It has been 6 or so weeks on the ice (to be honest, we’ve lost track of time and don’t even know the day of the week). If anything, time is measured by alternating cooking duties and the numbers we write on canvas sample bags—in excess of 400 so far. Some changes have become hard to ignore. For example, our toilet fortress, once a 4 ft deep hole surrounded by 4 ft walls of snow blocks has filled in with drifts and eroded down such that it hardly provides any shelter or privacy; the sastrugi on the interior adds décor. In the cook tent, snow has melted and compacted under the floor such that the stove, food boxes, and chairs are precariously inclined to crash inward.
Hello from Panorama Glacier! We hope that all of you are well around the world, as we are in here Antarctica. Much has happened since our last update (and I apologize for the vagueness and indecision in the audioblog). We have been awaiting a resupply and a helicopter close support day since last Friday. The weather up here and at MacTown has been inconveniently complimentary. It seems that it is nice here while it is stormy at MacTown (100 km away), and vice versa. We are hopeful that the flight will happen tomorrow. The helo staff at McMurdo have been incredibly helpful and patient during the weather delays. We have plenty of food, but the variety has been impacted ☹. Jo still manages to cook up some tasty meals– I am currently watching and smelling in anticipation as she cooks up sausage with curried vegetables and rice. Despite non-ideal weather we have accomplished quite a bit out in the field. We have covered almost everything that is in range of our camp, and we should be able to complete everything that we need to if we have a few more nice days within the next week and a half. Yesterday, after waking up early only to find out that we would not be flying that day, we set out across the Kemp Glacier. Most of the glacier travel that we have done so far has been on solid blue ice. The path across the Kemp looked sweet on maps and when we approached it, but it is almost entirely snow covered, so we roped up in case there were bridged crevasses. It was our first time roping up, and Bryan and Graham learned a lot from Jo. No crevasse experiences (to my relief, rope or not). The afternoon was sunny and pleasant, but a wind storm with gusts up to 75 km/hr and wind chill down to –35° C (~ –30° F) came in when we were making our way back to camp¬– see picture of Bryan (small dot on right) and blowing snow below. It was a tid-bit chilly, but we made it back without incident.
Well, we best be signing off. It’s time for vittles. Until next time… Don’t forget to stimulate your gums!
Happy New years from Antarctica! 2012 is here, which means are field season is winding down. The weather in Antarctica as been up to its old tricks with 2 days of strong winds 1 day of nice weather and 1 ½ days of snow. When the winds started we all tried to be tough and work anyway, but that left us fleeing the hills after 70 km/h gusts made field work nearly impossible. New years day greeted us with beautiful weather, sunny and warm (if you can call a few degrees under freezing warm). On January 2 we woke up to 3 inches (~7.5 cm) of fresh white fluffy powder. Although the snow is pretty and fun for boot skiing it covers all the wonderful rocks, making geology more difficult. January 3rd we left camp with a light dusting of snow covering are tracks. At lunchtime the weather looked as though it was taking a turn for the worst. We were slowly being buried by snow as we enjoyed crackers with cheese and tuna and bumper bars. We finished eating and continued up the steep ridge we had started before lunch. The wind began to pick up and the visibility was decreasing. We decided it was time to call it a day and make are way back to camp. Currently the wind is still blowing and we are recording some of are coldest temps of the season at -29o C (-20 F) with wind chill. Hopefully the wind blows away the snow covering the rocks. Today graham emerged as a rugged Antarctic mountain man he is, with a healthy beard filled with blowing snow and icicles hanging from his mustache.
Well that’s all for now, we wish all are friends and family back home the best and Happy New Years. Panorama Glacier Out!
The top of the Panorama Glacier with Mt. Erebus in the far distance
Now that John is back in Santa Barbara he’s had a chance to upload some videos. Check out these selection (there are a bunch more on our youtube channel – Antarctica360). They play best if you open the Youtube link in the lower right of each video.
A lot has happened since are last blog update, including the celebration of our first Antarctic Christmas. Jo and Bryan made a tree out of snow and decorated it with miscellany from camp. Santa Claus came, even for Graham. Bryan and Graham did some shovel-sledding (videos to come pending bandwidth), and Jo cooked a feast– by Antarctic or any standards. It wasn’t quite the same as home, but we had a great time regardless.
|Panorama Glacier Christmas Tree|
Monday was business as usual. We had he snowmobiles slung back to Mac Town for lack of appropriate terrain, so all of our work has been on foot. We have trekked across the panorama glacier a couple of times and also checked out some of the rocks close to camp. The new field area has introduced a great deal of variety of the geology, and Graham and Bryan are reinspired. A particular highlight was finding huge books of biotite, the largest weighing in at over 20 lbs! We walked back with overloaded packs full of samples for mineralogy class– hopefully our students don’t need a hand lens to identify a Bt crystal the size of their heads!
|Very large Biotite Crystals manlig-halsa.se/!|
We have just past the half-way point of our field season. For those of you anxiously awaiting our return, especially Mike awaiting Graham, we will see you soon! I promise, we will shower first! The last few weeks will fly by, as did the first few. At first it seemed that we had a surplus of time, but we are now trying to maximize our efficiency to get everything done! Cheep Cheep!
|Shovel sledding on Christmas day|
The last few days have been full of excitement and adventure and we are now known as “Panorama Glacier’ on our nightly radio check-in with Mac Ops. The last time we wrote we were in the midst of packing for our camp move in the sunshine. Later that afternoon the cloud on the horizon developed and filled the sky and the wind increased. During the night we were woken by the wind banging against our tents and when we arose in the morning it was pretty obvious that there wouldn’t be any choppers flying out to us. As the day progressed the winds increased and we experienced our first ‘real’ Antarctic weather. The sound of the wind was much worse than it actually was but combined with the snow being driven it was a battle to do anything outside. We tired to pass the day by sleeping and conserving energy but even this was made difficult by the noise. By mid afternoon we were registering gusts of up to 80 kph and constant high winds in between. Not that strong in the scheme of things and nothing for what the tents can withstand but still a change from what we’ve been used to our here so far. Our campsite was transformed once again, this time with drifting snow and some piles of gear set out ready for the camp move were slowly disappearing from sight. Fortunately, this storm was only brief and by early evening we were getting some respite between the gusts. By bed time things had calmed down a lot and it was difficult to believe how different life was a few hours previous.
So it didn’t come as a complete surprise to wake to light winds and sunshine yesterday morning and thus action stations. A call to Helo Ops confirmed that the choppers were flying and we started the process of dismantling camp. Gear packed away, food into boxes, tents dug out of the snow, and sling loads built for the helicopters. We also had the added fun of digging out skidoos, sleds, and our toilet area, all which had been drifted with the wind-blown snow. We timed it perfectly and had been relaxing for about 10 mins when the sound of the first helicopter was heard. We had made the decision not to take the skidoos to the next camp, so as the first one was being slung back to McMurdo, the helitech finalised and sorted our other loads.
|Bryan and Graham arranging Sling loads with a Helo tech|
The larger Bell chopper then arrived with our friend the French pilot, Fromage (Flo) from the other day and we were quickly loaded with our gear and off to find our new camp. Up above the Panorama/Glimpse Glacier we circled around scoping out potential spots before choosing what we hoped would be a sheltered spot. -14degrees C still air – as expected about 10 degrees colder than our lower camp. The chopper left and returned soon after with our tents and gear slung beneath. With a blast of wind and the thwop of the blades the Bell flew off and we were left in our beautiful, high camp. 2000m surrounded by the high glaciers and peaks that we’ve been looking up at for the past 3 weeks. A stunning spot but definitely an increased sense of exposure to the elements. We were blessed with a calm afternoon which we spent up pitching our tents and organising our camp. A tiring process especially after already breaking down our camp that morning but we took our time ensuring the tents were well anchored and buried. Fortunately the sun never goes down but by the time we sat down to eat tea at around 9pm, we were hungry, thristy, and ready for bed. We’d lost the calm from the afternoon but were relieved and impressed by how little our tents shook. It looks like we’ll be getting used to the sound of the whistling through the tent guys but hopefully we’ve chosen a spot sheltered from the worst.
|New campsite on the Panorama Glacier|
After 13 hours of camp breaking down and building we allowed ourselves a lie in this morning and in recognition of the holiday weekend, a more relaxing day. A little more camp set up and then the boys headed off to explore the outcrops above camp while Jo spent a pleasant afternoon tidying up the mess tent, putting up Christmas decorations, and making treats for tomorrow. Adding to the toilet wall built by the boys yesterday she also discovered a new passion – snow sculpting. Despite a brief trip the boys had a productive afternoon discovering a wide range of rocks including a new sample ‘never seen before’ which they called ‘BryanNormanite’. After tea and cake made by the girls at the BFC (delivered by the chopper yesterday) we set about building an Antarctic Christmas tree with the snow saws. Pizza for dinner, the last door on the Advent Calendar opened and soon it’s off to bed to await the arrival of Father Christmas. It’s a beautiful evening here, with a little wind (up to 20kph) so he shouldn’t have any difficulty landing the sled. Captain Oates is keeping an eye out and will no doubt provide a friendly welcome to him and the reindeer. We’re taking the day off tomorrow so should have time share our Christmas celebrations with you all. One more sleep… 🙂