Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Camping/ Mountaineering/ and Ice climbing

After we had our last field training session, we were cleared to head out for activities! We hopped into the snowcat and headed up the ramp to climb Badger’s Buttress. Here with helmets and crampons on our boots, we roped up five in a line to each other and started up the mountain. The climb was icy, snowy and a bit challenging at times, but the view from the top was totally worth it. It was absolutely magnificent to perch at the top of the peak and look out. After the climb back down, we headed to set up camp.

Finally after digging a 12ft by 12ft square hole in the ground for the pyramid tent and getting it all set up, we were ready to melt some snow to cook our dinner. “Manfood” as it is referred to here, is probably quite terrible in reality, but rehydrated “pasta carbonara” from a silver pouch tastes pretty decent after a full day! Sleep was easy to find after we curled up into our sleeping bags. The next morning we awoke to find it had snowed about 8 inches. Great! More snow to dig our tents out of. Setting up and taking down camp in the Antarctic is NOT an easy task. After spending a few hours taking down the tents, we hoped back into the snowcat, back towards Rothera for a Christmas Eve ice climb down the crevasse.

Climbing down the crevasse was such an experience. We repelled down a two foot wide hole in the snow about 30 feet into the first “ice cavern”. Inside the crevasse was just like being inside a cave made of ice. Although it is supposedly stunning on a sunny day, my view on this cloudy day was still spectacular. One downfall, pictures do not turn out on a cloudy day. We’ll just have to go back on a sunny day. We then climbed further down the crevasse through a few more tight squeezes (which I must say I honestly wasn’t thrilled about, but it was totally worth it in the end). The icicles were just beautiful. Mimicking huge stalagtites and stalagmites, they almost glow blue-ish green. It was such a perfect way to spend Christmas Eve morning.

Some photos:
Photo 1: Badgres's Buttress
Photo 2: getting ready to climb
Photo 3: making our way up
Photo 4: at the top
Photo 5: view from the top
Photo 6: tents
Photo 7: cozy inside the tent

Monday, December 21, 2009

Around the point

Since yesterday was such a nice, sunny day, it was perfect for a stroll around the point.  A walk around the point from South Bay to North Bay takes about an hour (see map).  There are usually lots of seals and penguins to see and lots of ice and rocks to climb over.  Because the snow is starting to melt, you sink to about your knees while walking, which is fun at fist, but after awhile gets to be tiring.  Along with the melting snow and appearnce of rocks, we can now see many lichens.  Lichens are a composite organism consisting of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae.  I particularly like the lichens and often find myselft slowly strolling amongst the rocks photographing what probably seems like the ground to those around me.  Lichens are really the only "plants" in the Antarctic and there are about 20ish different species of around Rothera.  They are quite colorful amongst the white, gray, and black colors commonly to the Antarctic.  Here are some photos from yesterday's walk. 
Photo1: lichens
Photo2: iceberg in North Bay
Photo3: sunny North Bay
Photo4: seal with an attitude
Photo5: view of Rothera from North Bay side

Thursday, December 17, 2009


We are now back at Rothera for our three week(ish) stay. Things have been soo busy, I’ve hardly had any extra time to write! The science collecting on the JCR was successful, but very intense. We now have lots of samples to sort, identify, and extract DNA from.

The night before we got off the ship at Rothera we got to go ashore to an old British base from the 1950’s on Horseshoe Island. We climbed down the rope ladder off the side of the ship in our waterproof boat suits, into a small humber boat and headed ashore. The small hut was quite cozy and left almost just like it was when it was abandoned. Food items and dishes were still perched on the shelves, beds still made up, and personal items place about. Overall, a great surprise evening-trip ashore.

The next day we landed at Rothera and had several training and briefing sessions for “how-to’s” for things and places around base. There is much to do on base, i.e. skiing/ ice-climbing, camping, social events in the main building, oh and of course science. Housing about 85 people, Rothera is like a small community. Life is easy and fun at Rothera. Everyone helps everyone and there are very little “stresses” of the real world to worry about… not to mention the view out the window is endlessly stunning! The weather has still been very “Antarctic”… lots of snow and wind and every now and then a nice sunny day. It is light 24 hours a day right now, which makes it very easy to lose track of your perspective on time of day, but also easy to stay awake. In the next few weeks I hope to check skiing, ice climbing down in the crevasse, camping, and a bit of science off the list!

Here are some more recent photos:
Photo1: basket star (photo taken by Pete Bucktrout)
Photo2: featre star (photo taken by Pete Bucktrout)
Photo3: octopus (photo taken by Pete Bucktrout)
Photo4: Horseshoe Island base
Photo5: Inside the hut
Photo6: Iron on rocks at Horseshoe Island
Photo7: Last sunset on JCR
Photo8: Group shot on JCR

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Since we arrived at Rothera, things have been too busy to write.  They day we arrived at Rothera, the sun was shinning bright and everyone turned out to greet us.  The two twin otter planes also did a flyby to welcome us!  We stayed alongside Biscoe Warf for three days unloading cargo and preparing the scientific gear.  Then after all cargo was complete, we set sail for the scientific collecting cruise for 9 days.  Collecting has been intense, but rewarding.  There are two teams collecting around the clock.  The pelagic team pulls nets through to collect animals in the water column and the benthic team (me) pulls nets and trawls along the bottom to collect the animals that live there.

Don’t have much time to write… we’ll be back at Rothera on Thursday night and will have plenty of time to update then.  In the meantime…. Just some photos. 

Photo1: Rothera Station
Photo2: Welcome party up on point
Photo3: Twin otter fly over
Photo 4: Sea star

Photo 5: Adelie penguin
Photo 6: Brittle stars
Photo7: me + Steffi w/ trawl on aft deck
Photo8: Leopard seal