17 September 2010

Blowing snow at the moment – has calmed a little, but I’m not leaving Ops until its below 100 km/hr.  This wind has warmed things up, around -2.5°C last time I checked, the warmest since I arrived in March. The wind scoops and bliz tails around the place are incredible masses of contorted sculptured snow – hard to believe they cleared the roads just last week.

The days seem to be flying past now. Its often said that the time after Midwinter drags, but none of us are finding that – not enough time to do everything we planned is more the case.

This week started with a trip up to Woop Woop skiway on the plateau last Friday.  We needed to recover a skid steer for servicing, and the accommodation (Sprunky) van for some much needed work. The weather predictions looked good so we took off over the sea ice – red Hägglund in front plus Kassbohrer towing the steer sled and the Prinoth, following behind. The trip began at sunrise accompanied with multiple parhelion. As the icy fog lifted the day dawned bright clear and sunny. Going roughly 12 to 15 km/hr the ~ 64 km trip took several hours, punctuated by stops for photos, cuppas plus driver changeovers.

Collage of transport-over-ice photos
Over the sea ice on the outward journey
Photo: Ali D, Wilco, Ash P
Bried Basin snow ramp onto the plateau at the bottom of Long Fjord.
Bried Basin snow ramp onto the plateau at the bottom of Long Fjord.
Photo: Ali D
Prinoth making a road for the return journey and the red Hägglund using it
Prinoth making a road for the return journey and the red Hägglund using it
Photo: Wilco
We arrived on the plateau to find the vans, drums and sleds all well snowed in. The Sprunky van’s door seal had failed and we opened the door to a wall of snow, showing that a crack is all it takes in blowing snow. (I read that in 1992 during the van’s maiden trip the same thing happened.)
Accommodation vans
Woop Woop in winter mode.
Photo: Zupy
Expeditioner looking at snowed-up doorway
Ash and the wall of snow.
Photo: Tom S
The accommodation van, or Sprunky van as it is commonly known, was custom built in 1992 primarily by Peter Sprunk (Sprunky), John Webb (Webby), Ian Osborn (Ossie), and Paul Synnott for a science based traverse that travelled up onto the plateau and then down to Law Base in the Larsemann Hills. The traverse comprised three Hägglunds towing three vans; the Sprunky van for accommodation, a generator van, and a workshop /laboratory van. The team of five was led by SL John Wilson and included Peter Sprunk, Mark Underwood, Dave Neudegg and Jeff Hunt. They left Davis in early July, returning at the end of August and during the traverse experienced low temperatures (minus 40°C) on a few occasions and significant breakdowns. At one stage all three Hägglunds were out of action. Their options were to carry out repairs or stay put until the ship arrived in November and they could be recovered by helicopter (John Wilson (1992 SL Log), Peter Sprunk, pers.com.) Nice to know we weren’t the only ones to have seemingly insurmountable problems.
The 1992 ASP remote base
The 1992 ASP remote base
Photo: Peter Sprunk
The snow groomer drivers were in their element and had the accumulations of snow cleared quickly from the workshop van where the skid steer was housed and the Sprunky van, the final snow being moved with shovels and a bit of exertion on our part.
Both snow groomers in action
Both snow groomers in action
Photo: Ali D
All done within a couple of hours, the sleds attached, vehicles refuelled then back off down the slope to Davis.
Heading back down the plateau
Heading back down the plateau
Photo: Ali D, Wilco
On the sea ice again
On the sea ice again
Parhelions around the setting sun – fitting to a great day
Parhelions around the setting sun – fitting to a great day
Photo: Ben O’L
Couldn’t quite get the van up the rise at Davis on our return so had to leave that until Saturday when we hitched it to the D6 and reversed it into the Green Store to thaw it out before clearing, cleaning, repairing and restocking.
D6 escorting the Sprunky van into the Green Store, ice covered everything and Ali shovelling snow
D6 escorting the Sprunky van into the Green Store, ice covered everything and Ali shovelling snow
Photo: Ali D
There were two field parties out over the weekend.

Nige, Rob, Nick H and Matt A took off to Watts hut on Friday for two nights. They spent the next few days visiting the fresh lakes, taking time to climb Boulder Hill – because it was there and because it affords a breathtaking view of Crooked Lake and rocky shoreline below.

Nige, Rob, Nick and Matt at the bottom of Boulder Hill
Nige, Rob, Nick and Matt at the bottom of Boulder Hill
Photo: Rob L
View of Crooked Lake from the top of Boulder Hill
View of Crooked Lake from the top of Boulder Hill
Photo: Rob L
Expeditioners on top of Boulder Hill
Rob and Matt celebrating their defeat of Boulder Hill
Photo: Rob L
Expeditioner in the snow
Nige in his element
Photo: Rob L
Trajer Ridge Melon hut
Trajer Ridge Melon
Photo: Rob L
Ben and Nick R went out to Platcha hut on Saturday morning, stopping to scale a few hills on the way. The cloud cleared late afternoon and they spent the afternoon investigating the surrounding area. On Sunday they made their way through the snow on Stalker Hill before heading back to station.
Long Fjord Panorama – there is a Canada goose jacket in there somewhere
Long Fjord Panorama – there is a Canada goose jacket in there somewhere
Photo: Ben O’L
Ice crystals on the hut window
Ice crystals on the hut window at Platcha
Photo: Ben O’L
Wind sculpted snow
Wind sculpted snow
Photo: Ben O’L
Sun setting over the heli-pad at Platcha
Sun setting over the heli-pad at Platcha
Photo: Ben O’L
With a fair few off station we had a relatively quiet Saturday night although once again Kim did not see it as a chance to relax and out did himself.

There were scones for smoko and then for dinner our menu read like this:

Ø  Soft Shell Crab with Sweet Chilli Mayonnaise

Ø  Lobster Thermidor

Ø  Pork filled with Rosemary and Prunes with a Port and Herb Jus

Ø  Leatherwood Honey Pannacotta with Persian Figs

and a small creamy Blue Cheese Feuillete

Chef with food
Delectable Dining at Davis
Photo: Pete H
As we finished our meal we noticed the sky had cleared and there was an amazing sickle moon with Venus shining brightly beside it, just like the crescent and star on the Turkish flag except with a midnight blue background.
The Ottoman-like Moon and Venus
The Ottoman-like Moon and Venus
Photo: Pete H
Sunday wasn’t all that bright, in fact it snowed lightly up until lunch time.  However, Adam decided that it was the only opportunity he would get to re-deploy the cameras at the Hawker Is southern giant petrel colony, given the long range weather model predictions. Adam, Jeff, Pete and I ventured cautiously across the sea ice on quads with next to no contrast and very poor definition. White, white and more white – very difficult to see the lumps and bumps on the ice.

We arrived at the colony to find around 30 birds noisily interacting, some of the older birds starting to pair off and one pair even mating indicating the imminent start of another breeding season.

We moved slowly and steadily around the colony so as to disturb the birds as little as possible. Adam mounted the cameras on the tripods that were still in place and connected the batteries while the three of us positioned ourselves so he could get the correct overlap between all three cameras, allowing as much of the colony to be covered as possible.  The cameras take up to 1000 images on the cards they have installed and these are programmed to record between 1 to 6 images a day depending on the time of year and what is likely to be going on in the colony.

Some birds took to the air while we were there, giving us the once over in close flybys, obviously feeling more comfortable in the air than bumbling around on the ground with wings outstretched for balance. It was a magnificent sight to see so many in good health in such a harsh and unforgiving environment - especially as we have hardly seen a creature since before Midwinter.

Hawker Island southern giant petrels and re-deployment of cameras, plus air photograph showing camera localities and colony location.
Hawker Island southern giant petrels and re-deployment of cameras.
Photo: Pete H, AAD
I’ve noticed lately that some of the beards that have been carefully cultivated through the winter months are disappearing and faces we haven’t seen for a while are emerging, a bit paler than before. Obviously in an effort to halt this trend the following link was circulated early this afternoon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmFnarFSj_U

Welcome to all those who have started at Kingston over the past few weeks – we can feel the excitement mounting in the amount of questions we are starting to field daily in email!

Until next time……

Towering sun through the ice-laden atmosphere
Towering sun through the ice-laden atmosphere
Photo: Ben O’L

This page was last modified on 17 September 2010.