Update from Halley

Katie Joy | 12 Dec 2019

I arrived at Halley Research Station two days ago (10th December), after a long day of flying from Rothera (~8 hours of flying with one stop on route at Sky Blu — thanks pilot Ian and co-pilot Tim). We journeyed out first over the Antarctic peninsula, with small mountain ranges popping out of the continental ice shelf, and then out over the Ronne Ice Shelf, which is a large flat expansive area of freshwater ice pouring off the continent into the Weddell sea. Lots and lots of flat white out of the window for several hours. Where the ice shelf finally meets the sea ice there is open ocean with many large freshwater icebergs bobbing around between still frozen sea ice floes. Some of the freshwater icebergs that have been liberated from the Ronne have amazing shapes — see this perfectly rectangular example in the photo. The ice floes, which melt and refreeze annually, are fractured and complex, looking as you fly over them like the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, with its chaotic terrains (when you are a planetary scientist you start spotting terrestrial analogues whenever you look out of the plane window). It was a beautiful flight.

Rectangular berg. [Credit: Katie Joy]

I joined up with Romain at Halley who has been based here since last Friday (6th December). We have spent the last couple of days working with fieldguide Taff and the pilots to figure out how to order the Twin Otter plane loads to send out into the field. There are a lot of logistics needed to get us and the metal detection kit to join up with Geoff and Wouter, and also ensure that there is enough aviation fuel at a depot site so that the planes can stay fueled up and flying (with contingency in case the weather changes). Its a bit like a space mission planning exercise — bartering which of the field equipment and people are the most important to get out first in case we have a major weather delay changing the schedule further on. When you only have so much weight you can put onto an aircraft with a round trip of x number of km… what do you take in which order?! Whilst we wait to get out and about we have also been helping out around base, and enjoying some of the local evening entertainment including playing pool and table tennis, and last night I gave a science talk to share whats going on with the project with all the people working on station who have been supporting the project. We are really grateful to the team at Halley who have been hosting us in this amazing research station.

Ice floes, a terrestrial analogue for Europa’s chaotic terrains? [Credit: Katie Joy]

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