Monday, 10 March 2014

Adventures in Antarctica

Hello again from the southern seas. Firstly, apologies for the absence of a blog post over the past few days. It has been a bit of a whirlwind with very sporadic Internet access. Anyhow, we boarded our trusty research vessel, the RRS James Clark Ross last night and have since been busily unpacking boxes, setting up equipment, familiarizing ourselves with the rabbit warren of ship corridors and generally getting everything up and running.

The RRS James Clark Ross comes into dock

 More to follow soon on ship and science but for now we thought we would blog about our amazing Antarctic adventures which have taken place over the last few days! Thanks to Tom for all the photos.
So, casting our minds back to 6am on Friday morning - there was a buzz of excitement whilst we strolled across the runway as the sun rose behind the Dash 7. Safely strapped in our seats, the engines roared and
within minutes we were admiring an ever-shrinking Punta Arenas.
The Dash 7 flying high above Rothera base

For most of the flight we were able to walk around the tiny aircraft, peering over the shoulders of Alan and Jon, our dashing (geddit?!) pilots into the cockpit or peeking through the oval windows to admire the cloud formations and blue seas below. It wasn't long before lone icebergs appeared, scattered over the sea surface. Katy was particularly lucky, getting to sit in the cockpit with Alan and Jon as we descended into Rothera.The snowy peaks loomed out of the midst and we were there!
The base at Rothera 

We received a warm welcome from the lovely folk on the base. A mixture of scientists, field assistants, electricians, medical doctors,engineers and many more - there was immediately a strong sense of community. After a hearty lunch, we received a brief safety introduction and a tour around the base, our home for the night. 

A walk round the point

 Just days before we arrived there had been some heavy snowfall and everything was carpeted in sparkling white, punctuated by the occasional enormous elephant seal lounging in the sunshine. In the evening we took a walk around the point, past seals, penguins and spectacular panoramic views over the bay.
Brian and penguins!
A Weddle seal

On Saturday morning Scott and 'Cheese', some of the field staff on Rothera, took us deep into the ice – crevasse caving! After donning crampons and heavy weather gear, we were lowered about 7m down under the ice. It was a bit of a tight squeeze! The network of icicle studded caverns and tunnels were breathtaking! Blue light filtered down through the ice and snow overhead, and the crevasse was filled with creaking and chiming sounds.

Katy under the ice

Setting foot on Antarctica has been a lifelong dream for us both. And the actual experience far surpassed our expectations. It was truly a wonderful place!

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