Mount Aurora - The Daily Grind...

Monday I was on the helo schedule to travel to Mt. Aurora in the afternoon. It was snowing and there was no visibility on my hike down the hill to the office in the morning. Didn't look much like we were going.

Tuesday was gorgeous, we were back on the schedule for the afternoon. Wasn't much question that we'd be going today. We made our way over to the heliport. Everyone who flies goes through the same process. Each season before you can fly, you have to attend a safety briefing, where you watch a 30 minute video, and practice with the seat belts for the Astar helicopters.

On the day of your flight you need to arrive at least 30 minutes early. All of your equipment and survival gear has to be weighted, and then you find a helmet, and you are weighted.

The helicopter technicians (helitechs) create a manifest, to insure that the helicopter is not overloaded. The helicopter we were scheduled for was running a little late, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine. It was one of those calm days, and the temperature was in the mid thirties, and standing in the sun, you were fine without a jacket.

It was an enjoyable wait, and wasn't too long before we could hear the helicopter approaching.

ZK-HNO Mt. Aurora is the Peak on the right in the background.

In some ways it was rather amazing to see the Helicopters New Zealand 212 flying. It had just arrived Thursday on a C-130.

From the runway Borrowed Photo

The Helicopter as it is towed in from the runway to the Heliport. The transmission and rotors were removed so that it would fit inside the airplane for the ride to the ice, from Christchurch.

ZK-HNO (the callsign) had just returned from a long flight to pickup a science crew, so they had to refuel and unload the group and their equipment. Check the oil?

The crew from Helicopters New Zealand both appeared to be around 50, and both had plenty of experience flying on the ice. That is always a good thing. Our flight out took us over the ice runway. On Saturday the entire airport had been moved to Williams Field. Willy Field is has a skiway rather than a runway, everything that lands there has to have skis. We will not see a wheeled aircraft til the end of January. Just four days before there was a full airport in operation, now it looked like this. Ice Runway It was about a 25 minute flight to the top of Mount Aurora. We usually unload hot, (with the helicopter still running) unless they going to wait with us. This crew had another assignment and would be back for us in about an hour and half. We unloaded our equipment and survival bag, and moved out of the way. Mt. Aurora

With the departure of the helicopter it was time to go to work. The Repeater had failed on Thursday and a shortage of helicopter time, and weather had kept us from getting to the site until today (tuesday).

Lots of technical stuff in this next section - Click here if you want to skip that and go directly to the scenery shots.

I spotted the problem rather quickly, and had the repeater back on the air before the helicopter was out of sight, but we had plenty to do to clean things up.

The 'Lunar Landers' were designed several years ago for Antarctica, but the electronics were rather complicated. It was not practical to work on the equipment in the field, so most of the electronics were scrapped, and only the frame and solar panels are used now, at some sites. This site at one point had two repeaters, but currenly only had one, I noted the connection from the solar pannel to the repeater box was bent at a ninety degree angle, and didn't look good. By using the other charging cord we got it back charging. Bruce disassembled the connecter and found the problem. The bare spot was apparently shorted to the outside of the connector.

Frayed Wire

We did some rewiring, so we could bring the second cable back with us, and starting wrapping things up. Lunar Lander The repeater frame holds four 60 watt solar panels. You have to remember the sun never travels overhead, it only gets about 30 some degrees above the horizon on December 21st, and travels around above the horizon. Hence, the panels are distributed around the platform, rather than being in a row like you would see in more moderate latitudes.

The Tower section was installed last year for an attempt at wintering the repeater. There is a period of 4 months were there is no sunshine during the winter. They attempted to use a wind generator, but it didn't survive. It was not only destroyed by the wind, but was sheared off the 1 1/2" support pipe. The regulator failed first and the overvoltage did quite a bit of damage to the electronics also.

In order to make the repeater as simple as possible, it consists of a Motorola GR300. Repeater There are two GM-300 Mobile Radios (one for Transmit, and one for Receive), A Sinclair Duplexer (143.225Tx 138.600Mhz Rx), and the interface box. The majority of the space and weight are the two 100 Amp Hour Batteries. A small 10Amp Solar Regulator, and a Low Voltage Disconnect are the final items in the box. A Cannon Connector on the side is for the Solar Panels. The box is pretty much waterproof, and once everything is in place weighs in about 180 pounds. Repeater

Even though there was a thin cloud layer hanging along the Transantarctic Range, and the Top of Mount Discovery, the view wasn't bad. View View View View

Mt. Erebus in the distance, the dark point at the base is Ob Hill, and McMurdo Station - about 30 miles. View

And of course got to get that tourist shot. View

We could hear the helicopter approaching, and it was time to get picked up and ready to go. Got off the helicopter at 5:30 in McMurdo, right on time, the work day was done, and it was off to dinner.

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