CECs, Centro de Estudios Científicos (Center for Scientific Studies) is a private, non-profit corporation, devoted to the development, promotion and diffusion of scientific research. CECs was founded in 1984 as the Center for Scientific Studies of Santiago and has since been directed by physicist Claudio Bunster.

“If you plan to make a voyage of discovery, choose a ship of small draught”
Captain James Cook rejecting the large ships offered by the Admiralty for the search of a new continent.
Antarctic Expedition 2016 PDF Print E-mail

CECs starts a new Antarctic campaign


On January, 1st of 2016 the Laboratory of Glaciology and Climate Change of the CECs started a new expedition to the inner West Antarctica which will last about three weeks. This expedition is being led by the engineer Rodrigo Zamora and integrated by the geographer Felipe Napoleoni, and the surveyor engineer Jorge Hernandez, who will conduct geophysical measurements on the CECs Subglacial Lake, including a GPS positioning of a network of beacons installed in the last two years, and ice thickness measurements with radar in bordering sectors to the CECs subglacial lake. They will also conduct mass balance and weather measurements, including the installation of an automatic station of continuous recording with a real-time transmission, and feeding with solar panels and wind generators.


This expedition is a continuation of the CECs Antarctic program that has more than 13 years


Now we will update the expeditioners’ blog.




Tuesday January 19th, 2016


As we said yesterday, we were picked up in the Basler at midnight when we had all unarmed. We loaded the plane between 8 (4 of the crew plus 4 of the base), including the two snowmobiles and all the equipment.


We took off with a clear sky, excellent visibility, and a very low temperature. It was a bit nostalgic to leave the place where we stayed for about 13 days performing many measurements that will give us interesting facts about the ice behavior on the CECs Subglacial Lake. These data plus what will be captured this winter, will give us a good idea of the dynamics of the area, the one we will visit back in a year.


We landed on the ALE Camp snow track at the Union Glacier and unload everything to go to bed in the CECs 1 module at 4 am. It was a tough night, but very profitable because we went to the "civilization" of the ALE Camp, a short time before the weather got deteriorated, otherwise we could have been shoveling snow for a week.


After a restful sleep, we got up at about 10 am. for breakfast in the ALE kitchen-tent. There we met dozens of customers who have just returned from the Mount Vinson, the South Pole, and the penguin habitat of Weddell. The breakfast was very good (as always) and we took advantage of meeting again many Antarctic friends, as Pachi, Chago, Alan, Rob, Eddy, etc.


In the afternoon we were focused on installing the new weather station sensors that we have in our module and enable the recharge energy system with solar panels.


Monday January 18th, 2016


Today we continued dealing with the radar receiver which unfortunately did not revive. We think that the low temperatures affected it too much and some circuit died. Nevertheless, Jorge and Andy made the longest journey of the season with a motorcycle trip that took them 12 hours to measure the latest and most distant beacons installed in 2014 in the headwaters of the Rutford Glacier and Pine Island.


At the end of the day there were only 2 without measuring for being far away and with little time to return to the camp for what was coming for us.


It turns out that ALE informed us that we will be evacuated towards the Union Glacier tonight, provided that the weather conditions will be deteriorated in the coming days. In this context, once we finish writing this report, we will disarm the camp waiting for the Basler plane to pick us up. Hopefully it will come and we will go out without problems.


Sunday January 17th, 2016


Today was not precisely the seventh day of rest because we were very busy with the radars. Something happened to the receptors that were not working well, so all day we were trying to resurrect them. It must be the low temperature that has them "scraping out a living".


Alternatively, Jorge and Andy traveled by motorcycle to measure the three missing beacons located about 30 km to the East. Of these three, only one was found, presuming that the other perished in the crude Antarctic winter.


After several hours we went to rest, thinking how to solve the problem of the radar for tomorrow. If we do not we succeed, we will start to measure the last beacons located about 100 km to the West of the lake.



Saturday January 16th, 2016


Today we continued our measurements with snowmobiles of the beacons installed in the lake area. This time we measured 12 beacons, completing all the perimeter of maximum interest.




All the beacons were without problems, and only one of coligüe was missing (116x), it probably broke and fell. After 6.5 hours of measuring we returned to the camp to rest, eat lamb (Felipe, Andy and Jorge) and for a change, salmon (Rodrigo).




The temperatures were quite low, with a minimum of -23 at 16:00 hrs. Chilean time, but having no wind (or less than 10 m/s) there was no freezing problems. The only news is that one of the satellite phones died because of a frozen screen. In any case we have 3 phones more, so we do not have communication problems.


Friday January 15th, 2016


Today we had planned to go out to measure with GPS more beacons located in the CECs Subglacial Lake area but due to problems with the AWS, we had to stay repairing sensors and connectors, which kept us all day at the base. The weather was deteriorated in the afternoon, so it was better to stay near our tents.




The wind increased a lot, so we had to repair and tense the tent poles so they cannot fly. In the evening we went to the sleeping-bag without major news, after eating something refreshing due to the cold day.


Thursday January 14th, 2016


Today dawned clear and with a little less wind, so we went on the 2 snowmobiles to measure the beacons located on the continental divide between the Pine Island glacier, which drains into the Amundsen Sea, and the Institute that it makes it towards the Weddell Sea. This divide is at a higher height above the sea level (2060 m/asl.), so we expected lower temperatures.


At the end of the day we traveled about 130 km. and measure all the beacons in the area (a total of 15), so the day's journey was successful.


In general, the conditions of the snow surface was good for our traffic on the motorcycles, but the visibility was deteriorated. The temperature fell in the afternoon so we arrived to our base after 10.5 hours crossing very cold; we had to get into our sleeping-bags for more than an hour to recover. After that we could eat something to finally go to sleep.


On the beacons located in the Pine Island basin, conditions were worse, windy and cold, while the temperatures at the Institute showed slightly more benign conditions. Beacons generally evidenced a low accumulation since last year, with about 20-30 cm. of snow.






Wednesday January 13th, 2016


Even though the weather improved from yesterday, today, we could not leave for our journey because we had to work hard to solve problems with the generator. After many attempts, we could not turn it on, so appealing to our ingenuity and the help from Valdivia we created a battery charging system with solar panels of the weather station, and the wind generator that we installed.


In the afternoon the visibility got worse; we did not see more than 20 meters around so it was better not to go out and stayed at the base to solve these problems.


At the end of the day we were successful and we managed to leave all the batteries charged of the laptops, palmtops and radios, so tomorrow, depending on the weather, we would continue with our plan of measurements.


Due to the energy problems already mentioned we are limiting the use of iridium phones, so we will reduce the number of photos that we will send every day.


 Captura de pantalla 2016-01-15 a las 16.03.30


Tuesday January 12th, 2016


Today the weather improved as we predicted yesterday. The wind fell a little and the air temperatures rose up to -5°C. In total we measure 16 beacons located at the site of the subglacial lake CECs. Today the weather improved as we predicted yesterday. The wind dropped a little and air temperatures rose up to -5. Thanks to these benign conditions we start our GPS measurement program of the beacons network installed in the area in 2014, in the two previous campaigns by land carried out by the CECs.




In total we measured 16 beacons located at the site of the CECs Subglacial Lake. All of them were found without signs of deterioration and with snow accumulations of 20-30 cm. The bike transfer between the beacons had no major problems although the visibility was limited by fog.




So far everything is going as planned, except for the bad weather, low visibility, and some problems with the generator that has been failing, which has limited the equipment recharge.




Monday January 11th, 2016


Today we had to stay at our base camp repairing tents and preparing equipment because the weather conditions have been adverse, including strong winds and low temperatures. We had to beat too much the snow, so that our tents are not going to be covered during the storm, it had a positive result because not a single tent was damaged by the storm.


At night the temperatures reached -17 ° C, and the wind speed reached a daily average of 14 m/s but with much higher gusts.


The forecast for tomorrow is a little better, so we are getting ready to start our journey on snowmobiles as soon as the conditions allow it.


Vinson base camp



Sunday January 10th, 2016


The strong wind suddenly woke us up. Early in the morning the equipment will was tested with the waking up call from Rodrigo.


The wind had increased, reaching gusts from up to 55 km/h. Because of operational reasons, we had to rearrange the dining tent, which was a difficult task due to the conditions of the moment. After several hours the tent was ready, supporting the strong wind without problems.


At the end of the day we realized that Jorge's tent also had to be reinstalled by the increasing accumulation of snow, so with shovel in hand the four of us carried out this task quickly and efficiently.


Now we are getting ready to have a good and hot meal, for then to go to the sleeping bags as soon as possible.




Saturday January 9th, 2016


The morning began with a good breakfast prepared by Rodrigo which was devoured by the rest of the team. Then we returned to the installation of the wind generator and the energy system of the weather station (AWS).


At the same time we installed the new sensors, downloaded the stored data, configured the computers, and the new program into the data logger was loaded. We are awaiting the confirmation from Valdivia that they are receiving the data ok.


We were informed, from the base camp at Union Glacier, hat a bad weather front is coming in the next 24 hours. We checked our load and camp to avoid problems during the coming storm.


At the end of the day, Andy prepared a delicious dinner and made a toast for the performed tasks.




Friday January 8th, 2016


After a windy night, it dawns clearer but very cold. The thermometer indicates -18 ° C with 15 knots of wind which easily gives us a thermal perception of -30 or -35 ° C.


In the morning we worked on the GPS station wiring and its power system. At noon the cold forced us to stop working for a while and go for an English Tea and hot soup. To warm up each one must take two plates of soup and put another layer of shelter and we get back to our teams.





We installed the GPS, the satellite link, and the wind generator. In addition, with the help of Andy from ALE, we attached the "Dead Man" or wooden supports embedded in the snow which secure the masts stations by steel cables.


At the end of the day we ate a delicious salmon with quinoa.



Thursday January 7th, 2016


Today we woke up because of a strong wind. After breakfast, we reorganized our load, equipment and set all the tents to the snow to avoid problems with the wind.




We decided to work on the installation of electronic components and the connections of the equipment for the GPS and weather station, since we can do it inside our dining tent which protects us from the wind and keeps us with a comfortable temperature of -14 °C in its inside.












The day progresses, the visibility decreases and the wind increases. In the afternoon we must get back to clear our load and review our tents. We had dinner watching a movie, but the intense cold feels strong, so each of us went to their tent to rest after a hard day. 







Wednesday January 6th, 2016


We landed yesterday at 11 pm. on the CECs Subglacial Lake, just at the point where our automatic weather station (AWS) is installed since December 2014. After unloading all our equipment we say goodbye to Jim, Will and Alex, the Basler crew, who took off at dawn. So we started installing our base camp, giving priority to the dining tent and our four individual tents. The cold is intense, so we decided to go to sleep in our tents early and leave for tomorrow the installation of other equipment. Today we restart tasks of arming the camp, installing the toilet tent and ordering all the equipment cases.





It is a clear day with a pleasant temperature of -17 °C. After lunch we began the first works in the AWS which ceased its transmission on April of 2014 because of the discharge of the battery once the sun disappeared from the horizon, and solar panels could not keep recharging it. The battery was with 6.2 V, so temporarily we installed a new one and immediately the logger data was reset and began recording data, which shows that the sensors are in good conditions and they only lacked of energy.





We installed two structures that will support the wind turbines and the support of the GPS base station that we will leave collecting permanently in the area. For these tasks we are using the ice drill, the one that we used to smoothly drill about 3 meters of snow which it will give stability to the structures.





Andy, our ALE guide, suggested us to eat something warm because the day was cold. Felipe downloaded data from the AWS and we went to prepare dinner. It is around 8 pm. and the sun still accompanies us just like at noon. So each one of us will go to bed with a good sleep mask to have some darkness.


Tuesday January 5th, 2016


Today dawned clear in the Union glacier where our mobile research station is for Antarctic interior "CECs 1". Here we are comfortably accommodated without necessity of heating, although outside temperatures reached near -15 ° C at night, with winds of about 8 m/s, and a relative humidity of the air quite low (up to 38% near the midnight). After the coordination meeting with the ALE staff, we were informed that this afternoon there is an option of traveling to the CECs subglacial lake area. The Basler DC 3 aircraft is at the South Pole but is expected to return this afternoon so we worked all morning preparing the scientific equipment, the camping equipment, and structures of the wind turbines for the weather station installed last summer in the zone.




After lunch we began to build the loads to transfer them to the landing area of Basler, including two snowmobiles that we will carry along with all the camping equipment.


At 6 pm. local time, we were informed that the plane could take off an hour late from the South Pole, so we stay tuned to the information update with all our gear ready to go. The plan is take off tonight to be in the area of the CECs Subglacial Lake after a flight of about 1 hour, where we will install the basic components of the camp which will take several hours, so tonight will be long. In any case, about “tonight” is just a convention since we have 24 hours of light.




Monday January 4th, 2016


This morning we had the planning and coordination meeting with the operation and support staff of ALE. This year again, the operating boss will be our great friend Tim with whom we had a good time in the Southern Ice Fields in 2014.





Right after Jorge began preparing the GPS station equipment, an installed base on a rock near the camp where the station began recording data from 15:20. At the same time Felipe and Seth organized the GIS data to load them into the GPS motorcycles. Josh Hoeschen and Andy Chapman accompany us on a tour of 20 km where Jorge will make his first snowmobile ride in the Antarctica.


We had lunch with Edie, another great friend, with whom we have shared long journeys in the past. In the afternoon with Andy and Nigel we installed the frames of the geodetic GPS antennas in both snowmobiles just like the new sensors in the AWS of our CECs1 module.





We are awaiting the arrival of the "Basler" plane which should get this night from the South Pole, with luck, it will take off tomorrow afternoon towards the "CECs Subglacial Lake".


Sunday January 3rd, 2016


The day began at 8:30 am when the ALE bus arrives to pick us up to the hotel. With us will travel around of 30 people among mountaineers and explorers. Once aboard of the IL76 we are confirmed that conditions in the Antarctica are good.


At 10 am. we took off from the airport and after a relaxed flight, approximately of 4h 45min, we spotted the blue ice track at the Union Glacier. We landed at 2:39 pm, the Union welcomes us with a clear sky, 10 knots of wind and -15Cº.


Immediately we began to recognize the faces of old friends of the ALE staff. We are intercepted by Andy Chapman, the ALE guide, who will be the fourth member of our expedition. We arrived at the base camp which is located to 8 km. of the blue ice track, we moved to review our module. The CECs1 is in perfect conditions, with a very comfortable interior temperature because of the solar radiation (Approx. 16Cº).


We organized some loads that come to us and met with Andy to start planning our journey. We reviewed the camping equipment, selected our helmets for the motorcycle journey, and coordinated with the operation staff a meeting for tomorrow. After a delicious dinner, Jorge and Felipe returned to the module to rest after a long day.


At the last minute a "Twin" of the British Antarctic Survey landed. As usual in these corners of the planet we all salute, besides the typical "Hi" at this time the classic "Happy New Year" is added. To our surprise who returned the greetings is Hug Corr, BAS geophysicist and old friend. It was his first time in the Union Glacier and happy he repeated "I did not expect to find you here." He escorted us to dinner while we talk about his and ours plans, and our new capabilities to set forth on long-range voyages. Nearing midnight with the latest energies we finally went to sleep.




Saturday January 2nd, 2016


On January 1st of 2016 we departed from Valdivia to Punta Arenas starting a new scientific adventure in the Antarctica. Our team is composed by Jorge Hernandez, Felipe Napoleoni, and Rodrigo Zamora.


After a few hours of sleep, product of the New Year celebrations, we flew from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. Already landed in Magallanes the first familiar faces appear; Olivia and Josh from the Antarctic Logistic Expedition (ALE) are waiting for us. We picked up our equipment to unload it in the ALE hold, where we reviewed the 44 boxes (700 kg) with everything we will need for the expedition.




Today January 2nd, we met Mark (also staff of ALE) and attended the “brief” previous to the flight. As reported the weather conditions are favorable for the flight from Punta Arenas to the Union Glacier this Sunday at 8 am. At this time we are preparing our bags and personal gear while the Magellanic wind begins to rise. We expect the next report to be sent from the Antarctica.