22–28 November 2016

During Recess, which ended on the 23rd November, we were busy organising equipment and having meetings to discuss our research priorities and develop a plan of action. The photographs we’d taken during our first flight over the Sørsdal Glacier were really helpful, as we now had a much better idea of the surface conditions of the glacier and the exact locations where we wanted to set up the camera towers. Christian was also busy sorting the wiring (with the help of Ladge and Lotter) for the time-lapse camera and for the pressure transducer that is to be placed in the lake at our first site (Horseshoe Lake).

On Wednesday Christian and I did our ‘slushy’ duty, where we spent the day helping out in the kitchen and cleaning the living quarters (or LQ). It was a long day with plenty of greasy dishes but it gave us a perspective of what’s involved in providing the awesome meals we enjoy and maintaining such a comfortable place for us to relax in. The LQ has pool and table-tennis tables as well as darts, a movie theatre, a library and Nina’s (the bar), so there are plenty of activities and it is a great place to socialise. The deck out the front of the LQ was a nice spot to sit and enjoy the very still evening we had on Thursday. A Weddell Seal has appeared on the sea ice quite close to shore, and has replaced the Adélie penguins (who are now busy on their nests on Gardner Island) for local wildlife entertainment.

On Thursday we collected our field survival kit, which included a sleeping bag, bivvy bag, throw-bag, ice-axe and dehydrated meals. We loaded up on essential snack foods, before heading out about 4 pm on Friday to begin our survival training with the Field Training Officers (FTOs), Nick and Gideon. Out at Brookes Hut we practiced our navigation skills. These skills are essential in the Vestfold Hills as all the hills look very similar (covered in rocks and snow patches). We dug our shelters, set up our bivvy bags and cooked our dehydrated dinners over camp-stoves and I found the vegetable pasta wasn’t too bad. It was a peaceful evening in a great spot. The next day we had training on sea ice drilling, how to use a throw-bag, and more navigation, before eventually heading back to Davis across the sea ice and through Heidemann Valley.

For more details (and photos) of our survival training please see the blurb in Icy News. After our long hike back to station on Saturday we spent Sunday at a more leisurely pace, catching up on our weekend station duties and other small tasks. Christian headed across to the penguin colony on Gardner Island with a small group of other expeditioners and got some fantastic views across the bay and icebergs as well as adorable ones of the Adélie Penguins.

Monday the 28th was a very exciting day as we’d been given the go-ahead for a reconnaissance flight that evening. Low light angles are needed for these flights as snow covered crevasses are easier to spot than when the sun is directly overhead. During the day we were busy getting the equipment ready to deploy, and the FTOs were busy practising crevasse probing. In the evening Nick and Gideon were dropped off to probe out an area on the glacier near Horseshoe Lake that was safe for the helicopter to land, and with Christian’s guidance, a suitable spot for the tower to be placed. From now on it’s all go!

Eleri Evans