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U.S. Antarctic Program news
Bad weather on much of the continent delayed the summer opening of AmundsenScott South Pole Station for 12 days, leaving the 28-member winter crew to wait for better weather to return home. Normally, two flights 4 hours apart open the station. The first flight carries about 50 people, who will work at the station during the austral summer, and the second carries about 20 more people plus mail, fresh food, and some cargo.
This year, however, powerful storms hit McMurdo Station on 27 October, the day the two LC-130 Hercules were due to fly from McMurdo to South Pole, and grounded flights for 2 days. Meanwhile at South Pole Station, the temperature stayed near 55°C, a temperature too cold for the LC-130s. In temperatures below 50°C, seals and gaskets on the airplanes contract; propellers, engines, landing gear, and skis leak excessively; and hydraulic fluid congeals.
By 3 November, the storm at McMurdo had abated and temperatures at South Pole had risen, and although conditions at South Pole were forecast to be marginal, a flight was attempted. An LC-130 carrying 50 passengers flew to South Pole Station, but after four approaches to the skiway, the pilots decided that attempting a landing was too risky. Visibility was very poor; the crew could see the station only when the plane was immediately above it. They returned to McMurdo.
Storms pounded both stations for the next several days, delaying further attempts. When the weather finally improved, two flights left on 8 November. The first had to turn back 30 minutes into the 3-hour flight when an indicator light signaled that the main door on the aircraft was open. Though the door appeared closed, the risk of an unseen problem was great, so the airplane returned to McMurdo. Later that afternoon, a second LC-130 finally succeeded in completing a flight to the pole and opening the station. The first flight, carrying the bulk of the passengers, made a second attempt and arrived late that same night.
By 12 November, South Pole Station had been prepared for the summer research season, and station managers worked to compensate for the delayed start and maximize the time available to complete the goals for the season.
October 1997 was the coldest, stormiest October at McMurdo Station since 1973. A series of storms hit McMurdo throughout the month disrupting aircraft schedules, delaying the opening of field camps, forcing an early closing for the Cape Roberts Project drill site, demolishing a Jamesway structure on Black Island, and putting the station on "Condition One" (all movement restricted) status during summer business hours for the first time in recent memory.
Storms stranded antarctic travelers at all points in the travel circuit. South Pole winter staff (see South Pole Station opening delayed) were forced to remain at the station for 12 additional days before a flight carrying summer replacement staff, who were stuck at McMurdo, could reach the pole. Siple Dome personnel, scheduled to go to base camp on 28 October, were also caught by the McMurdo storms. Others on their way to Antarctica were held in Christchurch, New Zealand, until the storms abated, personnel could be moved, and bed space could be made available at the station. The delays threaten to take a heavy toll on the science schedule for the year, but like their counterparts at South Pole Station, managers at McMurdo are working to overcome the setback.
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) announces publication of volume 71 of the Antarctic Research Series, Geology and seismic stratigraphy of the antarctic margin, 2, edited by Peter F. Barker and Alan K. Cooper. This volume, which complements the work presented in volume 68, contains 10 studies of marine seismic reflection data and sediment cores gathered from the antarctic continental margin and presents analyses that will help students and scientists better understand the fluctuations and geologic record of the Cenozoic Ice Sheet.
Volume 71 may be purchased online (AGU member and student member price, $42; nonmember price, $60) at: