Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sea Ice Training

Next came Sea Ice Training. To learn how to safely travel on the sea ice. McMurdo Station sits on the end of a peninsula of Ross Island. Currently, on the west side is is sea ice, and on the east side is shelf ice. The shelf ice is immensly thick and is ice that comes of the glaciated regions of the continent. The shelf ice is permanent. The sea, however, is only a few meters think, and sometimes clears out during the austral summer. Therefore, it can have cracks and weak spots in it that might not be able to support the weight of some of the work vehicles. Therefore, we underwent some training in order to safely drive the vehicles on the ice.

The main points were that if we drill through the ice, with a hand or power drill, and find a thinkness of greater than 30 inches, we can consider the ice to be more than strong enough. Less than 30 inches, and we are to consider there to be no ice at all. If we are under the minimums, we can cross the crack as long as the crack width is less than 1/3 the distance of the track (or wheel) footprint. We dug some practice cores that turned out to be over three meters thick and saw some beautiful mountains and pressure ridges.

The weather was such that it was at times very hard to see the horizon. Ice, snow and sky, melted into one and it sometimes seemed like we were back with a white bucket around our vehicle. It was cold and windy and our vehicle had some good ice on one side of it.

All in all, it was very fun, and I felt like an antarctic sailor learning everything I needed to know to take a sailing vessel into the ice. Maybe someday!

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