Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2006-07: VUWAE 51
Quality, suitability and performance of field clothing
ECW Jackets: The new ECW jackets performed extremely well. They are comfortable, warm, relatively light weight, and shed snow extremely well. The design and black colour was also well perceived. The two-layer system is very practical and allows the jacket to be used in cold and temperate conditions alike. The hood doesn't perform in high winds as it is not ridged enough. In addition the neck is cut too narrow and the sippers can't be closed over a neck gaiter. The sippers on arms and wrists are too narrow and don't allow for fleece or lather gloves to go underneath. Furthermore, the sippers on the outside pockets are to the side and not to the top. This makes it difficult to check that nothing falls out, while items are taken out of the pockets. In addition, the pockets don't allow to carry for example a radio, which is too large to fit, and will fall out in the current pockets.
Windproof Trousers: The new Cactus windproof trousers are practical, shed snow extremely well, provide good freedom of movement, and are very durable. All members of the group wore almost exclusively these trousers from October to January, regardless of weather conditions or work tasks. Despite the heavy use, they showed no sign of fatigue. Only during the coldest of days (~30°C) during skidoo traversing in high winds were the trousers somewhat too cold. The only complaints some group members have is, that the full length sippers catch in the material as the seam is not stiffened enough. D.Robinson had a more durable version of this trouser. However, the material was less efficient in shedding snow and hence got wet at times. For this reason, we would recommend the simpler version. Together with the new ECW jackets, this combination offers an excellent and weather proof outer shell.
Down-Jacket: Some members of our group brought their personal down jackets. These proved particularly useful when working in cold, wind sheltered conditions, such as in the drilling trench, where the ECW jackets are too bulky to work on samples or cores. This type of jacket is currently offered by Antarctica New Zealand to Search and Rescue staff and we would like to suggest that they are also optional for science groups.page 20
Performance and design of field equipment such as tents, technical climbing equipment, kitchen gear, primus boxes, sleep kits and sledges
Polar Tents: As we were moving to a remote site, we requested high grade polar tents. When we tested the provided tents, we found that older tents or had been re-classified as higher grade tents over the previous winter. No other high grade tents were available when we left for Whitehall Glacier. In the windy conditions of the site, all tents showed signs of fatigue and required repairs during and after the storms. Due to previous experience at Mt Erebus Saddle, we requested highest grade polar tents and were given two of the one planet tents and one higher grade polar tent. In contrast to previous years, the weather at Mt Erebus Saddle was relatively calm and pleasant and the tents endured the conditions well.
Polar Heaven Tent: the new polar heaven greatly improved working and living conditions in the field through significantly higher insulation, stability, and functional doors. The new floor however, is extremely slippery with snow and poses a significant risk, in particular during set-up of the tent. We used old carpet from Scott Base (see Fig.10) which not only provided a safe surface, but also provided further insulation and improved ground stability over time. The new oven heaters for the polar heaven are a good addition, however they are somewhat large and bulky to transport. Instead, we used the VUW heater, which is smaller and lighter. After some very cold nights, water in the diesel fuel froze in the hose and stopped the fuel flow to the oven. Placing the hose frequently (every few days) in a hot water bath prevents the ice built-up and improves efficiency.
Gas stoves: as in previous years, the two flame gas stove performed excellently and was much appreciated by the group. To ensure safe operation, it is important to keep the gas hose from freezing as this causes the butan to freeze, causing significant flaring.
Sleeping bags: We used a combined system of a synthetic outer and a down inner. The combination provided excellent thermal conditions. However, the synthetic outer layer required frequent drying or else significant ice built-up occurred and subsequent melt. During the two major storms all our sleeping bags became wet because of the lack of drying for more than 4 days.page 21
Nansen Sledge: For mapping glacier flow structures and the glacier-bedrock interface a 'GSSI SIR 10 A and GSSI SIR 20A are used. A 35MHz antennae-pair (Radarteam AB-SE-40), a 100MHz antennae-pair, and a single 400MHz antenna are pulled by the Nansen Sledge, which carries the control units, generator, and solar panels. The sledge was in condition and performed extremely well in both soft snow and rough terrain.
Plastic Sledge: We used a plastic sledge for excavating the drilling trench and for moving heavy items in the field (eg. fuel drums and drilling equipment). The sledge was very durable and performed well.
20 person day ration box system
The variety and quality of food in the new bags is good and sufficient. Freeze-dry food back up for 14day additional supply is a good alternative for taking full new bags. It saves room and weight. Maybe this could replace all freeze-dry in general food bags, since freeze-dry is expensive, not much liked, and causes digestive problems for some people.
Condition and performance of 'wannigans'
Performance and use of generators, spill kits, alternative energy systems
At Mt Erebus Saddle, contaminated fuel from rusty 209L drums caused both generators to malfunction. While fuel filters were exchanged an hoses etc cleaned (Fig.13a), the problem persisted and one generator was returned to Scott Base for repair. To prevent further problems, Scott Base engineers and mechanic (W.Dean and T.Griffith-Jones) modified a fuel pump system adding a filter (Fig.13b) that solved the problem during our field deployment. We appreciated the extremely flexible and quick response of Scott Base to pick-up, repair, and deliver the generator back into the field on the same day.page 22
Throughout the season, Scott Base staff were exceptionally supportive, helpful, and innovative in solving problems or accommodating special requirements of our programme. We are particularly grateful to B.McDavitt, J.Burton, R.Kirkwood, S.Trotter, A.Roche, N.Cross, P.Clendon, L.Cross, W.Dean, T.Griffith-Jones, G.MacKey, and J.Martin.