Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Blog

Just a quick note to say that for my next trip to Antarctica (which I leave for in 4 weeks), I'll be using another blog, which can be found at:

I hope you follow me on this coming trip, and enjoy my content...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Two trips to Willy's Field

Ok, so after we found out that our flight wasn't going ahead, Naomi, Glen and I went for a drive. About 8km from Scott Base is Williams Field- the runway for ski-equipped planes. This includes smallish Twin Otters and big LC-130 Hercules. This is where the planes fly from to the South Pole (about 5 flights a day to the pole at the moment). Planes also go from here to the deep field camps. So it's a pretty busy place.
Also based at Willy's is the LDB project- where they send Long Duration Balloons way up into the stratosphere in the hope that they'll get into the polar vortex- winds that whip around and around Antarctica for a month or two each summer. The balloons manage to stay up for ~30 days, and can circle Antarctica a couple of times! So these balloons are pretty massive- they're not that big on the ground, but once they get up to altitude they expand. The payloads that they carry are assembled in the tallest buildings on the continent!
Anyway, the launch didn't go ahead, as they have to wait for perfect weather conditions- including consistent winds both at ground level and at the high altitudes which they'll be flying at.

So, after getting back from our drive, Glen and I decided to head out on the mountain bikes back out there for some exercise. The road is pretty well maintained, and it was actually easier than riding on the roads around Wellington! It's all pretty flat, and there's not much traffic. It's on the Ross Ice Shelf, which is a floating mass of ice which has come off the glaciers surrounding it. It
s the pressure of it ramming into Ross Island near Scott Base that causes the pressure ridges. On the road these aren't as severe, but you get pressure rollers which look like big swells in the ocean- very cool to ride over.

It took us about 20-30 minutes to ride each way, altho it took a bit longer on the way back because we took some photos. A very nice way to spend an extra day in Antarctica! A bit of exercise too.

The LDB buildings. The two big buildings are where they put together the science payloads which hang below the balloons. The big vehicle is called The Boss (after Ernest Shackleton), and is used to launch the balloons.

Glen and I at Williams Field.

Twin Otter taking off.

LC-130 Hercules.

The strange thing about this sign was that you could read it from the far side of the road- where you're supposed to be!

Glen riding along..

Turning round to see if I'm here to bike or just take photos!

Out at Willy's again..

Twin Otter taxiing to take off.

Three different modes of transport. Glen on the bike, then a reasonable small American vehicle, and then their big-assed Delta trucks.

Biking round..


Doing some skids! haha.

Awesome Twin Otter kitted out for some geophysical surveys- it's got a Lidar, ground penetrating radar, absolute gravity meter, magnetometer (sp?). All positioned with some reasonably high accurate GPS, but the guy wouldn't tell me how they're processing it, haha.

If you go off the groomed road, you don't get very far!

Glen, with Erebus in the background.

Glen and I riding along.

Me with Erebus behind.

Glen riding back.

Ivan the Terra Bus, with some American Hagglunds behind.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stay of execution

Just an update- our flight has been put back till Saturday now. There was a mechanical problem with the plane this morning, which they fixed, but not to the standard that Boeing want for passengers or something, so they're working on getting approval. Anyway, we'll be coming back on either a C17 or a C130 Hercules on Saturday- fingers crossed.
So today, after waiting for ages to see if our flight would go ahead, headed out to Willies Field in a toyota to see the Long Duration Balloon launch, but it ended up being postponed.
Later in the afternoon, Glen and I biked out there (on the ice shelf), which is ~8km each way. It's a very nice ride! Photos to come later!

Marching orders

Well, the time's finally come to return to New Zealand. Our plane is supposed to leave around 9:30 I think. It's a C-130 Hercules, so it'll be a looong flight- getting to Christchurch late afternoon.

I'm going to be pretty sad to leave this place. The only consolation is that I'll be coming back next year.. I do have to wait 10.5 months for that though!

It's been a spectacular 5 weeks- to the point that its overwelming. The place is just so immense, and so awe-inspiring, that your brain can't quite comprehend it all.

And then, at the same time, it's all kinda easy. You get on a plane in Christchurch and 5 hours later you're stepping off in Antarctica! For the majority of the time that I've been here, the weather's been great and it hasn't really hindered our work at all. You dress a little differently, but its not really restrictive, and you have a few limitations on where you can go, but otherwise it's all pretty easy. And really, we have limitations in NZ around where you can go with property rights etc.

Most of the time we've been at Scott Base, which is kept warm to the point that we just wear t-shirts and jeans. You look outside and it's a bright sunny day with a little bit of a breeze, and it's not until you go outside that you feel a bit of a chill.

When there isn't a breeze, which isn't uncommon, its usually quite warm- to the point that you sometimes don't need a jacket, and if you're doing some physical work, you can get by in short sleeves.

But it is the windchill that gets you. It saps the warmth right out of you and you have to protect all your skin from it. But because you're aware of the risk you take more precautions. I've often been a lot colder in the mountains of NZ than I've ever been down here, because you're aware of the risk, and you don't want to be the guy that gets sent home for frostbite.

Anyway, thats a bit of a rant, and now I've got to go say goodbye to the great people that work here, and thank them for being so accepting of us. We've really felt like part of the team here, which is great!

I might write another sort of summary once i get back, and have had a chance to digest it all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Evening bike-ride..

Ok, another quick post with some photos.
This evening Naomi and I went for a bike ride across the hill, past McMurdo, to Hut Point (the site of Scott's Discovery hut). From there we walked up the Hut Point Ridge Trail for a bit, before getting bored and deciding to bike some more.

Oh, and my flight's been put off a day, so now heading back on Thursday, sweet.

Looking north over the ridges in the seaice. It really looks like the frozen sea that it is when you're up higher.

Being saintly in front of Mary.

Naomi looking out over the part of a frozen sea that is McMurdo Sound.

Naomi, Hut Point, McMurdo Sound and Mt Discovery.

Just wanted a photo in front of this wannigan labelled 'DC'. :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Skiing in Antarctica

So I know its been a while, and this may be my last post from the ice (I'm scheduled to leave on Wednesday). But most of our work's been around base, so there haven't been many photos. And I've been living it instead of writing about it!

Anyway, today was the opening of the Scott Base Skifield. So here's some photos from that. It was a great day of skiing (especially for someone like me- i think this was my 5th day skiing!).

The president of the Ski Club arriving!

The throng of onlookers. We were told to wear something shiny and a nice hat!

El Presidente exiting his vehicle. The president this year is Ian- the AFT instructor that came to Cape Roberts with us.

It's the Presidents privilege to make the first run of the season.

Crossing the tape at the bottom.

Giving his opening speech.

Naomi ready to ski!

The Slope.

El Presidente showing us how it's done..

On the tow-rope.

Coming off the tow.

Tracey casually snowboarding.

Naomi kicking up some snow.


Mmmmm, BBQ!!

Smiling for the camera!

Posing for the camera.

Pretending to fall over for the camera.

The bottom of the slope, from the top of the tow.

Some of the view from the top.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bringing in the GPS

Alrighty, a few more photos to keep you going...

So today we took down out GPS that was sitting on the seaice outside Scott Base since last Friday.. We left it running longer than usual for a couple of reasons, including the fact that we put it out early before a storm came through, and that we were off base yesterday so couldn't take it down then.

So after digging the big hole, the storm came through and filled it back up again. As you can see, it's pretty much back to the original level again. So we had to dig that all out back down to the ice (carefully so that we didn't disturb the instrument) so that we could check that the height of it hadn't changed. Once we'd done that, we had to fill the hole back up again, so that no-one fell in it. And so that a penguin didn't fall in and couldn't get out! haha.

The GPS in the 'hole'.

GPS with Ob Hill in the background.

The snow melted off certain parts (the darker ones) of the case first- pretty sweet.

Digging out the hole.. Well, posing at this stage.

Glen re-drilling the hole so that we could measure to the water-level.

Thats a lot of drill.. That's ice at the bottom of the hole.

In the hole.

Again, tidying up the hole. Gives another meaning to 'snowcraft' really.

The covered-in hole.

We got our gear to and from the hole with a sled. This is me pulling it. It wasn't actually that hard..

Pretending to be a sled dog! ;-)

Yus! Finally managed to get some frost on my beard!!!