On PIG Ice Shelf
I'm striking a very triumphant pose and rightfully so. I'm standing on the ice shelf of the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) - a site many colleagues said I could not get to alive. Truth be told, the ice shelf is very heavily crevassed, a consequence of the very fast motion (now up to one foot per HOUR) and the rapid melting along the underside. However, I saw a clear area in satellite images and the primary objective of our field trip is to demonstrate that we could land a airplane safely on this ice shelf. Mission accomplished! In the picture, I am calling my wife on an Iridium satellite phone to share the happy news with her.
There is more to the story, however. You may notice that the track left by the Twin Otter airplane is not very deep. Also notice that my boots are not sunk into the snow, either. The track is very shallow because the surface is very hard and this turned out to trouble the pilots. The plane must land on skis and a hard surface can be trouble if the surface is not very, very smooth. It turns out this surface is not quite smooth enough and the pilots felt the risk to the plane too great to make repeated landings. Thus we couldn't place our camp here after all. It was a great disappointment after having landed once, but that's one thing we came to find out this season.
Postcards from the Field: Pine Island Glacier