Tag Archives: Chile

IceBridge Guests Get Behind the Scenes View

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By Maria Jose Viñas, Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory Outreach Coordinator, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We sure had a packed plane on today’s flight, with visitors from the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a Punta Arenas newspaper and two local schools. The Chilean teachers are the first to ever accompany IceBridge on an Antarctic mission (five docents had a chance to go on Arctic flights last spring). Carmen Gallardo, who teaches biology at Punta Arenas’ Colegio Alemán (German School) to kids ages 13 to 18 and Mario Esquivel, an astronomy teacher for students ages 9 to 14 at the local Colegio Francés (French School), were selected by the American Embassy in Santiago to fly on the DC-8 based on their English skills and, more importantly, on their plans to share their IceBridge experience with their classrooms and colleagues.

Visitors prior to boarding an IceBridge survey flight
Visitors to IceBridge prior to a survey flight on Nov. 1. Credit: NASA / Maria Jose Viñas

“From the point of the U.S. Government, what we want the most is to reach the Chilean youth – and we do it through their educators,” said Dinah Arnett, public affairs representative from the U.S. Embassy in Santiago.

Arnett was impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment of both teachers: they thoroughly researched the IceBridge mission beforehand and patiently went through two last-minute flight cancellations. But, as Gallardo said after yesterday’s flight was scrubbed: “Third time’s the charm!”

At the end of the almost 12-hour flight, both teachers were in awe of the sights they had enjoyed over the Antarctic Peninsula and the Ronne Ice Shelf during the Ronne Grounding Line mission. And they both thanked the researchers for their willingness to share their science. In turn, the educators plan on spreading the IceBridge word: both will be creating multimedia exhibits and giving talks to students from and beyond their schools.

IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger and Chilean teacher Mario Esquivel looking at a map on the NASA DC-8
IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger and Chilean teacher Mario Esquivel looking at a map on the NASA DC-8. Credit: NASA / Jefferson Beck

Columbia University geophysicist Kirsty Tinto explains the science behind the gravimeter instrument
Columbia University geophysicist Kirsty Tinto explains the science behind the gravimeter instrument. Credit: NASA / Jefferson Beck

Port of Inquiry: IceBridge visits the Nathaniel B. Palmer

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By George Hale, IceBridge Science Outreach Coordinator, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

With its proximity to the Antarctic Peninsula, Punta Arenas, Chile, a city on the Strait of Magellan in southern South America, is a popular destination for scientists on their way to Antarctica. Not onlydoes NASA’s Operation IceBridge use the Punta Arenas airport as a home baseduring its Antarctic campaign in October and November, the city is also a base of operations for a variety of Antarctic science missions. During this year’s Antarctic campaign, the IceBridge team got to take a close up look at the United States Antarctic Program’sicebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer, which calls Punta Arenas home.

On Oct. 24, Jamee Johnson and Chris Linden of the United StatesAntarctic Program led a group of IceBridge personnel on a guided tour of thePalmer. The research vessel is waiting in the port of Punta Arenas until lateDecember or early January, when it will carry scientists and their equipment toMcMurdo Station in Antarctica, conducting experiments along the way. Once there, passengers willoffload and a new group of people and gear will board the icebreaker for a returntrip to Punta Arenas.

IceBridge personnel standing outside the Nathaniel B. Palmer
IceBridge personnel on the dock in Punta Arenas in front of the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Credit: NASA / Christy Hanse nand USAP / Jamee Johnson

The Palmer is a 6,500 ton icebreaking research vessel thattravels to and from bases in Antarctica like United States’ McMurdo Station.The vessel sails from one of its home ports, like Punta Arenas, carrying scientists who do research along the way. During thetour, IceBridge personnel got to see some of the ship’s five labs, the galley,the infirmary and the ship’s bridge, where they met Sebastian Paoni, captain of the Palmer since2007.

Captain Sebastian Paoni talks to IceBridge people on the bridge
Palmer Captain Sebastian Paoni (right) meets visitors on the bridge. Credit: NASA / George Hale

In many ways, thePalmer is similar to other large, ocean-going research ships. There are placesfor crew and passengers to sleep, eat, relax, exercise and socialize. Withtrips to sea lasting several weeks at a time, ships like the Palmer need to beself-contained floating cities, carrying enough food, water, spare parts andother supplies needed to keep the crew and passengers safe and happy.

The big difference between the Palmer and other research vessels is that it has a reinforced hull designed to let it break through ice, opening a passage to travel through. There are limits to how thick of ice the ship can break through, so planning the ship’s route often requires satellite imagery and other data that can show where thinner ice is. Sailing through ice is a slow and often noisy process, but when your path is blocked by sea ice, slow and noisy beats not atall.

Science By Air and Sea

The Palmer and IceBridge’s aircraft both gather geophysical data, and despite the different nature of these platforms the instruments have some similarities. In the labs, Linden, a senior systems analystaboard the Palmer, showed IceBridge team members several different instruments, such as including a gravimeter and a sonar system used to map the ocean floor. Thesonar uses a technique to create swaths of data that resemble theswaths of elevation data produced by IceBridge’s Airborne Topographic Mapperinstrument. 

Probably the biggest similarities are dealing with motion and the changing array of instruments used. Scientists need to counteract motion from either a rolling ship or vibrating airplane, which is handled in both cases by referencing the instruments with data from GPS and inertial guidance systems. Also, much like on NASA’s aircraft, the instruments on the Palmer change depending on what is being studied. Changing the configuration of the ship’s equipment is something Johnson said is one of the most interesting parts of the job.

In return for graciously taking visitors on a tour of the ship, IceBridge invited some Palmer personnel to come along on a survey flight. People working on icebreakers rely on information about sea ice to plan their routes and although IceBridge data isn’t directly used, flying along will give them a chance to see how the mission measures ice from the air.

Palmer visitors stand on the helipad on the Palmer's stern
Palmer visitors stand on the helipad on the Palmer’s stern. Credit: NASA / Christy Hansen and USAP / Jamee Johnson

For more information about the Nathaniel B. Palmer, visit: http://www.usap.gov/usapgov/vesselScienceAndOperations/index.cfm?m=4

A Diplomatic Visit for IceBridge

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By George Hale, IceBridge Science Outreach Coordinator, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

On Oct. 25, IceBridge was joined by U.S. Ambassador to Chile Alejandro Wolff and his Secretary for Economic Affairs Josanda Jinnette. Ambassador Wolff and Ms. Jinnette traveled from Santiago on Oct. 24 and attended IceBridge’s evening science meeting that day. The following morning, they sat in on the morning pre-flight meeting and after a short safety briefing they boarded the DC-8 for an 11-hour-long survey of the Ferrigno and Alison ice streams that empty into the Bellingshausen Sea.

In addition to being a distinguished career diplomat, Wolff is interested in science, particularly in international scientific collaboration. “Science cooperation is an important part of the U.S. – Chile relationship,” Wolff said. Although this was his first flight with IceBridge, this wasn’t the ambassador’s first trip to Antarctica. He visited Palmer Station years ago and says that while flying over the continent isn’t the same as being on the ground, it does give a better sense of its dimensions.

U.S. Ambassador to Chile Alejandro Wolff in the IceBridge operations center at the Punta Arenas airport on the morning of Oct. 25.

U.S. Ambassador to Chile Alejandro Wolff in the IceBridge operations center at the Punta Arenas airport on themorning of Oct. 25. Credit: NASA / George Hale

Ambassador Wolff in the DC-8 cockpit shortly after takeoff on Oct. 25.

AmbassadorWolff in the NASA DC-8 cockpit shortly after takeoffon Oct. 25. Credit: NASA / George Hale

The ambassador and Ms. Jinnette exiting the DC-8 after another successful IceBridge survey flight.

Ambassador Wolff and Ms. Jinnette exiting the DC-8 after another successful IceBridgesurvey flight. Credit: NASA / Jefferson Beck