Helicopter day at Amundsen

The team returns to the helicopters after completing a search of the upper Amundsen Glacier blue ice (photo credit to James).

Searching near the edge of the blue ice at the south end of Devil’s Glacier, Scott (foreground) gazes onto the blue ice patches to the south and waits for Ioannis and John (L to R background) to arrive to form the line and start the search back north (photo credit to James).

We covered a lot of ground on foot today. Two whirly birds (helicopters) landed at our doorstep around 11:15 this morning. Shortly thereafter off we went. Looking out the window as the aircraft lifted off, there’s a feeling of defying gravity as you slowly rise above the ground and begin to hover. Moments later, a slight bank right, and the ground starts whizzing by your window.

From the passenger compartment you can see through the front window. Ioannis and myself were in the trailing helicopter, James and John’s visible a mile or so ahead of us. The scene out the window was stunning the whole trip. Our first stop was the upper Amundsen Glacier, a short flight from camp but across a heavily crevassed area hence why we could not search it by skidoo.
The lead chopper did a low pass around the ice looking for any potential large meteorites to set down by as we did a lap at elevation. Moments later, both helicopters touched down on blue ice, softer than your feet touch the ground getting out of bed first thing in the morning (or rolling off bed and falling onto the ground, there are many acceptable techniques).

The upper Amundsen Glacier blue ice was relatively snow-free but littered with crevasses. Ice axes in hand, and essential gear in our backpacks, we set off and searched the blue ice. It was not long before the helicopters faded from view as we walked into the wind towards the ice edge.
The journey from upper Amundsen Glacier to Devil’s Glacier was quicker than expected (12 vs 20 min) due to a strong tail wind. Once again we trailed John and James’ helicopter inbound for Devil’s Glacier, this time by a mile or two for much of the journey. It is a pretty amazing visual glancing out the front window and seeing a helicopter with two of your brothers on it and the stunning Antarctic backdrop behind it. The crew were truly exceptional and very interested in meteorites and ANSMET. Much of our airtime was filled with meteorite-related conversation over the helicopter headsets.

The scene at Devil’s Glacier was one of more snow but fewer crevasses on a much more extensive ice sheet. To the north of where the helicopters landed large rolling hills of blue ice dominated the scene. To the south lay lots of blue ice, very flat, but with some sizable hard snow mounds. It was in those rolling hills of blue ice to the north of the helicopters that we refined our bag-and-tag technique for the final time.


As we walked back to the helicopters for a flight back to camp, our time searching the blue ice this season officially came to a conclusion.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will prep camp for departure on Thursday. If the weather is cooperative, we should be back in Shackleton (SHG) around dinner time Thursday. The next LC-130 Hercules is scheduled to be inbound for SHG on Monday though a back-up could be activated for SHG on Saturday.

As the helicopters lifted off and departed camp for a fuel cache nearby, we reflected on an excellent end to another successful ANSMET field season. We have a dinner planned for tomorrow with John and Ioannis, perhaps a Cooking with James episode will be in the works. I for one will miss these places, even the bellowing wind of Nodtvedt, and especially the silence of wind-free days. There’s something here that draws you in and doesn’t want to let go. The fact we get to be here, part of a team composed of excellent individuals from several countries, searching for meteorites, makes it all the more special.
Posted by Scott from Amundsen Glacier on 2018-01-09 at 18:00 local.