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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1994-95: VUWAE 39

5. Preparations for the Field

page 3

5. Preparations for the Field

We were well received by the Scott Base staff. Many of the staff willingly worked beyond normal hours to assist us in getting things ready for the field, time for which we are grateful.

Planning for the field went reasonably smoothly, aside from the previously mentioned problems with differing Event Allocation Forms. The staff were happy to modify our dates in the field after consultation with Tim Stem in New Zealand, and we were allocated extra fuel as a backup upon request

Prior to arrival in Antarctica, three fuel drops were deployed by Twin Otter. We had no difficulty in locating the fuel once in the field. Five 60L fuel drums were positioned at depot Julie (for locations see Event Map, Section 8), three at depot Kilo and nine at depot Lima. Fuel drums were deployed two high and marked with several flags.

All equipment allocated to us was well prepared and in good working order: skidoos ran well, sledges were in good shape, stoves were clean and functional, field gear was complete and clean. We had some problems with availability and standard of radio equipment (refer to later section).

Additions were made to two of the skidoos allocated (AL1 and AL5) to enable mounting of GPS navigation equipment Modifications involved drilling screw holes into the cowling of AL1 to allow attachment of a GPS receiver mounting bracket. Wiring was added to both skidoos running from the auxiliary battery connector on the dash-panel to an antenna mount attached to the back railing of the skidoo.

The new auxiliary battery connectors on the dash-panel were invaluable for connecting equipment such as GPS receivers, avoiding the need to make direct connections to the skidoo battery. However we would have liked to see a heavier duty system used on the skidoos. Connectors with larger contacts and higher current rating would perhaps be more appropriate. With greater capacity, devices (such as Codan radios) with a higher current draw could also be connected to the system. Rather than wire the connectors through the skidoo ignition system, we would be happier to see a direct fused connection to the battery. This would ensure that equipment could still be operated in the event of failure of the ignition system.

Antarctic Field Training served the purpose of both being a good introduction to the Antarctic environment and also a valuable refresher. The course was well run and in the time allocated everything that was necessary was adequately covered.

For a shakedown, we took a trip out to Cape Royds with our skidoos and sledges. On this trip everything ran smoothly and looked to be in good working order. We did notice that the steering on page 4 AL4 was a little sloppy, perhaps a precursor to the breakage experienced later? (see Section 6). An extra shorter trip was taken toward "Room With a View" for the purpose of testing HF radio equipment Such a test remote from Scott Base is essential as the "testing" of equipment outside the Scott Base radio room is inadequate (see Section 12). In general, a shakedown trip is an important part of field preparation that should not be left out. Such trips can also be beneficial to "cultural welfare", in our case because we were able to share some time with penguins!

We were delayed 3 days into the field from Scott Base, we believe due to aircraft unavailability. Whilst this delay pushed back our scheduled extraction date from the field, we were given sufficient notice of the delay. It would be useful in the future given such warning of a delay, to also delay the delivery of science and other equipment to McMurdo cargo handling. By being able to hold onto our equipment longer, some time could have been spent close to Scott Base preparing the equipment for the field. Extra time with the equipment could well have saved us some preparation time upon arrival in the field.

Overall, the preparation of equipment was adequate and the allocation of that equipment efficient This does not apply to radio gear, but this will be dealt with in Section 12.