In order to move work teams to the AGAP camps we must move everyone through the South Pole in order to acclimatize to the high altitude. This has presented a bottleneck of sorts, and along with other delays is putting the project considerably behind schedule.
With equipment calibrated and people antsy to move out of McMurdo the next focus is how to move people through the next short stop at South Pole. A spreadsheet has been made and people have been moved back and forth on the sheet in response to weather delays and changing shifting. For days people have had bags sorted and checked waiting for the proper opportunity to move on. It has been a long process. To allow everyone’s bodies to adjust to the thinner air, the protocol is for a four day stay at the South Pole acclimatization Camp followed by 2 days of light duty at the southern camp AGAP-S. The bottleneck has been there are only 19 beds at our acclimatization camp at South Pole and until a bed empties no one new can move through. Our British colleagues were doing some data collecting at South Pole and were slowed by the inability to fly in the 'clean air zone' which is a pizza shaped wedge of protected space that extends out from the pole. However, in order for the rest of the project to move forward we had to encourage them to move on to the northern camp to free the beds.
In addition to slowly moving scientists there is the quandary of whether to send up people to make the camp function better and make the science more efficient or do we send the scientists who are anxious to get going. It is a difficult decision because it takes a week of moving up slowly from sea level at McMurdo before people are fully functional at the southern camp. The camp has been plagued by issues with pumping fuel, providing electricity and flowing oxygen for the pilots. Each of these problems has necessitated a specialist to move up from sea level to altitude. Names have been moved on and off the flight manifests at a frustrating rate, but at last we have room for the team to move on to acclimatize at South Pole.
The project is behind schedule by over a week - not much time in our home geographical territories, but in the unforgiving Antarctic continent there is no opportunity to stay later to make up for lost time. Lots time can not be recaptured. Our days can not be extended due to the difficult working conditions, and our exit date is hard and fast. We will need to adjust our plan.
Photo credits Robin Bell
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Saturday, 27 December 2008 08:54
The Polar RubicsWritten by Antarcticaâ€™s Gamburtsev Province Project
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