Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sea Ice SAR training September 2010

Last SAR training of the season. Drove Hagglunds out as far as the Barne Crack, just before Cape Royds. Ice profiling, equipment and vehicle operation.
This and a second iceberg drifted into the middle of the Cape Evans road this year, neccesitating a new route to Evans.
Icebergs such as these break off of the Erebus Glacier tongue in late summer/fall and drift oceanwards. They drift between Tent Island, Inaccessible Island, and The Razorback Islands- remnants of an ancient volcanic cauldera - where they often get hung up in shallow water and freeze into the sea ice.

Cave near the top of Barne glacier. The base of the glacier is littered with chunks of fallen ice, making standing back advisable.
Barne Glacier. The 100' vertical ice wall is very different from the snow-covered 20' rise of the Erebus Ice Tongue tip.

Cape Royds visible in the background. The start of the snowmobile trail up Erebus lies behind Barne Glacier.
Erebus with the length of the Barne Glacier in the foreground.

Trivia: glacial ice has been so compressed and altered that it fizzes and bubbles when added to drinks.

SAR Hagglunds - 2 MCM and 1 Kiwi Hag. These are some of our best vehicles in my opinion - they're ancient, but still durable and fairly reliable (by MCM standards). Theoretically they float if immersed, at least for awhile. The waterproofing stripping is getting a bit dried and cracked. They feature escape hatches on the roofs which allow occupants to exit if the vehicle becomes partially submerged (unless, in a delightful case of irony, survival bags have been strapped down on top of the hatch). The cabs are pretty cozy, with an engine compartment that opens up and provides a nifty lunch-heating spot. They're faster and less touchy than Pisten-Bullies.
We mount marine radar units on the roofs for use in white-out conditions. They pick up buildings, vehicles, and the little screws on the bamboo flags that mark most well-used roads here. The image is tricky and takes quite a bit of practice and a lot of fiddling to interpret accurately. The Hagglunds also carry radio -direction-finding equipment, which works quite well. For a rescue, SAR can pack up the radar monitor, night-vision binoculars, an infrared camera, assorted medical and pt packaging equip, hot water bottles, ropes, and hardware; because winter SAR members respond from their respective shops, response time is about 1/2 hr to get rolling.
Ripples in the snow covering the annual sea ice. The annual portion is pretty smooth and snow-covered, while the multi-year ice is rougher and clear of snow, showing a beautiful blue color, along the Evans rd. Further in towards Pegasus it features smooth areas, 2-3' high sastrugi (great on snowmobiles) and zones of crevassing.
Climbing to the top of the Erebus Ice Tongue
Winter madness sets in.
Finding an ice cave in the Erebus Ice Tongue. Wave action hollows out these caves during the fall. They are often filled with large, beautiful ice crystals. This one was actually foggy with humidity when I first opened it up. Its presence was betrayed by a collection of icicles on the glacier face near its mouth.

On the way out onto the sea ice roads, we pass Concordiasi as they launch an atmosphere-testing balloon.

Wind whipping snow around the edge of the Barne Glacier.

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