With our recreation limits area increased to include the sea ice out the front of station a week ago, the time had come to venture further afield and continue the sea ice drilling beyond the recreation limits. This was done to prove the condition and thickness of the ice in Long Fjord and in the Deep Lake area in order to do the monthly measurements.
A nine kilometre walk from station to Deep Lake to record the measurements last month was tough. They trudged through the snow and the snow covered rocks getting their fair share of slips and stumbles with a couple of spills as well. No injuries but some sore muscles, dented prides and the tastes of snow in the face, which got laughter from the rest of the group.
The time had come again to go and record the measurements, so when I was asked I thought back a month and started to back pedal. This time I was informed it was going to be on quad bikes, so I let go a sigh of relief, the cold sweat disappeared and a smile came to my face — yes, I would be up for it. I was informed the trip would leave after lunch the next day.
The four members of the group were trip leader Jason (our station leader), Richard, Keith and myself. The plan was to drill the sea ice via our GPS waypoints all the way to Brooks Hut, stay the night in the hut and return to station the next day. At some stage a couple of us would do the three kilometre round trip walk to Deep Lake and take the measurements.
After a final check of the weather and with everything secure, we set off and riding with heated hand grips and heated helmet visors -always handy in −20° C to −30°C temperatures. The sun was out, what a day, what a day for a ride! The sea ice drilling on the way was going great with all measurements over 500mm — safe as houses. All was happy until one site recorded 460mm. We started to look around and were all thinking we might be going back home as 400mm thick is our safe limit for quad bikes. Our trusty leader suggested we go a bit further and redrill leading to smiles again as it was back over 500mm and stayed that way for the rest of the trip — another sigh of relief.
We made Brooks Hut in good time and even had a couple of hours of daylight left. It was decided to do Deep Lake that afternoon so the next morning would be easier. Jason and Keith stayed at the hut to get things going, like the heaters, hot water for the evening meal and little genset (small, portable generator) for lighting. Meanwhile Richard and I rode up to the corner of the valley about 500m away from the hut, then walked into Deep Lake to take the measurements. Deep Lake is 50 metres below sea level, so the walk in is fine. We went along a valley and up 15 metres over the crest, then down 65 metres in altitude into Deep Lake. The measurements were taken, goal was achieved, then it was time for the walk out. You stand at Deep Lake, a picture of scenery, then look at this big, snow covered rocky climb. I had to smile because the snow was firm under foot for most of the way, and the red chariots (quad bikes) were waiting for us at the mouth of the valley just off the sea ice for the ride back to the hut. We returned to the hut safe and sound, and ready for a feed.
The morning would bring more issues such as being freezing cold (funny that, because we're in Antarctica) with temperatures well into −25°C+ and dealing with a frozen helmet visor. Three out of the four quad bikes required extra attention to get started. I’m a dieso (mechanic) so this wasn’t a problem. With all the bikes going and all loaded up we were ready for the return trip back to base. We set off doing more sea ice measurements in Long Fjord on the way. With all this fun we still arrived back at station in time for lunch — you've got to be happy with that.
Have fun and enjoy.