Graeme's photos and
notes from Antarctica Oct - Dec 2003
(Click on any image for a larger view)
Received 30 October
A couple of photos of out at field training and a short walk
up into the ice fall north of Scott Base.
Received 1 November
Left Wellington last Sunday and flew to Christchurch where we got kitted out at Antarctica New Zealand then off to the hotel for the night. Flight south was scheduled for 11.00 Monday with an 8.00 pickup at the hotel. Unlike other trips south where we often experience numerous delays the shuttle was at the hotel on time then out to the airport, caught up with Don, through customs and onto the plane by 10.00 with us taking off at11.05. Traveled to McMurdo on a C141 Starlifter so was a quick trip arriving at McMurdo in a little over 5 hours. Had 81 people on board (11 Kiwi's) so was a little crammed. A rather cool -20 degrees, but calm and warm. Rushed off to Scott Base for dinner then a quick debrief and planning for field safely training.
Tuesday was up early and several safety lectures before going out on our overnight on the sea ice east of Scott base. Again was calm and cool. Unlike later in the season when we usually come down, the temperature at this time of the years ranges between about -12 during the day and -20 at night. Side some crevasse work up through the ice falls and then set camp for the night. Decided we needed a challenge so 4 of us set about making an igloo to sleep in - it occupied the time and although functional was not the best design as it had a few holes in it which let the spin-drift in later in the night when it started falling and blowing. Nevertheless it was a very pleasant night out under the midnight sun and in the snow and ice. Wednesday completed safety training and we returned to Scott Base.
Thursday was spent getting some field gear, finding various GPS antennas sent to Scott Base and catching up with American colleagues over at McMurdo. Things seemed unusually under control although there were problems getting the fixed wing aircraft organised to fly down towards the Beardmore Glacier to site some of the new GPS marks which will be serviced by fixed wing because of their distance from McMurdo. However a plan was made to go a retrieve data from the three GPS fixed sites at Cape Roberts, Mt Flemming, and Fishtail Point the following day. So yesterday, with another fine cool day three of us headed out for the day at 8.30 in the morning in a Squirrel. Compared to previous years there is a lot of snow around and one of the solar-panels at Cape Roberts was fully covered by snow. Mt Flemming, at around 7000ft was very cold and windy. However data was retrieved from all sites and the receivers set running again. For those who have seen the permanent sites, the box at Fishtail point had been moved by the wind and wedged up against a rock and holed and filled with snow. Despite that the receiver had kept running and of the three sites collected the most data. Finally got back to McMurdo late in the afternoon rather tired and windblown. Don started his field training.
Today is a day around Scott Base collected some more field gear for drum beacon removal. Yesterday was Halloween so there is a big party tonight over at McMurdo which no doubt we will go too. Tomorrow there is a 'family' trip for Scott base staff out to Cape Evans so plan to go along for the ride and try and retrieve the drum beacon from there.
Next week we start our survey work in earnest with the deployment of three new GPS sites by helicopter to the south of Fishtail Point and putting out a deep field party by fixed wing to start deployment of the stations down towards the Beardmore. And so ends week one down here on the ice.
Scott Base is a little quieter than McMurdo with about 60 people on base at present compared to the over 1000 at McMurdo.
Erebus is still smoking away - am hoping to go up to the summit with UNAVCO later next week to service the GPS array up there so will hopefully get some photos.
Received 4 November
The Halloween party went well although was a bit crowded and noisy for my liking - there were some great costumes. Sunday had a great trip out to see Scott's Cape Evans hut and Shackletons Cape Royds hut. Don came along and we managed to get the old drum beacon down from Cape Royds. Was a great day - sunny and calm. Only a few Penguins in a Cape Royds - I think their numbers have been affected by the large ice berg off the north of Ross Island. However the sea ice has broken back to Cape Royds already this year and while flying out to Cape Roberts along the edge of the sea ice there were lots of Emperor Penguins but no whales yet.
Yesterday packed up two helicopters and flew south the Byrd Glacier to install some new GPS sites - two helicopters required because of the distance away from McMurdo and for safety reasons. Was another perfect day with no wind although cool at around -20. Was a long day getting back in at 7.00 after nearly 12 hours in the field. Some great scenery. After visiting Scott's hut the day before and thinking of the hardships he went through on this trip to the South Pole it seemed to be cheating a bit to be flown down in a few hours what must have taken him weeks to cover on foot.
Because of our dual helicopter usage we start night flying tonight which will be a bit cooler. Have some high points over 10000ft to go to some am expecting a cool and long night.
The weather continues to be great and work is progressing well.
Received 9 November
The weather deteriorated for 3 days after last writing so did no flying. Spent the time catching up on some office work and sorting out some of the electronics and checking GPS and field equipment.
However yesterday the weather cleared and we flew down to between
the Beardmore Glacier and Byrd Glacier to three sites by Twin Otter to deploy
some gear and set up a new GPS site. One site, Lonewolf Nunatak (named after
one of Scotts dogs I think, alongside All Black Nunatak was very windy and cold - it brought a new meaning to why
Captain Scott said 'God what an awful place this is'. However the other two
sites were calm and beautiful. Did get the opportunity to fly over my mountain
and see it from a distance but too far away to fly to by helicopter!
Today is Sunday - a rest day so Don and I are going out skiing shortly. This evening we are driving up to Ford Rock near Scott Base to retrieve another drum beacon. We now have a professional photographer from New Zealand at Scott Base who will be coming out on some flights and several National Geographic photographers from McMurdo also scheduled to fly with us so will hopefully get some good quality photos over the next few weeks.
Tomorrow, weather permitting the 3 projects get into full gear with two helicopters and the Twin Otter all scheduled to fly. Don and Larry are off to Cape Roberts for three days plus doing some drum beacon removal in between, I'm off to the Warren Range for the day and the Twin Otter heads back down south.
Several nights ago was hat night a Scott Base so managed to borrow a hat from McMurdo for the evening - was a good night. Next Saturday is skirt night at Scott Base but photos from that will be banned!
A partial eclipse of the sun occurs down here on the 23th so will hopefully get some interesting photos.
Received 14 Nov
It is either very quiet down here waiting for the weather to clear or full on. Fortunately the last few days have been the latter with great weather. Don and Larry returned from Cape Roberts where unfortunately it was discovered the tide gauge logger has failed in March so the last few days have been spent carrying out a calibration of the Scott Base Tide Gauge and carrying out maintenance at Mt Flemming.
I have been working to the south installing more GPS equipment. The weather has been great, dead calm but cool. Yesterday on the Butchers Range at around 3000m it was -30 but dead calm so working on the ground for 3 hours was very pleasant. Things seem to be going very smoothly now with all of the new stations installed and will now turn to repeating some of the existing stations and will start thinking about removing some more of the drum beacons.
Mornings generally start around 6.30 and have been not getting to bed till after midnight so haven't been up to many activities around Scott base and McMurdo. Yesterday was rudely awaken by the fire alarm going off at 6.00, the second since being down here. No flying for us today so a chance to catch up on some office work and later Don, Bob and I will check the site for the new Scott Base GPS site and hopefully get it installed.
Photos received on 15 Nov.
Received 18 November
Another busy few days. Started with a skirt party at Scott Base last Saturday night. I managed to get a rather sexy black skirt from McMurdo with a purple top - Don had a similar outfit although his top was rather more striking but I'll leave him to describe that - Don and I have decided that it is best that photos from this event will be censored!! There were some very elaborate skirts and dresses being worn and some of the men folk from around here looked rather striking - I think it is time to come home!!.
Sunday we went for a walk out to Castle Rock which was very pleasant then for the past couple of days have been deploying receivers on a number of existing stations plus carrying out a calibration of the Scott Base tide gauge so have not spent much time around Scott Base. We have started removing a number of the drum beacons - generally without too much problem - amazing how people get so much enjoyment out of rolling 44 gallon drums down the hill and destroying survey mark- although we almost lost one into a glacier this morning.
The media circus seems to have arrived in town at Scott Base with a number of reporters turning up for a few days including Kim Hill and people from the 20/20 programme. Seems to also been a large influx of new people into Scott Base as people pass through on their way into the field for their science programmes.
Work has been going very well with all the new GPS sites deployed and we are now setting up equipment on some of the existing stations. So all going to plan I hope to be heading home a little earlier than planned - I guess there is some house packing to do at home.
Attached are a few more photos including a couple some of the animals taken by other members of the team. Hope to get out and about over the next few days and take some photos around Scott Base and McMurdo.
Received 23 November
Sunday today and I think most of the team are having a quiet day resting after a busy week. Was going to go for a walk around to see some seals and their pups that are now appearing out in front of Scott Base but there is a cold wind so will stay inside in the warm instead. The team still here and 4 other surveyors from UNAVCO and McMurdo are coming over to Scott Base for a BBQ tonight - we'll then have a ceremonial burying of one of the old drum beacons - Tony - Don and I though they needed laying to rest!
Things are beginning to wind down with most of our GPS gear now deployed - however due to a bug in the Trimble software have to visit 5 of the Trimble's to re-programme them!!. The tide gauge is now working again at Cape Roberts so Don is off there again on Tuesday to carry out another calibration of the gauge.
Seem to have survived the news media here at McMurdo over the last few days. The interview with Kim Hill was not as daunting as I though although she did throw a curve ball by asking my thoughts on the road to the south pole - a bit of a sensitive topic and no-no topic around here. Took a couple of reporters and photographer from the Herald out to Tent Island yesterday to recover the drum beacon so will see what story comes out of that.
Hope the weather stays fine for the eclipse of the sun tomorrow - will hopefully be out at Minna Bluff to see that or if in town will go out on the sea ice to photograph the sun over Erebus.
Some of the team have already left and are heading back to the States and I am due to leave Tuesday - weather permitting - so this might be my last report from down this way.
See you back in NZ.
Received 24 November
Unfortunately it was a little overcast today and Erebus was in cloud - however attached are a couple of photos of the eclipse of the sun from out in front of Scott Base among the ice pressure ridges. Unfortunately the photos do not do it justice and the seals were not at all concerned about the event!