2006 – 2007 US ITASE Field Report – Page 5


Table 5: Personnel Schedule


Arrival McM

Arrival Taylor Dome

Departure to McM

Steven Arcone

18 Nov.

3 Dec.

23 Dec.

Dan Breton

8 Nov.

3 Dec.

13 Jan.

Dan Dixon

3 Nov.

3 Dec

13 Jan

Joe Flaherty

3 Nov.

14 Nov.

13 Jan

Gordon Hamilton

16 Nov.

3 Dec

11 Jan

Lora Koenig

3 Nov.

14 Nov.

13 Jan

Andrei Kurbatov

3 Nov.

14 Nov.

13 Jan

Cathy Leiser


7 Nov.

18 Jan

Paul Mayewski

16 Nov.

3 Nov.

11 Jan

Rick Schneider


1 Nov.

18 Jan

Joshua Swanson


7 Nov.

11 Jan

Mike Waszkiewicz

8 Nov.

14 Nov.

13 Jan

Brian Welch

3 Nov.

14 Nov.

13 Jan.

7.1 Travel Summary:

The field team left Taylor Dome on 13 Dec. and traveled less than 2 km having gotten stuck in snow several times. We reconfigured the platform for greater efficiency and departed again on 14 Dec. The traverse ended on 9 Jan. after encountering significant voids in the traverse route. The voids (as much as 33.6 m deep and covered by bridges) were not seen on the RADARSAT survey classically used by US ITASE for route selection, but they were identified using our on site crevasse radar and by subsequent drilling. The cause of these voids is currently under investigation and a route around these features is being planned for 2007–08. Maximum distance covered in one day 75 km, minima > 2 km, and 6 km. Travel mostly on hard surfaces interspersed with sastrugi (maximum height 1.5m).Snow storm on 30–31 Dec. creating visibility too poor to properly navigate around sastrugi.

7.2 Challenger 55s:

One forklift–equipped, one plow–equipped. Same units used on previous US ITASE traverses. Plow 55 driven on traverse exclusively by Rick Schneider per his request unlike shared RPSC–Science driving responsibilities during all past US ITASE seasons. This unit pulled one Polar Haven Berco, 3 Siglin sleds, and the Polar Pooper. Fork 55 had to be driven with forks in down position (high enough to avoid sastrugi) with weight on forks (1200 lb ski–way drag plus other assorted lightweight metals) to move the center of gravity forward and prevent the rear from digging into the snow. We had a false start on 13 Dec partly due to the Fork 55 center of gravity being too far to the rear causing it to dig into the snow while pulling.

The Fork 55 was damaged due to operator error resulting in bending of the fork hydraulic lifting rams. The Heavy Shop supplied a brace to fix the fork hydraulic in place allowing the Fork 55 to be usable on traverse but with minimal fork motion.

7.3 Pisten Bully:

First time used on US ITASE. Unit was previously used during SPT. Josh Swanson drove the PB on traverse, per RPSC request. It works well as a crevasse radar–detecting unit with one driver and one radar observer. The PB blew a parking break hydraulic hose necessitating re–supply from McMurdo. This hose had been identified as a potentially weak component while the PB was in McMurdo but no spares were available so the Heavy Shop was forced to replace the original in this unit with one removed from a PB in McMurdo Station. The PB definitely needs to have more replacement parts available in McMurdo and the factory–installed tape deck put back in order to help keep the crevasse radar person attentive.

7.4 Vehicle Operation:

Unlike previous US ITASE traverses vehicle operation (except for one Challenger) on traverse was undertaken almost exclusively by RPSC staff.

7.5 Snowmobile:

A Skandic 500cc super-wide track was supplied to the traverse. The unit was used during field preparation stages at Taylor Dome, but rarely used on traverse since the PB was far more reliable. The Skandic was returned to McMurdo by Basler at the end of the field season.

7.6 Generators:

Qty 2 diesel 12kw (primary camp energy supply, second unit for back up). Qty 2 gasoline 5kw (primary use Eclipse drilling and back up). Qty 3 gasoline 1.8kw (2 jetted, one not, primary use radar). Qty one gasoline 1kw (primary use radar back up). All generators except 12kw were problematic due either to jetting, fuel contamination, or age (all are probably same ones used for last 6 years on ITASE and LGT).

For 2007–08 we will request only AN8 fuel generators (qty 2 new 10–12kw; qty 1 5kw, qty 1 1kw) to reduce dependence on gasoline and therefore have AN8 as the primary fuel source. In addition, only two drums of gasoline will be required for Herman Nelsons and 6 100lb bottles of propane for the cook stove.

Use of the 12kw generators during the 2006–07 season reduced dependence on less safe systems such as propane and increased available power. A make–shift chimney was built in the field to divert generator fumes from shelters. This system requires upgrade.

7.7 Fuel:

Some water-contaminated drums of AN8 were suspected during the season bad enough to shut down the 12kw Honda (although they are particularly sensitive) plus also a 1.8kw. Possible contamination of some Mogas drums assumed because of poor performance of 5kw, 1.8kw and 12kw generators.

7.8 Fuel Consumptions:

AN8 usage for two Challenger 55s, one Pisten Bully, one 12kw generator) was 4.5 drums/day assuming average an travel day (typically 40 km/day). On station consumption averaged .5 to 1.5 drums/day.

7.9 Fuel Resupply:

Fuel for US ITASE was supplied by Twin Otter and Basler, unlike previous seasons where fuel was air–dropped by C–130. US ITASE was very fortunate to have several of the TO/Basler return flights used for retrograde of empty fuel drums, ice cores, etc. This retrograde was essential since the traverse had one less Berco than planned, hence reduced platform space.

7.10 Heating (Propane, Electric):

CO detectors were mounted in living shelters by a specialized RPSC technician. They did not work properly since they were mounted close to the ceiling or near cooking areas where condensation was frequent.

7.11 Alternative Power:

US ITASE has been utilized as a test bed for solar and wind energy generation. The Outback inverter in the Kitchen appears to perform well but the older Trace inverter in the Blue Room has had a long history of poor performance. A replacement for the Blue Room inverter was provided this season but we did not install it since the batteries in both the Blue Room and the Kitchen are unreliable. RPSC has a known problem with battery storage (all stored outdoors during winter months) and no system for tracking battery age or use history. The wind power generation system was determined, by the RPSC alternative energy technician, to be ineffective and it was removed while the team was at Taylor Dome.

The Blue Room solar inverter should be replaced with a new unit already on site. The new unit should be placed in a new location that does not utilize counter work space.

New batteries are required for the Blue Room, Kitchen, and all scientific equipment (e.g. deep radar and 2 drill).

7.12 Food:

Food quality was excellent this season. Cathy Leiser prepared hot dishes for all three daily meals. Variety and amount were perfect. Sandwiches were distributed to groups departing the main camp and while on traverse

7.13 Shelters (Blue Room, Kithcen, Polar Haven:

The same Berco mounted shelters available during previous US ITASE traverses were available this season. As reported in previous field reports the Kitchen and Blue Room while adequate for their purpose are far heavier than necessary and both shelters are extremely top heavy.

For 2007-08 we will request more comfortable chairs (reclining) vs metal folding chairs. These will be safer for travel and more efficient.

The Blue Room and Kitchen shelters are attached to the Berco sleds by a small number of bolts that have regularly sheared or fallen out. A better attachment is needed.

Doors on both the Kitchen and Blue Room require readjustment and better weather-stripping. More attention should be paid to the use of storage areas in the Blue Room and Kitchen. Considerable space is wasted for extra tools and personal gear.

The temporary folding table carried in the Kitchen should be returned to McMurdo and a possible redesign of the Kitchen considered to include fixed fold up tables.

A web cam will be considered for installation on the Blue Room roof to assist in assessing topographic and meteorological conditions during travel since both the Blue Room and Kitchen have minimal windows.

A bilge pump should be installed between the snow melter and the inside of the Kitchen to reduce water transfer operations.

The Polar Haven takes up one full Berco and housed only 3 people and a few spare parts. It could be more efficiently utilized for storage of generators, tools, etc as in past seasons.

7.14 Lehman Sleds:

Qty two Lehman sleds were provided for the 2006 traverse to replace the Alaeners sleds provided to US ITASE for previous traverses. These sleds, although heavy, have very good ski flotation. These sleds proved to be essential, as did the Alaeners, for carrying fuel and heavy equipment. They could be replaced on future traverses by heavy-duty plastic sleds outfitted to accept fuel barrels.

7.15 Berco Sleds:

Qty three Berco sleds were available for the 2006 traverse. Four were requested but only three were assumed to be in sufficiently good shape when examined at put in. As noted in earlier sections of this report the state of the Bercos sleds following LGT was assumed to be as good as their state when left at South Pole in 2003 by US ITASE. This was far from correct and led to considerable controversy, micromanagement, confusion and delay in the 2006 science schedule. While problems with front hitches were addressed early in the season, problems with rear hitches were reported but not fixed. All rear hitches should have been replaced or reinforced. The rear hitches had already sustained several thousands of km of traverse. Typical damage to rear hitch is wear on the pulling side of the hitch hole. Easy replacement, just 4 bolts. It is essential that several spare hitches be available for 2007–08.

The state of the rear hitches turned out to be a major issue. On 30 Dec while traveling through a sastrugi field the Blue Room Berco was tipped onto its left ski set leaving the right set >4’ in the air. The six people in the Blue Room (4 of whom had extensive US ITASE traverse experience judged this and a previous less dramatic Berco tip earlier in the season to be the most extreme tilt experienced by a Berco on all of the US ITASE and LGT trips) and all insisted that to increase safety the Fork 55 train reconfigure from using spreader bars to a sleds in–line configuration. This situation was raised during conference discussions re spreader bars back in McMurdo. On 1 Jan the used rear Berco hitch of the Kitchen Berco failed leaving the Blue Room Berco behind. No structural damage was observed for the Berco frame and no safety issues arose. We assume that the rear hitch is designed to fail rather than the frame. The rear failure hitch followed thousands of km use and massive jarring earlier that day when the Fork 55 driver (Schneider) backed up with significant force to dislodge the sled train from drifted snow that had accumulated during a 30–31 Dec. storm. Usual procedure for dislodging stuck trains includes using two 55s chained together rather than back ups. On that same day McMurdo was notified that a spare rear Berco hitch was needed on the next available flight (scheduled for 2 Jan.). Since no spare new rear Berco hitches appear to exist in McMurdo the team planned to use used rear hitches from the retrograded US ITASE Bercos. This is a less than satisfactory fix but the six members of the Blue Room all felt that it is far safer to travel in line with sleds in regions of intense sastrugi rather than off a spreader bar. Rick Schneider, who did not see the Blue Room tip, feels that traveling off a spreader bar is as safe in these conditions. There is clear disagreement between Schneider and the Blue Room team (Mayewski, Hamilton, Kurbatov, Dixon, Waszkiewicz, Breton) and a clear definition by the Blue Room team that their safety is compromised if the traverse continues pulling the Blue Room and Kitchen Berco on a spreader bar through regions of significant sastrugi relief.

7.16 Plastic Sleds

Qty three Siglin designed plastic sleds were specially ordered for the 2006–07 traverse. Their intended purpose was to be for light–weight transport (e.g. empty fuel drums and air drop materials). The Siglins turned out to be excellent even for heavier loads (up to 12,000 lbs) once equipped with pallets and draw bar chains attached to the pallets. Although two pallets failed and one Siglin was slightly damaged the concept of plastic sleds proved to be very promising and four heavy–duty plastic sleds equipped with heavy duty tow bars and rear hitching capability are requested for next season. These sleds are relatively inexpensive compared to Bercos and Lehmans and can be shipped in pieces (although the bolt holes should not be pre–drilled since the pieces have different rates of thermal expansion).

At a minimum a fourth large Siglin is required for 2007–08 to replace the missing 4th Berco. Ideally the Siglins should be replaced by heavier plastic sleds equipped with heavy duty front and rear towing points and fitted to carry drums and boxes.

7.17 Small Sleds (Polar Pooper, Eclipse Sled, Radar Sled):

Both the original US ITASE Polar Pooper and the Radar sled were redesigned and rebuilt for the 2006 traverse. The Radar sled requires continued upgrade. It was built of high–grade materials but poorly lashed and the sled is heavier than needed. The Polar Pooper was identified by RPSC as a sled in need of replacement. When the US ITASE SMO was questioned concerning the need for replacement little information was provided concerning need for repair. The new Polar Pooper is far heavier than needed, the new toilet cubicle is significantly smaller than the original toilet, and the new toilet is no more securely affixed than the old toilet. Inspection of the old toilet and the old Pooper sled during the start of the field season revealed no justification for the rebuild and considerable investment in labor. Just prior to traverse departure a shower was attached to the Pooper sled.

7.18 Scientific Equipment Boxes:

Considerable space could be saved (50-80% of a Berco or Siglin) if empty scientific equipment boxes could be returned to McMurdo at the season onset (in empty return flights) and delivered at season end.

7.19 Season Put-In and Take-Out:

The US ITASE would prefer to go in and out as a team at season start and end to reduce the need for extra personnel and to assure that end of season inventories are correct.

7.20 Ice Core Drilling Systems (Eclipse, Rongbuk, PICO hand auger):

Qty one 3 core diameter Eclipse drill and qty one 2 core diameter Rongbuk drill were provided by ICDS. Qty one PICO 3 core diameter hand drill was provided by the University of Maine. The Eclipse drill was operated by Mike Waszkiewicz. Eclipse core quality and depth of penetration were excellent. ICDS did an excellent job of servicing the drill and adding innovative new components such as a collette replacement for the core dogs.

The Rongbuk drill required some in field maintenance but eventually performed quite well. In–field changes included replacement of the planetary gears in the motor assembly and drilling an access hole through the outer barrel to allow introduction of methanol for removal of ice needed to properly insert the inner barrel. The Rongbuk drill will require, prior to next season at least one new replacement motor/gear assembly, preferably two since they are sensitive to shock. The cutter geometry for the Rongbuk head should be reconsidered and possibly introduction of a collette option. The Rongbuk outer barrel requires modification to allow easier chip transport. This may be accomplished by shaping the cutter end of the outer barrel in a similar fashion to that of the Eclipse.

We hope to run the Eclipse drill off the camp 12 kw generator to reduce the number of generators in camp. This will require obtaining a 100m heavy duty extension cord suitable for task.

7.21 RPSC Support Staff:

(Note that this particular section was not seen by one of the document authors (Schneider) but was agreed to by the science team).

Classically US ITASE has operated with one cook and two mechanics (one serves as camp manager). It is essential that the mechanics be given permission to weld damaged sleds.

It is possible for the traverse to be undertaken with only one mechanic, particularly if vehicle driving is shared by all team members as it has been on US ITASE traverses prior to 2006-07.

The position of camp manager could easily be taken on by the more experienced members of the science team to delete one RPSC position on the traverse.

If RPSC cannot provide an experienced liaison in McMurdo US ITASE would prefer to have one of the science staff stay in McMurdo during the field season as a POC.

7.22 Communications:

Primary communications this season were made using Iridium phones. These phones are excellent replacements for HF base stations. This season, however, the Iridium network appeared to be plagued by more than the usual number of dropped calls, perhaps as a consequence of significant increase in usage? Some of the NSF Iridium phones appear to be failing due to age (buttons and screens did not work reliably).

New VHF base stations were put in the Blue Room, Kitchen, and Polar Haven. Both VHF base stations and handhelds operated reasonably. The performance of the new batteries for the handhelds was far superior to that of the older batteries.

US ITASE will request Internet support through Iridium on the SIP to enhance its outreach program.

7.23 Met. Observations:

Waszkiwicz will upgrade the met system utilized by US ITASE using new equipment available from McMurdo (eg., Campbell loggers).

7.24 Crevasse radar:

Josh Swanson built an excellent boom to mount the crevasse radar on the Pisten Bully. All crevasse radar should be archived in future.

Techniques for enhancing crevasse signatures should be investigated.

7.25 Radar science:

Introduction of mandated hours of operation required the need to shut down and start up radar each day that in the case of the deep radar slowed operation and reduced the number of productive science hours per day. The deep radar was plagued by generators (1.8 and 1kw) that stalled repeatedly. The 1kw generators produce unacceptable amounts of radio noise that interferes with the radar data.

The St. Olaf radar system power and towing should be reconsidered. The radar is designed to be powered by purely solar power to reduce RF noise from generators, but battery reliability was a problem, as mentioned earlier with regard to the Blue Room and Kitchen solar systems. A fiber optic cable will be considered so that the radar operator can conduct monitoring from the Blue Room during long traverse legs; however, a dedicated radar sled is still needed for local profiling at the ice core sites.

7.26 Ice core boxes, etc:

Ice core boxes provided by ICDS were of extremely poor quality. We suggest that ICDS return to their original ice core box specifications. The boxes supplied this season will barely last one season compared to older boxes that typically last many seasons. The poor boxes had thin walls and little supportive structure.

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