Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Camping on the Ross Ice Shelf

Sometimes it is a major luxury to not have to carry everything you need in a pack on your back.  Back in the “real world” car camping always seems like such an amazing luxury.  Well in Antarctica if you need to carry gear someplace you through it on a helicopter or a plane or some sort of tracked vehicle.  And if you want to set up a camp on the Ross Ice Shelf you load thousands of pounds of camping gear and science equipment onto cargo planes and fly it to the middle of flat, white nowhere.

I worked at a camp called RIS (Ross Ice Shelf) or Yesterday Camp for a bit this year.  It was called Yesterday Camp because it was just across the international date line so according to local time it was yesterday there.   Three LC-130 Hercules planes dropped off camp and science gear and the camp was in place for a month.

The massive camp at RIS surrounded by flat white nothing as far as  you can see.
Lines of cargo at RIS. There were 3 LC-130 flights that brought cargo out to camp, but only 2 to take cargo back to McMurdo so packing pallets of cargo to return had to be done strategically. 

Another view of RIS camp.
All of the field sites looked exactly the same: flat white.  I was with a science group that was installing seismic sensors to investigate the effects of waves on the ice shelf.   Some of the sites were visited by snow machine from camp.

Other sites were visited by twin otter.  I would consider a twin otter the ATV of Antarctica.  They can land on almost any snowy terrain and can taxi along snow and ice for many miles to get to places that aren't safe to land.  It really is amazing where these planes can go.

The first of two camp take out flights via LC-130.

I was working at the camp with one other person and we flew back to McMurdo on a twin otter and the next morning we flew out on an LC-130 to retrieve the rest of the cargo.  The black dot through the center window are the last few pallets of cargo and the horizontal line is the groomed skyway that I rode hundreds of miles (along a 10,000' strip) to flatten for the plane to land on. 

In the deep field in Antarctica the only way to load a pallet is to attach a few straps and two snow machines to it and hope it doesn't dig into the snow on the way to the plane.  Most of the air force pallets weight about 3,000 pounds to getting them to move forward was quite a task.

After all the pallets were loaded we pulled up an empty pallet to the back of the plane and drove the snow machines onto it...all done with the plane engines still running.

Those were then winched onto the plane and nothing but flat white was left.

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