The view out the window of the flight from Auckland to Christchurch. Pictured is Nelson Lakes National Park, on the northern end of the South Island.

On Sunday, January 28th, five members of Dr. Chu’s lidar research team began the journey to McMurdo. Two of those five members, Yingfei Chen and Shannen Graham-Howard, are this year’s brave winter-over researchers. The other three, Dr. Chu, Gary Sutliff, and Ari Diddams, will be deployed to McMurdo for about 18 days in February to help repair and restore the group’s Fe and Na lidar transmitters. After those three head back to the United States later in February, Yingfei and Shannen will remain at McMurdo through the Antarctic winter to operate the two lidars and extend the Chu Group’s long-term observational campaign at McMurdo.

Left to right: Ari, Yingfei, Shannen, Gary, and Dr. Chu. Gary joined the other four members in Houston to complete this year’s McMurdo team.

Many challenges await our team this year. Shortly before last year’s winter-over duo departed McMurdo in November 2023, a critical water chiller malfunctioned, forcing an early shut down of the Na lidar. Replacing this chiller and restarting the Na lidar system is a central goal for the next few weeks.

The team’s first picture in New Zealand, taken while waiting in line for biosecurity screening in Auckland. Despite more than 24 hours of continuous travel before this point, no one was flagged!

Our scheduled deployment date to McMurdo is February 2nd. In the meantime, we will spend the next few days in Christchurch, New Zealand preparing to meet this objective and others. We are looking forward to our time on the ice and are optimistic that we will begin our 2024 winter season on a successful note!

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