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On thin ice

(Actually 3.05 metres of sea ice with 48cm of snow on top)

(Written at 04:30 GMT 6/3/07)

Hello bloglings. My eyes are opened wider and wider every day by what we are up to down here, and I have many treats waiting for you in my brain, oh yes. However, I thought that these events were probably worth a special entry and some late-night uploading. One of our aims while we are down here is Ted Maksym’s master plan to collect some data on sea ice, and yes, it just so happened that conditions were suitable; crucially, Deb very kindly agreed to forego some important CTD time. Lo and behold, the opportunity presented itself for me to go and stand on some Antarctic sea ice and start attacking the stuff with a shovel, corer, drill, saw, etc. A rare honour indeed and one for which I will ever be thankful. So I donned a boating suit and all the safety gear I could think of (including a spare hankie and 10p for a phone call) and set off.

The story is probably best told in photos. Actually it is probably best told in jewelled Haikus embossed in gold leaf with extra cherubs, but there’s no time for that, so I will shortly hand over to Mr. Canon. Note that I wouldn’t advise you to try any of this on the river Cam, at least not without Povl Abrahamsen standing by in his rescue kayak with a thermos full of rescue-cocoa. As you will see, we were kitted out properly and had a boat waiting with the engine running at all times and three rescuers poised to snatch our still-warm remains from the brine or seal’s mouth at any moment. We were safe, alright mum?

This is what we were looking for. Nice thick sea ice to core with seal tracks all over it, proving that it is strong enough to hold several times our weight.
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I thought that if I put it all on at once, then whatever happened I’d be safe. Forgot about heatstroke though…
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We got in one of the boats and were lowered over the side. Had a little trouble starting the engine in the cold. Also, someone forgot to turn off the water outlet on the ship…
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There’s some! Says Ted.
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No, that’s already occupied. The Crabeater seal was mildly annoyed that we interrupted his afternoon bask.
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So we went round the other side of the ship. She’s a beauty, especially when she’s the difference between a sauna and a cold bath.
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A tasty-looking floe appeared so we unloaded. Unfortunately there were no bullion under the giant X so we had to settle for ice coring. Yawn.
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Coring the ice has to be done by hand (or we would just drill the corer into the ice and lose it) and it’s damn hard work, particularly when your main criteria for choosing the floe is that it be the toughest ice possible to stand on. With all those clothes on we were roasting after about 2 minutes.
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We weren’t the first scientists here. Beaten by the Penguin Expeditionary Survey again.
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Lester wins the award for vigilance in the face of extreme cold (they were sitting still watching us for over 2 hours). Note his specially-adapted safety beard.
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I was there too, in case you were doubtful.
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Ted attains nirvana with one 3-metre ice core recovered plus lots of ice and snow samples and observations.
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As it says in the BAS brochures, we left nothing behind but our (Carbon) footprints.
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Wow, what a stunning time. We were there and back in 3 hours, just in time for fish Thai curry in the duty mess… and the remaining 5 hours of our watch.

Since I first wrote this Ted has done a couple more sites, but this time with other, more capable, assistants. Also, he has subsequently used the ‘Geordie’, which is a rope cage lowered over the side of the ship. We only used the boat because were were in relatively open waters, whereas now we have hit some areas of heavier pack ice.

Anyway, back to work. I am switching to 8pm-8am shifts so will probably get even less coherent from now on. Bye.

Posted by DrPaul 19:40

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Comments

You must be tempted to take a dip old boy?!?! It looks very, erm, refreshing

by phileas

At -2 degrees I wouldn't fancy it without my lovely immersion suit on. Actually the real danger would be the wrath of David, the safety officer...

by DrPaul

Do those specs. protect against UV? Ambient intensity can be dangerously high at that latitude right now.

by j.saxton

So it's not all fun fun fun then?

by djcarlos

Fortunately I do have to work a little. Otherwise I would be uploading all day long!

by DrPaul

You must have done okay or else Ted might have left you on the floe. He must be over the moon getting all his samples.

I request a picture of you or him in the Geordie.

by fentoad

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