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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2002-03: VUWAE 47


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Application process

At the time of submission of this program for review by Antarctica New Zealand AWI and VUW had committed to sending the AWI hot water drilling equipment to Antarctica by ship in January 2002 and was also awaiting the outcome of PGSF funding. This was a significant risk and a commitment of funds primarily by AWI before the result of the proposal submission was known. The timing of Antarctic logistics, the timing of season proposal system due October 2002 for one season (2002/03) programs did not allow any alternative and would require a one year delay. In future the earlier timing of proposal submission and the longer term (3 year) proposals will hopefully reduce this problem. PGSF funding was approved March-April 2003, the hot water drilling equipment wintered at Scott Base so the program could proceed.

Communications with Antarctica New Zealand staff

This program was one of the larger programs supported by Antarctica NZ in 2002-03 and it was clear that it would require a significant large part of the available surface vehicle resources. These resources and in particular their timing when they were available were a constraint to the field program. Field events such as the Divers working on the sea ice in October-November and the seismic operation (K114) working in the WOLZ before Williams Field opened (October 21) required the same resources. We also considered it to be prudent to under take NZ's first hot water drilling operation during the warmer part of the season to minimise freezing problems based on past experience with other drilling projects. The AWI HWD system is also operated outside without protection from wind and temperature. We proposed to operate in the January – February period when temperatures were still relatively warm but were also conscious of the limited time frame available especially the expectation of minimal aircraft cargo capacity for equipment return to NZ and therefore relying on ship cargo which had to be available early February. Antarctica NZ was aware and understood these constraints and accommodated our program within their resource capability.

A significant planning step was to confirm the position of the proposed HWD sites with the US Airfield authorities. This was done by several emails and a meeting with NYANG and ANT.NZ representatives in Christchurch in mid 2002. Several different groups approved the proposed 2002/2003 seismic lines and HWD sites in the US system. One site was too close to the Williams field cross wind runway but this was only apparent when we had setup our considerable camp. We and Antarctic NZ followed appropriate procedure, got US approval but it is now clear that the system at McMurdo is extremely complex and that the system and process is will have to be clarified for future work such as ANDRILL.

We did have some miscommunication and changes regarding the start timing of our field operation and our flexibility to change this was limited because of international flight travel by our German, Italian and US collaborators. There is a difficulty in planning around the Christmas – New Year period when few flights are planned but more a usually scheduled as the season progresses. Antarctica NZ's effort to get three of us on a NYANG flight was very helpful.

In future this HWD operation probably would be better planned for the warm and settled weather period from mid November to ensure a longer field period is possible without the cargo on timing constraints associated with the end of the season.

Provision of maps and aerial photographs

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Aerial Photographs or maps were not sourced from Antarctica NZ. During our negotiation with NYANG and McMurdo authorities regarding the seismic and HWD operation in the WOLZ it became apparent that a map data base of the McMurdo Station area with the airfields, roads etc. is available and updated by USGS/Raytheon. It would be extremely helpful if Antarctica NZ investigated this and made it available to NZ researchers and also the operating group at Scott Base.

Pre-season information

We were well informed by the Operations Manager and Cargo Operations during most of the planning stages. Our operation was complex and we accept that it is important to able to initiate dialogue and requests with the personnel who are directly providing the service.

Medicals, documentation and flights to Antarctica

International collaborators add an extra dimension to this process. It is important that this is considered and the process this year as in the past of accepting other national programs medicals should continue. This season German and Italian members used their own medial process and hand-carried their medical records to Scott Base to be held by the Operations Manager. Our US member was not supported by the US program and completed NZ requirements. Some of the documentation could be available earlier in the year. The cost of medicals is an increasing concern especially for people visiting Antarctica on a regular basis. At the moment all Laboratory tests must be done again and these seem to be increasing in Number (SARS next?).