We made it to our first field site this afternoon. One flight out of three complete and Julie and I have set up camp. We are cosy in our tent and have had dinner (‘man food’ — rehydrated food which is actually much taster than anticipated). The rest of our gear will hopefully join us tomorrow including the skidoo and science equipment when Vicky and the twin otter plane return. We had a cloudy first part of the flight after a snowy night at Halley but the clouds cleared over the Shackleton mountains and, after a refuel stop, we did a fly-over of our potential next site to check out the blue ice and a possible traverse route.
We are camped on snow close to blue ice (where we hope the meteorites will be) and the ground is covered with amazing ice crystals like hoar frost that blow around in the 12 knot winds. They are sparkling in the sunshine like glitter. There is not a lot of topography on the horizon with no nunatuks (mountain tops protruding through the ice sheet) to be seen from our field site so it is somewhat stark not to have any scale reference.
Hopefully we will be out to work in the next couple of days.
The waiting game continues and we need the clouds to clear further south before we can set off to the field. The Met team are sending over photos of the cloud cover to us along with a forecast each day, and things might possibly clear up in a day or to, so until then the Meteorite project is turning into the tea drinking project whilst we wait 🙂
Halley station has the amazing module setup that I posted a photo of before containing the operation and communication centre, a library and shared spaces along with science labs and field guide store areas. The station has many other smaller buildings and containers scattered around the vicinity — including the cosy container that is my accommodation I am sharing with field guide Julie and pilot Vicky. We are having our meals in the nearly Drewry Building, where others who work on site are living at the moment. This has network connections and a phone line where I can speak to people back home in the UK via a satellite link (the reception is amazingly better than I can get trying to call from my mobile in the village where I live close to the Peak District!).
In the meantime whilst we wait on the weather — Happy New Year from Halley to you all!
We are making two separate trips to Antarctica for our first season on the ice. Both field campaigns have different objectives, but come together to lay the ground for our main field expedition in 2019-2020.
Katie flies out to Chile on the 20th December 2018, where after landing in Santiago, she will fly down to the southernmost tip of the South American continent to Punta Arenas, the main Antarctic gateway for the British Antarctic Survey. BAS’s DASH 7 plane will then transport her to Antarctic peninsula, and she will meet up with field guide Julie at Rothera research station. After training, packing the field equipment for transport (and Christmas!) the team of two will be flying out to the deep field via a Twin Otter prop plane for a blue icefield meteorite search reconnaissance mission. The exact field plans will be weather and surface condition dependent, but we are aiming to try and visit several icefields close to the Recovery Glacier region (south of the Shackleton Mountain region). We may get the chance to fly through BAS’s Halley VI Research Station on route to the field. Four weeks of field work will involve searching these sites and collecting any meteorite samples that are found on the ice. The samples will be returned to the UK for further study next year and will provide vital information about which ice fields are productive search areas, and what types of meteorites have emerged at the surface. We will use this knowledge to plan which field site to return to in December 2019 for the main expedition. After four weeks Katie and Julie will fly back to Rothera, and return to the UK in early February.
Geoff will be heading down to Antarctica later than Katie in early January 2019 (following the same route via Chile to the Peninsula). We are hoping to have a day or so overlap in Rothera to touch base and finalise the field equipment unpacking (see previous blog post). Geoff and BAS’s Mike Rose will be heading out to the Sky Blu ice runway, which is a blue icefield used as a transport airstrip. The guys will spend a week or so at the runway site testing the metal detector panel array that was built back in Manchester and in Cambridge. This will help tune the sensitivity of the system to detect metal objects buried at different depths in the ice, to test the electronic signal processing at appropriate skidoo speeds and the ruggedness of the detector array system. We will understand a lot more about the panel performance after these vital tests, which can feed forward to improvements for the main sub-surface meteorite trip in 2019. Geoff will get back to the UK in late January 2019.