Monday, October 31, 2011

Off Camping Tomorrow

Today we packed and weighed. The loads are all together and ready to fly, weather dependent. Today the flight from NZ was cancelled so no new people on base tonight. It has been low vis and windy, -23 deg C, -45deg C wind chill. The visibility reduces significantly here at times, often less than 20m. Light snow/ice blows around. Although there is very little “snow”, ice blows off the Antarctic Plateau. So we won’t be going anywhere if the forecasted weather arrives but we are to be ready for helo movements at 1050 either way. One of the uploaded photos shows you the amount of gear for an overnight stay for 3 of us so you can have some appreciation for the gear required.

Car camping they call it. The 3 of us are flying to Cape Evans (Scott’s hut) to gather some supplies. We rough it for the night and the next day we fly to Cape Royds where we meet the other 3 and set up camp for 20 days. After that time we are back to Cape Evans for 40 days.
I had my last shower tonight so will not be any cleaner than this till potentially February. A couple of tourist ships might come in (including a Russian Ice Breaker) so they might fly us back to the ship for a meal and shower.
There are 6 of us in the team. John Kermister is a conservator at the national Australian war museum. Lizzie Meek is a conservator with the Heritage Trust. Martin Wenzel is a restoration carpenter; he has been in Antarctica for all but 8 weeks of the last year. Jamie Ward is from Scotland and specializes in traditional carpentry. Lastly, Al Fastier is the project manager. He is an Antarctic veteran and very experienced. A great team. Lizzie is leaving prior to Xmas. Just after New Year’s, Scott’s grandson Falcon Scott will join us.
This will be it from me for a while. A CD with picts etc will be sent to NZ and should be online late November or early Decemeber.

Sun at its lowest point, directly south

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Packing for the summer camping trip

We spent all day packing and weighing gear. There will be about 5 helo loads (helo is the term used for helicopter down here) to get it out to Cape Royds. We are at Cape Royds for 3 weeks then at Scott’s for the remaining time. We use a Bell 212, basically a civil huey operated by the yanks. It is a serious amount of gear to take, about ten thousand pounds.
We put up 7 Scott Polar Tents to check them out before we live in them till Feb. It has dawned on me that going out camping for 3 months is a long time and there is a lot to think about. That means Xmas and New Year’s too. Coms will be minimal, only radio with Scott Base and sat phone. Also means showers will be non-existent.
Meeting lots of people, heaps of similar aged people which surprised me, I am about the only one without a PhD. A team is heading to a field camp at Roosevelt Island tomorrow. It is 800km’s away, they fly in ski Herc’s and Baslier’s which are a turbo-prob DC3. They are drilling ice cores 700m deep, going back at least 30 thousand years. They are camping on an ice mountain dome. There is nothing; they look over the horizon to whiteness.
Tonight we walked up to Observation hill which is probably the next most historic site after the huts. It has a large cross erected by Scott’s crew after he failed to return from the pole. It is 100 years later that I am at the same place.
Next we walked/slid down the hill to Mac town (Kiwi’s version of McMurdo). We checked out the amazing array of vehicles. They use a lot of fuel and they have enough for 2 years in case the icebreaker can’t get in or they go to war, no jokes. We went to the bar and yarned with a couple of friendly yanks. They brought us a Coors beer. The place is like an Alaskan mining town and the people match that description. It is literally like crossing the border. They have fuel lines and power lines everywhere which they are very protective of. The fuel line goes out to the ice runway and contains 10 thousand gallons so a rupture would be catastrophic.
The king of Malaysia and PM of Normay are coming down at some stage. The NZ high commission has given us special instruction to behave ourselves and they are very strict about pork contaminants.
Tomorrow we will finish the rest of the packing to be off on Tuesday. After that picts and updates will be scarce but I will be posting some CD’s to NZ to get uploaded.
I bet it is warming up back there, it is here too, got up to -15 deg C today, -35 deg C wind-chill, which is the killer.
more photos see;

Friday, October 28, 2011

Field Training

This Place is ColdDuring the last 2 days I have been on an Antarctic Field Training Course. This is required by all people operating out of base. It is important to learn how cold it is and what gear needs to be worn and when. First, a class room session went over a few things then we packed the Haggland with all out gear and headed for the ice shelf. We sleep in big triangular tents called Scott... Polar Tents. The sleeping bags are essentially 1 sleeping bag inside another. That was all stowed along with the food for the night. We set up camp on the side of a hill called Castle Rock. It was quite windy, about -40deg C with wind-chill. So getting shelter was the key priority. Then we had tea but that is interesting. By the time I had finished eating my pizza, the end was frozen. A cup of water would have ice crystals in it after only a few minutes. The fuel gets quite viscous at low temperatures and lighting it isn’t easy. Before bed we went for a quick walk up the hill to look north to where we will be camping, 40km away. The camp overlooked Mt Erebus which is impressive, higher than Mt Cook with a small steam vent at the top. 11pm, the sun was still high and bright. Anything you don’t want to freeze must be in the sleeping bag (between the two), anything electronic, water bottles, clothes for the next day and boot liners. We have to pee in bottles to bring back. Although advised, I didn’t want to sleep with my pee so that was left to freeze beside my bed, in the tent, along with the drink bottle. Defrosting the pee was the first job to do once I got back to base. I got to drive the Haggland home. Hardcase machines, they float so if we break through the sea ice we should be ok. They have big ramps to cross cracks and winches to pull themselves out.
See Facebook for photos

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scott Base

The trip down was smooth, 5 hours in the C17 was amazing. It is an awesome aircraft to say the least, but loud. If the flight hadn't been delayed yesterday, it would have been 8 hours in an LC130, 5 hours was enough. The plane was full, mostly Americans and about 14 Kiwis. Nothing prepared me for walking out the door of the plane and onto the Sea ice. The plane has no windows so it was a surprise. We had our extreme weather clothing on (EWC's), but stepping out to the -15 deg C (-25 deg C wind chill) was a shock and a feeling I will never forget, what a place. The Kiwi Landcrusiers were waiting and we all jumped in the back and headed through McMurdo to Scott Base. McMurdo isn't very pretty, but Scott Base is tidy and very smart inside. We had a tour after a cup of tea watching the seals sunbathe on the pack ice. The place is all joined together and is going to take a bit to get used to navigating. Everyone is very friendly, a really neat Kiwi “family”. Tonight is when the Americans are allowed to come over for a drink. Otherwise they require an invitation!!! Any time you touch something metal you get a whack from the static build up, it is so dry. Fire and dehydration are really dangerous here. Tea time at 6, they have great food. Antarctic survival training tomorrow so you’ll get some more pictures then. At the moment I am overwhelmed and trying to get to grips with reality, might go for a walk, it’s probably getting down to -20 now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Beginning Is Near

In just a week I will be leaving NZ's summer to go to the coldest, driest and windiest continent on earth. This blog will document my experiences while down on the ice. Updates will occur when we head to Scott Base every few weeks from our camp at Cape Royds then Cape Evans, the sites of Shackleton's and Scott's huts' respectively.
Here is the webcam image of Scott Base

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