We got a call from one of our helo's out in the deep field supporting a project on Byrd Glacier studying the flow rate of this outlet glacier which flows from the polar plateau, through the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and exits to the Ross Ice Shelf. The helicopters are flying to numerous stations across the expanse of the glacier installing GPS recorders that will be recovered at the end of the summer in February. [Checkout a post I wrote with more detail from last season here.] While on its final stop for the day and shutdown one of the starter-generators on board failed.
So we gathered up a maintenance crew, some parts, tools, survival gear and a helo--so off we went, and went and went and went. I remembered one of the MANY reasons why I like flying jets. Speed. The mighty Bell 212 was not gifted in that regime of flight. So off we went at 90 knots across the flat white expanse of the Ross Ice Shelf in search of a little red dot on the ice.
|Flying through a pass along the Merrick Glacier|
|A view up the Devries Glacier|
Passing between numerous peaks and over ridgelines, we popped out high above the twisted earth below known as the Byrd Glacier. 25 miles across and 100 miles+ long this is no place I'd want to look for a place to land. However that's what our pilots are doing daily all in the name of science. 100' deep crevasses, peaks, valleys, all slick with blue ice--nothing flat--No thanks.
|Looking for a landing zone. Yes we landed here.|
|Green flags placed by our mountaineer marking a large hidden or "bridged" over crevasse|
|Wait! Don't leave us--we're not fixed yet!|
|Grabbing gas at the nearby Darwin Glacier fuel cache with our friends|
|Flying home through some barren desert like terrain.|