The ship has left Hobart to come and get us and our time here is quickly coming to a close. On the one hand I’m mercilessly harassing our risk averse station leader into letting me experience everything I can in the last few weeks, and as a result I’ve pulled off some great little trips away.
On the other hand I’m starting to get excited about plans for the upcoming summer back in the real world. A few friends have asked what I’ll be getting up to. I may not have a definitive answer but I certainly have given it some thought. After my year of isolation I often think that all I need on my return is a special girl but as these are rather fickle creatures with a mind of their own, I have several other plans unfolding. I’m buying a new wing, kite, and packraft, I’ve arranged a week of sailplanes in New Zealand, I’m chasing a few mountaineering leads and I’ve even thought about sailing. There has been much talk of South America with a couple of the guys on station, and many other travelling ideas have been put on the table. The first thing I want to do though when I return to Australia is experience the unfettered freedom of the mountains… So it’s off to the wilds of southwest Tasmania.
My next post may well be on my flying blog, although I imagine I’ll be inclined to document the resupply – over ice this time – and the journey on the ship back to Hobart. It’s been a great year and the ship will be a good way to unwind and mentally transition to our reintegration into society! It’s a shame that our crew will part ways before the ship – some are staying on for summer, and others have air transfers to Mawson or Casey. With the Antarctic “A” factor (not to mention a dysfunctional US government) who knows exactly what will happen. It’s a time to be open minded and enjoy the moment.
I don’t believe I’ve turned a field trip down yet. Bob with his inexhaustible enthusiasm appreciates the value of getting off station too and made sure I had a good look around Kazak island while he extracted data from the mini weather station. This is in conjunction with the adjacent automatic camera which takes photos to monitor the sea ice. In this area strong winds periodically blow it all away so it is constantly reforming in various stages. It’s an interesting place with great views of the terminus of the Sorsdal glacier. During our visit there was plenty of open water and some “early birds” (it can’t be accessed by helicopter in the summer as it is a nesting colony).
During my last visit to Paulk lake I promised myself I would return before the season was out. Time flies and I really had to work hard to have that opportunity. In the end we had a perfect window of weather to do (most!) of the walk, returning as the wind whipped up blowing snow and made it sound like we were in Antarctica as it howled past our ears in Trajer ridge hut.
Ellis narrows is a small polynya of sorts (permanently ice free area) caused by the tidal flow of sea water through a tight constriction in Ellis fiord. Occasionally a high tide will result in water overflowing onto the top of the surrounding sea ice. In winter it will refreeze to a glassy sheen but now the daytime sun is quite warm. Although there is at least double the required thickness of quality sea ice underneath, there were a few mushy spots around the snow blizzard trails.
Back at base there are a few things left to tick off. Roy finally managed to get himself organised to do a guest balloon release. I bamboozled him with information and his only question was, “will I be able to get a photo taken?”. My lecture was nothing like the bamboozlement the station got from Bob after I persuaded him to do a science talk. Being a fellow engineer with an interest in atmospheric physics I found it quite informative to see how things tie in with the BOM ozone program.
Myself I thought I better latch onto one of the twice daily diesel generator power house observations and get a personalised tour. I had been meaning to do this for quite some time but as it happened my first visit there was at 2am for a fire alarm! Now I’ve had the tour it’s time to hassle the comms guys about seeing inside the ANARE dome. My power house tour leader in his youthful past mistook this large satellite communications radome for the hydroponics hut, but not having seen inside yet who am I to say it isn’t full of cabbage.
One job of the last month was packing up my iMac computer. I couldn’t leave it with only 1GB of free hard drive space. Yearbook photos were extracted and backups made before packing everything up. Only days afterward my iPod stopped working. Meanwhile the iPad has less functionality after upgrading the OS and I am feeling quite reliant on my iPhone, with an uneasy feeling that I could be overinvested in Apple. At least now I have no excuse not to read the 2012 New Zealand Alpine club journal. I had scrambled to get this on the ship for V3 in January but in the end I hadn’t even taken the plastic wrapping off until October! Reading about the first climb of the most remote island in the world in the middle of the Southern Ocean was interesting.
The dieso’s have been busy ploughing a runway (officially known as a ski landing area) on the rather bumpy sea ice out in front of the station. This will be used until it deteriorates and a new runway is made further north at Plough island. As the summer progresses the sea ice will be abandoned altogether and the runway moved to the ice plateau at Whoop Whoop.
Even though Whoop Whoop won’t be used by aircraft yet, the weather station still provides important information for the forecasters and aviation. I fixed it last month but a few days later it reported an 84 knot gust before apparently succumbing to static electricity generated by the blizzard. So we made some modifications and returned, a broken wind cup confirming the strong winds.
Speaking of which, I have to go up there again! Back to work…