Back on the 9th we had a bear around camp. He was chased away with snow machines and flares. And headed off to the north…. But then in the following day, just after we performed the major power system transplant on our L1 site, our L2 site failed. I examined all of the available information, and it told me a story: The inclination of the system changed abruptly by an angle that was ~3 times larger than the change from when Dave and I climbed on a station together; at about this same time the sonic anemometer instrument quit. The rest of the system’s communications went out about 8 minutes later, just after a couple spikes in one of the shortwave radiation sensors. I speculated that this was a bear because the force exerted on the system must have been about 3 times that of Dave and I, and the fact that things were operating fine before and parts failed over the course of multiple minutes instead of all at once. With our brief visit by helicopter today, it appears that this speculation is true. It looks like the bear walked around the station and first yanked on a cable to the sonic anemometer, shattering a metal connector. He then jerked on a few other cables, totally pulling them apart and breaking another connector that was inside our main box. He pulled on our met mount, up at 2m height so he must have been standing on hind legs; this bent it down to one side. And then he found the good stuff: the exhaust from the fuel cell power system is water. (As an aside, I wonder how bears drink water at all? I guess they must melt snow). It looked like he was sucking on the exhaust, pulled it out and chewed on a heat cable, mangling the copper outlet tube. This last part may be the hardest to fix as we have spares of all the instruments and cables, but will need to figure out a solution. All-in-all, it appears that, after another major field surgery, we should be able to resuscitate this system and get it operational again.

Curious polar bears (mom and cub) photographed on the ice earlier in the mission. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4)

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