As promised, here is the first of my reports on our deployment to Taylor Valley, Antarctica.

We flew into the Taylor Dry Valley from Scott Base in ZK-IDE, an Aerospatiale AS-350B3 Squirrel supplied by Southern Lakes Helicopters.  The flight across the ice sheet was in bright sunshine, but as we neared our destination, we ran into very low cloud.  It's an "interesting" experience for a fixed wing pilot to be flying at 20kt only 200 feet AGL, but our pilot Heff was comfortable with the visibility and we eventually ran out of the poor conditions into bright sunshine in the valley.

The basis of the camp, a blue Polar Haven tent, had been set up by the engineers a few days earlier.  There was diesel fuel for the heater and a generator.  There were only two of us on the first flight and our job was to move tents and other stores from the landing area and set up an essential facility (the Poo Tent, which will not be mentioned again).

Our equipment arrived in a sling load two days later - two UAVs and two GCSs.  I felt that things were at last moving!  I checked over the equipment and found that all had arrived safely.

The first major task for the UAV deployment was to find a suitable area from which to operate.  My preconceptions were proved to be completely wrong.  I had expected to be flying from a snowfield, rather like the area where we had our Antarctic Skills Training, but the Taylor Dry Valley is ... dry!  I should have realised this!  The ground is made up of rocks and gravel and very fine dust, broken into polygons by the effects of repeated freezing and thawing.  This will be apparent in some of the photographs that will appear on this site.  To be frank, I was rather shocked - the valley looked very inhospitable for UAV operations.

We identified a flat area with relatively few large rocks some 500m from the Base Camp.  Though the valley is essentially dry, there are streams of melt water flowing from the glaciers.  Fortunately, we found an area large enough to operate from, bounded by shallow streams.

Because our activities were to be coordinated with the WorldView 2 satellite operations, we set up four tarpaulins, 4m square, and coloured red, blue, green and yellow.  I didn't realise until I saw aerial images, that our "Fox Field" looked rather like the logo of a very popular computer operating system.

In the next post, I'll describe the first flight of the Fox.