Greetings from sunny Ny Ålesund, worlds Northernmost permanent settlement, they say, though Station Nord in Greenland and Alert in Canada are more North and permanently occupied, at least. Nevertheless, since February we’ve been resolving the mystery of secondary cluster and aerosol formation in the Arctic. I guess, we have been very successful in that – thanks to great instruments and very high data quality – and with high confidence already know the primary mechanisms and chemical compounds involved. However, other mechanisms may arise, when the summer proceeds and nature’s emissions evolve. We will find that out.
Wildlife update: Svalbard reindeers, seals, birds, arctic foxes, colleagues saw also walruses and other colleagues saw some whales, which I missed. Still waiting for polar bears which are predicted to start hanging around in the area this time of the year.
I was supposed to go to Marambio base, Antarctica to service some equipment and to make preparations for the field campaign. It didn’t really work out.
After arriving in Buenos Aires on 22.1.2017, I and my colleague flew south to Rio Gallegos over night 24th Jan. After waiting a day or two there for the proper weather window we boarded the Argentinian Air Force Hercules C-130 cargo plane and took off toward our final destination, Marambio Base, Antarctica. After about 3-4 hours flight we started the approach to Marambio. Then the bad luck (that eventually lasted for more than two weeks) started. The weather had turned bad at the site. After three failed attempts to land and three subsequent pull-ups we needed to turn back towards South American continent and Rio Gallegos to refuel. Luckily the plane had extra fuel tanks, availability of air stripes is quite limited over Antarctic Ocean.
What was a bit creepy was the sudden hot air stream entering the cargo compartment (where we, few soldiers and a bulldozer were traveling) during the last pull-up. The cabin temperature rose very fast to or above typical sauna temperatures and for a short while I thought that one of the engines is on fire. The soldiers looked, however, calm and thus I concluded that either a) they don’t care or b) this is just “normal”. Due to terrible noise inside the plane and my limited Spanish skills I could not ask. Thus I just decided that it’s the latter. Nevertheless, because of the temperature I moved to the cockpit for the rest of the journey and watched how all four fuel gauges unavoidably approached zero. After 8 hours of flying and burning some 40 tons of jet fuel, we eventually landed safely to Rio Gallegos.
After waiting maybe two additional days in Rio Gallegos base, Air Force decided to take the plane back to Buenos Aires for service. We left together with the plane after concluding that Buenos Aires is much a more nice place to wait than Rio Gallegos air base. Since that, I have been waiting here for the next attempt to fly back to R. Gallegos and further to Marambio. Meanwhile, I have been meeting the staff at the local Meteorological Office and the Airforce and been planning the future research and related logistics. The flight has now always been postponed by 24 hours at the time, altogether 264 hours since getting back here. Now I cannot wait no more even though I still would have a week before I must be back home. But no sane person goes to Antarctica without at least a week or two spare. I will fly back to Finland, and hopefully will access the site in the end of the year.
-Mikko, Buenos Aires, 8th February, 2017.
Antarctic airspace, still thinking of going to Marambio.