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Victoria University Antarctic Research End-of-Season Report 1995-96: VUWAE 40

Phase 2: 12 January - 05 February 1996

Phase 2: 12 January - 05 February 1996.

12 January.

Cowie and Pyne, who had arrived at Scott Base the previous evening from NZ, completed a helicopter reconnaissance of the sea ice from Cape Roberts to the sea ice edge, a distance of 20 kms. Assisted by Ridgen and Americans Bill Hals and Buck Tilley a close investigation was also made of the tide crack or transition area at the southern access to the Cape. It was apparent that conditions were not as good as they had been for the previous ship off-load and that greater care would have to be taken in route finding and testing the ice. Ice at the transition was still thick (up to three meters) but was clearly deteriorating.

13 January.

A meeting at NSF Chalet (JC, AP, PB & RR) with Al Sutherland and Mickey Finn advised there was little chance of icebreaker support for CRP off-load because it was unserviceable. Zucchelli at TNB was advised of situation.

14 - 16 January.

CRP personnel (Cowie, Pyne, Ridgin, Reid, Knox, Sinclair, Mitchell and Tripp plus Jacqui Unwin SB GD) flew to CR on 14 January. Zucchelli rendezvoused from TNB at CR and did a preliminary sea ice reconnaissance with Pyne and established the only really feasible offload position 19.5 km directly east of CR. General work began on equipment but the main emphasis was on establishing the easiest and safest route to the ice edge. On 15 January with support from RNZAF's K02 the route was established and the following day Pyne, Knox and Reid spent a long day drilling and flagging it.

17 - 18 January.

The NZAP party positioned itself with the D5 (kept 3 km back from off-load point), Kassbohrer PB 170 and two skidoos at the ice edge. Two more reconnaissance flights were made with Zucchelli and the ITALICA's captain in the early afternoon as the ship had to penetrate about 8 km of pack. The weather remained warm and calm for the whole period and the ITALICA finally manoeuvred into the off-load point at 2130 hours. The sea ice here was 1.3m thick and weakly structured. Throughout the operation a very close eye was kept on it and care was taken to keep the heavier loads under tension on the ship's crane until the sea ice had 'taken up the load'.

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The off-load began at 2300 hours and was successfully completed six hours later at 0500 hours. The Italians provided three Kassbohrer PBs (one 270 and two 330s) which were invaluable and made for a very quick operation. Apart from a large semi-circular crack in the sea ice along about half of the ship's side, probably caused by the earlier stress of the drill rig (17.5 tonnes), the whole off-load and traverse operation was uneventful. The Italians had returned to the ship by 0830 hours after leaving all the loads spread out on the sea ice just to the south of CR. Each sledge was then positioned by the D5 at the transition and then winched across using the D6, a safe and successful operation that was completed by noon.

19 January - 03 February.

Work at CR began in earnest with the arrival of all the equipment from the second off-load. In brief this was:
a.Drill Rig (included skis, enclosed platform, complete Longyear 44 HD power pack and mast) - total weight 17.5 tonnes.
b.Insulated Containers - 10 containers and respective sledges made up of: Accommodation Units × 3, Laboratories × 4, Mud Huts × 2 and Drill Site Generator Shed × 1 - total weight approximately 60 tonnes.
c.Steel Container × 1 (ex ENEA) - for storage at CR - total weight 6 tonnes.
d.Sea Riser parts including guide base, 12(?) × 6m lengths of outer casing incorporating inflatable floats, 6(?) × lm lengths of outer casing.
e.Ancillary Drilling Equipment including ice auger, Drill Rig rod ramp, stairway and stabilising 'outriggers', and drilling spares.
f.Tents. Polar Haven Mess Tent - 16′ × 24′ plus wooden insulated flooring panels for the Mess and Recreation Tents.
The main tasks were to:
a.Unpack all the containers, reposition the contents and reposition the containers for winterisation.
b.Assemble various buildings and equipment, eg fitout the three accommodation containers that had been delivered the previous year, assemble the 'Mess warm vestibule' and core saw linkway for DS Lab.
c.Carry out maintenance on the vehicles prior to winter.
d.Generally 'clean up' the whole storage area at CR, make an inventory and secure everything for winter.

The CRP team worked long continuous days and although the Project Manager was pleased with what was achieved there was still another few days work required to complete the task. Cowie, Reid and Sinclair were the last to leave CR on 03 February, the last day of helicopter flying for the season. The team had earlier (16 Jan) been strengthened by the arrival of "Mud" Davis, the second SB Plant Operator, who returned to SB on 23 January. Murray Mitchell departed CR for NZ on 20 January followed on 26th by Alex Pyne and Murray Knox. Pyne had a meeting the following day at the Crary Laboratory with Dr Scott Borg and Glen Smith, the manager, to discuss aspects of the Project as they affect the Crary Laboratory end of the operation. On 31 January Jeremy Ridgen left to return home and Eric Tripp and David Hornstein (SB Technician) arrived to continue the 'battle'.

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Phase 2 of K001's 1995/96 Season was highly successful. The second ship off-load was efficiently and safely carried out in spite of sea ice conditions that, in places on the ship-to-shore route, were rapidly becoming marginal. Much of the credit for this must go to Alex Pyne for his knowledge of the sea ice and thorough planning and inspection of the route. Everybody involved in the operation worked extremely hard, long days and although tiredness began to take its toll towards the end morale remained high and everybody was positive about 'getting the job done'.

During this Phase no time was lost due to bad weather. In fact the weather overall was excellent - a majority of days were clear, sunny and 'warm' with little wind. Only one day could be described as poor weather with low overcast, a cool wind and light snow.

No ill health or accidents were reported. Having said that, it was a concern of Cowie and Pyne that the hours that had to be worked to achieve the task and the resulting tiredness could just have easily contributed to an accident or personal injury. Had the weather not been so good the risk of accident or injury would have greater. There is also little doubt that the use of NZAP's Kassbohrer PB 170 and its Hiab crane contributed significantly to minimising injury or accident during lifting operations. Where there was any doubt about the capability of people to lift or move something safely, the Hiab crane was used. It was invaluable.

Support received from Scott Base was good - efficient and timely. There appeared to be a difference of opinion over ration entitlement with CRP personnel eating a mix of food from ration boxes supplemented mainly by fresh food (meat and fruit/vegetables). Given the consistently high work rate the combination of food was both necessary and justifiable.

The environmental impact of this pre-drilling phase of CRP on Cape Roberts and the surrounding area was minimal, with one exception. Wherever possible and practicable all staff adhered to the requirements of the CEE. Regrettably there was greater ground disturbance inside the designated storage area on Cape Roberts than had been anticipated. An area of approximately 1,000 square metres immediately to the west and north west of the permanent NZAP hut was cut up by tracked vehicles and sledge runners as the 23 containers now on site were manoeuvred into position. Unlike the previous season, there was little snow on the ground this January to provide protection. Every effort was made at the time to restore the damaged areas by racking but it is clear a bigger effort will be required once the Project is completed and all equipment removed from the Cape.

Jim Cowie

Project Manager Cape Roberts Project