Space | 08. February 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

TRIPLE IceCraft Expedition to Antarctica - preparations can begin - part 2

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
Our arrival at Neumayer Station III

Day 3 – 26 January 2023

At the time of our arrival at Neumayer Station III. Technically it is morning, but the long journey has messed up my internal clock. It will take a few days for my sense of time to return to normal. In the meantime, we are settling in and recovering a bit from the journey. To prevent any COVID-19 infections in the station, all 10 new arrivals are isolating: we are wearing masks inside the station, using different lounges, bedrooms and bathrooms, and eating at different times in the mess hall. First, I received a short presentation from the station manager and later a guided tour of the different areas and floors. Afterwards, Jan Audehm, Simon Zierke and I moved into our cabin, a mobile living container that stands on a sled right next to the station.##markend##

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
We have moved into the front orange cabin

Our cabin is not the newest, but it offers a quiet place to sleep and enough space. We each have our own bunk bed. One bed surface is used for sleeping and one for storage. Fabian Schöttler has been assigned a place in a sleeping room inside the station. However, we only use the cabin and room for sleeping, as the rest of the time we are either inside the station or outside with the melting probe and our container. More about that soon.

Every day before dinner a station briefing is held for all of the residents (about 40 people). This includes is a short forecast of the weather for the next few days, and information and coordination about activities coming up over the next few days are provided.

Day 4 – 27 January 2023

After breakfast we received a briefing about our snowmobiles. First we were told how to operate them and what we have to pay attention to. Then, we got to practice and drive a small round as a group. We plan to do our drilling near the ice shelf edge, which is about 20 kilometres from the station. During the drilling process, we will work in shifts and shuttle back and forth between the station and the drilling site with the snowmobiles.

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
We will commute daily to the drilling site using snowmobiles

After the briefing, we received the container that holds our TRIPLE-IceCraft melting probe. The container is a standard transport container (a 20-foot ISO container) that we dispatched from Aachen in August 2022 and which was delivered to the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. There, the container was loaded onto the research vessel Polarstern along with additional cargo. The Polarstern docked near Neumayer Station III at the beginning of January. Since then, the container has been waiting.

Our container is divided into two parts and has doors on both ends. The melting probe is located in a long drawer that can be pulled out on both sides of the container. The container also houses everything necessary for the operation of the probe. From one side, you can access the generator that provides electrical power to the probe. On the other side, you enter the working area, where we stay during drilling and for other work. There is also a server for controlling the probe and storing all the data collected during the trip. Other components that are needed, such as for communicating with the probe or for the power supply are also found here.

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
Our container is driven forward by a snow crawler

The container sat on a sled and was pulled by snow crawler to the radome – an antenna dome that is located between Neumayer Station III and the runway. There was an electrical outlet there that we could use to power the container, allowing us to start working without even firing up the generator. We began by unpacking the boxes and truss elements stowed in the container and checking that everything inside survived the long journey in good condition. First, we read out the data loggers for transport monitoring that accompanied our equipment, before carrying out further inspections and tests.

It was incredibly important to be thorough here, as the probe is very complex and, once it is in the ice, there is nothing more you can do.

Day 5 – 28 January 2023

Today, we continued with the preparations of the probe and the container. We opened the side panels of the melting probe, which are arranged around a winch. Behind them is the coiled melting probe cable. It survived the trip well and all windings are still tight and orderly on the reel. Then, we synchronised all the clocks in the different systems. We set up a crane on the roof of the container with which we can lift the probe out of the container and hoist it up. It serves as a starting ramp and support point for the probe. I will describe the setup and operation of the TRIPLE IceCraft melting probe in more detail in a later blog post.

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
The crane is installed on the container

Tonight we need to safely stow and lock everything away, as bad weather with strong winds and lots of snow drift is predicted for tomorrow.

Day 6 – 29 January 2023 Januar 2023

Unfortunately, the weather has turned as bad as predicted, so working outside is now out of the question. The strong wind and the snow drift have made even the short way from the cabin to the station bitterly cold and unpleasant. During the day the wind got stronger. Even the Neumayer station is swinging a bit now.

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
While we sit inside in the warm, snow settles on the windows of the station

Fittingly, today is Sunday, and we have taken advantage of the bad weather to slow down a bit. We discussed the plans for the next days and used the time for discussions and teamwork. We also discussed our logistics and other requirements during the execution with our AWI colleagues. Towards the evening, the wind began to die down and the weather has become calmer.

Fortunately, the forecast for tomorrow is good weather again!


About the author

Dirk Heinen researches melting probes and their navigation systems. Melting probes are used to penetrate and explore glaciers and ice shelves and to reach underlying subglacial lakes. Currently, the melting probes are used in terrestrial analogue missions with the aim of being able to explore subglacial oceans of the icy moons Europa and Enceladus in situ in the future. to authorpage