This week at Casey: 6 January 2017
Christmas and New Year celebrations at Casey happen all at once. The science continues and a team head out to look at beautiful icebergs.
Sometimes down here we can’t enjoy celebrations on the same day our friends and family do back home. Holidays can occasionally clash with operational requirements and we need to postpone our festivities. A very recent example of this was our need to postpone Christmas due to the continuation of our annual resupply.
Resupply for us this year began on December 17 and concluded at midnight on December 25. Incoming cargo of some 344 tonnes and Special Antarctic Blend (SAB) fuel of just under 1 million litres will keep the station well supplied for the next 12 months. Last but not least on the resupply objectives list was to reload the ship with some 291 tonnes of cargo to be sent back to Australia. Early on Boxing Day morning the anchor was pulled up and Au Revoir to the Aurora Australis!
The nature of a resupply means that you can’t be really sure when it’s going to finish up so to give the chefs enough time to prep for a Christmas feast it was decided we would combine our Christmas and New Year celebrations on December 31. We also figured this would give Santa and his reindeer a bit of a rest before heading back our way.
We had a delicious brunch before word got out that the jolly big man was coming at about 11 am. Santa’s ‘nice’ list was overflowing judging by the number of presents under the tree and apparently some here are nicer than others based on the big hauls of some expeditioners.
The one thing on most people’s minds wasn’t the presents, it was thought of family and friends back home. The support and understanding of our loved ones is what enables us to do what we do down here, so here’s a toast to all of you keeping the home fires burning and supporting us in our passion for Antarctica.
After the excitement of the presents some retired to rest up, others got busy setting the tables and decorations in the mess to attempt to match the herculean effort shown by our three chefs to produce an amazing feast for more than 80 people.
At the end of way too much food and conversation, Christmas was done and we went straight in to New Year’s Eve and the “Cheezy Nightclub”, which was set up in the wallow area.
DJ Stu kept the party tracks spinning until the early hours, with the obligatory count down at midnight but minus the allegedly obligatory “Auld Lang Syne”. Getting through Christmas and New Year’s Eve in one day certainly has some merit.
Happy new year to all.
Brendan, Engineering Services Supervisor
Browning Peninsula field trip for the King project
A fortnight ago I was lucky enough to help out on the King project by providing some dGPS support during their field work trip to Browning Peninsula.
Browning Peninsula is normally accessed by Hägglunds and quad bike and is about a three and a half hour commute from Casey. It’s a popular destination for weekend jollies given its beauty, proximity to our closest glacier and the diversity of wildlife, but it can often be closed for most of summer due to the melt streams that develop along the plateau.
I hadn’t made it to Browning during the past two summers I’ve been at Casey and it was a goal for me this season to get there. Browning Peninsula is home to many bird colonies and as such, research or recreational trips done in the area are restricted to foot or boat traffic depending on the sea ice conditions.
The King project is gathering new field data on bedrock uplift and ice thickness change over time around Casey and Davis stations this season. The aim of the project is to remove bias in estimates of East Antarctica’s contribution to the present day sea level change.
Steven and Tobias were the researchers on the ground for this collaborative project. With the aid of Helicopter transport, Tobias and I made the 10 minute flight south of Casey on Monday afternoon. Billy, our field guide, had already arrived with Steven and were surveying a frozen, fresh water lake for potential sediment coring. Later in the evening, the four of us set out with ice coring and sediment sampling gear on sleds and hoofed our way to a few frozen lakes. It’s hard to believe that the photos were taken between 6 and 9:30pm at night considering how light it is!
After a few attempts, we managed to collect a sediment core from the first lake we visited. The lead–up to the core included drilling through approximately three metres of frozen lake water using a Jiffy drill and flights, and dropping a gravity core sampler through the hole. The core was quite unusual in composition with what appeared to be a fine biofilm layer on top of really anoxic smelling sediment.
Riding high on the successful core sample, we scouted out the next location only to find the lake was mostly unfrozen which prevented sampling. We were treated to a wonderful vista of our own private glacier, the Vanderford and some coupling skua before we decided it was time to return to the hut. We had a quick meal of pasta and bunkered down to bed in preperation for our early rise the following morning.
The glacier is named after Benjamin Vanderford who was a pilot of the sloop of war Vincennes of the USEE under Wilkes, 1838-42. The glacier is about 8 kilometres wide and flows NW into Vincennes Bay of the Windmill Islands.
Tuesday morning we were on our way to sample more lake sediments, raised beaches and erratics. However, after hauling some heavy equipment up and down icy slopes we agreed that the distant lakes were too ambitious for our time constraints and we changed our focus to finding and sampling the raised beaches.
In a valley amongst the impressive landscape of Browning, we identified raised beaches on both sides of the uplifted rock. I logged locations and heights using the dGPS while Steven took soil samples and Tobias and Billy identified erratics.
Erratics are rocks which fall into the “one of these things is not like the other” category, meaning they are out of place in their environment and have been moved from their original locations by glacial movement.
After a hot morning and afternoon hiking with heavy packs in the still sunny conditions it was time to turn our troupe around and head back to the hut for the Heli pick up. Tobias and I packed up the hut and the gear while Steven and Billy made a dash to another site to get some priority cosmogenic rock samples just before our helicopter arrived.
Cosmogenic rock samples are analysed using cosmogenic radionuclide dating, which can measure the length of time the rock has been exposed to the sun and is one of the techniques used to study glacial advances and retreats.
On the return flight to station, I reflected on the brief but intensive time I had just spent in a place I had been wishing to go to for over two years, and I couldn’t have been happier. Browning is a truly inspiring, peaceful and wonderful place and I feel very privileged to have experienced it and hope I will see it again sometime soon.
Bianca, Head Scientist
With the public holidays over the Christmas and New Year period, Casey expeditioners took advantage of the relatively still conditions to take a cruise around the icebergs close to station.
The magnificent scenery provided by the huge monoliths was almost outdone by the wildlife on display, including penguins, bird life and a fearsome looking leopard seal.