It’s beginning to feel a lot like tent time

Katie Joy | 26 Jan 2019

Two days ago we managed to get out and about over to one of the icefields we had visited before (our big blue ice wave area) to finish off exploring a couple of places. We set off just as it was getting cloudy following our previous traverse route. Upon arrival the contrast was pretty low, which on the blue ice surface is pretty good for spotting dark coloured objects. We drove around and managed to find two small meteorites — one on the open ice and one along the firn edge. We also found a route into a nice new area of ice we hadn’t been to before which had some large sediment bands snaking across the surface where we could see up to mm sized particles of dust trapped within the ice. We have seen lots of sediment bands before in places we have driven — some are very obvious brown coloured like moats 50 cm to 1 m wide, others are much more subtle changes where the blue ice suddenly turns a bit brown for a few tens of metres and then back to clear and blue (these wide bands are also easy to see on satellite photos).

The sediment band — blue ice to the right. [Credit: K H Joy]

However, by early afternoon some snow showers were threatening and we headed back to camp. By the time we arrived home the air felt pretty damp, it had started snowing, and it was –13 °C air temperature — inside the tent was –2 °C. The snow showers really set in, although the wind has completely dropped off (it is strange to see our flags around camp hanging down rather than flapping around), and we spent yesterday in the tent.

With so much snow and little wind it has really settled on the icefields by now covering up the surface. It looks like as soon as the clouds lift and we get some good surface contrast we will be heading back to Halley with our 36 meteorites secured for the season, feeling pretty good that we have explored some blue ice new areas and have some great — and hopefully of diverse types — samples to be studied, and their origins unlocked.

Before we go there is work to be done and we have been out with the shovel and ice chopper for the past couple of hours digging to try and loosen a few bumps in our skiway and to dig out the tent from some of the snow drifts that have formed. A lot of Antarctic field work is digging snow, moving stuff from one place to another (and sometimes back again), and watching the weather… Julie has been working with the field teams at Halley and Rothera to prepare for bringing some more kit into the field for our next season — it will be depoted for the winter so that we are ready to go next time we come down with the detector panel array.

In the meantime, it is just a case of hurrying up and waiting for the clouds to clear — we can see a break on the horizon to the northwest and until it clears near us we will be having some more tent days drinking hot chocolate and watching a couple of movies.

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