A New Way to Experience Antarctica
Michael Studinger, Instrument Co-Principal Investigator, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:
The scale and style of Operation Ice Bridge will be a new experience for me. I’ve been involved in airborne research for more than a decade using ice-penetrating radar systems, airborne laser scanning, gravity and magnetics to learn more about the polar ice caps and how they behave.
In previous expeditions we have flown over Antarctica in small Twin Otter planes and operated out of remote field camps, at high elevations and in extreme cold. This means living and working in tents for months at temperatures around -20 to -40°F and flying in unpressurized aircraft at high altitude. There are no showers and only limited communications with the outside world in these remote field camps.
The Ice Bridge campaign will be very different. We’ll be flying non-stop on NASA’s DC-8 plane in and out of Punta Arenas, Chile. It feels strange to be flying over Antarctica without actually setting foot on the continent and experiencing its cold, breathtaking beauty first hand. During Ice Bridge we will have to make do with admiring the polar landscape from a heated and pressurized aircraft cabin.
I am a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. My background is airborne geophysics which I use to study the ice caps and the Earth’s crust in polar regions. For Ice Bridge, I’ll be involved in measuring the Earth’s gravity field to estimate how deep the water is beneath floating glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula.
I’m looking forward to a relaxed airborne campaign, where you leave from Punta Arenas in the morning and return to civilization in the evening.