Arrival at Rothera

Katie Joy | 22 Dec 2018
Departure — BAS’s Dash 7 plane on the runway at Punta Arenas airport.

The Dash 7 aircraft got us into Rothera research station at around 15:30 yesterday afternoon. It was a cloudy flight across the southern ocean – but when the clouds broke the sea below looked angry with white horses. Rothera is located on the south-eastern end of Adelaide island at Lat. 67°35’8″S, Long. 68°7’59″W — just off the Peninsula itself.  The island is made up of several different volcanic sequences emplaced through the Jurassic (~150 million years ago) to the Eocene (about 50 million years ago) (the Point itself is gabbrodiorite for all you geologists — download a map here).

Coming into landing on the gravel runway we got a great view of the surrounding islands and the surrounding bay. The open water around the base is a surprise after visiting the US McMurdo base in the past when I was on ANSMET — there the sea is iced up until about late January or early February, so it is strange and exciting to see so many shades of blue as the ice bergs bob by around Adelaide island. Thanks to Andy and Al our pilots for the flight and explaining about the aircraft (it was built in 1988 and originally used at City Airport in London).

Small islands and ice bergs in Marguerite Bay to the south of Rothera point
Rothera Point, on the eastern end of the Wright Peninsula on Adelaide Island. The large dark strip is the runway where we were heading into land. The station itself is located to the right in this view.

Rothera station is made up of several different buildings all built at different times, and Kat gave us a tour of the site this morning. The buildings serve different functions from science labs (including a great marine biology lab with examples of local sealife), the food galley, kitchens and recreation areas, accommodation blocks, waste disposal (including a large recycling centre), field guide equipment area (where you can find everything from tents to down jackets to ski equipment), the power station and water desalination plant, mech centre for vehicle maintenance… and numerous others that I haven’t been to yet. The Lost Meteorites project has been given our own lab to set up in and I have just been checking the meteorite collection kits and equipment which arrived on the JCR ship last week.

A little bit of Manchester in Antarctica – Lowry print on the wall of the accommodation block.

There are currently a lot of people on station than normal — about 125 or so, and more due in soon — this is because there is a new wharf construction project starting to accommodate BAS’s new David Attenborough research vessel and there are lots of contractors on site ready to start the build in the New Year. Those of us who arrived yesterday have been getting inducted (thanks to Jess the station manager for making us very welcome!), and have been learning about how to watch out for cold weather injuries, site dangers and aircraft risks.  I have been given a room in Admiral’s house which is a cosy accommodation block and will be my base until we can get out to the field. Walking from there to the galley for lunch involves walking at a safe distance past a group of elephant seals that are currently occupying some of the bridgeways — all part of the local wildlife population along with Skuas and snow petrels that have been flying around.

Tomorrow I head out with Julie our field guide to do some in field training (how to put up the tents, stove training, field gear) and then it is Christmas — a time for everyone on station to relax for the day and enjoy the Christmas decorations that are up and about.

Rothera 2018 Christmas
Rothera Research Station Christmas card

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