Monday 1 December 2014

Flying in Antarctica

Refuelling at Sky Blu!
So apart from having to help out with cleaning on base, another thing everyone can get involved with is the flying! BAS operates two types of planes. The DASH 7 which mainly flies between Rothera and Punta Arenas (Chile) or Stanley (Falkland Islands) to get everyone from and to base during the summer. It also supplies Sky Blu (one of the refuelling stations further south of Rothera) with fuel drums. It can land at Sky Blu because it has a blue ice landing strip. The twin otters are the other type of planes operated by BAS which are fitted with skies once they get her and can land in the field. They are flown by a single pilot. However, they always take a co-pilot with them which is someone from base!
Keeping the plane on track!
In the beginning of the week it was finally my turn. It is a little tricky for us sometimes to go for co-pilots as it means no diving for 48 hours beforehand. On Saturday we set off to bring scientists into the field. They were on their way to the Ronne ice shelf on a big drilling project. In order to get there we had to make 2 refuelling stops; one at Fossil Bluff which is closer (about 1.5 hours away) and Sky Blu (another 1.5 hours way). From Sky Blu we flew to the Ronne and dropped the scientists off at "Drilling Site 1". The project involves some travelling and drilling at various sites. Apart from the South Pole this site is the furthest south that BAS is flying to this year (S 80° 20.00, W 054° 46.40). On the way back we stopped at Sky Blu again and stayed there over night. The next day we waited until late afternoon to return to Rothera, but the weather at Fossil Bluff was not good enough to stop there. In the end it was decided that we would go straight back without refuelling at Fossil Bluff which is a 3 hour flight and possible. However, as it is more expensive to get fuel to Sky Blu than to Fossil Bluff this is generally avoided.
Blue ice runway at Sky Blu!
View from the plane!
On Monday we did a fuel run to Fossil Bluff which meant that we delivered some drums. On Tuesday we took off again to get a field assistant and his scientist (a geologist) into the field. We flew to Fossil Bluff and refuelled. Than we had to wait for the weather to improve. As it did not but looked very good for the next day we stayed at Fossil Bluff over night and took off the next morning. The weather was absolutely amazing at the site. When a plane has to land where there no one is on the ground the pilot does a couple of low fly by's first to assess the area (crevasses will be dangerous for landing). Next the pilot trails skis - meaning that they land but do not stop and take off again straight away in order to make sure that no crevasses open up which were bridged. Than we finally land. Once the guys were all set up, we left and flew back to Rothera via Fossil Bluff. 
At Sky Blu.
Caboose out on the Ronne.
Field party out on the Ronne.
Team on the Ronne with pisten bully from the Germans (AWI).

Input of the Geology project.

Leaving the two behind!
Home, sweet home.