Sunday, 31 August 2008

Yesterday Rob, Dan & I set off for a second round of crevasse exploration. We came across a promising-looking slump in the snow and managed to open up a small hole in the snow bridge through which to enter.

A ramp of snow (a 'false floor' probably created by a previously collapsed snow bridge) gave us an easy entry into the main crevasse. It was considerably wider than the previous slot we'd discovered and continued opening up towards the top where it was heavily bridged by snow. Large lumps of old snow bridge littered the false floor on which we were standing. In winter it can be expected that the snow bridges are 'fairly stable' as temperatures are low and there is little sunlight to cause melting. There's always that chance that they might 'go' but then you might get run over by a skidoo tomorrow....
Dan went ahead fixing the rope to the solid walls of the crevasse as he went. We're always clipped into the rope just incase the floor decides to disappear beneath us! Rob descending into the crevasse

The point where we had entered was fairly cavernous, leading off this was a small chamber where Dan headed off to check what was around the corner. Rob and I stood patiently listening to the sounds of "****", "wow", "ermmm", lots of hammering with ice axes and nervous laughter. Finally we were allowed to follow. There was a large fin of ice coming up into the centre of the narrowed crevasse, Dan had knocked the top off enabling us to move along it in a very dignified shuffling manner. In the words of Greg & Al (the infamous [at Rothera anyway] NZ yoga instructors whose video yoga-routine we regularly follow) "the guys may need to re-adjust the placement of their tackle for this move"...There were some amazing ice formations including large ice-crystals (about an inch long) that resembled feathers (and sadly were difficult to get a photo of) and in one corner a mass of icy threads which looked like spider webs.
It is an unusal feeling entering these stunning underground ice caves, into which possibly no one has ever been (there hasn't been much recorded about people visiting crevasses in this area). You feel extremely priviliged yet extremely vulnerable (despite all the protection you put in place). They are extraordinarily beautiful places where calm and cold conditions allow for the creation of unbelievable ice formations, often sculpted by the flow of air through its passages. There is a sense of time standing still, as whatever the weather is doing up top, underground it is calm, with dim blue light shining through where the snow bridge is at its thinnest. It is deathly quiet and you are filled with a great sense of awe for the place. I have only been down three crevasses and each has been entirely different, I'm looking forward to seeing what suprises the next one holds....

Saturday, 9 August 2008


Today has, in some ways, been rather frustrating. It's been nearly a month since I've been able to get out to do a CTD - the CTD is an instrument which measures Conductivity (from which you can work out the salinity (saltiness) of the water), Temperature and Depth. It also hosts a PAR sensor (which measures Photosynthetically Active Radiation i.e. the part of the sunlight that the phytoplankton use) and a fluorometer (which measures the amount of phytoplankton in the water). The CTD is attached to a winch mounted on a RIB (small boat) and taken to a site in Ryder Bay where it is winched (by hand) to 500m and back twice a week in the summer and once a week in the winter. This gathers important oceanographic data which contributes to a data set spanning 10 years for Ryder Bay, this is one of the largest data sets for Antarctic waters and one of very few spanning summer and winter months.
Since early July some promising-looking sea ice had been forming in Ryder Bay, sadly high temperatures (up to 2oC) and high winds have caused the sea ice to break out and we're back to open water. After being unable to boat because of the ice (which was too thin to take skidoos on in order to do a CTD) this week has been too windy to go out boating. It started to calm down yesterday afternoon but no sooner had we got out to the CTD site (about 3km from base) the wind increased and changed direction causing us to head for home and making recovery of the boats rather interesting. This morning the weather looked promising once again but the pesky wind picked up just as we were donning our boat suits. It did drop off this afternoon, only to give way to snow showers which reduced visibility too much for us to go out. Still... sitting around waiting to see what the weather did involved drinking lots of tea so it wasn't such a bad thing.

Deploying the CTD on a dingle day in summer

Elsewhere on base.....

Adam and Matty have been setting up the new overhang on the climbing wall in Fuchs House. Graham (chippy) has done a marvellous job on the structure and we're all looking forward to trying it out. The only problem is there is a shortage of large holds so it could end up being rather challenging.

Currently there are a number of people on base training for the Rothera Triathlon, basically we're going to put ourselves through a few hours of utter tedium sitting in the gym for a 5km row, 30km bike then 10km run. For some there is the challenge of getting their best time or being the fastest. For me it's more a case of if I don't die I will be delighted :)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Antarctitc 48-hour Film Festival

This weekend stations all over Antarctica took part in the first ever continent-wide 48 hour film making competition. This has been run at McMurdo Station and Scott Base for the last two years, but this year they invited other Antarctic stations that have a winter crew were to join in. To ensure the films were filmed and edited over one weekend a number of randomly drawn elements to be inlcuded in the films were picked and e-mailed on Friday evening. These included a cardboard box, an 'FNG' (american base slang for a 'new guy'), the line "what do you mean you want a day of for Midwinter?" and a bodily noise that wasn't speech.
Our film was very much a base-wide effort and it was brilliant to see everyone working together so well. Here are a few photos from the weekend but to get the full story have a look at the end result here....

Jim (AKA the FNG)

Adam playing a convincing dame

Matty the Producer & Editor checking the set

James, Ferg & Bravo getting that perfect camera angle

Some disturbing extra footage can be seen by following these links....

Adam gets to grips with his new physique -

Doc Jason takes time to admire Matty's handywork with the prop making-