Draft Proposal 2004 - page 8

US ITASE Technical and Logistical Accomplishments (1999-2003)

With the completion of the 2002-2003 field season, US ITASE accomplished the following technical and logistical activities:

  1. The traverse traveled a total of ~5500 km sampling a significant portion of West Antarctica (Figure 1).
  2. Continuous radar observations (crevasse detection (400 MHz) and shallow depth (400 MHz) over the ~5500 km of the traverse route and deep (2.5 MHz)) over ~3500 km.
  3. Twenty science sites occupied for periods of 2-6 days depending upon workload per site.
  4. A total of ~3100 m of ice core recovered utilizing both the 3” diameter Eclipse drill purchased by NSF for use by US ITASE and a 2.2” diameter lightweight drill built by Glacier Data for the University of Maine. A total of twenty 3” diameter ice cores collected from twenty-five sites covering a minimum of 200 years (typically >500-1000 years). Ice cores sampled at NICL for chemistry, stable isotopes, density and total beta activity.
  5. Permeability and porosity experiments conducted from 15 snowpits and 12 18 m ice cores were collected.
  6. Stratigraphy sampled at all sites utilizing snowpits excavated either exclusively for this purpose, or snowpits excavated as access for 3” ice coring, or ~10 m wide pits excavated using a Challenger 55.
  7. Ninety days of atmospheric and shallow chemistry observations conducted at twenty sites. Sampling included real-time, continuous observations of peroxides (H2O2 and organic peroxides), formaldehyde and ozone near surface and ozone profiles up to an altitude of 23 km.
  8. Basic meteorological observations collected at all sites and 10 m depth temperatures for comparison with infrared satellite estimates of mean annual temperature.
  9. Twenty-five high precision GPS ‘coffee can’ experiments deployed to estimate mass balance.
  10. Three AWS deployed close to the proposed inland deep drilling WAIS site.

US ITASE Style of Operation and Logistics

US ITASE is effectively a polar research vessel. It offers the ground-based opportunities of traditional style traverse travel coupled with the modern technology of GPS navigation, crevasse detecting radar, remote sensing, autonomous technology, satellite communications and multi-disciplinary research. By operating as a ground-based transport system US ITASE offers scientists the opportunity to experience the dynamic environment they are studying. US ITASE also offers an important interactive venue for research. US ITASE offers multi-disciplinary interactions similar to that afforded by oceanographic research vessels and large polar field camps, without the cost of the former or the lack of mobility of the latter. More importantly the combination of disciplines represented by US ITASE provides a unique, multi-dimensional (space and time) view of the atmosphere, the ice sheet and their histories. When US ITASE reached South Pole at the end of the 2002-2003 field season, it had sampled the physical and chemical environment of West Antarctica over spatial scales in excess of 5500 km and 3500 m in depth, and over time periods ranging from several hundred years (at sub-annual scale) from ice cores to thousands of years from geophysical techniques.
Based on the experience gained during the 1999-2003 US ITASE seasons we propose the following operation style for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 US ITASE traverses from Taylor Dome to South Pole. Although details of the exact route still remain to be developed based on examination of satellite imagery and scientific and logistic considerations, we plan to traverse from Taylor Dome to South Pole along the inland margin of the Transantarctic Mountains (Figure 1). The likely starting point in the 2005-2006 season will be Taylor Dome, where the traverse vehicles are currently staged. We plan to combine US ITASE data with French and Italian ITASE data taken to the north to develop a full north to south (ocean to Pole) gradient of study, and through collaboration with our Australian ITASE colleagues extend this study region westward into Wilkes Land. We plan to make between 6 and 10 several day (2-5) stops per season and conduct continuous experiments en route.
The traverse team will be comprised of 8-15 individuals (to be determined on the basis of successful science proposals submitted to OPP). Fourteen individuals were involved in the 2002-2003 season. Traverse logistics will include: two Challenger 55s, four Berco sleds (comprised of mechanics/equipment/berthing sled, ice core/science storage sled, science/berthing sled and permanent galley/berthing sled; two 3000 gallon fuel tank sleds or equivalent in drum or seal tanks, plus lighter sleds (such as Maudheims, Polar Associate, Komatiks, Nansens and Polar Pooper)). If significantly fewer than 10 science projects are involved in US ITASE, sled and vehicle requirements can be reduced accordingly. Based on past experience US ITASE is capable of traveling and conducting science over an ~2000 km traverse route in a fifty day field season. Travel is typically at an average of 10-12 km/hr, except when ground conditions are poor (5 km/hr). US ITASE has been able to operate (travel and science) more than 95% of its time in the field, making it far more efficient than projects dependent on frequent air support. LC130 support will be requested as follows: to deploy the field team, equipment, and fuel into the field, to retrograde team, ice cores, and equipment, and for air drops (unless fuel tank sleds are available). Approximately four-six LC130 flights would be required to support a field team comprised of close to 10 individual scientific projects. While LC130 support is clearly at a premium we feel that four-six flights/10 projects is an extremely efficient use of logistics. Twin Otter resupply will be requested as required. Past experience suggests between 0-1 flight per season in support of the main traverse and additional flights for reoccupation of survey markers. Ice core drilling will utilize the 3” core diameter Eclipse Drill constructed by Icefield Instruments for US ITASE and modified by Mark Wumkes of Glacier Data, Inc. The Eclipse Drill and drilling expertise are provided by Ice Core Drilling Services (University of Wisconsin). We also plan to bring a 2.2” core diameter drill, Rongbuk, designed by Glacier Data for shallow coring that was used successfully to recover 10-40 m cores during the 2001-2003 field seasons.

During the 2005-2006 season, US ITASE will travel from Taylor Dome southward along the inland margin of the Transantarctic Mountains. Exact route and stopping point at the end of that season will be determined by consensus of the funded US ITASE researchers. The US ITASE field team will identify a safe LC130 landing site and construct a runway. All necessary skills and equipment are on board the traverse including RADARSAT imagery, crevasse detecting radar, experienced glaciologists, plows, runway drags, and a Camp Manager experienced with runway construction, maintenance, and aircraft communication and loading/offloading. The 2006-2007 traverse would be resupplied and start from the 2005-2006 traverse endpoint. Two highly experienced mechanics have accompanied US ITASE in the past, and would be requested in the future, to assure vehicle safety and reliability. Once the 2006-2007 traverse is complete, several options could be considered including:

  1. turning traverse platform over to another field project,
  2. overland return to Taylor Dome or West Antarctica,
  3. return to McMurdo overland along the British Commonwealth Expedition Route, or (d) airlift equipment to McMurdo.

Details of the 1999-2003 field season logistics plans as well as daily logs, and detailed annual field reports are available on the web (fieldreports) and logbook) and details for the 2005-2007 seasons have been submitted to the OPP Electronic Support Planner as part of the submission process for this proposal.

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