Over the past couple of days we have been getting our work tent at Willy Field ready.
Our work space is a RAC-tent. And you can read about them here: http://www.ractent.com/. But, they are basically modular tents made for scientific work in polar environments.
It sits at the edge of the airfield apron, and has doors at either end. Ours has two main areas: the front area where we will process our flight data and do other work, and the back area for our flight instruments and extra gear. The back doors are big double doors to easily load and unload our instruments.
The first task was just to get all the cargo that was shipped down here into the tent. Once it arrived from the plane (the same C-17 we were on), it was held in the Cargo area. Some equipment is temperature sensitive, so certain cargo is marked “DO NOT FREEZE”, and held in appropriate areas until it was ready to be moved to our tent (and our tent was ready for it). Once we had electricity and heat, we were ready to move in.
The next step was to unpack everything and set up our computers and instruments and make sure everything was working.
The tents are nice and cozy. We have two stoves that warm the place (one in each section). The air is really dry down here, so we put a pot of water on top of the stoves so that when it heats up, and simmers, it adds moisture to the air. We just add snow when the water gets low.
And we also have a tea and coffee area, along with water and snacks. We will be spending ~11 hrs here when we are on shift, so we need to be a bit self-contained. There is a small galley at the airfield where we can get food, so we are not totally isolated out here (but it is a bit of a walk away in sometimes bitterly cold conditions). We also have to be prepared to be stuck in the tent in case the weather deteriorates suddenly, so we have sleeping kits and always have our extreme cold weather gear with us.
So, we are close to being ready to fly! We are installing the icepod on the LC-130 today and finding any last minute problems and working on our procedures. We might fly our check flight tonight or tomorrow. The check flight will be a short flight where we check that all the instruments are working correctly. After that, we fly our grid pattern as weather and plane availability permits.
I love all of the info about the tents – I was wondering about how warm they’d be, but the RAC site was fascinating. Very impressive how fast they go up too.
Yes,they hold heat fairly well, but when the temp drops outside, we definitely feel it. The night shift has resorted to sitting in sleeping bags in chairs on a couple nights while they work to keep warm. But in general, we are generally fairly comfortable (but I have a LOT of layers on and thick wool socks.