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Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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  Monday, December 27 & 28, 2005

Have you heard that Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest and coldest place in the world? Well, yesterday most of the McMurdo team got their first taste of what it is like to camp out on the ice. We went out on the McMurdo Ice Shelf for a two-day survival training camp. At this camp, we learned: a) how to avert frostbite and severe sunburn; b) how to build snow walls and emergency shelters such as trenches and quinzees; c) how to set up a Scott tent (warm and tall, but heavy and bulky) and mountain tents (leasy to set up but smaller and lighter); d) how to set up flags around a camp for safety and to help people find their way in bad weather; e) how to set up a camp stove and cook a meal on it in 20-knot winds; f) how to operate handheld and VHF radios; g)how to work around helicopters; and h) most of all - how to work as a bigger team. Overall, we learned a lot in a very short period of time.

For our test we had to erect a tent and snowwall, get radio communications and set up a stove and boil water in 15-20 minutes. We did fairly well though our tent wasn't staked down quite well enough in that time. We also had to find a team member in a simulated whiteout. For this we wore white buckets over our heads and organized a plan for locating the person. We did quite well in this exercise. It was both an inspiring and exhausting venture. We learned a lot.

It is a LOT of work to do things in the snow - just moving around in our heavy protective clothing is tiring. It was unusually warm for most of our experience, but between 4 am and 8:00 am we had a brisk wind (about 20 mph) and blowing snow. That made it more challenging to set up the stoves and break down the tents. Then we got back to camp and packed our bags and took them over to the airline hanger for weighing and check-in. We fly out tomorrow afternoon if the weather cooperates.

At WAIS camp, they spent much of the 27th troubleshooting the accumulation radar. They were able to fix the problem and the radar is now working well. They also installed a wireless bridge on the rover and a wireless base station outside their tent to test media transmission for outreach activities.

On Wednesday, the 28th, they did monostatic loopback tests with the 18 different combinations of transmit and receive paths. They got about 203 dB loop sensitivity with 1000 integrations. More testing was done with the wireless link, and they found they were able to be 1 km away from the science trench and still have a good link. They plan to take the plane wave radar out tomorrow to test it using the rover. They felt this day was quite productive!

NOTE: This was the entire journal entry, not just page 1.

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