Half a day in high winds

Katie Joy | 19 Jan 2019

There’s a storm brewing — the weather forecast for the next couple of days is windy and snowy. We managed to head out this morning in 15-20 knot winds and sunny skies and drove over to an icefield that we hadn’t searched before. On the map and from the plane window it looked very expansive with little snow cover — when we arrived it was pretty snow free (it is so windy and exposed not a lot of chance of snow settling), but also about 40-50% covered in ice cracks caused when the sheet flows and extends over a topographic barrier. We avoided the cracked bits and drove on to find smoother blue ice areas that make for easier skidooing.

The snow was blowing along the ice surface like tendrils of hairs or fine ropes sinuously weaving along. It is pretty mesmerising being in Antarctica like this, all you can hear is the wind roaring around and when you drive face-on into the wind you know about it.

We found a small moraine area with boulders and rocks lined up in some dirty sediment rich ice, which was strange to see poking out of the otherwise flat ice surface. Some of the large boulders have a windscoop moat around them.

Rocky moraine [Credit: K H Joy]

We searched for a couple of hours managing to find one tiny meteorite along the firn edge and two more that were half buried in ice (one was stuck with about 60% of its body encapsulated within). Both took quite a while to extract (we don’t have the luxury of Geoff’s chainsaw), and by the time we had bagged the last one the winds had picked up even more and there was so much snow blowing along the surface we couldn’t really see the blue ice very clearly to meteorite search and called it a day. By 2 pm we were back in the tent listening to the ever increasing strength wind howling and snow blowing against the side of the canvas sounding like pounding rain. The items hanging up in the top of the tent to dry are swaying around and we have the tilly lamp going keeping us nice and warm.

Meteorite embedded in ice [Credit: K H Joy]

31 meteorites in total now, but we will likely have a couple of tent days ahead of us until this storm passes through.

PS Happy Birthday Isaac for tomorrow. Hope that you have a lovely day and liked your present 🙂 Hopefully one of the Philps/Joys can read him the following:

I am enjoying riding my skidoo about — she is called an Ace and is number 11. Here is a photo for you. She has a big comfy seat, two footrails I can use to stand up on whilst I am working looking for meteorites, a storage area at the back where I keep my bags, she has headlights — but we don’t need them as it is sunlight all the time here at the moment — and her handlebars are heated which is great so my hands don’t get too cold. Rather than wheels she has two skis at the front to help slide over the snow and ice and at the back there is a big tread with little ice spikes on it to give some good grip. I drive her using a throttle with my right thumb, there is a brake on my left hand and I can turn the handle bars like a bike. Driving a skidoo is a lot of fun — I normally drive her at about 20 kph when we are travelling between icefields and about 10-15 kph when we are looking for meteorites. We have to refuel her with petrol every couple of days — she has a big tank under the seat area. The team of mechanical experts at BAS (thanks Jack and Tom!) worked out what was wrong with my other skidoo (number 13), there was a loose electrical connection problem as it must have wiggled loose when I was clattering over the blue ice, so we are keeping an eye to check that number 11 and Julie’s number 14 don’t have the same problem again.

An Ace ride — my skidoo [Credit: K H Joy]

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