Sledge Victor are on the move

Katie Joy | 14 Jan 2019
New home with a view. We have a hill just waiting for us to go and explore.
[Credit: K H Joy]

We have had a change of camp and are now set up at a new site close to a nunatak (a rocky peak sticking out of the icesheet). It is a pretty windy spot — we have 18 knot gusts with some blowing surface snow — but the view is great. We can see mountain tops to the north — I had to check on my GPS the distance as the sense of perspective and scale is really hard to judge here. Our local nunatak is about 2.5 km away and appears to be made of layered rocks with some cross cutting magmatic dykes (conduits where magma would have once flowed up towards the surface). Hopefully we can drive over and pay it a visit later as it is next to one of our blue ice field targets.

The last couple of days at our old camp were also pretty windy. We managed to get out two days ago to the very snow covered ice field we had visited before and much to my surprise managed to spot two meteorites. One is really spectacular — the largest of the season so far — about the size of an elongate honeydew melon (about 19 cm longest dimensions). It was spotted nestled against an older thicker snow patch rather than sitting on the open ice. One part of the stone’s surface has broken off and we can see inside to see a pale coloured rock, with what looks like chondrules (small melt droplets), suggesting it is an asteroidal sample. We won’t know until we get it back to Manchester to classify the sample, so it is just an educated guess at this stage.

Large meteorite nestled against older snow. [Credit: K H Joy]

After this success, it was a case of packing up camp and trying to get ready for the Twin Otter to return to visit us. Vicky brought in co-pilot Paul to help, and also Halley field guide Daze and chef Olly to man the old camp to give weather reports as we flew to our new camp site (see photo of the crew). It was great to see a group of people after being a small team for a while – really nice as they brought us some lovely fresh bread and some new biscuits to replace our dwindling fig roll stocks.

Selfie of our team camp changeover crew. Daze, Ollie, Paul from Halley, pilot Vicky, Julie and me. [Credit: K H Joy]

We flew over our old camp as we left, seeing our skidoo tracks etched into the snow surface looking like road networks, on over some amazing white ice areas filled with sastrugi and an icestream (faster moving ice flow) with big crevasses, and then landed close to our new nunatak neighbour. We set up the tent at the new site and also our VHF radio so that we could talk back to Halley research station comms team to let them know we were safely at our new home. Our call sign is ‘Sledge Victor’ or the Victors as Julie likes to call us. Julie calls in the local weather report once an hour so that the Twin Otter has updates about the changing conditions at our local site. Sometimes the VHF radio is really crackly and all we can hear is radio gaga going on, which requires a switch to the sat phone — however the last couple of days have been pretty good reception-wise (the conditions change depending on the ionosphere and solar wind) and we could even hear the guys at our old camp talking with Halley over the VHF to call in their weather reports.

Later on last night Vicky and Paul returned with one of our skidoos, and some more field kit — they are due back here later today with our final load, before taking everyone back to Halley after a busy couple of days carrying gear, trying to wiggle the skidoos in and out of the planes (lots more shouting of ‘pivot’), and shovelling snow.

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