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Investigating the polar regions from the inside out

2023-2024 ANET-POLENET Field Season Progress

Content on this page is listed from newest to oldest. To start at the beginning of the field season, scroll to the bottom of the page.

The above map shows site visits completed during the ANET-POLENET 2023-2024 field season. Dates indicate the day of the site visit. The goal was to service every site marked with a 4-character ID. Thanks to the incredible efforts by all science team members, the KBA flight crew, and ALE camp staff, nearly all sites were serviced, and the field season was a huge success. A special thanks to NSF and the USAP program for making this field season possible.

Meet the team! Pictured above from left to right: KBA pilot Troy McKerral, science team members Nicolas Bayou, Terry Wilson, Mara Figueroa-Berroca, and Kirsten Arnell, mountaineer Mark Whetu, and science team member Erica Lucas. Not pictured, KBA pilot Dillon Vandendiepstraten and KBA mechanic Mike Gray.

Updates From the Field #23: Closing Time
28 December 2023, ALE Union Glacier Camp, West Antarctica

One final weather check reveals unflyable weather conditions at the remaining sites, signaling an end to ANET-POLENET field work for this season. From ALE Union Glacier Camp, the plane and flight crew will continue onward to another West Antarctic field camp operated by USAP, and the science team will begin their journey home.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Our last possible day for site visits due to planned repositioning of the USAP Twin Otter to the USAP WAIS Divide camp on the 29th. The meteorological models, however, showed that the latest storm system had already arrived at our remaining sites – no more field work this season! Only our Upper Thwaites site was not visited [another big dig required there] and we were unable to revisit Bennett Nunatak to recover the seismic system there.

Above: Meteograms from 28 December, the last possibly fly day, reveal unflyable weather conditions at the remaining sites.

Updates From the Field #22: Second Time's A Charm
27 December 2023, Backer Island (BACK), West Antarctica

The final achievement of the field season was returning to Backer Island for another attempt at upgrading the system. At first the severely corroded components again seemed insurmountable, but thanks to the team's extra effort and some creative thinking, the system was successfully serviced. Kudos to science team member Nicolas Bayou for coming up with the clever solution of attaching the new antenna directly to the monument, allowing the team to finish servicing the site just before a storm front moved in. Well done!

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
We took advantage of a closing window of good weather to return to Backer Island with a new suite of tools to once again attempt to swap in a new antenna, receiver and electronics board. Although the chokering antenna was stubborn, we manage to remove it. No amount of effort using every tool on hand would free the monument insert used to hold the new antenna, so instead we mounted the Septentrio antenna directly on the monument without adding a ‘riser’ extension. This allowed is in turn to put in the new receiver. A good compromise to improve our data collection and replace a failing GPS receiver…….

Above: The team gathers around the GNSS antenna and monument for another attempt at disassembling the corroded components.

Above: Salt corrosion shown on an aluminum bolt used to secure the GNSS antenna.

Above: At long last, the new Septentrio antenna is secured on the monument.

Above: Beautiful calm before the storm.

Above: Storm front arriving as the team finished the site.

Updates From the Field #21: Epic Effort at Thwaites!
24 and 26 December 2023, Lower Thwaites Glacier (LTHW/DNTW), West Antarctica

Looking to take advantage of any possible favorable weather conditions, the team flew during the Christmas holiday to work on sites at Lower Thwaites Glacier. The GNSS site was successfully serviced, and essential data was retrieved from the deeply buried seismic station. This herculean effort required two separate days and a phenomenal amount of physical labor and determination.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
The team worked before and after the Christmas holiday at the Lower Thwaites site. Although the GPS system had been raised to the surface by Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Troy McKerral and others last year, the seismic system components had not been raised to the surface for 5 to 6 years and we expected it to be deeply buried. Given this situation, the team focused on excavating the buried seismic equipment enclosure in order to retrieve the baler hard drive containing these many years of data. Using every bit of the available ground time over the 2 days, in the final minutes we reached the enclosure, retrieved the baler and the precious data! Unfortunately, there was no time available to either reestablish the site or remove all the equipment, so it will soon be reburied and is likely fated to be irretrievable. While digging was in progress, the antenna cable was replaced and the antenna was raised on the GPS system. This was a massive effort by the team!

Above: The dig begins.

Above: Excavation required shovels, a chainsaw, an ice auger, and a huge amount of physical effort.  Multiple ledges and ropes ensured access and egress remained safe throughout the dig.

Above: All the effort for this!  The baler containing 5+ years of seismic data....a coveted Christmas present!

Updates From the Field #20: Holiday Celebrations
23-26 December 2023, ALE Union Glacier Camp, West Antarctica

The ALE Union Glacier Camp staff provide an unmatched level of support for their clients, and that includes taking time to celebrate Christmas. From delicious food to games and special activities, the team enjoyed a festive holiday.

Holiday Events:
23rd:  Karaoke night
24th:  'No Talent' show, followed by big outdoor/tent dance party
25th: hiking excursions; wonderful dinner; white elephant gift exchange
26th: for the first time, ALE beat neighboring camp Chile in soccer game

Above: Science team member Mara Figueroa-Berroca displays her prize from the Christmas gift exchange.

Above: Performers display their talents in the "No Talent" show.

Above: Christmas dinner begins at ALE Union Glacier Camp.

Above: Beautiful bread and cheese board prepared by the ALE Union Glacier Camp kitchen.

Above: Antarctic liquid refreshments.

Above: Some of the delicious offerings prepared by the ALE Union Glacier Camp kitchen.

Above: Hand decorated Christmas cookie table.

Above: Lead-PI Terry Wilson's personalized cookie, complete with chocolate dipped apricot and walnut boots.

Above: Panoramic view from the Christmas hike.

Above: Taken during the Christmas hike, this photo shows a huge block of folded metasedimentary rocks and beautiful views of the area.

Updates From the Field #19: Leave No Trace
22 December 2023, Miller Crag (MCRG), West Antarctica

The team continues to tick sites off the to-do list with a successful visit to Miller Crag. Both the seismic and GNSS sites were serviced, and essential data collected. This work exhausted all remaining fuel at the temporary Rosanne Carter Cache, and all traces of the cache were removed. The principle of leave no trace is of particular importance for preserving the pristine polar environments. All of our team members are diligent stewards of Antarctica, and take this responsibility very seriously.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
After a day when weather thwarted flights, conditions looked promising to reach our sites at Miller Crag in the Jones Mountains. The fuel cache was near the edge of a fog bank, but we landed in the clear and taxied in to refuel. Conditions at the site were excellent – clear sky and a very light wind. We were happy to find the seismic solar system well above the surface and the tops of the enclosure and the sensor only slightly buried – a relief from all the ‘big digs’ we have had. The seismic data was retrieved and the sensor was swapped, hopefully reducing seismic ‘noise’ at this site. The GNSS site was upgraded with a wind turbine and new metpack and problems with the battery bank were corrected to achieve full-year data collection. On our return trip we used the last of the 28 drums of fuel cached, and completely removed all empty drums and flags marking the ‘runway’, leaving no trace of this crucial temporary refueling station.

Above: A happy science team member Erica Lucas, revealing the plywood covering the seismic enclosure - only inches beneath the snow surface (for a change).

Above: The Miller Crag GNSS system upon arrival (left) and after additions of a wind turbine and metpack (right).

Above: Vista of the Miller Crag location in the Jones Mountains.  Photo by KBA pilot Troy McKerral.

Above: Rosanne Carter Cache, like predecessors Johnny Cache and June Carter Cache, is gone - in this case, leaving no trace.

Above: Returning from Rosanne Cache to Union Glacier with empty fuel drums.

Updates From the Field #18: Clear Skies at Slater
20 December 2023, Slater Rocks (SLTR), West Antarctica

Finally another weather window opens and the team is able to successfully service the GNSS site at Slater Rocks (SLTR), including upgrading the ‘metpack’ system, which is a meteorological instrument package that collects data about the atmosphere and weather.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Enough clearing in the weather to launch for Slater Rocks! Skies were clear at Slater Rocks, and the GNSS system there was upgraded with a metpack and a new receiver and antenna cable connectors were swapped in to correct intermittent satellite tracking issues. A full day, around 8 hours flying, and around 1.5 hours refueling, to work on the site instruments for under 2 hours….. this season it is a long way from our hub at Union Glacier to our remote sites along coastal West Antarctica!

Above: The team completes an upgrade of the GNSS system at the Slater Rocks site.

Above: View looking northward over the Kohler Range and Kohler Glacier.

Above: Our project 'secret sauce', KBA pilot Troy McKerral, in a rare moment of inaction.

Updates From the Field #17: Showers, Rest, and Broader Impacts
15 December 2023, ALE Union Glacier Camp, West Antarctica

Arrival of another unflyable weather window provided the team with a chance to rest and recharge. Terry Wilson, lead-PI of the ANET-POLENET project, also used the break as an opportunity to further Broader Impacts, which is an important component of all NSF-sponsored projects. Taking advantage of a diverse and captive audience, Terry focused on promoting public engagement by presenting a science lecture to ALE Union Glacier Camp residents.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
The next low pressure system arrived at the coast and gradually spread across the whole of West Antarctica, bringing moisture, clouds and significant snowfall. This system was slow to move inland, and now is slowly dissipating, leaving us stuck at camp for several days. Initially we took advantage of the ‘break’ to get some rest and showers, but now everyone is anxious to get back in the field to complete our site visits! As always, we meet with the meteorologists to check weather multiple times a day. With known ‘down time’, Terry gave a lecture on project science to the staff and clients at the camp.

Above: A snowy day at ALE Union Glacier Camp in West Antarctica, with the Ellsworth Mountains seen behind a sleeping tent. These "clam" tents are named after their function of opening like a clam shell, and provide a comfortable home to occupants.

Above: Lead-PI Terry Wilson presents a science lecture at ALE Union Glacier Camp. Photo taken by science team member Mara Figueroa-Berroca.

Above: Forecast meteograms and cloud cover on a satellite image indicate unflyable weather conditions.

Above: Lead-PI Terry Wilson's notes for keeping track of the weather at ANET-POLENET sites.

Updates From the Field #16: May the Force be with Lepley
14 December 2023, Lepley Nunatak (LPLY), West Antarctica

Success continues as the team services both the seismic and GNSS sites at Lepley Nunatak, completing almost all of the planned work. A new electronics board was installed at the GNSS site, and special care was taken to rehome the site's custodial Jedi. May the Force be with you, LPLY.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
The good weather window continued – again we landed at Rosanne Cache to refuel, then went northward to Lepley Nunatak. The Lepley site already had a Septentrio antenna, but we needed to upgrade the electronics board with a new Resolute Polar GNSS receiver – in the process we made sure to keep our Star Wars figurine that serves as ‘guardian’ for our system. The seismic components were all buried, and it turned out that hard ice permeated the overlying and surrounding ‘snow’ encasing the system. This mandated use of a chainsaw to ‘free’ the enclosure with the seismic data and batteries so we could replace them. All completed but raising the seismic sensor to the surface in the time available.

Above: Erica Lucas about to break the snow surface to shovel out the buried LPLY seismic system. Photo taken by science team member Kirsten Arnell.

Above: The team works to excavate seismic equipment at Lepley Nunatak.

Above: The existing GNSS electronics board (left) is replaced with an upgraded system utilizing the Resolute receiver (right). The custodial Jedi, circled in red, is repositioned to continue his guardianship duties.

Updates From the Field #15: Thurston Success!
13 December 2023, Thurston Island (THUR), West Antarctica

The team continued to take advantage of clear skies, successfully servicing both the GNSS and seismic stations at Thurston Island. In a welcome change of pace, all planned work was completed, including retrieving 3 precious years of seismic data.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
More clear sky over coastal West Antarctica! The team headed first to get fuel at ‘Rosanne Carter Cache’ – windy with blowing snow – and then onward to the THUR site on Thurston Island. We successfully changed out the GPS antenna and electronics board, installing a Resolute Polar GNSS receiver. For a change the seismic system was all visible at the surface, including the sensor dome – it actually was deceivingly benign, because the system was encased in ice! We were able to clear snow/ice covering the lower solar panels, and the ice around the enclosure so that we could swap in a new baler hard drive and get several years of seismic data out – huge gain for our science!

Above: Fueling at Rosanne Carter Cache.

Above: A welcome site, the seismic station is visible upon arrival at Thurston Island.

Above: The GNSS site at Thurston Island after completed site maintenance.

Above: KBA pilot Troy McKerral enjoying the balmy weather at Thurston Island.

Updates From the Field #14: Beauty and Beast
12 December 2023, Inman Nunatak (INMN) and Backer Island (BACK), West Antarctica

After a long stretch of unfavorable weather, the team was able to complete a double site visit, making it to both Inman Nunatak and Backer Island in the same day. Site INMN was fully serviced, but corrosion prevented work from being completed at BACK. While the vistas afforded by the open sea are beautiful, the effects of salt water on nearby GNSS equipment can be beastly.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Satellite images showed that the region to the east of Thwaites Glacier was clearing, so the team launched. Visibility was low and winds were high at our West Antarctic fuel cache, but skies cleared as we continued northward to our sites. The team had a clear view of the massive Pine Island Glacier as we transited to Inman Nunatak in the volcanic Hudson Mountains. Wind and blowing snow greeted us, but we made good time upgrading the INMN GNSS site. It was a treat to fly on to Backer Island because we could see the icebergs and open water of Pine Island Bay. Unfortunately we could not complete our service tasks for GNSS site BACK – all the screws, nuts and fixtures were rusted and corroded by the salty sea air, preventing us from removing the old antenna and swapping in a new one; in turn this prevented replacement of the GNSS receiver. If fuel resources permit, the team will make a 2nd visit to Backer with a suite of tools that would allow us to complete the upgrade of the antenna and receiver.

Above: White paint is stripped from the wind blasted GNSS antenna monument at INMN.

Above: The team servicing the GNSS site at Inman Nunatak (INMN).

Above: Flying over Pine Island Glacier

Above: Icebergs in Pine Island Bay, en route to Backer Island.

Above: The team standing in front of the KBA Twin Otter fixed-wing ski aircraft at Backer Island. Photo taken by science team member Nicolas Bayou.

Above: The team attempts to remove the antenna at GNSS site BACK.

Above: Rust and corrosion are shown on the equipment enclosure at GNSS site BACK.

Above: Panoramic view from GNSS site BACK.

Updates From the Field #13: Weather Chess
8-11 December 2023, ALE Union Glacier Camp, West Antarctica

The team was grounded due to unflyable weather conditions from 8 - 11 December, but this was not for a lack of effort by ALE meteorologists, who play an essential role in making ANET-POLENET science possible.  Evaluating ever-changing Antarctica weather patterns is like a complex game of chess, where current and future forecasts for sites across West Antarctica are repeatedly assessed to determine the best next move.  Without these meteorological heroes, our field work would not be possible.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Poor weather across the West Antarctic region prevented any flights; the air crew took a required ‘rest day’ during the ‘no fly’ interval. During these periods, we check in with the ALE meteorology team morning and night to follow the weather trends and seek flight opportunities.

Above: ALE meteorologists Fritz Buhl and Marc DeKeyser discuss forecast meteograms and satellite images with pilot Troy McKerral.


Updates From the Field #12: Déjà Vu
7 December 2023, Martin Peninsula (MRTP), West Antarctica

After the pilots took a much-deserved crew rest day, the team made it to Martin Peninsula in the Amundsen region. In a chain of events eerily similar to the Gould Knoll visit, the GNSS system was successfully serviced but the previously installed seismic system was unrecoverable, resulting in the installation of a new system and another tragic loss of invaluable data. On the plus side, the team was rewarded for their efforts with stunning views and gorgeous weather.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
In a repeat scenario, the morning of 7th December was spent with the ALE Meteorology team, reviewing successive satellite images to determine whether a fuel cache and a coastal site were clear and likely to remain so for the day.  In the end we left for Martin Peninsula, again one of our most distant coastal sites, this time refueling at the T2 cache, and again had a nearly 13 hour day!  The GPS system was in good condition, and we swapped the receiver/electronics board and replaced connectors to ensure consistent data collection.  There was no sign on the surface of the seismic installation from 2018-19, meaning that again over 4 years of seismic data vanished with the buried equipment.  The team installed a new seismic system so the project can acquire 2 years of data to meet the key project science objective to image the deep Earth below coastal West Antarctica.  In the end weather conditions were excellent – blue sky, with clear views of the ocean just offshore.

Above: ANET-POLENET Lead-PI Terry Wilson standing beside the GNSS antenna at Martin Peninsula.

Above: Science team members Nicolas Bayou (left) and Mara Figueroa-Berroca (right) stand beside the GNSS site at Martin Peninsula.

Above: The team completes site maintenance for the GNSS station at Martin Peninsula. The dark blue open waters of the Amundsen Sea can be seen near the horizon, above the GNSS antenna on a vertical monument.

Above: Science team member Kirsten Arnell installs new seismic equipment at Martin Peninsula.

Above: A new seismic sensor (front of image) is connected with cables to the buried equipment enclosure at Martin Peninsula.

Updates From the Field #11: Bittersweet Gould Knoll
5 December 2023, Gould Knoll (GLDK), West Antarctica

Following a day of no-fly weather, the team made it to Gould Knoll in the Amundsen region. While the GNSS site was successfully serviced, the seismic station was unfortunately unrecoverable. The team was able to install a new system, but the data collected since the original site was installed during the 2018-2019 field season is lost. These visits are bittersweet - completing much needed site maintenance is a boost for the science, but losing essential data is always a tragic outcome.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
After repeated checks with ALE meteorologist extraordinaire Marc DeKeyser, the last satellite image for the day revealed clear conditions at Gould Knoll, on Thurston Island, one of the most distant coastal sites.  Due to cargo limits, only 4 of our team went to the site.  The GPS site was successfully serviced, repairing a damaged solar panel connector, adding a wind turbine and a Vaisala metpack.  A complete new seismic system was installed in closer proximity to the bedrock knob with the GPS equipment, in hopes of avoiding the high accumulation zone that had buried the installation from 2018-19.  Unfortunately, there was no sign on the surface of the original seismic station, which was found buried in 2020-21, and we did not have either the ground time or the necessary equipment (like ground radar) to do an effective search.  So, the years of seismic data collected by the system are lost forever……. The team did not land back at UG camp until nearly 2 a.m. – only 3 hours 15 minutes were spent on site, the remainder of the nearly 13 hour day was in flight and refueling at the new Rosanne Carter Cache, established for the project by ALE.

Above: The team installs a new seismic station at Gould Knoll. Photo taken by science team member Nicolas Bayou.

Above: GNSS site at Gould Knoll. Photo taken by science team member Nicolas Bayou.

Above: GNSS site at Gould Knoll with the KBA Twin Otter fixed-wing ski plane in the background. Photo taken by science team member Nicolas Bayou.

Updates From the Field #10: A For Effort!
3 December 2023, Bennett Nunatak (BENN), West Antarctica

After a day of crew rest and an additional no-fly day due to weather restrictions, the team continued to make progress by servicing the GNSS and seismic sites at Bennett Nunatak.  While work was completed for the GNSS system, significant snow and ice buildup ultimately prevented a complete servicing of the seismic station. 

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
GPS service was fast and complete, it was in good shape; antenna was swapped.  Seismic system was almost fully buried but after 3 passes Troy spotted it - the lampshade top was just a few inches above the snow surface (I think those are ~9 feet tall).  The snow was rock hard and they had to use the chainsaw to cut their way down to the enclosure.  At that point they retrieved the baler and took out all the old AGM batteries, which were retro'd to Union.  They worked hard to get the enclosure unstuck and raised, but ran out of time.  So, the new batteries were not swapped in [they are staged at the site with flags], and nothing is running.  Hopefully we can get back there. 

The wind was 25 knots+.  The fuel drums were exposed but down in a scoured-out pit, so Troy and Dillon had to work hard to raise them to the surface.  The team did not land until 10 p.m., and everyone was totally exhausted!! 

Above: Science team member Mara Figueroa-Berroca upgrades the GNSS antenna at Bennett Nunatak.

Above: After 3 passes, the ~9 ft tall seismic station at Bennett Nunatak is finally spotted just barely peeking above the snow surface.

Above: Science team member Kirsten Arnell works to excavate the deeply buried equipment enclosure at Bennet Nunatak.

Above: Mountaineer Mark Whetu takes a break between chainsaw sessions of cutting through snow and ice to reach the buried seismic equipment at Bennett Nunatak.

Above: KBA pilots Troy McKerral (left) and Dillon Vandendiepstraten (right) cut through snow and ice to reach the buried seismic equipment at Bennett Nunatak.

Updates From the Field #9: Balmy at Bear
30 November 2023, Bear Peninsula (BERP/BEAR), West Antarctica

Clear skies and warm weather were a welcome change for the team as they successfully serviced both the GNSS and seismic stations at Bear Peninsula.  The t-shirt weather site visit was a fitting end to the teams brief yet very productive stay at Byrd Camp.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Took us quite a while to get all our tents down and the kitchen module cleaned up and secured as we found it. Took off and flew 2 hours 45 minutes to Bear Peninsula, landed as usual near the seismic system.  Arrived to blue sky and no wind – very warm!  There was strong scouring around the seismic site, so we could open the enclosure with little effort.  However, the back of the enclosure (all the cables), the sensor dome, and the cable between them were completely encased in ice.  For this we brought the garden grubber!  Hacked and shoveled for over 2 hours to ‘free’ them, had to use a rock pick around the cables – eventually had to abandon the sensor cable (it had coils encased in solid ice that were deep under the solar panel frame) and use a new cable.  There were beautiful perfect hexagonal ice crystals inside the interior of the sensor dome!  A new seismometer was installed on the same foam base and phenolic block [could not have dug a new hole!].  Meanwhile, the route to the GNSS site had no snow cover, all blue ice.  Mark and Nikko put on crampons and traversed over.  The system had a lot of wind damage.

Above: Science team member Kirsten Arnell orients the seismic sensor at Bear Peninsula.

Above: Science team members Kirsten Arnell (left) and Erica Lucas (right) excavate the seismic sensor at Bear Peninsula.

Above: KBA pilot Dillon Vandendiepstraten excavates the seismic sensor cable at Bear Peninsula.

Above: KBA pilots Troy McKerral and Dillon Vandendiepstraten work to free fuel drums from Bear Peninsula.

Above: Hexagonal ice crystal from inside sensor dome cover.

From Bear Peninsula, the team stopped at a fuel cache named T2 before traveling back to Union Glacier Camp.  The pilots will take a crew rest day tomorrow to coincide with unfavorable weather forecasts for sites out of the ALE camp. 

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
It was just under 2 hours to T2 cache.  Beautiful vistas of Mt Murphy and the terminus of Thwaites Glacier en route.  Blue sky and no wind at T2 cache, BUT, the snow surface was sculpted, uneven and very hard, reflecting the typical windy conditions there.  The fuel cache had 90 drums that had been put on an elevated berm (by BAS traverse last season), so no digging required (thank God!).  Then another 2.5 hour flight back to Union, arriving ~10:30 pm.  Troy & Dillon had ~35 minutes of crew flight time remaining!  A very long day, and everyone was exhausted, but in good spirits due to our success.

Above: T2 fuel cache.

Above: The team flying back to ALE Union Glacier Camp after a brief yet productive stay at Byrd Camp.

Updates From the Field #8: Windy Work at Takahe
29 November 2023, Mount Takahe (MTAK), West Antarctica

Success at Byrd Camp continues, with the team servicing both the GNSS and seismic sites at Mt. Takahe.  Despite intense winds, the work was completely efficiently.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Proceeded to Takahe, found very windy conditions with blowing snow – fortunately not that cold.  Pilots anchored the plane so the winds would not shift it.  Found the GNSS system in good condition.  The Resolute receiver with faulty comms was replaced.  The Septentrio antenna was in perfect condition.  The seismic site enclosure was only ~0.5 m deep; we swapped the baler and replaced the lithium batteries.  Our work on the ground took less than 3 hours. 

Above: The Twin Otter fixed-wing ski plane is anchored with straps so that strong winds at Mt. Takahe do not shift the aircraft.

Above: Science team member Nicolas Bayou (left) and mountaineer Mark Whetu (right) work to secure GNSS site equipment at Mt. Takahe.

Above: Lead-PI Terry Wilson snaps a selfie at Mt. Takahe.

Above: Science team members Eric Lucas (left) and Kirsten Arnell (right) replace lithium batteries at the Mt. Takahe seismic station.

Updates From the Field #7: Dig!
28 November 2023, vicinity of Byrd Camp (BYRD), West Antarctica

Work at Byrd Camp started immediately, with the team successfully servicing the nearby seismic station.  It was an “all hands on deck” day of intense physical work, with everyone pitching in – pilots included! The ANET-POLENET team is incredibly lucky to again be working with KBA pilots Troy McKerral and Dillon Vandendiepstraten, who consistently go above and beyond. 

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Tuesday – had coffee/breakfast, got in the Otter and taxied over to the seismic site.  Started digging.  We had 8 persons, 7 shovels, 1 large garden grubber, and 1 electric chainsaw.  It took all of us ~3.5 hours to excavate all the components and bring them to the surface, and another 2.5 hours to reinstall everything at the surface.  The seismic sensor was buried over 3 meters deep!  An epic dig.  We were all worn out, everyone was a digging beast!

We had a large stash of ‘ration packs’ – each 1 day food for 1 person. All snacks and dehy food. Fortunately ALE also supplied us with frozen pre-cooked dinners which we only had to heat up – very welcome!  We had a late dinner, tried to watch the 1980s version of ‘The Thing’ [so appropriate!], but everyone was worn out and only lasted a short way into the movie (the first flame thrower scene…..).

Above: The start of the dig to excavate science equipment at Byrd.

Above: KBA pilot Dillon Vandendiepstraten (front) and the team dig up buried seismic equipment at Byrd.

Above: Science team member Nicolas Bayou digging up the buried seismic sensor at Byrd, last raised 6 years ago in the 2017-18 season.

Above: Science team member Erica Lucas reinstalling the seismic sensor at Byrd.

Above: Reinstalling the Byrd seismic station after bringing it to the surface.

Updates From the Field #6: Thinking Outside the Box – A Win for Science
27 November 2023, Byrd Camp, West Antarctica

Completing field work in West Antarctica often requires thinking creatively to outmaneuver difficult weather.  Faced with days of forecasts indicating unflyable conditions out of ALE Union Glacier Camp, the team opted to shift to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) Byrd Camp to take advantage of a more favorable weather window there.  While Byrd Camp is not in operation this year, the team was able to use fuel stored at camp, and ALE provided tents and food.  In an awesome example of cooperation among ALE camp staff, scientists, and pilots, days of unflyable weather were pivoted into a burst of productivity, with an impressive 3 sites completed in 3 days.  A big thanks to NSF for allowing this brief stay at Byrd Camp, and kudos to the entire field team, pilots, and ALE camp staff for turning an unfortunate situation into a win for science!

Above: The useable ‘kitchen module’ at Byrd Camp. Messages left on the whiteboard indicate it was last staffed by 3 people during the 2018-2019 field season.

Above: During their brief stay at Byrd Camp, the team used a heater and stove, with the latter essential for making water from melted snow.

Above: The team was very thankful to have use of a Byrd Camp outhouse.

Above: An array of partly/mostly buried vehicles, crates, etc. and the kitchen module (structure shown on the right) used by the team at Byrd Camp. The sleeping tents brought and used by the team are shown in the background on the horizon.

Updates From the Field #5: Weather Battles
26 November 2023, Whitmore Mountains (WHTM/WHIT), West Antarctica

The team completed a site visit to Whitmore Mountains and successfully serviced both the GNSS and seismic sites. As always, weather remains one of the toughest challenges for completing field work in Antarctica. The twin otter fixed-wing ski planes require visibility for safe landing conditions, so the team needs a clear weather forecast before departing for a site.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Yesterday went to Whitmore - my first time there!  The whole team was able to go, which was great.  It was -20C and low wind at seismic but bitter wind on ridge with GPS - very cold [still, could have been worse I know!].  GPS a bit of a mess, Iridium mount dangling down off frame, both turbines seized, Met4 partly blown off, 1 solar panel shattered.  Had to cannibalize a turbine mount to remount the Iridium; had no mount to put the Vaisala on.

Above: Whitmore BEFORE; Arrival conditions of the GNSS site at Whitmore Mountains. Science team members Mara Figueroa-Berroca in front and Nicolas Bayou in back.

Above: Whitmore AFTER; Conditions of the repaired GNSS site at Whitmore Mountains prior to departure.

Above: Whitmore Mountains site view showing the Twin Otter fixed-wing ski aircraft below. Photo is taken from the view of the GNSS station.

Above: Continental weather model for Monday 27 November 2023. Green is 'moisture' [relative humidity], indicating cloudy conditions likely. 

Updates From the Field #4: Long-Awaited Essential Site Maintenance
23 November 2023, Howard Nunatak (HOWN/HOWD), West Antarctica

The team completed a site visit to Howard Nunatak and successfully serviced both the GNSS and seismic sites. Due to years of missed field work as a result of cutting National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Antarctic science (click to read more: U.S. cancels or curtails half of its Antarctic research projects | Science | AAAS) many of the ANET-POLENET sites are severely overdue for essential maintenance and data collection. The result is often that the harsh Antarctic environment has taken a toll on science equipment, and team members are faced with the challenge of predicting what will be needed without knowing the actual site status.

Text sent from lead-PI Terry Wilson:
Thanks to Troy for the nudge to go to Howard yesterday.  It was probably 30 knots when we arrived, lots of blowing snow and not very pleasant.  We were there ~3 hours and it calmed some over that time.  It was great to get started and beautiful as always there. Seismic site was in good shape, we took old batteries out and swapped in 4 AGMs and 4 lithiums, got the baler.  GPS had one wind turbine on the ground and one working furiously. Everything else looked good except the broken enclosure; antenna looked perfect.
The bad news is:  the weather patterns over most of West Antarctica are super complex, full of moisture (thus clouds), multiple low pressure systems moving onshore - and this continues for the 5 days that the forecasts go out.  Both the T2 and our new fuel cache are totally socked in, no breaks at all. 

Above: Science team members Erica Lucas (left) and Kirsten Arnell (middle), and KBA pilot Dillon Vandendiepstraten (right) service the seismic station at Howard Nunatak.

Above: Kirsten Arnell and Erica Lucas service the Howard Nunatak seismic station.

Above: Twin Otter fixed-wing aircraft at Howard Nunatak field site. Seismic team members are pictured on the left, and the GNSS site can be seen uphill on the bedrock horizon to the right.

Above: From left to right: Science team member Nicolas Bayou, KBA pilot Dillon Vandendiepstraten, mountaineer Mark Whetu, and KBA pilot Troy McKerral service the GNSS site at Howard Nunatak. The GNSS antenna and vertical mast mount are shown on the horizon in front of the cloud on the right side of the image.

Above: Howard BEFORE; An enclosure housing batteries to power the GNSS site at Howard Nunatak is found broken.

Above: Howard AFTER; With no replacement enclosure, the team "fixes" the enclosure using plywood supplied by the KBA pilots.

Updates From the Field #3: Fuel Caching and Safety Training
22 November 2023, Union Glacier Camp, West Antarctica

Lead pilot Troy McKerral and co-pilot Dillon Vandendiepstraten successfully scouted a location for a new fuel cache to reach sites in the Thurston Island region, located in the Amundsen Sea Embayment sector of Antarctica. These "gas stations" are essential for reaching sites farthest from camp, and GNSS (GPS) sites in the Amundsen region of are of particular interest because of accelerated rates of ice mass change.

While the team waits for cargo to arrive, they take advantage of the calm weather at camp to practice field safety. Mark Whetu is the team mountaineer for the 2023-2024 field season.

Above: Mountaineer Mark Whetu (left) and science team member Nicolas Bayou (right).  

Above: Science team members Erica Lucas (left), Mara Figueroa-Berroca (middle), and Kirsten Arnell (right). 

Above: Mountaineer Mark Whetu (left) and science team member Nicolas Bayou (right).  

Updates From the Field #2: Day 1 At Camp
20 November 2023, Union Glacier Camp, West Antarctica

ANET-POLENET field team members travel to Union Glacier Camp, operated by ALE (Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions: https://antarctic-logistics.com/). Located in the Ellsworth Mountains, the ALE camp location makes it possible to reach the majority of ANET-POLENET field sites.  Team members fly on an Ilyushin aircraft capable of landing on the blue ice runway in Antarctica.

Above: Mara Figueroa-Berroca checks in for her "ice" flight - traveling to Antarctica is also known as "going to the ice". 

Once at camp, the group must wait for essential science cargo to arrive before field work can begin.  While they wait, the pilots with Kenn Borek Air (KBA) scout for a new fuel cache spot to access the farthest-reaching sites, and the science team begins tackling the long list of tasks required to make the field season a success.

Above: ANET-POLENET lead-PI Terry Wilson's "day 1 to-do list" for the 2023-2024 field season operated out of ALE camp in West Antarctica.

Updates From the Field #1: Kissing the Toe
19 November 2023, Plaza de Armas, Punta Arenas Chile

ANET-POLENET field team members assemble in Chile before departing for West Antarctica for the 2023-2024 field season. In keeping with tradition, the team visits the memorial to Ferdinand Magellan and 'kisses the toe' to ensure safe passage from Punta Arenas to Antarctica. 

Above from left to right: Nicolas Bayou, Mara Figueroa-Berroca, Erica Lucas, and Terry Wilson. The statue is a memorial to Magellan, but this particular person on the statue is an indigenous Patagonian. It has become tradition to kiss his toes in order to ensure safe transport across the Drake Passage.