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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1994-95: VUWAE 39

LOGISTIC REPORT K044 1994-95: Seismic Experiment Ross Ice Shelf

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Event K044
Seismic Experiment Ross Ice Shelf - Again "Seris-A"

Antarctica New Zealand November 24th, 1994 to January 6th, 1995

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This document serves as a report to the New Zealand Antarctic Program on the logistics of Event K044, a geophysical traverse on the Ross Ice Shelf at latitude ~82°S. The report is broken into sections as requested, though only relevant sections have been dealt with. A summary of the most important issues arising from this trip is included at the end of the report

1. Aims

The principal objective of this event was to enhance and extend the geophysical image of the subsurface portion of the Transantarctic Mountain front that was gained from the 1990/91 Seris Expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf.

The 1990/91 seismic work did not locate a graben structure adjacent to the Transantarctic Mountain front, a graben that is believed to have formed as a result of rifting between East and West Antarctica. This expedition extended the Seris traverse a further 100 km north-east onto the Ross Ice Shelf with measurements of gravity, magnetics and ice thickness. With these measurements we will investigate the possibility that the expected graben exists further from the mountain front

Additionally we aimed to obtain detailed measurements of ice thickness on the Robb Glacier portion of the 1990/91 expedition for reprocessing of seismic data. This information would then provide a clearer picture of the deep structure associated with the East/West Antarctica boundary.

2. Planning

We experienced some form of communication break-down upon arriving in Antarctica. We found at our event briefing at Scott Base that we were working off an Equipment Allocation form dated just prior to Tekapo, whereas NZAP staff were referring to one dated September 19th, 1994, a form which we never received. It appeared also that the September 19th form had not been updated with respect to some equipment and time in the field as agreed at Tekapo. With this in mind, it is likely beneficial for field parties to check with NZAP that both sides have compatible allocation forms.

All requested information (maps, previous reports etc.) were provided quickly by the NZAP library. We obtained previous reports on the 1990/91 Seris Expedition to the same area, and Bill Atkinson obtained an older map of the Ross Ice Shelf that included some geophysical data, a map which we found quite useful.

The Tekapo training course was a very useful precursor to the real thing in that it served to familiarise personal with the program and also the people that would provide support at Scott Base.

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As well as learning a great deal, we all thoroughly enjoyed the week. Bill Atkinson did not attend the Tekapo course but we do not believe that this disadvantaged the event in any way.

3. Cargo

Eight small yellow boxes and assorted seismic equipment contained in 3 large boxes weighing in at 420 kg (930 lbs), were forwarded to NZAP as cargo on October 30th. We received notification that the cargo had arrived in Christchurch, and this cargo was waiting for us at Scott Base when we arrived.

In addition, we hand carried small amounts of sensitive equipment to Antarctica. The equipment survived the trip there and back, though continued requests for care by aircrew were necessary.

4. Personnel

The event personnel were as follows:

Ron Hackney Science Leader, Masters student
Tony Haver Senior Technician
Julie Quinn Honours student
  • Institute of Geophysics
  • Victoria University
  • PO Box 600
  • Wellington
  • Ph: 04 472 1000 x8369/8414
  • Fax: 04 495 5186
  • Ron.Hackney@vuw.ac.nz
Bill Atkinson Field Leader
  • PO Box 144
  • McKenzie Dr
  • Twizel
  • Ph: 03 435 0864
  • 025 351 438 (mobile)
  • Fax: 03 435 0765

All members of the party integrated well and shared much good humour whilst at the same time working hard and striving to achieve the best for the event.

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5. Preparations for the Field

We were well received by the Scott Base staff. Many of the staff willingly worked beyond normal hours to assist us in getting things ready for the field, time for which we are grateful.

Planning for the field went reasonably smoothly, aside from the previously mentioned problems with differing Event Allocation Forms. The staff were happy to modify our dates in the field after consultation with Tim Stem in New Zealand, and we were allocated extra fuel as a backup upon request

Prior to arrival in Antarctica, three fuel drops were deployed by Twin Otter. We had no difficulty in locating the fuel once in the field. Five 60L fuel drums were positioned at depot Julie (for locations see Event Map, Section 8), three at depot Kilo and nine at depot Lima. Fuel drums were deployed two high and marked with several flags.

All equipment allocated to us was well prepared and in good working order: skidoos ran well, sledges were in good shape, stoves were clean and functional, field gear was complete and clean. We had some problems with availability and standard of radio equipment (refer to later section).

Additions were made to two of the skidoos allocated (AL1 and AL5) to enable mounting of GPS navigation equipment Modifications involved drilling screw holes into the cowling of AL1 to allow attachment of a GPS receiver mounting bracket. Wiring was added to both skidoos running from the auxiliary battery connector on the dash-panel to an antenna mount attached to the back railing of the skidoo.

The new auxiliary battery connectors on the dash-panel were invaluable for connecting equipment such as GPS receivers, avoiding the need to make direct connections to the skidoo battery. However we would have liked to see a heavier duty system used on the skidoos. Connectors with larger contacts and higher current rating would perhaps be more appropriate. With greater capacity, devices (such as Codan radios) with a higher current draw could also be connected to the system. Rather than wire the connectors through the skidoo ignition system, we would be happier to see a direct fused connection to the battery. This would ensure that equipment could still be operated in the event of failure of the ignition system.

Antarctic Field Training served the purpose of both being a good introduction to the Antarctic environment and also a valuable refresher. The course was well run and in the time allocated everything that was necessary was adequately covered.

For a shakedown, we took a trip out to Cape Royds with our skidoos and sledges. On this trip everything ran smoothly and looked to be in good working order. We did notice that the steering on page 4 AL4 was a little sloppy, perhaps a precursor to the breakage experienced later? (see Section 6). An extra shorter trip was taken toward "Room With a View" for the purpose of testing HF radio equipment Such a test remote from Scott Base is essential as the "testing" of equipment outside the Scott Base radio room is inadequate (see Section 12). In general, a shakedown trip is an important part of field preparation that should not be left out. Such trips can also be beneficial to "cultural welfare", in our case because we were able to share some time with penguins!

We were delayed 3 days into the field from Scott Base, we believe due to aircraft unavailability. Whilst this delay pushed back our scheduled extraction date from the field, we were given sufficient notice of the delay. It would be useful in the future given such warning of a delay, to also delay the delivery of science and other equipment to McMurdo cargo handling. By being able to hold onto our equipment longer, some time could have been spent close to Scott Base preparing the equipment for the field. Extra time with the equipment could well have saved us some preparation time upon arrival in the field.

Overall, the preparation of equipment was adequate and the allocation of that equipment efficient This does not apply to radio gear, but this will be dealt with in Section 12.

6. Field Transport

6.1. NZAP Vehicles

The 3 skidoos allocated to this event were well prepared and adequate spares, tools and lubricants were supplied. We were impressed with the Scott Base staff who prepared our machines.

During their time in the field, the skidoos were never subjected to testing terrain. Being on the Ross Ice Shelf, the terrain was flat and mostly smooth. The roughest terrain had hard sastrugi ridges no more than half a metre in height Aware of the possible consequences of such terrain, we were conscious of the need to adjust travelling speeds to suit the terrain. We were sometimes able to average speeds of 20 km/hr, but on average managed about 15 km/hr. Occasionally progress was as slow as 10 km/hr.

The lack of testing terrain resulted in good fuel consumption. Averaged for the three skidoos used, this consumption was:
4.2 km/litre or 2.38 litres/10km.

During the time in the field, we used 9 60L drums of 2-stroke, a ½ drum of Mogas (generator), and one jerrycan of kerosene. This usage left 16 drums of 2-stroke, 1½ drums of Mogas and 2 jerrycans of kerosene. All drums and remaining fuel were flown out of the field.

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Mileage of each skidoo is detailed below.

Skidoo AL1 AL4 AL5
odometer (start) 5733 2840 6204
odometer (end) 6801 3264 7301
Total distance 1068 km 424 km 1097 km

The smaller distance covered by AL4 was due to it being used only during camp moves.

Little maintenance was required on the vehicles. Work that was necessary and damage that did occur is outlined below:
Date Event Remedy
21/12 AL5 fuel pump/carburettor icing Towed to camp and de-iced
21/12 AL4 steering failure Towed to camp. Later added a make-shift steering system to avoid the need to tow.
24/12 AL4 breaks nose ski Retrieved next day by mounting nose on sledge and towing.
6/1 AL5 steering failure On approach to Herc at extraction time.

6.2. Aircraft Operations

The event was deployed to the field with VXE-6 Hercules aircraft, one flight each to and from the field. Deployment and pick-up was at depot Lima (see Section 8 for map).

Cargo was delivered to McMurdo almost 5 days before the flight to the field. We did not experience any difficulties getting our cargo through the system at McMurdo and we found that the personnel on this side of things at McMurdo were helpful.

The weights carried on our flights were close to the maximum load possible for a Hercules landing in the field. These weights were:
To the Field: 4220 kg (9300 lbs)
From the Field: 3670 kg (8100 lbs)

The majority of our cargo (food and kitchen boxes, science boxes etc) were strapped to a large pallet. Extra 60L fuel drums were carried on a small pallet Sledges were carried separately in the hold unloaded, though one sledge carried checked personal luggage. We drove me skidoos to me Ice Runway ourselves about 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure time and insisted on loading them onto the aircraft at departure time ourselves. We would recommend to others transporting skidoos on Hercules not to rely on the loading crew to get the vehicles on the plane without damage.

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Given that we had only one flight each way, no special arrangements were made for hazardous cargo (fuel, skidoos etc) other than the usual labelling arrangements and a waiver was arranged by McMurdo Cargo Handling to allow passengers to ride with cargo considered hazardous.

All our cargo arrived with us in the field safe and well.

Pre-planning of flights to the field went quite smoothly. We were given plenty of notice of our delay, and on the rescheduled day of departure, we were away only a few hours late.

Extraction from the field was a little more eventful. Our scheduled removal was December 27th, we were not picked up until the early hours of January 6th. Reasons for this were: the weather (3 days of the waiting period were stormed out); mechanical problems with aircraft; and "higher priority" flights elsewhere. Whilst we understand that there are many factors that control flights in the Antarctic, we felt at times that more could have been done at Scott Base to push the Americans to get a plane to us. We were critically low on food (for reasons discussed in Section 11.3) and our impression from communication with Scott Base was that the Americans were not totally aware of how critical our situation was. A 4 or 5 day storm at the time of extraction would have left us with no food. Regretfully it seemed that more effort was made only after persistent insistence from us.

Landing sites in the field were adequate and locations are shown on the attached map. At field put-in time, 3 ski drags were made by the plane before landing on the fourth pass. The landing felt reasonably smooth and no complaints were heard from the aircrew. The landing site was flat, crevasse free, lacked substantial sastrugi ridges and was covered in 10 to 15 cm of soft snow.

At pull-out time, the drag lines had been covered over by blowing snow and new ridges and sastrugi had formed. The site still appeared suitable for a landing and the plane that picked us up landed on the first approach without any test drags. Loading the aircraft took roughly 1½ hours, including packing the camp. The loading crew were very efficient, patient and helpful. Take-off from the site was noticeably rougher, but still not critically so, though we understand that some damage was done to the nose-ski of the plane during take-off.

We were impressed with the aircrew (and grateful) on this extraction flight as they landed under conditions of very flat light and low cloud ceiling, conditions under which we hadn't expected a landing to be attempted. The ski-way where the drags were initially put was marked with flags separated by 200m over a length of 2000m. These markings may have assisted the aircrew with their decision to land.

The only other aircraft support was the Twin Otter flight in late November to deploy the fuel depots. These depots were deployed as requested and were not drifted in to any great extent.

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7. In the Field

7.1. Event Diary

Following is a summary of our day to day events whilst at Scott Base and in the field.
Nov 22nd: - Bill Atkinson arrives in Antarctica.
Nov 23rd: - travel Wellington to Christchurch, accommodation Windsor Hotel.
Nov 24th: - flight check in 0400, departure to Antarctica 2315.
Nov 25th: - arrive Scott Base 0630, briefing and sleep.
Nov 26th: - Event briefing, Field Training in afternoon.
Nov 27th: - Field Training continued, preparation for shakedown trip.
Nov 28th: - shakedown trip to Cape Royds.
Nov 29th: - packing of cargo.
Nov 30th: - cargo taken to McMurdo.
Dec 1st: - gravity measurements at McMurdo and Scott Base.
Dec 2nd: - skidoo driving practise and HF radio testing towards "Room With a View".
Dec 3rd: - skidoo practise and discussion on GPS with Perry Gilbert (NZAP) and McMurdo USGS surveyors Larry Hotham and Barbara Littell.
Dec 4th: - skidoos delivered to ice runway, bag drag in evening.
Dec 5th: - to ice runway at ~1930, supervised loading of LCI30, take-off at ~2045. Touch-down in the field at Camp Lima (refer map) at ~2300.
Dec 6th: - day spent organising equipment.
Dec 7th: - measurements and testing at Lima measurement site (km-190).
Dec 8th: - measurements km-190 (Lima) to km-160.
Dec 9th: - camp move to km-130.
Dec 10th: - measurements km-150 to km-110.
Dec 11th: - no progress due to bad weather (wind and poor definition).
Dec 12th: - camp move to km-70 (in poor weather conditions).
Dec 13th: - no progress due to bad weather (wind, snow, poor visibility).
Dec 14th: - no progress due to bad weather (wind, snow, poor visibility).
Dec 15th: - no progress due to bad weather (wind, snow, poor visibility).
Dec 16th: - measurements km-100 (Kilo) to km-90.
Dec 17th: - measurements km-90 to km-70.
Dec 18th: - measurements km-46 to km-70.
Dec 19th: - camp move to km-22.
Dec 20th: - measurements km-44 to km-22.
Dec 21st: - measurements km-0 (Julie) to km-22.
Dec 22nd: - no progress due to skidoo repairs and battery charging.
Dec 23rd: - return travel km-22 to km-100.page 8
Dec 24th: - return travel km-100 to km-190 (Lima).
Dec 25th: - travel to km-160 and back to retrieve damaged skidoo (AL4).
Dec 26th: - packing of equipment in preparation for scheduled pull-out, also attempted measurements with seismograph.
Dec 27th: - flight postponed.
Dec 28th: - tent bound due to storm.
Dec 29th: - tent bound due to storm.
Dec 30th: - tent bound due to storm.
Dec 31st: - storm cleared, but no flight scheduled. Dug sleds etc out of snow drifts.
Jan 1st: - no flight scheduled. Food drop requested from Scott Base.
Jan 2nd: - flight scheduled for 2300, then postponed and postponed some more.…
Jan 3rd: - plane arrives ~0300 but doesn't land due to poor surface definition. With little warning, at 0500 plane arrives and drops US Navy "Survival" rations. Pick-up rescheduled for next day. Jan 4th: - two planes develop mechanical troubles en-route to pick us up, one of which we believe carried the requested NZAP food drop.
Jan 5th: - Flight travelling via Byrd eventually arrives on schedule at ~0100. In poor conditions (low cloud and poor surface definition) plane lands. Loading completed in 1½ hours. Arrive back at Ross Island ~0500, emergency landing due to damaged nose ski.
- day spent packing science cargo for return to NZ.
- board flight back to Christchurch at 2200.
Jan 6th: - arrive Christchurch 0630, returned to Wellington by 0930.
A summary of the time in the field is as follows:
total days making measurements = 8
total days lost to weather/repairs = 6
total days for camp movement = 5
total days for put-in/pull-out = 2
total days delay from field = 10

7.2. Method

In brief, a typical day involved working from camp about 20 to 25 km in either direction on successive days making measurements, then returning to camp. This removed the need to continually go through the time consuming process of setting up and pulling down camp every day. It also allowed us to travel lightly whilst making measurements; we only carried the science equipment and emergency survival equipment that included 2 Dome tents. A more detailed account of method is contained in the Immediate Science Report for the event

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It is worth mentioning here the method used to navigate the traverse line. We used GPS equipment loaned from Alex Pyne (Victoria University). A Trimble Pathfinder Basic Plus unit was mounted onto a skidoo cowling with its antenna attached to the back railing (see Section 5). Navigation with such a set-up is accurate to around ±100m. Such accuracy seemed adequate for our navigation purposes, since we had no difficulties finding fuel depots deployed earlier by the Twin Otter. For scientific reasons, more accurate positioning was required at measurement sites and this was achieved using additional Trimble Pathfinder equipment set recording for approximately 15 minutes at each site, eventually to be differentially corrected to a continuously logging base station GPS back at camp. The base station data will in turn be differentially corrected with data provided by USGS surveyors at McMurdo. With this method, we should be able to determine measurement positions to within about a metre.

Whilst GPS is a convenient and relatively simple means of navigation and position finding, we found that discussions and advice from Dosli surveyor Perry Gilbert invaluable. In this sense, we believe that whilst it may appear GPS removes the need to supply survey assistance to science events, the need to have access to someone familiar with surveying techniques (both conventional and GPS) is still vital.

8. Event Map

The Event Map is attached at the end of this report.

9. Weather

Weather during the time in the field was quite variable. For the first week it remained clear and sunny with light winds. After this time conditions deteriorated to low cloud, variable visibility and poor surface definition. On the odd day snow fell, occasionally quite heavily. Heavy snow days combined with the relatively warm temperatures, led to problems with wet clothing. A storm with up to 40 knot winds and heavy blowing snow was encountered over a three day period toward the end of the trip. This storm did not help pull-out procedures.

Despite the lack of perfect conditions for the majority of the trip, the weather did not greatly hinder progress. Six days were lost to weather as a result of strong wind and/or very poor visibility. It is worth noting that work only continued due to the fact that we were travelling on the relatively safe terrain of the Ross Ice Shelf. In many other parts of Antarctica travel would have been unwise.

Temperatures in the field averaged around −5 to −7°C, the coldest being about −17°C and the warmest +1°C. Again, the mild temperatures at times caused problems with wet clothing.

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A more detailed account of weather has been submitted to the Scott Base science technicians in the "Met Book".

10. Accidents, Incidents or Hazards

No accidents or incidents occurred that resulted in significant injury. Perhaps our biggest safety concern was the manner in which the steering system failed on skidoo AL4 (Section 6.1).

Fortunately this failure occurred just prior to commencing travel. Had the failure occurred during normal travel speeds (maximum 20 km/hr), potential for injury would be high. Given the failure of AL5 in a similar manner, and also with the failure of another skidoo (AL3) on the polar plateau during the previous season in mind, it may be necessary to consider a closer examination of the steering mechanism on skidoos in order to strengthen the system.

11. Field Equipment

11.1. Clothing

Clothing performed quite well. Relatively mild temperatures meant that feeling cold was not too much of a problem, though toward the end of the trip when food was becoming low, the quicker onset of cold was noticeable by all members of the party. The only major problem we had with the clothing was wetness when travelling in conditions with falling or blowing snow. This problem was overcome by wearing the waterproof oversuits supplied to us. These oversuits were good for this purpose, but we still believe that they would be difficult to use for their intended purpose as a suit to go over survival clothing. If the suits were to become regular issue as a waterproof garment, then modifications to make them similar to other issued clothing would be needed.

11.2. Tents

Our team trialed a modification on the standard polar tent design involving split poles to fold the tent to a more compact size. We experienced no great difficulties with the system of slotting poles together, though we would be suspicious of using the system in extreme conditions of cold or wind. Some form of lubricant where the poles join together would improve the ease with which the join could be made and also pulled apart

We carried with us two dome tents as emergency back-up. We also found these tents useful as a mobile "laboratory" in which batteries could be charged more efficiently due to the warmer environment. In future we would consider taking an extra tent of this type solely for the purpose of "laboratory", thus avoiding the necessity to disassemble the tent before a days travel from base camp.

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11.3. Food Boxes

We experienced many short falls with the Food Boxes. We quickly ran out of items such as spreads, leaving us with a large excess of crackers that we could either not eat or eat dry. Muesli bars were way in excess; we brought back the equivalent of about 10 muesli bars for each member of the party, and would have brought back more had other food not run out.

We were concerned with the used by dates on many items in the boxes. Muesli bars were often up to 3 years out of date and showing it Tinned fish is an especially dodgy product when in date, let alone out of date. Thought should perhaps be given to replacing these and other items (eg. milk powder). We wonder whether it is worth risking food poisoning for deep field parties that are perhaps days away from assistance?

We found that with all the food allocated as per NZAP guidelines, we ran short of food by the end of the trip. The result of this was that instead of having the required 14 days per person extra food, we only had at most 7 days. This equates to the food boxes having the equivalent of 16 person days of food as opposed to the stated 20.

Items that we believe should be given a greater emphasis in boxes include:
  • frozen meat and vegetables (an extra 4 person days per box)
  • pasta and rice (an extra packet of each would make a difference)
  • spreads (jam, honey, vegemite etc)
  • margarine (vanished quickly because needed for cooking)
Less emphasis should be put on:
  • tinned fish (especially out of date)
  • muesli bars (reduce or replace some with extra cookies)

We would also have liked to see some cooking oil included in the food boxes as we frequently used the teflon frypan for meals.

Maybe it is worth considering a system by which field parties can select their own food, thereby allowing them knowledge of exactly what they have in the field and enabling some degree of selection of preferred items.

11.4. Other Equipment

Technical climbing equipment, whilst not used to any great extent, appeared to be of suitable standard.

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Sledges worked well and no problems were experienced. When moving camp, we carried loads that pushed the maximum capacity of the sledges, but no damage occurred under normal use.

The contents of the kitchen boxes were adequate, though inclusion of a sealable milk-shaker would be more useful. The teflon frypans are a definite plus.

Stoves all worked well and were clean and in good working order when we got hold of them. The only field maintenance required was the replacement of the burner nipple on one primus and the tightening of the nipple on another.

We had no problems with the generator supplied other man the lack of a 12V DC charger that we had expected. We were impressed with the ease at which the generator started and its persistence even when partly covered by blowing snow. We were grateful for the wooden box made at Scott Base to shelter and transport the box. Such boxes should be considered standard issue with all generators.

All equipment was returned to Scott Base in working order. One sledge was returned with a broken deck rail as a result of improvising to retrieve AL4, the skidoo that severed a nose ski. Regretfully, a lot of the equipment was returned uncleaned, but due to our rapid transit through Scott Base this was unavoidable. We are apologetic and grateful to the staff at Scott Base with whom this gear was left

Overall, we found the field equipment supplied of a suitable standard and the service in providing this equipment of an equivalent standard. We would however suggest some major thinking on the food boxes and hope that some of our other minor suggestions above will be considered.

12. Radio Communications

We were in the fortunate position to have an experienced radio technician as part of the team (Tony Haver). Regretfully, we believe that there are a number of problems with the current Communications set-up.

We were issued with two older Codan radios from Scott Base, one of which worked well, the other having a deficiency in power output We had been expected to be issued with the new Codan X2 radios but apparently these were unavailable. As far as we could see, at least one X2 spent our field time sitting in a broken down Hagglund. Whilst we managed good communications with the radios we had (and this is not a result of the radios alone), we had difficulty understanding why one new radio could not have been made available to the only deep field party this season.

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Our HF radios were tested approximately 15 km from Scott Base toward "Room With a View". Testing of radio equipment any closer to Scott Base is not a true test of the system. As testimony to this, we called the radio room from the hanger by transmitting from our lower power radio as it was in its box, no aerials attached. The perfect communications resulting from this indicate the importance of taking HF radio gear away from base. We would consider the absolute minimum distance for such a test as 5 km from Scott Base.

For safety reasons whilst travelling on glaciers, we had also requested the use of a HF vertical whip aerial and were on the understanding that one would be available (otherwise we would have brought our own). Contrary to the experience of our technician, we were informed that such a whip aerial would not work and consequently we were not even given the chance to trial the set-up. We consider a system that avoids unwinding the conventional dipole aerial in a crevassed area a definite necessity from a safety perspective, and believe that developing a system for adaptation to skidoos something that NZAP should seriously consider.

Batteries supplied with the radios whilst serving their purpose for brief radio conversation, were not adequate for the extended conversation periods that we found necessary. However, we acquired a spare 12V skidoo battery to overcome this problem. We believe that the batteries supplied in the green wooden boxes should be modified slightly to include, as all our own batteries did, a fuse. Given that these batteries are charged from unregulated solar panels, a simple short or overload could result in a fire. Fusing the batteries is a cheap and simple safety precaution.

We did not use the issued NZAP dipole aerials and brought our own, along with 3m length poles upon which to mount the aerials. The raising of the aerials above the ground in combination with the use of an aerial tuning unit was likely the major factor contributing to our good communications with Scott Base. These communications were interrupted only by failures at Scott Base and rarely by unfavourable atmospheric conditions.

We found that the radios had no settings to American frequencies currently in use. This leaves a field party in dire straits should a problem occur at a time when Scott Base is off line. We experienced such a time when Scott Base was off line and the only way we could communicate was through the gratefulness of South Pole who tuned off their standard frequency (now 8998 MHz) to talk to us on 8997 MHz. We believe that it is essential for NZAP to look at getting some American frequencies set on the radios immediately, especially the modification of the 8997 MHz band to the 8998 MHz band.

As mentioned above communications with Scott Base were excellent We also found that we were frequently relaying for other field parties closer to Scott Base than ourselves. One particular party experienced a fault with their Compak radio and were unable to contact Scott Base with the back-up. It was fortunate that we were listening at the time, and also fortunate that we were delayed from the page 14 field, otherwise they could have been in the field with no means of communication for a period of about a week.

We found the radio sked timing to be suitably flexible. Radio operators were friendly and helpful. Weather reports were provided on request and messages were passed to and from New Zealand efficiently. Information on flights and resupply was slow in coming through, though certainly not through any fault of the radio operators. We often had to request information about flights, but generally found it quicker to get information regarding flight schedules direct from South Pole. We requested a food package be prepared and air dropped to us, a drop that never arrived, we hope due solely to aircraft troubles.

VHF radio's along with high gain aerials were also supplied to us for inter-party communications. We found that the high gain aerials were ineffective when the party was further than about 10 km apart.

In the future we would plan to bring our own radio communication and eventually satellite communication equipment. This way we can be sure of the standard of the equipment and know that we will always be able to communicate with Scott Base and the outside world.

13. Scott Base Lab Facilities

Lab space used by us was mainly for the purpose of storing electronic equipment and charging batteries. We used a spare room in the Hatherton Lab to set-up GPS and computer equipment, and some bench space upstairs in Q-Hut to keep the gravity meter on power.

Suggestions that we could make for the new lab facilities include:
  • space, perhaps partitioned, for specific events to set-up equipment (in our case, computers, gravity meter etc). Space away from the garage environment is essential as the dirt associated with garages is not a good mix with sensitive scientific equipment.
  • equipment that would be useful in such areas could include a soldering iron, battery chargers appropriate for charging up to 20Ahr 12V sealed led acid batteries, such charger(s) should have a current output of 2 - 5 Amps.
  • a basic set of tooling would be useful, perhaps a set of the tools most commonly borrowed from the garage and workshops? We found that bringing a complete set of tools for ourselves was much more practical than relying on what is already at Scott Base.
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15. Environmental Impact

The relevant form has been completed and attached to this report.

We found no sign of impact from the previous 1990/91 Seris Expedition in the same area.

In terms of wildlife, we had visits at various times from roughly half a dozen different skua's, usually individually, but once in a pair. The skua's would generally only spend a few minutes sitting on the ground around the camp and then would fly away to the north. One other type of bird was sighted on one occasion. This bird had a white underside, grey top and grey wing leading edge. Its wings were pointed and its beak dark in colour. We thought this might have been an Australian Plover, which we understand are found in colonies in Marie Byrd Land.

18. Management of Science in the Ross Dependency

In general, it would seem that NZAP can adequately cater for work such as ours. We experienced some inconveniences that have been outlined in this report. There a few things that we believe need looking at, and attention to these issues can only improve the standard of support provided by NZAP.

At Scott Base we had a lot of support and mostly gained equipment of suitable standard. Exceptions were the radio equipment and food boxes. We hope that the comments above will contribute to resolving these problems.

Though we realise that there are many factors controlling aircraft allocation in the Antarctic, we feel that NZAP could provide more support to their own field parties by perhaps being a little less reserved when it comes to asking things of the US program or making them aware of situations in the field. This is especially the case for situations such as our own in which time and particularly amount of food were becoming critical.

In light of our need for a quick air drop of food, it may be worth considering having a pre-packaged emergency food supply stored at Scott Base for immediate dispatch on any aircraft in the hours rather than days before a plane is scheduled to depart. Such a package should include standard food items necessary for normal food consumption and should be already packaged in a state fit for an air-drop. Such a package stored ready for immediate dispatch could avoid the dangerous situation of a field party being stranded without food. Such a package could also save a field party from the demoralising experience of living on US Navy "Survival Rations".

This event involved no guest scientists and no senior scientists. Two students were involved, a Masters student as Science Leader and an Honours student. We do not believe that this page 16 disadvantaged the event in any way. The presence of a more senior scientist would have made little difference to the amount of progress made. All that is required on such trips is someone familiar with maintaining the equipment (the technician), someone familiar with the scientific objectives of the trip (the Science Leader, who in this case was given a thorough briefing in New Zealand and through his own work is familiar with the problems being addressed), people familiar with using the equipment (technician and students) and someone with the ability to make on the spot judgements with regard to data being collected (students and technician).


There are several things highlighted in this report that we believe require attention for the benefit of field teams that follow us. In outline these are:
  • the problems of food box contents. We would suggest a review of the contents and a "clean-out" of over date food items (Section 11.3).
  • the provision of an emergency food supply for rapid deployment to the deep field (Section 11.3).
  • the problems and inefficiencies with radio communications (Section 12), especially testing of HF radios further from base, the need to develop a compact aerial unit for use on crevassed terrain, and work towards providing compatible frequencies with the US program.
  • the need for greater communication between Scott Base operations and McMurdo operations with regard to deep field parties (Section 6.2).
  • the possible need for a close examination of the skidoo nose-ski system in order to strengthen the system, thereby reducing the risk of injury (Section 10).
  • the advantages of providing boxes for transporting and sheltering generators (Section 11.4), perhaps looking at greater use of solar energy in place of generators.

We would be more than happy to provide further information and consult further with NZAP on these issues if it were considered necessary.

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Top: Map showing the region around the "Seris-A" Traverse in relation to Ross Island and the Ross Ice Shelf. Bottom: Location Map of the traverse showing camp sites and put-in/pull-out location. Travel was from Lima to Julie, returning to Lima. Fuel depots were positioned by Twin Otter at Lima, Kilo and Julie (see Section 5). Dotted line represents the portion of the traverse on the Robb Glacier not covered.

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