Antarctica doesn’t really have an Autumn perhaps because there’s no trees. Or maybe its just a British Antarctic Survey thing where you go straight from the Summer season to the winter one just to simplify things. With twenty one of us left on base and the last ship gone a few weeks ago we are very much into our winter at Rothera. This means shorter working hours (theres now only 1.5hours between meals instead of 2) rapidly decreasing daylight and of course winter trips. All staff who winter get two weeks off base away on a winter trip. These trips are a combination of a chance to get a break from life on base (and for others to get a break from you!), learn new skills and get the “real” Antarctic experience. With four field assistant at Rothera two of us head out roughly every two weeks with another person in tow somewhere on Adelaide island.
Octavian on the summit of Trident peak on the first day our winter trip. Options for winter trips include Mountaineering, Climbing, Skiing and Snowboarding, Crevasse exploring, Skidoo sightseeing trips and drinking tea (or whisky) in the tent.
Skidoos leaving camp. Skidooing outside of the Rothera flagline involves being linked up just in case one goes into a crevasse. You can just make out the rope coming from the back skidoo. The sledge between the skidoos carries the emergency gear and pretty much goes everywhere with you. Basically enough food, fuel and kit to spend three weeks fixing your skidoos.
Stunning views North after some easy mountaineering in the Stokes peaks.
As there is always two trips out at the same time its great to camp together and go visit the other tent in the evening. Or in this case follow in the other parties footsteps all day and not have to break trail. Octavian and Ben looking happy with their day in the Stokes.
My second trip was with Saz. Despite being stuck in the tent for a couple of days we got quite a bit of climbing and mountaineering done. Saz below “Spiritual Harmony” on Trident peak (the curving gully on the left)
Milky way over the tent at night. There some amazing photography opportunities if you and your camera can face the cold. This took me a while to get right as it was pretty cold and I had had a couple of glasses of Port. The tents are really comfortable especially with both the stove and tilley lamp going. Saz making Chocolate fondu as dessert after a cheese fondue for our main course. Saz and I had decided when we wrote the proposal for her trip that photography and food were going to be a priority, we ended up with a huge amount of cheese and chocolate, pizza, pancakes, full brunch with homemade tattie scones and a fair bit of booze
Skidoos under the edge of N26 Nunatak. Saz and I headed here to snowboard in the big bowl in the middle of the photo. Our skidoos had struggled to get this far so at least we knew there was lots of deep powder to fall into.
Feeling pretty happy to have survived one of my few snowboard runs in the last few years
Crevasse exploring is always pretty popular. Stunning and beautiful for the winter tripper and a bit stressful for the Field Assistant. Saz abseiling into the second chamber of a crevasse we found. I was standing on a very hollow sounding floor at this point so we didn’t stay long.
Drying clothes inside the tent at the end of the day. All that stuff hanging in the roof is hopefully going to be dry by the morning! You can also make out the speaker (small red thing in the centre) for the music, the jar of Marmite (standard BAS issue) and a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yr old.
Winterers can also choose to go “Man-Hauling” – basically skiing and pulling pulks rather than using ski-doos. I went to pick up Al and Lewis from a manhauling trip last week and took my big lens to get some shots of them steaming to the end.
When not on winter trips theres still plenty of fun to be had near to Rothera. The Ski-in, Ski-out accommodation helps. Al loading a skidoo for another quick mission outside the accommodation building.
Scoping out another ski line
The sea ice was also forming last week so we did a couple of training sessions on how to assess it for safe travel. Dave showing the dive team what to do on the first day that the sea ice was thick enough. Personally I think the idea of travelling any distance on sea ice is pretty crazy but it is a necessity for the dive team who still have sciencey stuff to do throughout the winter (and who have to dive under the ice!)
Skiing out on the sea ice surrounded by icebergs. The ice has to be 20cm thick to travel on. The bindings on the skis are just bendy plastic that strap onto insulated work boots.
John testing the waters. You might be able to spot how we cut the hole in the ice.
Theres been some clear nights in the last couple of weeks so its been great to be outside with a camera. The full moon has been spoiling it somewhat though I spent a great evening with John, Tom and Adam at the cross taking surreal photos. Above – John (meteorologist), Tom (Doctor) and Myself admiring the view.
The weather doesnt always play ball! Above – Hector topping out of a mixed route in the spindrift having experienced hotaches for the first time on a day when we thought there would be no wind.