Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
It has been an amazing 3 weeks, with lots of interviews, lots of skiing and not a lot of sleep. Some of the things that I noticed in my time here include:
- the snow feels like talc, very dry, fine and powdery
- even with a high, high wind it can still be quite warm outside if you're wearing the right clothes
- some sea ice tastes salty and some doesn't
- most of the rocks here are volcanic, so black or brown and rough
- penguins have longer tails than I thought
- you can tell if the scheduled plane hasn't come in by the amount of fresh produce for dinner that night (or lack thereof)
- despite having light all day, time still seems to whiz by
- Antarctica is a really cool place, but it is also a home to the people who work here
I've really enjoyed my experience here. We've worked super hard to collect as many interviews as possible and I am really looking forward to getting home and sleeping (and eating lots of fresh fruit like cherries, strawberries, apricots and nectarines).
Friday, December 3, 2010
[The wind whistling through the bamboo poles]
Yesterday, the wind picked up. In fact, we had gusts up to 35 knots (that’s about 65 km/h). And although it doesn’t actually snow all that much here in Antarctica, there is a lot of snow around to be blown about. So with all that snow caught up in the wind and being whipped about we loose something rather important – the horizon.
The horizon is an interesting feature. When we are at home we often do not spend much time thinking about it. It is simply there, in the distance, disappearing around the bending of the earth. But here in Antarctica it is important. Because the sky and the ground can be such similar shades and tones and colours, the absence of a horizon means you can loose yourself between the earth, or ice rather, and the sky. It also means the planes can’t land.
Yesterday, the C-17 was supposed to land and take several people home to New Zealand. But without knowing where the sky stops and the ground begins, the pilots have no idea where to land. So our friends are stuck here at Scott Base until Monday. And hopefully they will be able to land then, because my flight home is the next day, on Tuesday. Fingers crossed the storm has passed by then.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
[A meal well enjoyed]
I found my way to a table of kiwis and we tucked into our delicious meal. We chatted with the token American at our table and enjoyed each others company. I showed my Kiwi friends how to extract crab meant from crab legs and we slowly ate through our dinners. By 8:30pm we were stuffed and ready for home.
Monday, November 29, 2010
[Driving on the sea ice]
Finally we arrived at Royds. We stumbled out of the Hagglund, grabbed our bags and headed for the peninsula. We started by hiking up a slope to find two frozen water lakes. Their surfaces frozen to a smooth glassy sheen that rippled like liquid water. Parts of the surface were pocketed with holes made by dust and stone blown onto the surface and causing differential melting. It was great fun to carefully slide across the surface. At one point I bent down to lick the ice to see if it was fresh or salty, I discovered much to my companions delight that it was quite salty and didn’t taste all that great.
[Frozen lake at Cape Royds]
[The Ross Sea]
We wandered along the coast and took pictures of penguins and seals. We found a really neat pressure dome to climb inside and explore. And we eventually made our way over to Shackleton’s hut nestled beside the penguin rookery and out of the prevailing wind by the surrounding volcanic hills. The raucous sounds of the penguins filled the air almost as much as their fishy smell. To think that these are the same smells and sounds and sights that Shackleton and his men shared is a neat feeling. It was a neat feeling. The inside of the hut was pretty amazing as well. The musty light filtering through the old glass windows playing with the dust moats in the air. It was very still and quiet there, filled with the tedious memories of cooking dinner on a wood stove, eating dehydrated eggs from a can and fiddling in the dark room with cold fingers to produce the images we can see today in books and museums. Very cool indeed.
[A pressure dome in the sea ice]
[Walking along the sea ice]
Soon our times was running short and we still had a 3 hour trip home. So we climbed back into the Hagglund and rumbled across the sea ice to our own little oasis on the other side of Ross Island.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I have been out a few times, once by myself which was a neat experience and twice with people here on base. It is neat to ski through a completely treeless environment with very little on the landscape to give you a sense of scale – or how far away things are. So something that looks only one kilometre away might actually be 6 kilometres away. It is an interesting feeling – mostly it makes you feel very, very small. But at the same time, by exploring the environment around Scott Base I am starting to feel more at home and more located in the Antarctic environment, it is less out there, less unknown, a more a part of me.
[Do you remember what the green and red flags mean? - a safe route, always follow the flags]
Another great pass time here is the observation tube. Over in front of McMurdo, the Americans have set up a metal tube through the sea ice and under water. You climb down the tube using a wee ladder and emerge into a tiny room surrounded by windows. There is even a little box to sit on as you stare out through the windows into the blue, green, yellow seascape filled with fishes, krill, jelly fish and more. If you listen you can hear the rumbling boom of the big heavy vehicles as they drive over the ice a kilometre away and the voices of the people above you as they wait for their turn. After your eyes adjust to the darkness of the sea, you can begin to see the silver flash of fish, the watery shapes of sea stars on the bottom and the ghostly figures of delicate diatoms as they swim by. In Antarctica, it is the ocean where life flourishes. The greatest form of life here is the algae that live on the bottom of the sea ice, making it the glowing yellowy-green that it is in the pictures. After 15 minutes of staring in awe and wonder at the alien beauty of this flourishing environment my time was up and I climbed back up the ladder to my friends waiting for their turn down the tube.
[Opening up the Observation tube]
[Looking out the windows]
[Coming back up the tube for the next person to head down]