Monday, December 7, 2009

Packing, Packing and more Packing

Preparations for the trip are moving into high gear. On Saturday, after field school, we met with Jessy Jenkins, our Point of Contact (POC) for the trip. Jessy works in Berg Field Camp (BFC), which provides food and equipment for field camps. She arranged for a BFC person to accompany us, in addition to the mountaineer who will be with us the first 1-2 days. We also learned that the mountaineer will be Brian Hasebe, who taught our "Happy Camper" class.

On Monday, we met Martha Story, who will accompany us. Both Martha and Jessy were extremely helpful, and I finally feel that I have a good picture of most of what needs to happen. We also met with the helo ops supervisor, Julie Grundberg, about flight planning. We have to request our flight(s) three days in advance; to do so, we need an accurate estimate of what everything weighs; this, in turn, requires that we know what we are bringing, bringing renewed emphasis to packing. We will need two flights to get in and out: one for us and some personal gear (sleep kits, etc.), and another for hazardous cargo (mostly fuel) and scientific gear; the big pieces will go in a sling under the helicopter.

On-site internet access remains an open question. The current site does not have the required line-of-site to any of the existing internet repeaters. The options are to move the camp, or to install an additional repeater. It is not clear how large a camp move would be required, and the IT folks here are suggesting putting in a repeater on the side of Mt. Discovery. There will be a helicopter recce to look at this possibility, probably on Thursday.

Martha will cook dinners in camp, and, with her help, we quickly mapped out menus, and ingredients from the 15 page list of BFC stock. She will also bake bread out there (her idea). There was a rather wide variety, with a reasonable selection of frozen meats, vegetables, breads, etc. plus a fair selection of canned goods, and pre-prepared dishes. There is also a wide selection of dried soups, freeze-dried meals and snack foods, for quick eating. Menus planned, we then went to "Food Pull," and picked up everything on our list. This photo shows us with our selections (except the frozen foods, which were picked up outside). We ended up with

This killed most of the afternoon. Thorsten found some time to work on the box, and I spent some time fighting ROOT (a physics analysis software package) and Windows XP - they do not play nicely together, in order to be able to analyze the data on my laptop.

Tuesday brought more briefings, and more packing. First up was training to use our generators and chainsaw. The generators seem pretty straightforward; the chainsaw less so. The hardware isn't complicated, but it seems like something where one would want some actual experience. Fortunately, Thorsten used a chainsaw during his time as an IceCube driller.

Next was a briefing on communications protocols. We need to report in at a specified time every day. Otherwise, they will send out the search and rescue team. We will have VHF and HF radios (just like in "Happy Camper"). The VHF radios are line-of-sight, so are only useful for talking among ourselves, or maybe with a passing aircraft. We will also have an Irridium satellite phone. We will get these at another briefing, on Wednesday.

The rest of the day was devoted to packing our gear, which took far longer than I expected. This photos shows most of our camping gear; our sleeping kits (sleeping bag, foam pads, etc.) are elsewhere, and the largest tent is also elsewhere. Fuel (propane for cooking and heating, "Mogas" for the generator, and "premix" (a gas/oil mixture) for the chainsaw were already filed as hazardous cargo.

The camping gear weighs about 831 lbs. 300 lbs of that is a floor for our "Artic Oven" tent, not shown here. Without the floor, the heat of everyday activities (cooking, using the oscilloscope and network analyzer, etc.) will gradually melt a hole in the snow, and we will have to move the tent.

We had dinner tonight with a number of IceCube folk. Mike Zernick is on his way home from the Pole, and Jim Yeck and Andrew Laundrie are on their way there. The IceCube construction season is off to a great start; they have already finished their first hole.


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