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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2008-09: VUWAE 53


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Antarctica New Zealand 2008/09

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The principal purpose of this year's field season was to conduct a maintenance work on automatic weather stations deployed at Evans Piedmont Glacier and Skinner Saddle and to measure mass balance at Victoria Lower Evans Piedmont Glacier as part of our long-term monitoring project. In addition, we recovered five shallow ice cores from the McMurdo Ice Shelf. This field work of the 2008/09 season is part of a larger, multi-year programme: NZ ITASE.

The NZ ITASE programme has five objectives:


The focus of the New Zealand ITASE group is to provide information from the climate sensitive, low altitude, coastal sites. This will capture the climate signature of the troposphere, which represents a regional account on the Ross Sea climate. The ice core data are expected to provide a record of air temperature, snow accumulation, precipitation source, atmospheric circulation strength, storm frequency, sea ice variation, ocean productivity, and anthropogenic influences. The results will help to decide whether the Ross Sea region is currently cooling or warming with a longer-term prospective, taking low frequency climate variability (100 to 1000 year cycles) into account. Furthermore, proposed tele-connections such as the Amundsen Low-ENSO correlation [Bertler et al. 2004; Meyerson et al. 2002] or the Southern Hemisphere Annual Mode [Thompson and Solomon 2002] can be further constrained.


Latitudinal Gradient Project Objective

The project is expected to contribute substantially to the Latitudinal Gradient Project, as it can provide a history of temperature, humidity, sea ice cover, precipitation source, atmospheric circulation, and ocean productivity along the Victoria Coast for the last 200 to 10,000 years. Furthermore, the timing and velocity of the Ross Ice Shelf retreat some 9 to 5ka years ago is still discussed controversially [Hall and Denton 2000; Steig et al. 1998; Steig et al. 2000].


ANDRILL Objective

The ice core locations 2 and 3 (Evans Piedmont Glacier and Mt. Erebus Saddle) are in the vicinity of planned ANDRILL coring locations (Granite Harbour and Windless Bight). The ice core records will provide a high resolution climate dataset, which serves as a reference for the younger part of marine record recovered through ANDRILL.


Longer-Term Mass Balance Objective

During the 1999/2000 season mass balance measurement devices (submergence velocity method [Hamilton and Whillans 2000; Hamilton et al. 1998]) have been deployed at Victoria Lower Glacier. The device has since been revisited. The measurements show that the glacier has a slightly negative mass balance, losing around 12-15cm thickness per year. A continuation of the measurements will allow monitoring changes in the ablation intensity of the McMurdo Dry Valleys.


The Antarctic – New Zealand Connection Objective

New Zealand's future economic and social development, environmental sustainability, and infrastructural planning critically relies upon the accurate assessment of the impact of "global warming" in our sector of the planet. Future page 2 climate change is a result of both natural variability and anthropogenic influence. A joint programme between Victoria University, GNS Science, University of Maine, is investigating ice core records from New Zealand (Tasman Glacier and Mt. Ruapehu ice field). The comparison between our NZ and Antarctic ice core records will provide much needed data for the development of realistic regional climate models to predict NZ climate in the 21th Century [Mullan et al. 2001].


Complete table below for each member of your event
Name Role Organisation Departed Christchurch Returned Christchurch
Bertler, N.A.N. PI Victoria University and GNS Science 10 Nov 08 21 Nov 08


Discuss the pre-Antarctic planning phase of your event, detailing any suggestions for improvements to:

The application process

The application process was efficient and well documented

Communications with Antarctica New Zealand staff

Communication with Antarctica New Zealand staff was professional, timely, and effective.

Preseason information

The information received was timely and valuable

Medicals, documentation and flights to Antarctica

The information received was timely and valuable. However, I would like to note that there is a loophole in the information flow for the medical assessment. I would like to suggest that the PI of any field group will be informed by the medical advisor of any condition of a team member relevant to the field deployment, such as allergies etc. Furthermore, I would like to suggest adding to the medical questionnaire the question on how long the examining doctor has known the patient. This would help the medical advisor to evaluate how comprehensive the medical assessment might be.

Environmental Advice

The pre-season information received was timely and valuable

Other comments

The multi-season experience of many Antarctica NZ staff makes the planning process field deployment a professional and efficient process.


As applicable discuss your initial period at Scott Base relating to:

Reception and planning for your event

The reception was well organised, friendly and efficient. The main issues of the event were promptly discussed and organised.

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Availability and condition of equipment received, noting any work required by your party to make the equipment serviceable

Overall, field equipment was in good condition and acceptable for our deployment. However, some items had been fully allocated and hence were not available for this project. This includes small tents, sleeping bags, gas bottles for cookers, fuel spill kits etc). We would like to thank Scott Base staff for providing alternative solutions.

Antarctic Field training and any additional or specialist training

The refresher training was efficient and useful.

Field party equipment 'shakedown' journey

Not applicable

Delays at Scott Base, whatever the cause

Weather delays postponed our visits to Skinner Saddle on three occasions.

Safety and Risk Management processes

The risk management process is useful.

General comments about Scott Base (If you feel that any service was poorly carried out by support staff at Scott Base, please make a note of this, but include a positive recommendation for the improvement of this service. You should also have raised this at Scott Base at the time to enable improvements to be made)

I would like to thank Scott Base staff for their very efficient, professional, and above and beyond support with our programme! I'm particularly grateful for the field support of Nathan Cross, Lyall Cross, and Paul Roger.


As applicable report on the following, noting any improvements that can be made:

Vehicles (Report on the suitability of field transport allocated to you and its condition when taken over)

The PB1 PistenBully was used to recover shallow ice cores along from Windless Bight in a traverse from White Island to Scott Base. The vehicle performed well and was driven and operated by Lyall Cross.

Aircraft Operations (Outline the success or otherwise of all fixed wing or helicopter operations supporting your event. As appropriate, detail the suitability of any landing sites used. Clearly mark these on your report map and provide GPS coordinates where possible)

Field deployment to Skinner Saddle was carried out with HNO and to Evans Piedmont and Victoria Lower Glacier with NSF 36J. Both deployment and pickup of cargo and passengers was very professional, efficient, and safe. The extensive regional and local experience of the pilots, in particular, Rob McPhail is invaluable. We are grateful for the exceptional support and assistance in the field by HNO.

Ship Operations (Outline cargo loading and embarkation procedures. Provide your cruise plan, sampling stations and landings made with GPS coordinates where possible. Comment on the degree of support provided by the ship's crew and facilities utilised on board, e.g. winches, laboratories. page 4 Describe any use made of seaborne helicopter or small support craft, e.g. Zodiac rubber rafts. Comment on the suitability of your clothing and survival equipment for your shipboard programme )

Not applicable


Describe your field activities and movements in a concise day-by-day diary form, including main activities, where the party stayed (hut, description of camp site) and if members are at different locations (note this and numbers at each location). Record general comments relating to weather, route finding problems, dangerous icefalls or crevasse fields (mark on event map), suitable campsites, surface conditions encountered etc.

Date Main Activities and Location Other Comments
10/11/08 Monday Arrive at SB
11/11/08 Tuesday Refresher AFT, locating cargo, staging of field equipment, testing of science equipment
12/11/08 Wednesday Hazard certification of hazardous cargo, supply cargo weights, and test field equipment
13/11/08 Thursday SB to Evans Piedmont Glacier with NSF 36J: Nancy Bertler, Nathan Cross, Paul Rogers, arrive at 11am. Weather Station in good condition, down loading of meteorological data, checking battery voltage and solar panel charging capacity. Replace Storage module CR10 with CR10X and upload new programme. Measure mass balance devices, which are now 27cm below snow surface. Will require extension during 2009/10 field season
14/11/08 Friday Unsuitable weather conditions over Darwin Glacier area led to cancellation of deployment to Skinner Saddle. Inspection of the new ice core reefer container showed minor damage on the exterior.
15/11/08 Saturday Suitable weather but lack in helicopter capacity (full schedule) – no deployment. Organisation of drilling equipment to recover shallow ice cores from McMurdo Ice Shelf page 5
17/11/08 Monday Attempted to deploy to Skinner Saddle with HNO but unsuitable weather conditions at SB and MCM cancelled deployment
18/11/08 Tuesday Deployment to Skinner Saddle with HNO: Nancy Bertler, Nathan Cross, and Paul Rogers. After refuelling at Darwin Glacier Fuel Camp, arrive at Skinner Saddle at noon. Weather Station in good condition, but buried in deep snow. 1.60m snow accumulation since deployment in 2007/-8 field season. Excavating weather station, down loading of meteorological data, checking battery voltage and solar panel charging capacity. Replace Storage module CR10 with CR10X and upload new programme.
19/11/08 Wednesday Traverse from White Island to Scott Base, following Black Island road, using PB02: Nancy Bertler, Lyall Cross, and Naomi. Recovery of a total of five cores of ~3m length at each site
20/11/08 Thursday Packing cargo, discuss with cargo handler shipment requirements for temperature sensitive cargo and general cargo
21/11/08 Departure for Christchurch
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Append a map to show vehicle routes, aircraft landing sites, dangerous areas, depots and campsites etc. Highlight any inaccuracies on existing topographical maps and provide GPS coordinates where possible.


Provide a general overview of your local weather throughout the season and how this aided or hindered your party movements and decisions. This is especially important for events with deep field camps.

Not applicable as no overnight stays were required for our work


Comment on Antarctica New Zealand's HSE culture.

Is Scott Base a comfortable environment where personnel feel confident and safe?

In my opinion, Scott Base provides a very comfortable and safe environment. This could be improved further by empowering staff and visiting groups with a higher degree of personal responsibility and by further reducing generalised rules (for example what to wear) and unnecessary signage around the base.

Comment on the quality of the HSE systems at Scott Base with regards to briefings, risk assessments and the reporting procedure

Sufficient and well advertised and promoted.

Outline any accidents, incidents or near miss events


Detail any hazards you observed that may require further action or notification to others



Provide feedback on the overall services at Scott Base.

Are the services provided (food, rooms, lounge, library, briefing room, gym, etc.) suitable for your requirements? If not, please provide suggestions.

Scott Base offers an extraordinary level of services. I particularly would like to point out the usefulness of the Hillary Field Centre and also the well designed recreation area page 7 adjacent to the mess. Work conditions in the office area adjacent to the library would improve with better lightening and a more ergonomic set-up (eg. better chairs, some shelving or draws).

Comment of activities available and your ability to participate in them (social events, FAM trips, activities at McMurdo)

Scott Base offers a very active and in my mind important recreational programme, that allows staff to feel safe, comfortable, and confident in the Antarctic environment. Also, I believe that FAM trips in particular are very useful to give base staff a sense of field deployments that is helpful in putting requests from field parties into perspective. For these reasons I can only suggest to maintain and if possible strengthen this programme. Furthermore, I believe that the current system for participation is fair and simple.



Comment on the following where appropriate. In all cases, fully explain any modification made by you to this equipment during the season. Positive suggestions are encouraged for the improvement of all equipment.

Quality, suitability and performance of field clothing issued to you by Antarctica New Zealand

The new field clothing is functional, of high quality, well thought through, and attractive. Small improvements could be made for the fleece trousers (too thin and hence cold) and the ECW jacket is missing a 'skirt', preventing cold air to enter in cold, windy condition. I found in particular the down-jacket and wind-shell combination very useful. Overall, I would like to congratulate Antarctica NZ and the manufacturer for this excellent new range of clothing!

Performance and design of field equipment such as tents, technical climbing equipment, kitchen gear, stoves, sleep kits and sledges

Field equipment was in short supply this year, but was received in good and well maintained conditions.

20 person day ration box or bulk food system. Include suggestions to improve the packaging of items or improve palatability and calorific value

Not applicable

Condition and performance of 'wannigans'

Not applicable

Performance and use of generators, spill kits, alternative energy systems

We used a 2kVA generator, which was provided well maintained and tested.

Specialised field equipment (e.g. Sipre hand auger, Jiffy auger)

Not applicable

Other comments
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Suitability and effectiveness of the radio and/or Iridium equipment (including comment on battery power, condition of aerials and utilisation of solar panels)

I used VHF and HF radio as well as a Satellite Phone. The equipment was provided in excellent conditions, tested, and with good and useful explanations and advice on new changes, maintenance, and usage.

Reception/transmission conditions (especially where repeater stations were in use). Particularly note any periods during your field trip, or regions you visited, where radio reception was especially bad or unexpectedly good.

Radio and satellite transmission was clear

Suitability of radio schedule timing

Not applicable

Scott Base's general efficiency during radio schedule in providing details of forthcoming field movements, weather forecasts, re-supply, or news service

Radio communication was efficient and helpful.

Other comments


Provide feedback on the following:

Assistance the science technicians gave with computer/ IT issues

Not applicable

Assistance the science technicians gave in the field and with requirements from McMurdo

I would like to thank Nathan Cross for his excellent assistance in the field with the maintenance of our automatic weather stations at Evans Piedmont Glacier and Skinner Saddle.

Public computer facilities in the Hatherton Laboratory

Public computer facilities are useful and adequate

Internet connectivity and data transfer ability

Internet connectivity is useful and adequate.


Information from this section helps us to assess the environmental (including cumulative) impacts and overall environmental performance of New Zealand's activities each year. This reporting is a requirement of the Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act, which implements the internationally agreed Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in New Zealand. The report also forms the basis for annual input into Antarctica New Zealand's environmental database, an electronic record of all New Zealand activities in the Ross Sea region since 1957.

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Please be as specific as possible. For locations occupied, provide the site or protected area name, and GPS coordinates or map references where appropriate. GPS coordinates should be given in degrees, minutes and decimal minutes (e.g. 78° 20.835′S 166° 33.541′E). Note that the geodetic reference used should be WGS84.

Two sub-sections are compulsory as they are relevant to all events. Sub-sections without asterisks need only be completed if relevant. Unnecessary sections should be deleted. Comments on any area of environmental management are welcome and can be added beneath the relevant table.

*Sites Visited (please complete a table for each site visited)
Site name Evans Piedmont Glacier
Site coordinates 76°43.5335′ S, 162° 35.2940′ E, 314m asl
Is this site in an ASMA or ASPA? If so, which one? McMurdo Dry Valleys ASMA
Dates occupied (from – to) 13 Nov 2008
Total time (days /hours) at site 3
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 9 person hours
Main activity undertaken Maintenance of automatic weather station and retrieval of recorded data; and mass balance measurement
Cumulative impacts observed None
Helo landing site coordinates if not established AND marked None
Site name Victoria Lower Glacier
Site coordinates 77°19′48.31″S, 162°31′55.29″E, 626.2 m asl
Is this site in an ASMA or ASPA? If so, which one? McMurdo Dry Valleys ASMA
Dates occupied (from – to) 13 Nov 2008
Total time (days /hours) at site 3 hours
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 9 person-hours
Main activity undertaken Mass balance measurements
Cumulative impacts observed None
Helo landing site coordinates if not established AND marked N.A.
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Site name Skinner Saddle
Site coordinates 80°55′54.66″S, 159°30′11.56″E, 917.5m asl
Is this site in an ASMA or ASPA? If so, which one? No
Dates occupied (from – to) 18 Nov 2008
Total time (days /hours) at site 6
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 4
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 24
Main activity undertaken Relocation and maintenance of automatic weather station and retrieval of recorded data
Cumulative impacts observed None
Helo landing site coordinates if not established AND marked N.A.
Site name Windless Bight
Site coordinates 78°03.273′S, 166°57.604′E
77°59.224′S, 166°59.673′E
77°56.201′S, 167°00.063′E
77°53.502′S, 166°00.053′E
77°51.324′S, 166°57.250′E
Is this site in an ASMA or ASPA? If so, which one? No
Dates occupied (from – to) 19 Nov 2008
Total time (days /hours) at site 10
Maximum number of people at site (your event) 3
Total person-days (or person-hours) at site 30 person-hours
Main activity undertaken Recovery of 5 shallow (~3m deep) firn cores
Cumulative impacts observed None
Helo landing site coordinates if not established AND marked N.A.
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Geological Material

Detail any collection of geological material (including meteorites, ventifacts, fossils or sub-fossils) or soil. For each sample (or group of samples) taken provide:
Location Specimen type Quantity (kg)
Site name Coordinates
Windless Bight 78°03.273′S 166°57.604′E Shallow firn core 10 kg
Windless Bight 77°59.224′S 166°59.673′E Shallow firn core 10 kg
Windless Bight 77°56.201′S 167°00.063′E Shallow firn core 10 kg
Windless Bight 77°53.502′S 166°00.053′E Shallow firn core 10 kg
Windless Bight 77°51.324′S 166°57.250′E Shallow firn core 10 kg

Equipment installed/left in field

List any equipment, markers, stakes or cairns installed in the field during your visit. Upon completion of your event there should be no trace of any equipment or markers, etc., unless permitted to do so. This should include the removal of any constructed stone cairns. If any equipment installed and/or remaining in the field, provide:
Type of equipment/marker installed Year of installatio n Location (name and coordinates) Number of items left in field Dimension (in metres: H, W, L) Removal status*
Automatic weather station 2007 Skinner Saddle, 80°55′54.66″S, 159°30′11.56″E 1 3m, 4m, 4m Ongoing Use
Automatic weather station 2004 Evans Piedmont Glacier 76°43.5335′ S, 162°35.2940′E 1 3m, 4m, 4m Ongoing Use
Mass balance device 2004 Evans Piedmont Glacier 76°43.5335′ S, 162°35.2940′E 1 20cm (∼12m below surface) × 3cm × 3cm Ongoing Use
Mass balance device 1999 Victoria Lower Glacier 77°19′48.31″S, 162°31′55.29″E 2 0.5m (∼12m below surface) × 3cm × 3cm Ongoing Use
If equipment has been left in the photograph of the installation(s): field please provide a justification and insert or append a photograph of the installation(s):
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Automatic Weather Station:
The meteorological data will be used to establish transfer functions between ice core proxies and atmospheric parameters. The AWS records temperature, wind direction and speed, humidity, snow accumulation, snow temperature, pressure, and solar radiation. Both sites have identical weather stations. The figure shows the set-up at Skinner Saddle
Mass Balance Device:
The mass balance data are used to establish the longer term mass balance of coastal ice masses in Antarctica. We measure the net loss or gain via submergence velocity measurements. We will remove as much of the device as possible once the base is buried too far below the surface to continue the measurements. Both sites have similar mass balance set-ups. The figure shows the set-up at Victoria Lower Glacier

*Bioprospecting activities

New Zealand is collecting data for discussions on bioprospecting in Antarctica at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. Here, we define bioprospecting as 'The search for chemical compounds and genetic materials from plants, animals and micro-organisms; the extraction and testing of those compounds and materials; and the research and commercial development of those that show activity.'

To your knowledge, does your science involve any bioprospecting activity? No

*Differences from original Preliminary Environmental Evaluation (PEE)

If the activities described above differ from the environmental impact assessment (usually a Preliminary Environmental Evaluation (PEE)) completed for this event (and any approved changes), or from the Environmental Authorisation issued to it, explain how and why they differed. If there were no differences, please specify 'None'.


* Removal status categories are: 'Ongoing Use' (provide date of removal); 'Remaining' (provide date of removal); 'Removal Intended' (provide date of removal); 'Removed'; 'Unknown'; 'Unlikely'; 'Unrecoverable'.