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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2004-05: VUWAE 49



  • Application process

    The application process was organised in professional and efficient manner. However, it would be of advantage if the NZ review of a science proposal was transferred to an overseas reviewer if there no NZ expert can be found. The assessment of the value of the proposed science from a non-expert is likely to be misleading.

  • Communications with Antarctica New Zealand staff

    In contrast to previous years, pre-season communication with some of Antarctica NZ staff was slow and difficult at times. Despite multiple attempts of key K049 members, namely Nancy Bertler and Alex Pyne, to discuss the 2004/05 season in person in Christchurch, via email and phone, little response was received. The first draft of the movement annex was received a week before the scheduled flight to Antarctica, and the contract was received during the last week of field deployment.

    This lack of communication might also partially be responsible for the misunderstanding of how important an early field deployment was for the success of this project. We stressed throughout the preparation that the typical temperature rise during late October / early November might lead to early termination of the drilling at the low elevation site at Evans Piedmont Glacier, as the gradient between air temperature and drill hole increases. For this reason we requested to deploy to Antarctica and into the field as soon as possible, which seemed to be reflected in the first draft of the movement annex. While we appreciate that the delay caused by the damaged ice runway is beyond Antarctica NZ's responsibility, we are disappointed that a decision was made to further delay specifically the departure of Bertler and Pyne to Antarctica, while seats on earlier flights after the runway repair were available and offered to the remaining members of page 3 K049. The explanation given for this decision was, that Bertler and Pyne were perceived too much of a burden for the Scott Base staff at this early stage of the season, while the remaining K049 members would be welcome to start with their AFT. We strongly object to this decision, because: a) especially Pyne but also Bertler are experienced in Antarctic fieldwork and have a track record of well prepared and soundly organised field deployments, b) Bertler and Pyne were both indispensable to start field preparations, c) as discussed, further delay imposed a threat to the success of this project, d) we feel an obligation to assist and advise our new members (two VUW students and a senior scientist from the Alfred Wegener Institute), who travelled for the first time to Scott Base. Furthermore, Pyne and Bertler agreed to the request of Antarctica NZ staff, that they would not require any Scott Base staff support for the first three days after their deployment to Antarctica. Regardless of our agreement, the decision was made to delay us until the 18 Oct 2004.

    Despite our best efforts to make up for the lost time, temperature at the final phase of our drilling at Evans Piedmont Glacier reached a critical threshold, putting the drilling operation under threat. Nonetheless, we are happy to report that due to the expertise of especially Pyne, Kingan, and Kipfstuhl, and the exceptional effort of every K049 member, the team successfully recovered a 180m core of excellent core quality.

    We would also like to mention that once we arrived at Scott Base, support and communication was very efficient and helpful.

  • Provision of maps and aerial photographs


  • Preseason information

    The information received was received late and without the option of further discussion.

  • Medicals, documentation and flights to Antarctica

    The information received was timely and valuable