20 December 2016 — 1 January 2017

Flying in to take over the Sørsdal Glacier project from Christian and Eleri is a real privilege. With their fantastic work in setting up the lake monitoring sites so quickly, the pressure is on for Tom and myself to keep up the momentum. We started well, with trips out on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, which I hope didn’t have the pilots cursing us too much.

Davis has seen a lot of changes since the teams switched over. December was a remarkably warm month, with above zero temperatures every day, up to a maximum of 9.8°C. The warm days have had their effect on station, with the sea ice finally breaking out of the harbour. The melt season is now definitely underway on the glacier too.

Our first task was to visit last year’s site (S02) where I had installed a GPS to monitor the glacier’s velocity and a phase sensitive radar unit (ApRES) to monitor thickness change (see the first blog post). Here the surface melt has started to wreak havoc with our equipment; both electronics boxes were floating in a pool of water.

Happily, the GPS had continued recording throughout the year, and the data were downloaded ready for processing back in Hobart. Unfortunately, the ApRES hadn’t fared so well — meltwater entered the antennas and snapped some cables as it refroze during winter. The instrument stopped recording during June 2016, which at least leaves us seven months of data to work with. Efforts are now underway to produce a more water resistant set-up for the coming year.

The meltwater isn’t all bad news though. Lakes are starting to form on the glacier’s lower reaches, producing some spectacular views, and the whole station has been talking about a waterfall seen pouring off the front of the glacier and into the sea ice below. The melt is spreading further uphill, and we hope to see liquid water at the lakes monitored by Christian’s equipment soon.

Of course, it hasn’t been all work! Christmas is a hard time for many to be away from their families, but it’s celebrated in grand style on station. Santa visited with his reindeer and elves, and the chefs pulled out all the stops with a fabulous Christmas feast. Then New Year’s was welcomed in with champagne, before an outdoor hot tub was set up on New Year’s Day, with an amazing view of the icebergs on the horizon. The whole station is now rested and hoping that our good weather holds and we can push forward with all of our tasks in the second half of summer.

Dr Sue Cook