May 24, 2017

Glacier Benito Journal: Finding the Level Markers – Thursday 13th April

Posted by larryohanlon

See the other posts from this expedition here

By Martin Sessions

Day three started the same as day two. Clear sky, moon providing the illumination before dawn, a sharp frost and no wind! Johnny, Olaf and Mark remained in camp to try to get the X8 drone up and flying. Marcos took me up the steep side of the Finger to view Level II lower cairn. We arrived at the ledge where the cairn was sited to find it in good shape. There was no bench mark evident and the upper two markers could not be found. There was evidence of significant rock fracturing, and, as the upper two markers had been built on 20 degree plus slopes, it was highly likely that they were swept away. The altitude of the Level II Finger lower cairn was about 835 m absl which corresponded approximately with that measured in February 1973.

View from Level II Finger Lower Cairn towards the Bench Mark – Mar 1973

View from Level II Finger Lower Cairn towards the Bench Mark – Apr 2017

Marcos and I returned to camp. Problems still bedevilled the X8 drone so, after lunch, we left Johnny, Olaf and Mark to continue with the investigation and testing. We crossed the glacier along the line of Level I to the Co Caldenius ridge. Pausing briefly to take crampons off, we climbed up a wide gulley to the ridge line then followed up that until we found the upper Co Caldenius cairn. We then climbed down the side of the ridge a little to find the ledge where the survey had terminated. We fixed the points with GPS then returned to glacier taking photographs on the way down.

Level I Co Caldenius Upper Cairn

View from Level I Co Caldenius Upper Cairn looking East – Feb 1973

View from Level I Co Caldenius Upper Cairn looking East – Apr 2017

Whilst we were on the ridge we observed the Mavic drone in our vicinity. We returned to camp at about 1700. Unfortunately Johnny, Olaf and Mark could not get the X8 drone to have enough propeller power to fly so it was put to ‘bed’.

Launching the X8 Drone on the 2nd Day

Retrieving the X8 Drone from an Ice Hole

Mark and Johnny then flew the Mavic for a test flight followed by going across the glacier viewing Level I. A couple of technical issues required resolving. With the X8 drone no longer in action, we had plenty of LiPo battery power to charge the Mavic drone batteries but they would not charge. A satellite phone call to Ben in Australia established what the problem was – the LiPo batteries had to be discharged slightly to under 16 Volts before they could be used. The GPS base station was used to discharge the LiPo batteries.

Mavic into Action

View of the Camp on the Test Flight

The Mavic

That evening with the moon rising later, we were able to marvel at the incredible night sky. For me, this was wonderful as I recently had the cataract affected lenses in my eyes replaced. Still no clouds, stunning views and no wind.

Writing Diaries in Tents


 — Next: Crossing the Glacier and the Mavic Takes Off —

This post was originally published here

Martin Sessions was born in Kenya in 1948 but educated in England, finishing up with a degree in Engineering at Cambridge University (Pembroke College). For 28 years, he served in the Royal Navy as an Engineer Officer before migrating to Australia where he is an engineering consultant in Canberra. His first expedition was to Koldukvislarjokull in the North West corner of Vatnajokull, Iceland in 1970. Then followed expeditions to Chilean Patagonia (1972/73) and Liverpool Land, Greenland (1977). Finally he made expeditions to Glacier Benito in 2007, 2011 and 2017 to capitalize on work undertaken there in 1972/73.