AWS trips

This year’s round of raising and servicing the automatic weather stations (AWS) around the Brunt was started early in November due to the move. First off we went to the new 6A site to download the data, raise and also move the AWS as its current location is in the way of the vehicle route when they pull the modules in December. There hadn’t been too much snow accumulation this year (only about 80 cm at the new site) and with the soft snow it was easy to dig up. We carried everything bar the battery box, which we pulled with the snocat and deposited it 100 m east. Everything was checked afterward and orientated correctly before setting off back home.

The next visit was to the AWS at Windy Bay. Again, not very much accumulation, but this time it was fairly icy. We had lots of help with the new doc and 2 FGAs along for a ride to check out the sea ice nearby. There were a few problems with one of the sensors, but eventually everything was ok. Afterwards we had a nosey about the edge of the shelf ice where the penguin colony normally lives. We’d been there only 2 weeks ago to visit the penguins, but now all the sea ice had broken up and blown out. The water came all the way to the edge and shimmered bright blue where you could see the shelf ice below the water. There were still a few penguins about frolicking and swimming in the water and floating about on the larger bergy bits further out in the bay. The ramp the FGAs had come to investigate had sunk along with other overhanging parts of the ice shelf. We watched the snow petrels play on the winds off the cliff edge and then headed back to base. Somehow we had been given the SAR snocat, which is the slower of the two with a top speed of 20 km/h making the trip back seemingly longer than necessary.

Finally in early January we made a last trip out to the old Halley V site to raise the AWS. The engineers also had a LPM site nearby that needed some work, so we took a few extras and split up into two teams. The weather was flat and white with the off falling snow flake, but there hadn’t been much snow and soon we were warming up in the snocat waiting for the LPM team to finish who were waiting for the base to remotely log on and check that it was working. Returning to base was a strange feeling as the modules were no longer there to greet us, only a scattering containers and tents were left.

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Once the news of the cancelled winter went public, one of the plans to maintain the temperature record at Halley 6 was to move the Windy Bay AWS, which has an automatic ARGOS transmitting system, to Halley 6. This way even if a calving event happened and the station was lost on a berg the data would be transmitted live and saved. On a less than ideal weather day we finally got access to a snocat and set off with lots of helpers to Windy. Another task was to take some snow samples from a meter deep profile at Windy, as well as every 2 km on the way back. Again we split into two groups. We had taken down the AWS and were packing it securely on the flatbed sledge by the time the second team were ready to saw out some snow blocks and fill the sample vials. What started off as falling snow turned into drifting snow and finally died down completely, allowing us to have one last look at the coast. The ramp which we had been looking at on the last visit had completely collapsed and the cove was littered with bergy bits and a solitary penguin.

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