6. Nov.1, 1998, Monday: Patriot Hills and the Chilean Camp
Nomad had been driven to the plane controlled by a joystick and had been loaded loaded almost last. Apart from the plane crew, more than 20 people flew that day just to witness the deployment of Nomad in Antarctica. The planes arrived at approximately 9 a.m. The team made a special effort to unload Nomad without using the joystick, mounting a wireless connection to drive the robot from the plane to the ice. The battery and communication equipment provided a solid link for teleoperation. Everybody arranged his personal gear for the anticipated cold and we waited for the landing, which was perfect, with a smooth run to decelerate. Once the plane finally came to a complete stop and the door was opened, intensely cold air rushed in. The wind was blowing very hard, the air was full of blowing ice crystals and the temperature was around -40°C. Conditions were much, much worse than during our first visit to Patriot Hills, last January. The air force apparently operates in worse conditions than the commercial company that flew us in last season. The crew unloaded a piece of equipment which cleared the way for Nomad. The robot drove out of the plane sucessfully and carried out an initial reconnaissance of the area. Later on, Nomad parked between the two planes for a photoshoot. The press taped its operation and interviewed the team, recording the severe weather conditions. Finally the planes left this cold and windy place with people and a robot waiting to get to the camp. Nomad did not make it that day: the windchill made it impossible to work at the runway. Alex and Liam drove our snowmobiles up to the Chilean camp and came back towing a couple of sleds. Nice looking, well sprung vehicles from Orion Industries. We started shuttling essential luggage and equipment up to the camp. Alex inspected the cache of last year's equipment and discovered that the Polarhaven shelter had blown away. The orange bag with aluminum poles had only gone about 30 feet, but the two other bags containing the floor, walls and ceiling were not found. So we will convert the Endurance tent into an office and only I will have my cot there -- a special concession, I guess, to my age, and one I am very happy to accept.
We met Cdr. Mora, who is in charge of the ground unit. We got the Endurance tent set up and Liam, Fernando, Danilo and I moved in -- the first three temporarily. We set up three small tents for the others to double up in. The wind moderated during the afternoon and I began to hope for better weather. It dropped nicely during the night, but then picked up again toward morning until it was blowing a full gale.