Data, data, data. How we dream of data!

Plans on paper and realities in Antarctica have proven to be two different things.

This is the fifth post in Robin Bell’s description of scientific research in Antarctica in late 2008 and early 2009.

Moving from McMurdo to South Pole to AGAP S Camp is something that on paper was designed to take a week…four days at South Pole to adjust to the change in altitude, and another three at AGAP S.

However, plans on paper and realities in Antarctica have proven to be two different things. Small issues continued to cause a slowing in progress – issues with camp readiness, team member illness, flight crew medical clearances, and the ever present issue of weather.  As the days marched by it was difficult to sit quietly acclimatizing while our partnering AGAP N crew was actively flying flight lines and collecting data.

At last we were cleared to move on to our ultimate destination, AGAP S, eleven days behind our planned departure. The camp, at 11,482 ft., is nestled on the Western side of Dome Argus.

We had seen early images as supplies were dropped and a tent or two erected, so to actually see the full camp set up and ready to house about 40 staff and scientists was exciting.

The camp personnel includes the flight crew, engineers, scientists and graduate students, the seismic team, and camp staff. In order to try and capture as much data as possible, flight lines were flown as people were moved from South Pole to AGAP S camp. While it felt great to finally be collecting data, the flight area from South Pole to camp is fairly flat, and not our primary target.

Christmas Eve we had one team of pilots and one scientist cleared to begin to fly. Finally we would get our chance to look beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and find the hidden Gamburtsev Mountains.

Robin Bell is a geophysicist and research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. She has coordinated seven major aero-geophysical expeditions to Antarctica studying subglacial lakes, ice sheets and the mechanisms of ice sheet movement and collapse, and currently the Gamburtsev Mountains, a large alp sized subglacial mountain range in East Antarctica.

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