Happy New years from Antarctica!

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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.

site de rencontre comme vivastreet Well that’s all for now, we wish all are friends and family back home the best and Happy New Years. Panorama Glacier Out!

rencontre jeune gratuit The top of the Panorama Glacier with Mt. Erebus in the far distance

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Christmas Eve on the Panorama Glacier

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.

Antarctic weather!

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… 🙂

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Staying in the tents today…

Yesterday we had an excellent day in the field – we drove our snowmobiles up the Radian Glacier onto the Pipecleaner Glacier. We spent a couple of hours collecting xenoliths from a volcanic crater. The xenoliths are really cool rocks – they are up to tennis ball size chunks of mantle rock (lherzolite and dunite) as well as lower crustal rocks (granulites) that were bought to the surface during a volcanic eruption. We then spent the next 8 or so hours wandering up a long ridge looking at some intrusive igneous rocks including a syenite – a rare kind of intrusive igneous rock. Because it is light for 24 hours a day we were able to stay in the field until around 9pm, before we headed home for some dinner and to bed around midnight.

Today the weather has been steadily getting worse. Our fantastic views of the mountains are obscured by lots of cloud and blowing snow. Right now it is about +6C (43F) inside our tent and about -10C (14F) outside + windchill which brings the temperature down to about -20C (-4F). Hopefully this weather doesn’t last too long and we can get out into the field again soon. In the meantime, we are spending the day in our tent catching up on our maps, field notes and eating a lot of chocolate!

Some people have asked us how we go to the bathroom in Antarctica. The answer is quickly! While we’re at McMurdo station there is a normal sewerage treatment plant, but out here in the field we have a slightly less sophisticated setup. We have a simple toilet consisting of a bucket with strong plastic bags. Once the bucket is filled we seal it up and when it is time to go back to McMurdo we bring all our waste with us. Our goal is to leaving nothing behind, so that we can keep this special environment as pristine as possible.

A few other side notes:

– The boys are practising their best New Zealand accents on Jo and John. So far they are sounding British, but I’m sure they’ll get there and be sounding just like Kiwis soon…

– Bryan and Graham are also discovering other NZ treats like Raro (kind of like Gatorade), scroggin (trail mix), and bumper bars (granola bars made with lots of butter)

– Tofu Jerky tastes a lot like teriyaki-soaked sponges.

– Jo has been cooking us excellent dinners – last night we had gourmet pasta with pesto, and tonight is chicken laksa soup! At this rate we will be gaining weight!

– Graham wanted everyone to know about his excellent dental hygiene – he has been stimulating his gums with his rubber toothpick at every opportunity.

Be sure to check out our spot tracker (here) – over the next week or so we’ll be updating it from some of our different field locations (as long as the weather improves!).

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