Byrd Surface Camp

It was with a little trepidation that I agreed to go to Byrd Surface Camp. It was a deep field camp located about 800 nautical miles east of McMurdo. I'd being going in for the 'put in'. The 'Put In' is the initial trip to set up the camp.

Like most all things in the Antarctic, the weather has the final say on the schedule. Bad weather delayed the initial trip in, and I went out the 20th of November, about 2 and 1/2 weeks later than the original plan. Myself, an Antenna Rigger, and 3 Carpenters were on the flight. The Camp Staff, and a carpenter had preceded us by a few days. There were also 2 members of a science group already at the camp. With our arrival, the population doubled, Byrd Surface Camp consisted of 12 people.

It was about a three hour trip by LC-130, the ski equipped Hercules.



It was about -8°F, and the wind was blowing about 15 knots when we got off the plane. After they finished unloading the aircraft, the first order of business was getting our tents up. The wind made that a little bit of a challenge, but working together, we got everyone's tent up in about an hour and a half.

After a little bit of dinner, we went down and attempted to locate our parts and pieces we would need the next day. The cargo had come in on several flights earlier in the week, and some was already starting to disappear in the drifting that was going on. After that it was about time for bed. It took a while to get comfortable, and find that spot where sleep came. The first night wasn't a real good sleep, but it improved the longer I was there. We had plans to try to get an early start in the morning, there was a lot to do. When I woke up, it was sort of a moot point, as it was blowing about 30 knots, and there wasn't going to be much work done. It made for a leisurely morning, and lots of reading. I made it through quite a bit of the book I had along. It let up in the afternoon, and it was time to go to work.

The camp staff had originally requested that the Communications Technician, and the Antenna Rigger go in on the initial flight. As it was, there was quite a bit of work to be completed before we could really start. As it was, we spent more of our time in camp working on carpenter projects than electronics.

By 10:30 Sunday night, we had the new Jamesway (an insulated tent) up. The plan was for the electrician to return in the morning and after he had things wired, the carpenters would finish the shelving, Communications desk, kitchen equipment and other gear. Then we would be able to set up.

Monday dawned a little worse than Sunday. It was blowing about 35 knots at one point in the morning, and we had to travel in pairs everywhere we went for safety. Even to the pee flag, required someone with you, or watching you. It calmed down slightly, and the electrician and a couple of us went down to the Jamesway to see what we could do inside. The carpenters had gotten the stove running Sunday night before we left, so it should be comfortable. We were somewhat limited in the ability to get out get parts, but Dodds, the electrician got some work done during the afternoon.

All the down time gave us a chance to discuss Carl Dish. Apparently during the Navy days, when the original station was in place, they used to winter people there. During one winter during a night of heavy drinking, a member of the camp got upset with his co-workers and made a statement to the effect that he was going to walk to the South Pole (about 700 miles) to visit some other friends. He didn't return, and they started searching for him. Turns out he had a camp dog with him. They followed the footprints for a couple of miles before they disappeared in the blowing snow. No further sign of Carl or the dog were ever found. Carl Dish's Ghost was blamed for any problems that came up during our stay...

The Jamesway as the carps were starting to put in the kitchen in the far end.

Tuesday actually started rather calm and it warmed up to a couple of degrees above zero. Joe, the antenna rigger and I got started on putting our antenna towers, and communications equipment. The downside was we had already put in a lot of time shoveling snow, and other labor to help get the camp to this point.

The tower for our Satellite Dish is up, but still missing the dish.

Joe preparing to place a 'deadman' as an anchor for our tower.

While we were working that day, we had an interesting cloud cover. I took some shots for the weather fans back home, with the start of our antenna installation in the foreground.


Couldn't ask for a better example of a sucker hole...

One of the science groups arrived while I was still there. They are going to be traversing a portion of the continent, as part of an international effort over the next couple of years. Part of the gear that they brought out had been named the 'Pope Sled'. It became obvious where the name came from, once you saw it.

The front box contains a computer that the person in the sled can monitor as they travel.

They also have a several of types of radar in use, and they mount two of them of a tucker snowcat.

That is a radar on the boom on the front of the snowcat. The hope to be able to 'see' the cravase before they find it.

photo Some of the communications equipment that I installed. The Computer screen on the far left is the wefax that receives the polar orbiting weather satellites, and provides an image of the weather in the area. Next to it the two green units are two - 100 watt HF Radios. Next to it is an Icom Aircraft Base station (129.7 Mhz), laying in front of it is an iridium phone. The computer on the right is for the camp to use for email. Under the bench, the orange box contains the equipment for the GOES-3 Satellite terminal. On the top shelf, there is an MX-300 portable, chargers for the MX's, a headset for the Aircraft Portable radios, an MCX1000 VHF radio (143.000 Mhz), and a IP Telephone that talks over the Internet.

photo This camp was a little unusual, in that we were attempting to run as much as possible on a large wind and solar system. photo


Thursday afternoon, Joe & I were really pushing to get all of our communications gear done, so that we could catch the flight out that night. The next scheduled flight after that, wasn't until tuesday, which would have meant Thanksgiving at camp. It was a stretch, but we made it.


About Midnight, after three hours of flying the familiar shapes on Ross Island came into view. It felt good to be 'home'. photo

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