Cresis Aerial Survey of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

What Are They Doing?

Initially, the CReSIS team worked at McMurdo Station preparing and outfitting a Twin Otter airplane with equipment that was used to conduct aerial radar surveys of glaciers at remote field camps. Since it was used as a platform for conducting the experiments, the airplane was mounted with instruments that measured ice thickness, mapped ice layers, and conducted SAR-imaging – a form of radar that produces high-resolution maps of the ice surface.

In early December 2009, after aircraft preparations were completed, the team traveled to Byrd Camp, a remote camp on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, to conduct the aerial surveys. Each day (when weather permitted), the team took off, flew over area glaciers, and came back to camp. When they arrived back at camp, the team downloaded and processed the data that was collected by the instruments.

Although many of the areas that were surveyed were previously largely undiscovered, the survey work included flights over Thwaites Glacier (75.5°S 106.75°W). Part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest and most rapidly thinning glaciers in Antarctica.

At the core of CReSIS's work, the data collected during this project was integrated with other research efforts and data to create a 3-D visualization of the ice sheet to model and assess the potential impacts of ice sheets to future sea level rise.

Where Are They?

Located near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide field camp, the team worked primarily out of Byrd Camp. Both camps are located on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a section of the continental glacier that covers the Antarctic continent west of the Transantarctic Mountains. The camp sits on top of over 3,000 meters of ice, thicker than 9 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another! The WAIS is classified as a marine-based ice sheet, meaning that its bed lies well below sea level and its edges flow into floating ice shelves.

Expedition Map


Hello Trekkers, I am home safe and sound. My beard is a lot longer. Just the fact that I have a beard is kind of funny. At least now it is freshly showered!!! I began by travels home on Tuesday the 12th from Byrd Surface Camp. I flew on a LC-130 cargo plane to McMurdo Station. After dashing around McMurdo for 36 hours turning in gear, picking up supplies, conducting a live event with you, I boarded another cargo plane for New Zealand. I got to a hotel in Christchurch after midnight making it early Thursday morning. I slept for about 4 hours before it was time to go to the airport to...
Hi Trekkers,Hello from Byrd Surface Camp on the continent of Antarctica Byrd camp location elevation 5230 feet lat. S 80.03 long. W 119.61 Can you find Antarctica on a globe or on a map? I am traveling with my friend, Gary Wesche. He is a Polartrec teacher Flat Stanley with Gary Wesche in Antarctica Have you been reading his journals? They have great pictures. Byrd Camp is located on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Flat Stanley overlooks Byrd Surface Camp Antarctica has recorded the coldest temperatures on planet Earth. All you see in every directions is snow Thanks to Mrs...
You have met Chad Brown a member of our team from Polar Grid.Data backup man!!! {photo of Chad 1 of 6] He along with Keith Lehigh represent Polar Grid and brought to the field the computer processors which enable the team to get a first look at the data to ensure that all the equipment is in perfect working order. Keith was here the first part of the expedition and left last week. Not one for smiling in front of a camera I did get a grin from him just before he boarded the plan out of Byrd Surface Camp. Last day for Keith at Byrd Surface Camp Logan Smith, a member of the team from...
Hello Trekkers,You've helped set up all the radars and you have loaded them into the plane and tested them. You're ready to fly in the twin otter airplane over areas of West Antarctica Ice Sheet using flight plans, BUT there is more to it than just getting on the plane. Let me introduce you to your pilot and co-pilot Lexi packs bags into the nose of the plane. Lee helping to refuel the twin otter. Eagle is in the plane and ready to go. Here in Antarctica there are some very specific rules that are followed to ensure safe flying. A pilot can work 14 hours per day with 10 of these...
If you did all your planning correctly we are ready to go. Now we wait until Lexi determines if the weather in all the locations of our grid, fueling caches, and at Byrd is going to be weather we can fly in. If any one of the locations has or is expecting bad weather or low visibility the flight is cancelled or the plan is reworked. At anytime during the flight operation the pilots may decide that the weather is becoming an issue and the plane will turn back. As I wrote in another journal, weather is the number one factor that determines how much science gets accomplished in a season. Well...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

23 November 2009 to 10 January 2010
Location: West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: Surveying Conditions of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Meet the Team

Gary Wesche's picture
St. John Francis Regis School
Kansas City, MO
United States

Gary Wesche teaches middle school science at St. John Francis Regis Catholic School, but prior to being a classroom teacher Mr. Wesche was a full-time dad, professional storyteller, and musical theater actor. He continues to link these experiences of acting, traveling, singing, parenting, and story telling to his teaching in ways that draw his students to learning. He pledges to have no student pass through his classes without an ample opportunity to experience the fun of life as a scientist. Mr. Wesche enjoys travelling, singing, gardening, learning, and playing with his wife and six children in their 110 year old mansion next door to the Kansas City Zoo. Mr. Wesche plans to use this PolarTREC experience to convey to his students and the public the relevance and excitement of scientific study and research, and give his students the chance to believe that they too can explore, discover, and travel the globe in their lifetime.