Tag Archives: Antarctica

The Ernest Shackleton and Signy Arrival

We were on board the Ernest Shackleton for two days before setting off South with Signy Research Station as the first stop. Ive spent a fair amount of time at sea before including yachts on the Wild Coast of South Africa and various tall ships in the South China sea and the North Atlantic and I’ve rarely been seasick. This was all about to change.

Onboard the ship passengers are still referred to as FIDs though there is no longer a “King Fid” declared as there was in the old days of BAS staff going south (Spikes book “In the shadow of Ben Nevis” has a great description of how it was for BAS Staff going south in the 1960’s). Initially I had been a bit put out by us being the first stop as it would have been a good excuse to see the other BAS island bases “Bird Island” and “King Edward Point” on South Georgia. Within a few hours at sea I had changed my mind.  By the first meal I was feeling pretty rough and heard one of the crew comment “It can’t be rough yet – the FIDs are still showing up for food” – sure enough the only thing I managed to show up to after this point was a few very quick meals and the various safety briefings.  The hardest thing about this journey is really that there isn’t much to do even if you are feeling well.  There is some basic exercise  equipment in the hold, a tv lounge, a smoking room and a general lounge or as I did you can just lie in your cabin and stare out of the porthole.

Arriving in the South Orkneys I was relieved to see only open water and no sea ice. With sea ice present it would have been up to me and the Station Leader to organise the relief of the ship over the ice – testing thicknesses etc. In a fragile sea sick state this could have been quite the test. In fact all we had to do was wait for the crew of the Ernest Shackleton to get there tenders ready, struggle into our dry suits and head to the base.

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Jim and I’s cabin on the ship.  These are sometimes shared by four people.  Luckily for me I had the top bunk so could easily see out of the porthole

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One of the less rough moments when I managed to go to the bridge.  The Shack is known for her corkscrewing motion and the fact that she rolls 30degrees.  (That horizon is meant to be straight!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A really exciting briefing. (Biosecurity I think)931A9125

My favourite view.  I was able to lie in my bunk and watch a film on my laptop as long as I alternated between the porthole and the screen every couple of minutes.

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Lifeboat drills on the first morning at Sea.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the last season that BAS plan on using the Ernest Shackleton.  With the new ship currently being built the Shack will end her service next spring and the James Clark Ross the following year.  This calendar on one of the decks shows the progression from two to three ships and down to just the “Sir David Attenborough” and finally it sinking in 2021 (bottom right).  931A9129

Looking a bit pasty but very ready to get off the ship.  After three days at sea I was ready to leave my cabin!

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First view of the South Orkneys931A9145

Jim and a big pile of cargo ready to go ashore.

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The Ernest Shackleton out in the bay as another blizzard rolls in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving not been lived in for eight months the first job was removing the shutters off the window and getting the base habitable (to be sure that we wouldn’t have to back to the ship that night!)

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Various ships crew and staff from other bases came ashore to help dig out the base and unload cargo.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most important cargo was the last off.  I’m holding a case of Glenmorangie and was happy to see Dalwhinnie 15yr old and some Talisker 57deg North come off as well.  Hopefully it lasts us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fresh food that came ashore will be all we get until the next time the ship comes in mid January.  Every piece of fresh food has to be inspected for any wee beasties that might have hitched a ride.  Above – Tim and Mike (Scientists) inspect the cauliflower and remove a few tiny caterpillars.

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Taking the Skidoo around to the other side of the island.  The Shack was only with us for a few days so it was important to make the most use of their tenders while we could.  It felt pretty strange to be putting a skidoo onto a boat and taking it to somewhere I’d never been.

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One penguin, two penguins, three penguins….. Tim doing his first of many penguin counts.  Tim, Mike and I made a quick visit to the main penguin colonies on the Gourlay peninsular on the second day.  This will be Tims main focus for the 5 months and part of my job is to help him.  (Dont worry – lots of penguin shots to come!)

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Its definitely spring here.  The South Orkneys are at 60deg South so gets roughly the same daylight hours as Orkney in the North of Scotland (59deg North).  It is a little colder here month by month however due to not having the gulf stream.

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Signy Island.  Home for seven of us for the next four months.  The base is on the peninsular in the middle of the East coast (tiny black dots)  You can view a pdf version of this map here.

Next blog – life on base and why we’re here.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Ernest Shackleton, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Finlandia Foothills and a Skua Survey

The news was broken to me at Halley that I was the only person flying back to Rothera with Olly the pilot.  My dreams of alternating between napping and reading my book in the back while someone else did co-pilot duties were shattered!  As the plane was so light we flew direct from Halley to Rothera in just under seven hours with me still managing to get a bit of a nap and some reading done.  In reality it was a fun trip feeling much more like a road trip than normal with just Olly and I chatting away and me occasionally doing a little bit of flying to give Olly a break.  On the way out of Halley we flew over the RRS Ernest Shackleton doing relief on the Brunt Ice Shelf 40km from the Halley base.

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The “Shack” doing relief with lots of cargo sledges and vehicle lined up to take the cargo back to base.
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By the time we got to Rothera it was grey and overcast.  Flying from Halley to Rothera directly does mean that the last bit of the journey has some interesting views as the route cuts across the peninsular.

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Back at Rothera Julie and I had a bit of planning and packing to do before the input to the Finlandia Foothills for our final short project of the season.  It wasn’t until after Julie had flown in to establish our camp that I was shown this excerpt from the previous field party in the area in the early 80’s.  Needless to say Julie and Pete were on the ground for five days waiting for the weather to improve for the rest of us to fly in.931A6473

Julie walking away from camp with the Wilson range behind.  The team of six of us were in the Finlandia Foothills on Alexander island in the hope of establishing an Antarctic Special Protected Area (ASPA).  An area of the foothills had shown promise via satellites and four scientists were expecting a higher than normal density of biological matter and some birds. (Basically bird poo, birds, moss and lichens).  (Fossil Bluff is also on Alexander Island which at BAS is often referred to as being the same size as Wales.  I recently learnt that it is also the second largest uninhabited island in the world)

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On our first afternoon we headed up on the screes above camp looking for moss and lichen931A6490

Pete hard at work collecting Lichens931A6499Gearing up to leave camp.  On this day we decided to head down to our main objective just over 6km away.  Note the bird net Richard is carrying.931A6503

Julie and the two Pete’s skiing away from camp.

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What a lot of Lichen!  After three hours of glacier travel on skis and foot we reached the site to realise that there was…. just a few bits of Lichen and no sign of birds, bird poo or moss.  We had expected the sample collections at this site to take three to four days!
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Scientists in the mist.  While at the site Kevin wanted to collect a series of DNA samples making him and Richard look particularly strange wandering around in the mist.  Needless to say it was quickly decided that the site was not worthy of ASPA status!
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The neighbours – It was great to be in a field camp as a large group again as once we had discovered the site was not what we wanted we had to wait a few days to be picked up.931A6538

Julie and the Petes being told the planes wont arrive tomorrow.

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After eleven days for Julie and just six for me we flew back late afternoon over some amazing chunks of sea ice and the RSS James Clark Ross doing relief at Rothera.

931A6555JCR on the Rothera Wharf.

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Skua survey.  After a brief couple of days at Rothera it was straight back out with my tentmates from Finlandia, Kevin and Richard, to carry on a skua survey on the islands near Rothera.  The flags on Kevin and Richards bags are to give the skua’s something to go for rather than your head when you’re peering into their nests.931A6577

Skua chick.  While Kevin outlined survey areas and Richard counted nesting pairs I tried to count nest contents.  Despite the skuas clearly showing you where their nests are by swooping you more and more aggressively the nests are surprisingly hard to spot.931A6613

Our salubrious accommodation on Anchorage island.  Salubrious until I pulled the door off the hut within minutes of our arrival!   931A6617

More Skua chicks.931A6620

Inquisitive Weddel seal.  I’ve spent barely any time on the islands around Rothera so doing the Skua survey was a great excuse to wander around and get some photos on both Anchorage and Leonie Island.
931A6682Incoming! Despite being assured by Richard that the skuas were not that aggressive and would only go for the flag some of the birds were extremely persistent I did get a few good hits to my head by some of the more adventurous ones.

One more week in Antarctica before heading home to Scottish winter which appears to be shaping up nicely.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Anchorage Island, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Skua Survey, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Halley Christmas

A bit late on Decembers blog!  I’ve had a really varied season so far with the biggest difference getting to spend time at BAS’s other Antarctic Research Station – Halley VI.  Halley has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years as some previously dormant cracks started opening up in the Brunt Ice Shelf inland from the station.  Last year a huge team of Engineers, Drivers and support staff moved the main modules to the other side of the crack (known as the Chasm) only to discover there was another crack (Halloween Crack) even further “inland”.  Work continues at Halley this season with a lot of monitoring of the various cracks, readying the base to survive the Antarctic winter without staff and and attempt to fully automate all the long term science that happens.

From a Rothera perspective Halley is the place that all the fuss is made about while the science and field work happens from Rothera.  From a Halley perspective Rothera is not the real Antarctic.  The main difference for me is that you get bacon rolls for smoko at Halley

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At the start of December I spent a lot of time flying around the Ellsworth Mountains with Ian (Pilot) and Ben (Engineer) sorting out more science sites.  The views of the mountains were amazing as was getting to stay in the “hotel” at Union Glacier.

 

931A6048 Mt Vinson  – the highest peak on the continent (4892m)931A6052 Ben working at one of the sites south of the Ellsworths.  The first few sites were al uphill from the plane and involved lugging batteries to and from them.  A couple of these sites were at about 8000ft.  With the lower air pressure in Antarctica they feel more like 12000ft so its pretty knackering dragging car batteries behind you.931A6072 Tough place for a lunch stop.931A6090Enormous crevasses on the approach to the Union Glacier skiway.931A6098 Ben walking back to our tent on the guest side of the Union camp.  It was great to check out the setup here and catch up with some friends.931A6236 Flying again –  As field guides we spend a lot time in the aircraft.  Fellow field guide Julie knitting away on the long flight from Rothera to Halley.
931A6280 Halley VI.  The original Halley Base was started in 1956 with the most recent incarnation being commisioned in 2006.  The original four bases were snowed in and the staff lived in them underground.  Both Halley V and VI were designed to raised to deal with the snow accumulation.  931A6284 I’ve often wondered why you dont see many pictures of Halley from the air.  I think part of the reason is that its not a particularly exciting view but also that a lot of attention is focused on the space age modules.  The view from above shows the vast amount of infrastructure needed to keep the base running.  Above – Halley modules in the centre with the various vehicle lines, container lines, accommodation and garage modules.  The lines at the top of the photo are enormous windscoops leading to the “hinge zone” where the Brunt ice shelf meets the continent.931A6312-HDR Classic Halley view.931A6327 Christmas day – Doug climbing in Halloween crack.  Mark (FG), Doug (Air Mech) and Olly (Pilot) snuck off on Christmas for a quick climb in Halloween crack.  Having to ski-doo there, set up the ropes, abseil in etc meant there was only time for a couple of climbs each but a great way to spend Christmas!931A6332 Some things are the same on Christmas day the world over – lots of washing up!.  (Though I’m not sure Marks Hawain shirt and flip flops are standard)931A6343 Straight after Christmas it was back out into the field for me.  I joined Neil at Bluefields depot and then moved to a Depot in the Shackleton Range.931A6362Filling in the days with igloo building.  Rob (who switched with Neil) came to join me while I did constant Weather observations for the aircraft.  10 days of staring at clouds, drinking tea and reading.

Back to Rothera in the next couple of days and then back into the field for a couple of weeks before heading home.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Halley Research Station, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Mt Vinson, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Digging Season

I’m back at Rothera.  It slowly occurred to me over the summer at home that working in Antarctica didnt have to be a one off and an email from the Field Operations Manager as I boarded a plane to Tanzania offering me a couple of months work was too big a temptation.  It feels great to be back at Rothera helping train new staff, eat amazing meals, go skiing after work and of course do lots and lots of digging.

This season I am doing a variety of work for BAS both from Rothera where I was for my 18 month contract and also at Halley on the Brunt Ice shelf.  The first part of my season is focused on Instruments.  This is based from Rothera with trips between a day and week to service, relocate or replace instruments that record Glacial Re-bound, Ice shelf movement or the weather.  As a Field Guide my job is to help the pilot spot crevassing and a good landing spot, help access the site (deciding to rope up or not, to use skis or not or just to wander on over) and then help with any digging.  If the trip is overnight the Field Guide also sets up camp and sorts food and water out while the Pilots/scientists/engineers are doing their work.

First up a few photos from some training etc around Rothera.
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This summer there is a large focus on training at Rothera.  I have learnt things this summer that I should have known two years ago when I first started.  One of the main things has been sharing knowledge with the pilots who we spend a lot of time with.  Above – a group of field guides staring at a plane at the ski-way above Rothera.  This was aborted due to high winds in the end but the end of a training exercise in how to lay out Ski-ways in the field and on safe loading of Aircraft.931A5766

The high winds were quite obvious above the Stork hills.931A5788

New Field Guide, Tom Lawfield practicing crevasse rescue with the added complication of unconscious people (the green bag behind him) and pulks.  All done from the safety of the sewing loft!931A5799

Blair carefully digging up a seismometer a few kilometers from base.  Science gear weighs a lot and even being able to drive Ski-doos to within about a kilometer of this site it probably took us the best part of two hours for Blair, Ben and I to get everything onto the pulks and tow it back up the glacier.
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Elephant seal cleverly blocking the two doors I use most on base – Accomodation on the left and “Fuchs” the field guide office and store on the right.
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More training.  Fuchs being used by some of the fire team to practice blind searchs.

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Where I’ve been in the last week.  The good thing about instrument work is getting to lots of places.  The bad thing is spending lots of time in the aircraft.931A5874

First up I did a day with Ben (Electronics Engineer) and Ian (Pilot) to the Welch Hills and Traverse Mountains a short flight south of Rothera.  These sites were in a spectacular location a short flight down the peninsular931A5924

Old depot – new science.  While at the second site we were also meant to remove an old depot.  We had originally thought that the depot was American but on opening the manfood box we realised it was British.  (The marmite is the giveaway!)  This food was pre- use by date but some of it was manufactured in 1970.  The chocolate still tastes great but we werent brave enough to try anything else.931A5926

Ian towing another sledge of junk back to his plane.931A5929

Next up I flew up to the Larsen C ice shelf with two glaciologists.  Above – even for one night in the field with 4 people theres a lot of kit!931A5937

Science on the Larsen C.  The larsen C has become well known in recent years after the collapse of the Larsen B iceshelf in 2002.  Recently the largest Iceberg ever recorded (the A68) broke off the Larsen C.  BAS personnel now have to have a plane with them at all times while working on this Iceshelf.931A5940

A68 Iceberg edge.  One of our tasks was to photograph the A68 Berg which is reported to be the same size as Wales or London depending who you ask (A bit like saying “as deep as the grand canyon” it doesnt really mean anything other than its really big).931A5970

Flying along the edge of the Berg.931A5991

Hammer plate Seismic’s on the Larsen C, Emma manning the computer and Jim hammering the plate.  There are Geo phones every 10m for 200m which measure the shock of the hammer down the line.  I’m assured that this is world class science.

931A5981The tent all set up for the night.  I have been trialing a new tent made by “Arctic Oven” which is massive but not as heavy as the traditional pyramid tents.  With Jim and Emma on the Larsen they were so busy with hammering etc they actually only came into the tent for a nap at 7am!  I estimated that Jim had done over 500 hits with the sledge hammer and walked over 10km through the night.  (I did help out till midnight and then made then tea at 3am and checked on them at 5!)
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Coming in to land at Union Glacier.  Straight after being on the Larsen C for two days I flew further onto the continent via Fossil Bluff, Sky Blu and Union Glacier (The field camp of the commercial operator A.L.E).  Myself, Alex (Electronics Engineer), Dave and Mark (both Pilots) flew out to the Foundation ice stream to pick up some instruments that will be redeployed later this season.931A6027

I dont have many photos of the Foundation Ice stream as the weather was chasing us.  Above – Dave getting a quick nap after some digging before another flight.

My next big chunk of work will be at Halley on the Brunt ice shelf a base that has been in the news a lot this year.  Should be interesting!

Posted in A 68 Berg, A68 Larsen C, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide Antarctica, Larsen C Ice Shelf, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , |

The Depot That Wasn’t There – Part 1

Summers as a field assistant at Rothera are all about being flexible to changes.  When working on base its possible to wake up in the morning and be told you are flying somewhere for the day, or a couple of days or even a couple of weeks.  With that in mind it should not be a surprise how different my summer ended up looking from the one planned.  Myself and Jo left Rothera at the start of December thinking we were going to the Kohler mountains for her Geology work.  We estimated that we were going to be out there roughly 50 days not knowing that we would be back at Rothera in a week.  We left rothera and headed to Sky Blu – a common place to get stuck as you wait for the weather to improve further south and a plane to become available.  As most of our stuff was in a depot at Mt Murphy we only need one plane and managed to get through Sky Blu having only spent 4 days there.  We flew on to the Depot at Mt Murphy picking up another field assistant (Al) on the way as he also needed stuff from the Depot at Murphy.  On flying in I was sat in the co-pilots seat and it was obvious something was not quite right.  We passed overhead in the plane a couple of times with myself and the pilot (Vicky) both looking for any sign of the flags and kit that was left there 10 months ago.  We landed and Al and I wandered out to the GPS point of where the depot had been.  As the depot was on a glacier we were not expecting it to be in exactly the same place but we did expect to see something of the 3m bamboo flags that mark it.
Antarctica.001931A0539Life at Sky Blu is a lot more comfortable than last year complete with couchs and a decent kitchen.
931A0583Twin Otter landing on the ice at Sky Blu to take us further into the continent.

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Steve with his first cup of tea of the day.  We stopped to swap Steve for Al at one of the depots.  Steve decided to share a tent with me to experience my sleepwalking – little did he know that he would have to put up with a month of it later in the season!
931A0704So we started digging.  We hoped to pick up the top of one of the 3m bamboo flags – probably as close to a needle in a haystack as you can get.  We dug multiple pits to about 1.5m before deciding on a spot of highest probability and digging a trench across the direction of flow of the Glacier.  Al, Jo and Vicky in the trench late in the evening.
931A0679Unsuccessful!  After a day of digging and searching we were told to return to Rothera.  Al, Jo and Vicky walking back to the plane at about 10pm.931A0707Vicky leading Al and I in some yoga before bed.  I think Al (far left) might be inventing his own yoga poses.931A0718The next morning we packed up and headed for Rothera.  Above – Jo contemplating 10hours in a small aircraft.931A0729Flying back to Rothera.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera Research Station, Skidoos, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , |

Snow Clearing and the End of Winter Trips

The last couple of weeks have seen endless low pressure systems hit the Antarctic Peninsular bringing stormy weather and lots of snow.  Winter trips have continued with life as a field assistant meaning alternate weeks on base or out in the field.  This weekend marks the last weekend of winter with the first planes due through Rothera next Saturday.img_0440Adam posing on the ridge between “Max” and “Mouse” in the Stokes peaks.  All the Stokes peaks are named after dogs and are a popular destination for winter trips.  Two days after this Adam and I experienced gusts of wind up to 70 knots (force 12 is described as 64+) which destroyed our toilet tent resulting in some adventurous toilet experiences.img_0238Kate approaching the summit of “Morgan” in the Stokes on her winter trip.  I realised at the end of Kates trip that I will have spent about 12% of my time in Antarctica camped at Trident East.  While not far from base the options for skiing and mountaineering from this camp are amazing.img_8331With planes now due in a week snow clearing has started in earnest with both machines and people power.  Above – Window in the accommodation building surrounded by icicles and buried in snow.
img_8324Snow clearing the runway.  Snow clearing can only happen on good weather days meaning long hours for the Matt the mechanic and the other drivers.img_8323People power on the Hangar doors.  This took ten of us a day of digging and chipping before we could get them open.  Turns out they’re snowed in again now!img_8314Hector watching as Matt clears in front of the Hangar with the JCB 436.img_8378 The last of the winter trips was myself and Al last week.  Above – Al looking up at the next pitch of one of the routes we did on the second day of our trip.  Al and I headed to the other side of the island (back to the Myth campsite) with the hope of climbing one of the bigger peaks.img_0953Al on the summit of Mt Liotard just after 11am.  Mt Liotard was named for a french observer who surveyed the peak in 1909 and is visible from Base across Ryder Bay.  The tenth photo down in this blog post  We heard of a brief weather window on our second night in the tent so left camp early to get up and down before the high winds came in.  You can see the edge of the weather front coming in from the right of the shot.  img_1037Al skiing back to the Ski-doos with the summit (on the right) already in the clouds.  We were pretty lucky with conditions with great snow from col (directly above Al’s head) all the way back down.  Probably about 4km and 1000m of descent on perfect powder!img_1050The other reality of winter trips – Al with a cup of tea and snow melting on the stove.  About 25-30% of the time on a winter trip you are stuck in the tent as the weather is so bad.  The first day of lie-up is usually nice and relaxing and a great chance to do lots of reading.  Books, games and lots of cups of tea are the order of the day.img_8416More normal winter weather.  Al and I spent the last day of our winter trip determined to get out climbing finding some very Scottish conditions.  I’m not even sure if this photo is of me or Al as we were both wearing the same BAS issue clothing.img_8498Even after six months stuck with each other its amazing the efforts people still go to.  Bradders (Polar Bear), Emily (Zebra), Tom (Lion) and Jesus (Girrafe) dressing up for one last saturday night before we get invaded.

Posted in ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Midwinter, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Rothera Winter Team, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

The Myth and Carvajal

I was going to wait another week before doing a blog post but realised it was the end of the month.  August has flown past – I don’t remember it starting and only noticed it was here when my payslip arrived the other day.  We have had lots of sun over the last few weeks with settled weather and winter trips running every week.  I am really realising the value of the winter trips this time round – having four people head off on adventures every week gives us something to talk about other than who hasn’t done the washing up and makes for a much more lively community as people are coming and going.  My first two trips of this round have both been to the same place, the Myth.  The Myth campsite is on the other side of Adelaide Island from Rothera and is at the base of some really impressive mountains (the Myth is a smaller subsidiary peak of “The Legend”).  Camping on the far side of the island feels incredibly remote and even getting there is a bit of an adventure with a lot of time on the skidoos through some crevassed terrain. IMG_8203Self Portrait on the way to the Myth.  Ben and I stopped to savour the first sun we had seen for a couple of months.  It was still -25degC and we discovered our sandwiches had frozen solid.IMG_8202Trying to defrost my sandwich on the skidoo exhaust.  The sandwich stayed frozen but I did have the lovely smell of toast coming out of the engine for the next couple of kilometres.IMG_6882First night at the Myth campsite with the milky way overhead.  Bradders and Octavian were out on a trip as well so it was great to camp as a party of four.IMG_6912On our second day the four of us decided to drive to Carvajal Base.  It was probably -30degC this day and we had to keep stopping as I kept loosing feeling in my throttle hand.  The skidoos are not too bad to drive most days if you wear enough clothing as they have boot warmers and heated hand grips but I think -25 is probably the limit!IMG_7163-HDROriginally a British base and called Adelaide Station it was abandoned in 1977 when Rothera was established and given to the Chilean’s in 1984 who renamed it Carvajal
IMG_7180The base is in a stunning location though pretty run down and its amazing to wander around an Antarctic ghost town.  IMG_8222Above the base is an abandoned plane which is great for random photos.  Bradders and Ben trying to fly the plane.
IMG_8232Another game of scrabble.  Ben and Octavian where both very keen to visit Carvajal so were thankfully not too put out when we got stuck in the tents for three days after we had visited.  “Lie up” days can be great fun with a bit of food and some games.  IMG_7198Emily and I visited Carvajal two weeks later in much warmer temperatures (-15)IMG_7118Emily had asked to build and igloo on her trip so when we woke up in a cloud on the second day it seemed an ideal opportunity.  Emily looking worried about having to build the roof over her own head.IMG_7516Tent and Igloo at night.  We managed to get the roof to stay on the igloo on our second attempt.  The peak above the igloo is “The legend” with the Myth the triangular subsidiary peak to the left.IMG_7545Bradders and Matt had waited a couple of days but came and found us at the Myth campsite.  We did offer for them to stay in the igloo but they declined.  The four of us enjoying the sun.IMG_7553Emily and I also had a day exploring some other areas.  We managed to climb to a coll between two mountains (Mt Mangin and Mt Barre) to get some views back towards Rothera.  Above – Amazing spindrift coming off the Mt Mangin ridge.
IMG_7564The view back towards Rothera in the bottom right of the photo.  As you can tell this was pretty late in the day by the time we got up to the coll (lots of false summits) but it meant for an amazing drive back in the sunset.IMG_7575Emily pleased to have finally made it.
IMG_7578The end is in sight.  My skidoo and sledge in McCallums pass.  Getting through the pass with a good amount of visibility is crucial so its always a relief to get there and find it looking like this.  The photo doesnt show some of the danger in the pass – the severely crevassed shambles glacier is heading down to the sea on the left and the pass goes up to the right of the mountain the skidoo is heading for (and through some more crevassing).IMG_8205Cant wait to get rid of the beard.  I am now trying to hang on until I’ve had it for a full year but it is pretty frustrating when your beard freezes to your moustache and you cant open your mouth!

The high pressure has broken at Rothera with a fairly stormy weekend but I’m currently waiting to see what the weather does tomorrow for my next winter trip – this time with the dive officer Kate.

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Work and Play

I’ve taken a vast amount of photos in the last few weeks since getting out of the field and haven’t really had the time to sort them into any semblance of order.  Hannah and a few others have commented on seeing photos of the “behind the scenes” stuff as well the pretty landscapes so I’ve been trying to get a bit better at taking these.  There is a couple of shots in here from earlier in the season as well.IMG_7317Serious science under the wing of a twin otter.  We are constantly surrounded by beautiful things but sometimes the pictures dont tell the full story.  This was in mid December with Mark and Hugh – this was taken just after midnight as I waited for Hugh to fit some ground penetrating radar into the hole Mark and I had just dug.  Always beautiful places but there is a lot of waiting around.
IMG_9428 The glamorous life of a field assistant.  Bradley trying to find some beefburgers in one of the many freezers.  In the end we unpacked about a third of the this freezer and still failed to find them.IMG_0485The HMS Protector in Ryder bay.  We have had a couple of ships in the last week, the protector and the final call of the Ernest Shackleton.
IMG_9445A very British BBQ.  We provided an a couple of days skiing for the crew of the Protector and then had a joint BBQ down at the wharf.  Not a massively glamorous location but the containers did make a good wind break.
IMG_8818 Octavian and Saz dismantling the sea ice camera.  Single day science stuff happens at very short notice whenever the weather plays ball – luckily most people need a field assistant to help get them to the site.  This camera was meant to take a photo a day for a year – unfortunately it was taking a photo a minute and only lasted a couple of weeks!IMG_8796 The glamorous life of a field assistant part 2.  Al sewing pockets in his tent.  You can just make out the climbing wall behind the tent – we definitely have the best office on base.IMG_8795 Three field assistants and the Comms manager, Danny hauling new batteries up to the radio repeater.  Each pulk had two batteries in each weighing 50kilos.  The guys looked pretty tired when they got back from dinner.IMG_8781 Rob walking out from an afternoons skiing in Stork Bowl – ski trips out of the flag line cross the boundary of work and play.IMG_8772 Al having a hard day at work.IMG_8104 Another science day trip.  Otty picking up “Algae samples” – judging by the huge elephant seal next to it I have no doubt what it was she was really collecting.  This was a pretty easy day for me as I was only there in case we got left out overnight.IMG_8089If I wasnt a Field Assistant I’d want to be a boatman – Adam coming to pick us up from some Algae sampling at Mackay point.IMG_9410We decided to head over to this extremely blue berg when out on the boat one day to check it out – unbelievable colours under a dark sky.
IMG_8466Otty also needed some samples from the nearby peaks.  Emma joined us (even though she is a marine biologist) and we decided to do a traverse of the three Stork peaks.  There were obviously no penguins or seals up there so it wasnt a surprise to me that there was also no “Algae”IMG_8455Otty and Emma enjoying the view from North Stork.IMG_7961More Science – I headed out with Ali (and two pilots, Al and Andy) so that she could fix the an automatic weather station.  Once I’d got us all across the non existant bergschrund I got to watch Ali do lots of things I didnt really understand.IMG_7966Andy and I amusing ourselves while we wait for Ali to finish (the swords are old geological markers)IMG_8121Another day another sciency thing.  Sam about to start working on a station that measures glacial rebound (how quickly the ground is coming back up after the ice has been removed) at Cape Marsh.IMG_8124Sam and Pippa checking out the extremely small Chilean hut at Cape Marsh.IMG_2349A happy elephant seal.

The last ship left this morning leaving only 21 people on base for the next six months.  Snow and strong winds made a fitting first day of winter.  Now its on to winter recreational trips for all the wintering staff.

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Sky Blu

Still getting through the backlog of photos so heres another post with some shots of Sky Blu where I was based for a couple of weeks in November last year and a few days off and on in the last couple of months.  Sky Blu is a blue ice runway and field camp roughly 600km south of Rothera which is permanently staffed by at least three staff for the summer season.  When I first flew into Sky blu after my week at Fossil Bluff (http://www.mountainstotheseaphotography.com/2015/12/fossil-bluff/) I could not believe how cold it was.  As Sky blu is at 4500ft above sea level it gets pretty cold and gets some incredibly high winds.  On the day I arrived it was -25degC and about +25deg inside the hut!  The runway at Sky Blu is essential to BAS operating deeper into the Antarctic Continent as the runway is made of blue ice allowing the larger airplane (Dash 7) to land on wheels allowing more cargo and fuel to be flown in.  The camp is staffed by two “mechs” and a field assistant with the mechs keeping the various machines working and clearing snow and the field assistant covers met observations, communications and various day to day chores around the camp.IMG_6266The pilots accommodation at the far end of camp.  All of the huts and tents are very spread out due to high winds.
IMG_6273The living melon hut and the various other tents strung out in a line.IMG_6263Inside the pilots melon hut
IMG_6330Inside the living melon hut.  Blair (far left) Brian (middle in orange) and Stu (far right) spent most of their summer at Sky blue going back to Rothera for a break about every three weeks.IMG_6332The comms desk and food storage.  IMG_6335Sky blue from one of the nearby peaks.  The two dots on the right are the melon huts and the other dots in line are (in order) the toilet tent, weatherhaven (sleeping) and the Garage.  The smaller dots are stores of various things.IMG_6309 There are a couple of peaks around Sky Blu which are great for a quick outing.  Brian, Blair and Bruno on “Mende”IMG_6340 Blair strolling up “Lanzerotte”IMG_6360 High winds outside the living Melon HutIMG_6426 There is also lots of ice.  While there were a few of us waiting around we managed a pretty good game of curling using large food tins and various brushes.  Cheese, Al and Sam discussing the rules.IMG_6448 Cheese in actionIMG_6552 Stu in giving a tin of beans some speed.IMG_6620 Facilities at Sky Blu are pretty limited.  After we had been there a couple of weeks Stu rigged up a shower.  I think this is Sam showering but I didnt want to zoom in.IMG_6655 Inside the sleeping tent.IMG_6658The sleeping tent.IMG_6657One of the coolest things I learnt while at Sky blue is that when its cold your washing freezes and then becomes dry without every becoming wet again.  This was a complete revelation to me (called sublimation) but probably not to most people who paid attention in school.IMG_6668Probably my favourite thing at Sky Blu was the ice crystals in the underground garages.  IMG_6678Midnight on Doppler Nunatak.

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R is for Rothera?

I usually try for one blog post a month with around twelve photos.  Although I have managed this so far I can feel the photos building up and theres nothing worse than just hiding them away on a harddrive.  I also realised that I had not yet posted anything about Rothera where I am ultimately based for a year and half.  As a field assistant Rothera is the home we return to from the field complete with amazing food, internet access, phones, a bar etc etc.  It is also where all the equipment gets shipped into the field from but for most field assistants the R is really for Recreation.  While there is a decent area for people to ski and snowboard in (within a flagged area) all the staff at Rothera need a field assistant with them if they want to go outside this area.  Though this does mean that there is a slight tinge of work to your days off it does also mean you get to all the best places.  Included in this post is a few photos from the last four months when I have been briefly back at Rothera.IMG_5822Icebergs against the shore at the point.  This was taken on one of my first evenings on base in October.IMG_5837Cross at sunset at the Southern end of Base.  Mat Etheridge and Al Docherty trying not to shiver in the wind.
IMG_5838New Bransfield House (looking Northish)  New Bransfield holds the Dining room, Library, Bar, TV rooms and computer room.IMG_5899Admirals building at the start of season.  My window is the second alongIMG_5900Standard en suite room in Admirals.IMG_8046Rothera from the North.  The big building on the left is New Bransfield, the Yellow tower is the Comms tower and the building to the right is Admirals.IMG_5914Twin Otter being loaded with a skidoo (its a tight fit!) Rothera has the furthest south hard runway of any of the Antarctic bases so is also a busy airport.  IMG_2290Malcy leading the top pitch of “Blue Sky White Berg” (HVS) with the edge of the runway just visible at the bottom of the photo.  There are over 100 rock, ice and mixed routes within a quick skidoo of base.IMG_2325Me leading the top pitch of “Final Countdown” (E1)
IMG_6032The edge of Stork Bowl.  There is two ski slopes within the base flag line and then numerous other skiing oppurtunities on the surrounding peaks.  Stork Bowl is as much of a powder trap as there seems to be nearby.
IMG_6042 First line in Stork Bowl.IMG_6104 Thought I better include a picture of someone snowboarding (Tom Griffin)IMG_6119 Fran cruising.IMG_6139 Sam getting low on his telemark turnsIMG_7919 More climbing.  Al Docherty pulling through the steep section of “Release the Bats”(VS (though potentially a bit of a sandbag))IMG_7973In the show crevasse.  The show crevasse is used for training and recreation.  A quick lower or abseil into a crazy world of ice chandeliers.  Usually as a mountaineer you avoid going anywhere near crevasses but I have to admit it is pretty amazing to wander around the bottom of one for a while.
IMG_7978 The climb back out of the show crevasse.IMG_8008Rothera also has plenty of wildlife.  Elephant on the beach at Mackay point to the North of Rothera.  During the summer these are everywhere at Rothera burping and farting constantly and trying to sleep on the runway.IMG_8037 Sleepy Adelie.  Seeing as there have been complaints that I havent put any penguin pictures up yet I thought I better get one in.  Being in the Field all summer means that I have missed most of the penguins being around but I’m sure this wont be the last penguin you see on the blog!IMG_8131We very occasionally get tourist ships visit.  Today we had the “Fram” and they were kind enough to let us use their hottub!

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