What do you get when you put together some Canadians, Texans and Australians - engineers, physicists, glaciologists and aviators — and send them all to Antarctica? The ICECAP project of course!
ICECAP is an international collaborative project that is just completing its fifth year in east Antarctica helping us understand what the Antarctic continent looks like under all this ice. The project explores the structure of the ice sheet itself and how it is changing in volume as well as the bedrock under the ice. The understanding gained from this research assists us to answer questions about how the extent of the ice is changing, how it is likely to change in the future and what the impacts will be, including how sea levels are likely to change.
Each year the project team installs a range of scientific instruments in Basler DC-3 aircraft and flies specific routes gathering remotely sensed information that can be processed, analysed and modeled to create an understanding of the current state of the ice sheet and the processes that are changing it.
The best time to fly the surveys (to get the best data) is late evening, so often the plane heads off near lunchtime and the aircrew, AGSOs and researchers who travel on the Basler don’t get back to station until near midnight. That’s when the data processing and modelling team get up and start the night shift, working through the night to make sure there were no instrument malfunctions, that the data was collected as required and that any information that can improve the following day’s survey can be gleaned from the data before the next day’s flight.
Of course while all this is going on, instruments are being calibrated, repaired and tweaked and the ski landing area and aircraft are being maintained.
Although the weather has restricted our flying over the past few weeks the ICECAP team assure us it has been a successful season. We at Casey have certainly enjoyed having the ICECAP team here and will say goodbye to them during the next week as they head back to various parts of the world to the north of us.