained 3000 gallons, each Challenger could travel 1800 km (assuming .6 km/ gal.). Challengers could be fueled directly from the tanks utilizing ~20 ft lines.Cost savings for the tank sleds could be substantial even in the first year of usage. In 2001-2002 it took 4 LC-130 flights to handle fuel. One flight to put-in fuel at Byrd to start traverse, two flights to air drop fuel and one flight to retrograde drums. Using fuel tanks only two LC-130 flights would be required.Labor would be greatly reduced by conversion to fuel tanks as noted above.Overall using fuel tanks versus drums would increase safety. At present fueling is done by people scrambling around on snow covered fuel drums that are several feet above ground on sleds.
(3) Quantity 12,100 lb propane cylinders will be required for 2002-2003.
(4) White gas supplies remaining from 2001-2002 will be sufficient for 2002-2003.
(5) One Herman Nelson.
5 kw for melting water
5 kw for ice core drilling
4 kw Welderator
3.5 kw for atmospheric sampling
1.8 kw for deep radar
1.8 kw to heat atmospheric sampling shelter
2x 0.65 kw for shallow radar
(7) 18 volt cordless combination circular saw-screw gun-reciprocating saw.
Air Support including Fuel Drops:
A total of 11 LC-130 flights were dedicated to US ITASE in 2001-2002. The number of LC-130 flights required for 2002-2003 could be reduced. One Twin Otter flight came to US ITASE in 2001-2002. It transported resupply items, one team member, and returned three team members to McMurdo. Five days of Twin Otter close support were used by Hamilton for 2001-2002 to resurvey sites emplaced in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. JP8 fuel caches were placed by the traverse during the 2001-2002 season at two sites to assist with Twin Otter flights required for resurvey of 2001-2002 GPS installations during the 2002-2003 season. JP8 for 2002-2003 Twin Otter usage was cached at:
Site 3 (6 drums of JP8) - 78.07ƒ 14" S, 095.39ƒ 12" W
Site 5 (8 drums of JP8) 76.59ƒ 52" S, 088.49ƒ 12" W
Two LC-130 fuel drops were dedicated to US ITASE in 2001-2002. A total of 25 pallets (4 drums of JP8/pallet) were air dropped at sites along the traverse route. The 109th ANG did a superb job of placing the fuel drops at sites planned for scientific activities. All drops landed exactly on target and the drums were in excellent condition. Airdrops most definitely provide an excellent way to avoid carrying large amounts of fuel and burning fuel to carry fuel. Airdrops will certainly be an important part of our plan for 2002-2003.
Air Support Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) One Twin Otter flight for Byrd put-in crew (4 people) instead of an LC-130 put-in.
(2) Two or three LC-130 put-in flights for cargo and science team.
(3) One LC-130 air drop (2-4 sites) of JP8 (14 pallets of 4 drums each = 64 drums out of 100 total JP8 drums requested (36 drums of JP8 to be carried from Byrd). Not necessary if fuel tank sleds available for 2002-2003.
(4) All retro for season can be accomplished utilizing return flights from South Pole.
(5) Twin Otter time to be requested for GPS resurvey, end of season.
A variety of light weight sleds were employed in 2001-2002 including:
(1) two Nansen sleds for camp activities and snowmobile work
(2) one Maudheim for the ice core drill and ice core sampling equipment
(3) one Polar Associate to carry snowmobiles
(4) one Maudheim for tools, Herman Nelson, Challenger spares and fluids
(5) one Komatik for deep radar (Pope Mobile)
(6) one Komatik for 2" ice core drill
(7) one Komatik for Polar Pooper
(8) one Komatik for empty drums and science cargo
(9) one Komatik for the ATM shelter
Light Sled Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) Pope Mobile tie downs for Komatik (shelter to sled & generator to sled attachments) require refitting and strengthening. It may be preferable to trade the current Pope Mobile Komatik for the 10 x 20 science/fuel drum Komatik to allow increased stability over sastrugi. This assumes that another Berco or similar sled will replace the science/fuel drum Komatik.
(2) Empty drum and 2" ice core drill Komatiks require rear fixed tow bars and strengthened tie down sites.
(3) Empty drum Komatik requires strengthening to avoid lateral movement and shifting of loads or replacement with a new Berco sled.
(4) ATM shelter Komatik performed well on traverse. The Weather Haven serves well as a lab/work space but requires a Velcro window (.5m x .5m) to allow for enough light.
Ice Core Freezer:
The new ice core freezer planned for 2001-2002 did not arrive in McMurdo in time for transport to the traverse. Cores were cached at sites and recovered on return trip to Byrd.
Core Freezer Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) Cold conditions during the 2002-2003 trip to South Pole alleviate the necessity for an ice core freezer.
Ice Coring Equipment
The primary drill used for the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 seasons was the Icefield Instruments Eclipse 3 ice drill first used by US ITASE in 1999-2000. Overall performance was excellent with minor mechanical breakdowns. It offers notable logistic advantages that make it particularly useful for field traverse programs. It is lightweight and can be easily transported on a dedicated Maudheim sled, without complete disassembly. It takes a 3" diameter core and therefore requires fewer core boxes to transport and store the core than the standard 4" PICO drill. Eclipse ice core quality was excellent throughout all drilling depths making processing easier. ICDS supported valuable modifications to the Eclipse drill and provided a highly experienced driller.A new 2" ice core drill (Rongbuk) designed by Glacier Data was introduced this season. The Rongbuk drill was purchased by the University of Maine and utilized by several US ITASE projects. It was used in conjunction with the Eclipse to reduce time on site. Even in its prototype form the Rongbuk provided excellent samples in lieu of snow pits as well as shallow drilling to 20+ m.
Further modifications should result in the Rongbuk being capable of drilling to depths of ~100m.
Ice Coring Equipment Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) It is essential to have an experienced driller on US ITASE traverses.
(2) Interest in the Rongbuk is large enough to solicit NSF support for a dedicated version.
(3) Four 12 volt, 100 amp hour gel cells.
(4) 100 foot 10 gauge extension cord with a four-plex box on the end.
(5) 48 volt photovoltaic array and charge regulator for 2 inch drill.
(6) Request to ICDS for a drill rescue kit to include 75m of 0.5" diameter synflex hose. A funnel, and glycol (propylene).
(7) Control box and spare require weatherproofing to avoid wet circuitry problems encountered during storm at Site 6 that limited recovered core to 18m before system failure.
(8) We estimate collecting 50 m cores from four sites and a 150 m core from Hercules Dome plus additional short cores to study b activity, chemistry, stable isotopes, permeability and porosity. Total number of ISC boxes required is 60 (with 3" tubes (45) and without (15)).
This season the toilet was mounted on a Komatik, improving its durability and allowing it to second as an equipment sled.
US ITASE had 2 Iridium phones, 2 HF PRC 1099 HF radios, four VHF radios and, one VHF base station. Daily communications were routinely accomplished with either the Iridium or 1099. Two Iridium phones were supplied by the Museum of Science (Boston) for transmitting daily logs for the US ITASE outreach program. The University of Maine provided one Iridium phone with a data link for personal and business use.
Communications Recommendations for 2002-2003:
(1) As noted in Heavy Sleds and Permanent Shelters 4 additional VHF base stations are requested. It is essential that each base station be equipped with a long antennae.
(2) The VHF base station installed in the new Challenger requires a long antennae.
Winter Over Cargo and South Pole Impact:
2000-2001 winter over equipment (vehicles, sleds, equipment) was stored on snow berms on Byrd Hill.
Winter Over Cargo and South Pole Impact Recommendations:
(1) To reduce impact on South Pole Station in 2002-2003 US ITASE plans to stay 5-10+ km outside of South Pole at its last work site for the season.
(2) US ITASE also plans to winter vehicles and sleds at this site.
US ITASE Outreach:
During the US ITASE 2001-2002 field season the field team participated in several outreach activities. These included: a Wednesday night lecture in McMurdo, news articles for the Antarctic Sun, biweekly live interviews with the Boston Museum of Science (1 November to mid January, entire team), daily updates via Iridium data link, and several contacts with schools located close to US ITASE institutions. US ITASE had a TEA assigned for much of the field season. However, the TEA was injured while in McMurdo and returned home. US ITASE is open to the addition of another TEA for 2002-2003, once the science and Raytheon team composition is determined by spring 2002.