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17 October, 2003

Helicopter Recovery on Ross Ice Shelf

Well finally! It was a day without clouds, fog and wind. We got the call at 8am that our flight was on. We packed our L-pers, antennae and Extreme Cold Weather gear. We weighed our gear at check-in and hopped aboard. We are looking for two instruments launched in August. One we have a GPS fix on, and the other we are hoping to locate with the emergency beacon.

The wind is light but about 50 miles out we see what appears to be ice fog ahead. Our pilot, Ken, is apprehensive about flying through it. Fortunately it clears up and we start to hear the pinging of the ELT. Then we hear two pings. Maybe we are hearing two instruments. It is very difficult to locate from close to the ground, so we rise to 5000 feet to get a better view below. Ken then brings us to the GPS fix, and we quickly locate the first instrument. It is half buried in drifting snow, still intact, the ice spikes seemed to have worked. We quickly pack and move on, it is very windy and cold on the ice shelf.

The second instrument is very difficult to locate. We accidentally left the ELT on in the cargo so we can hear a strong signal from the first instrument. We fly out to the edge of the ice shelf which was our last location. We can see B15 clearly from here, it is broken up as the satellites pictures show. The Ross Sea is a pleasant blue color. We are unable to locate the instrument so we head back because we are low on fuel. But as we come closer to home, a faint signal begins to strengthen. Several fly-bys in the area and we come to a grim conclusion. The second instrument is at the base of Mt. Terror, and is located somewhere within the pressure ridges. This will take a trained mountaineer to supervise recovery.

When we get back, we clean the snow out of the instrument before it melts. Then we prepare for a balloon launch. It is windy but the rubber balloon makes launching easy. All goes well.

Hope to talk with those who tune in to the real audio broadcast tonight, which is my Saturday afternoon.

Inside the helicopter, our pilot Ken is on the right.

We spot it from the air and head straight toward it.

It is windy and cold on the ice shelf, we just want to pack this instrument away quickly.

Not the best picture, but you can see B15 above the blue of the Ross Sea. It was great to see the ocean again.

In addition to the two cages on the helicopter, there is also storage room in the rear of the craft. Our instrument fits nicely there.

The second instrument is located here, among the pressure ridges.

This is Mt. Terror. About ten thousand feet high.

All covered with snow. We have to clean this off before it melts and ruins the electronics.

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