From Klaus (ESA), Iceland, 8 June
Akureyri was still asleep Friday morning when we packed our stuff and went to the Norland Air hangar to prepare the plane for the first set of flights over the Hofjökull and Langjökull ice caps. At the same time our NASA colleagues, who are located at Reykjavik on the southwest coast of Iceland were probably also getting up to prepare the UAVSAR, which we planned to fly simultaneously.
When we arrived at the airport the sky was cloudy, but luckily the P-band SAR doesn’t need clear skies. So, we could start bang on time at 04:30, around the same time as the NASA UAVSAR took off. After 30 minutes in the air we reached the Hofjökull ice cap and started the POLARIS SAR. Everything ran smoothly. Even Thor, ‘God of the weather’, was gracious and cleared the sky giving us a nice view of the ice sheet and a smooth flight.
This is maybe a good time shine a light on our pilots. They usually get little credit, but without their skill and experience we wouldn’t be able to get anything useful from our data. During the entire acquisition period they have to keep the plane stable, ideally well within 5 m of the planned track. Any deviation from the track can make the combination of the images we take today with images from previous and future flights impossible. Deviating from the track would mean that we wouldn’t be able to apply interferometric techniques and therefore not be able to measure ice-flow, the main objective of our campaign.
The first data coming to our screens looked good, but then we got some bad news from our NASA colleagues. Over radio we heard that they had abandoned their flight. Apparently they had problems with their electronics, forcing them to return to Kevlafik airport. This was a real shame but we continued our flight and Friday morning programme as planned.
By 08:00 we were back in our hotel and had a hearty breakfast. After trying to catch a little bit of sleep we were back at the airport for the afternoon flight. At 20:00 we returned to the hotel after a successful campaign day, exhausted but happy.