Posts Tagged ‘runways’

Ice team splits up

December 31, 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, when Martin and I arrived on the Ice the rest of our team–Mel, Peter, Ruschle, and my advisor Steve–were still out in the field. They all finally made it back on Wednesday, and so we’ve been busily exchanging information before Steve and Peter headed back out into the Real World, leaving Martin and I to take their places.

I’m working on bios for everybody–I don’t like to post them without running them past the people they’re about–but I wanted to put up a few photos of the team:

Back row: me, Peter, Steve. Front row: Martin, Mel, Ruschle.

Testing out some equipment.

Steve and Peter actually headed out this morning, after a day’s delay due to runway issues.

One of the tricky things about Antarctica, you see, is its general lack of dry, non-ice-covered land; not only is there not much of it, what land does exist is of considerable scientific interest and therefore not usable for logistics. So the runways are built on the ice shelf (Pegasus, the ‘permanent’ runway) or the sea ice near station, which is a good 1.5 meters (around five feet) thick in the winter and spring and thus more than capable of supporting the weight of a C-17. It’s too far into summer now for the sea ice runway to be considered usable, so all the flights land at Pegasus, some ways from station.

Generally these runways work fine. But snow and ice are notably less durable than asphalt, in many ways, and so when a C-17 had trouble taking off during warm conditions earlier this week, it ended up gouging a lengthy hole in the packed-snow runway at Pegasus. As a result, they delayed flights by a day to see if they could fix it, and then ended up sending passengers home on C-130 ski-equipped aircraft when they couldn’t get it up to suitable standards in time for a C-17 flight. My friend Jessie, on the medical staff here, wrote a great post about the runway issues.