2 December, 2002
Hello to all of you curious websurfers. This is Diane DiMassa, pinch hitting for Andy. Andy is somewhat depressed today, no not because the Broncos lost, but that certainly isn't helping. You see, the main field team was scheduled to deploy to Beardmore Glacier today, but the weather has turned against us for the first time this season. All flights in and out of McMurdo Station have been grounded today. Up until now, the weather here has been quite pleasant - cold, but actually pretty nice days considering what Antarctica can throw at you. Over night and into this morning, a small storm has passed through and the station went from nice weather, or Condition 3, to not so nice weather or Condition 2. Below is a copy of the McMurdo Station Travel Policy. It explains the weather condition categories; it's the visibility that is affecting us the most.
MCMURDO TRAVEL POLICY - SUMMER October - February
The intent of this policy is to provide guidelines for safe vehicle and foot travel for all parcticipants related to the USAP. This policy is applicable for the austral summer months, October-February. Severe weather conditions have historically been instituted to define potential risk situations and allow the establishment of standard procedures to minimize risk. The following defines severe weather conditions and the safety and travel restrictions, which apply to ALL personnel working in and around McMurdo Station.
CONDITION 3 is defined as having winds less that 48 knots, wind chills warmer than -75F and visibility greater than 1/4 mile. This is considered the normal weather condition in McMurdo.
CONDITION 2 is defined by one or more of the following conditions: winds speeds 48- 55 knots, wind chills of -75 to -100 F, or visibility of less than 1/4 mile.
CONDITION 1 is defined by one or more of the following conditions: wind speeds greater than 55 knots, wind chills colder than -100F, or visibility of less than 100 feet.
Andy is depressed because the sea ice runway has been swapping back and forth between Condition 2 and Condition 1 all day. Needless to say, not safe to be flying about. I understand the feeling. I'm a veteran of the ANSMET program, having been down here 4 years ago, along with John and Nancy. The weather then was terrible for us. McMurdo weather was beautiful, but the weather at the field site that year, Graves Nunataks, was so bad that we couldn't find a weather window safe for landing an LC-130 there for over 2 weeks! As fascinating as McMurdo Station is, we ran out of things to do here, especially since all of our entertainment was packed and sitting out at the "airport" ready to go. The anticipation was killing us that year!
I however have some mixed feelings about the delay. As much as I would like the team to be able to get on with the meteorite hunting, I will be sad to see them go. I am on the reconnaissance (or rekke) team. So when the main team leaves for Beardmore Glacier, Dean, Cady, Carl, and I will be left behind for a later deployment. Carl will catch up with the main team at Goodwin Nunataks, but Dean, Cady and I will deploy to the LaPaz ice fields and then the Pecora escarpment. It is likely that the main field party will be back in Christchurch, New Zealand before the rekke team gets back to McMurdo, so I won't be seeing those folks again until the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March. We've all been getting along quite well, forming friendships that will last a very long time, so I will be sad for them to leave us, but happy that the field program will finally be getting under way.
Another reason that I have mixed emotions about the delay is that I am secretly happy that the winds have picked up. (Don't tell Andy!!) You see, I'm not a geologist like the rest of the crowd. I'm a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. So, in addition to my duties of being a wily veteran and helping things run smoothly, I have brought down a set-up to get some data on wind energy. As the ANSMET team is a deep field party, the team must be creative in its ways to supply enough power for the needs of the team, for example powering Andy's computer so he can continue to post to this website. I have a small system that my graduate student Jake Piskura and I designed for the purpose of getting some data about the potential for small wind turbines to provide power in the deep field of Antarctica. My system is happily collecting data on the sea ice right now (I hope), measuring the wind conditions and propensity for power generation. Assuming things go well with this system test here in McMurdo, the main field party will set it up at McAlpine Hills to get some data there. I am tempted to run out onto the sea ice to check to see if everything is OK, but I really don't have to. In the library at the Crary Lab is a small telescope. So, here I stand looking through the telescope to see my set-up. Spin little wind turbine! Spin!
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