"It's heartbreaking," said Slawek Tulaczyk, a glaciologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a principal investigator with WISSARD. "So many people put in their time, their passion into making sure that this happens. It takes a lot of professional, dedicated work."
Tulaczyk's team has worked through many weekends over the past three months preparing to ship scientific equipment - some of which they spent years designing specifically for this year's work - down to Antarctica to ensure that it arrives in time for their field season.
Those shipments have now stopped en route, and likely won't arrive in Antarctica by mid-November as had been scheduled.
"If we can't get stuff into the field on time, then there is no reason to see it forward," Tulaczyk told LiveScience.
The team cannot postpone the season and push it forward, because they need a full two-and-a-half months to achieve their goals, and because pushing the season further into February would pose serious safety risks: By late summer, temperatures drop well below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees below zero Celsius), winds pick up, the sun sets earlier and search and rescue teams do not have enough visibility in the featureless white expanse of the continent to safely access emergencies.