Sunday, January 5, 2014

From the ice: The Rescue of payload 2J

Today we launched the search and rescue operation for Payload 2J which had been sitting tantalisingly close to Halley since it was cut down 2 days ago. The Halley GA, Al Davies, who arrived back last night after a long spell of relief duty at the ship, gallantly agreed to take Mike McCarthy and myself off base to attempt the recovery. Travelling on 3 ski-doos roped together we drove off into the flat light of a snowy and overcast day, heading straight for the GPS location which the payload told us was about 5 miles South West of base.

Within half an hour of hour of setting out we spotted a small black speck in the white expanse which we recognised as the payload box as we drew closer. The magnetometer readings had indicated that the payload had come to rest upside down, this was quickly confirmed as we saw that the box was inverted with the magnetometer boom still firmly attached. The only apparent damage was to the Iridium antenna mounting which had been torn off its posts leaving the antenna dangling by its cable but still pointing at the sky in a gesture of defiance! The flight train and parachute were stretched out on the ground but there was no sign of the balloon itself. However, Al soon found the white rip panel cord and followed it just a few yards to the nearest part of
the balloon which was all but invisible in the whiteness as the clear plastic film was covered in a thin layer of snow. A number of large holes were found in the balloon but it was impossible to determine which, if any, were the cause of the failure and which were due to damage inflicted upon landing. We had to inflict even more damage to persuade the billowing envelope into the small box sled we had brought along to pick up the remains. The fun continued as we joined Robyn back at base and had to resort to cutting the balloon into pieces to get it stuffed into a couple of empty payload boxes in addition to the original cardboard box which the balloon was packed in, and even then it didn't go quietly!

That's probably the end of payload 2J's Antarctic adventure for now but it may well end up back on a flight line in the Northern Hemisphere before too long - watch this space!

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Cheers,

Dave M.