The most enjoyable part of my job in communications is Field Party Schedules(Scheds).
In the summer there are numerous scientific and logistical support parties out in the field. Each party has a field HF radio. Typically a Codan, PRM or an ICOM IC-78 radio. Each party is a assigned a time slot for a daily 15 minute chat on an assigned HF frequency. At the assigned time we call the field party on their frequency.
The first part of the sched is the business end. We asked a standard set of questions and enter the responses into the schedule log sheet and the field request system. The questions are:
– What is the HF readability ?
– Is everyone in the party safe and well ?
– Does everyone have a working CO2 monitor ?
– What are the S/W co-ordinates of your current position in the field
– What activities did you undertake today ?
– What activities or movements do your have planned for tomorrow ?
– Do you have any requests or message ?
– Are there any issues to raise with the Station Leader of Field Operations Manager ?
This part of the sched normally takes about 5 minutes. The response to the standard questions are written onto the schedule log sheet, requests are entered into the online field party request system and the coordinates are written on the field party location sheet.
Sometimes that will be the end of the sched if the party are busy with work or travel. However usually the field parties are interested in hearing some news from base and the world. So before each schedule I prepare about 5 news/gossip items from base and a summary of 5 news items from the world news.
Sometimes other people from base will popup and say hello to friends and colleagues who are out in the field.
I really enjoy talking to the field parties, there is some proper amazing science and logistics being conducted and go figure they pay me to chat for 10 minutes a day with these guys. Not bad at all…..
The field parties are called “Sledges”. And each field party is assigned an identifier which is a single letter from the phonetic alphabet. (Alpha through to Zulu).
Sledge Victor (iStar)
The first sched of the day is with the iStar Pine Island Glacier Tractor Traverse team. Sledge Victor. James Wake is the Traverse Leader and Field Assistant assigned to this very large project. The transport for this traverse is two ginormous Pisten Bullies which tow a living caboose and a large amount of science equipment.
The team retire to tents for sleeping at the end of the day.
Science experiments are carried out along the traverse route. At each site on the traverse a neutron probe is lowered into a 10m hole to measure snow density.
GPS measurement stations along the traverse route are being installed and services to measure the movement of the Pine Island Glacier. At ten sites along the traverse route ice core drilling samples down to 50m are being taken. And at seven sites seismics are being conducted by loading explosives into a 20m drill hole and measuring the echo when the explosives are detonated.
Sledge Tango (Ronne Ice Shelf Drilling Traverse)
The second sched of the day is with Sledge Tango which is also a Pisten Bully Tractor traverse. This one on the Ronne Ice shelf and is a rather amazing hot water drilling project. The drill is able to pump 90 litres of hot water per minute to create a 30cm diameter hole in the ice shelf to reveal the changes in the conditions in the lower parts of the ice shelf.
Tango is my favourite morning schedule. Jonny Yates the Traverse Leader is always a delight to chat to.
Sledge Golf (Pine Island Bay Radar Traverse)
This small team are located on a very remote part of West Antarctica on the King Peninsular on Pine Island Bay. They are using a radar (DELORES) towed behind a skidoo to look at the layers in the ice. This work makes a contribution to answering some of the biggest questions about the impact global warming will have on sea level rises.
Sledge Bravo (Soil Warming Experiment at Mars Oasis on Alexander Island)
This is the first sched in the evening. This team have setup a number of perspex cones to heat the soil and simulate climate change. DNA will be extracted from the soil under the domes and PDR will be used to analyse the microbial communities.
Sledge Quebec (Larsen C Ice Shelf Stability Assessment)
This team are based on the Larsen C Ice shelf on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsular. They are using a number of techniques including, radar, seismics and drilling to assess the stability of this large ice shelf. Other similar ice shelf in the region have recently collapsed so there is significant interest in whether the Larsen C is also likely to collapse. This team are looking at the impact of melt ponds on the stability.
The third of the evening scheds is with Fossill Bluff a fuel depot and small base in King George Sound.
After this we have the schedule with the team at Sky Blu, which is a deep field Blue Ice runway and fuel depot.
Sledge November (Radar survey of Korff, Fowler and Skytrain Ice Rises)
This is always an enjoyable sched. Scott Webster and Jonny Kingslake are travelling by skidoo towing a rather ingenious phase sensitive radar radar (PRes) on sleds across Ice rises in the south west Ronne region.
Sledge Hotel (Geological Mapping of Werner Mountains)
This team are conducting a geological survey of the Werner Mountains. Malcy Airey is the field assistant on this project and is always fun to chat with.
The last but by no means least sched of the day is Sledge Romeo. This is small team with Dave Routledge guiding conducting a geological survey.
It really is an amazing and diverse programme of Science that BAS undertake here in the summer. And the logistics team that make these programmes possible are enthusiatic, pragmatic, dedicated and clever bunch of people. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.