Today the weather was still bad so this was mainly a lab (water filtering) and office day. We did, however, also manage to get out for several hours to have a look at and start sampling some local peats. It’s amazing what can grow out here and what you can find once the snow starts to melt.
Unfortunately it was not possible for the caleta sailing team (aka Christian, Nina, Anne and Dolores),or Ilona and Jule to go out to work today. The wind was too strong. Steve, Tamara and I, however, braved it back to GPS Lake 15 to continue some lake coring. Despite a few issues with gravel and bedrock (not a friend to our coring equipment) we managed to collect some really nice cores. And despite the wind the weather was actually okay until late afternoon when the horizontal blizzard started to set in. Bang on time as forecast. Very quickly the caleta and tres hermanos (either side of us) became obscured in a blustering cloud of snow, even the Castillo ship which had earlier manoevered gracefully into the caleta was now barely visible. Steve had said earlier that if anyone on board was watching us dig holes in our lake in the wind they must think we were mad. Luckily now they would not be able to see us to think such thoughts as we battled on against the wind and added snow.
Steve and Tamara have both worked in Antarctica before, but this is my first time and, before coming here, I never really thought I would be coring a frozen lake in Antarctica amidst a horizontal blizzard, battling the elements all in the name of science. But today it didn’t really seem that unusual – it isn’t something I would particularly consider doing back in the UK but out here it becomes part of a fairly normal day’s work. When we returned to the Dallmann and sorted out our outdoor freezer store to accommodate our fresh cores we even ended up standing around discussing things for a while before I suggested we might want to move inside, away from the snow, to finish our discussions over a nice cup of tea. It was almost as if we had forgotten it was snowing. Now we are inside a short while later we cannot even see out of the windows on the caleta side. We were wise to come back when we did!
Due to some technical issues with our coring equipment our research team multi-tasked this morning with Steve collecting water samples while I worked back at the base in the laboratories and Tamara negotiated with the mechanics and chief about repairing our damaged core tube.
In the afternoon we went back to GPS Lake 15 to take some Russian cores. The weather was noticeably warmer, almost a heat wave hovering around zero. By late afternoon the caleta was like a millpond much to the delight of Christian, Nina, Anna and Dolores who were able to go out to collect more samples and data.
We decided to have our first official day off today although Steve ended up going back to GPS Lake 15 to drill some more holes in the ready for coring tomorrow. Although it is within the base area this lake is also within a protected and restricted area so without human impact from the base.
Sunday night was empanada night combined with a nice sunset which I went out to photograph although, due to my take away empanada, this invited some unwelcome interest from the local skua population.
Today our fieldwork consisted of searching for rocks that might be suitable for cosmogenic isotope dating to help use better determine the timing of previous glaciations in the Jubany area. This involved a nice walk venturing our furthest yet across towards the refugio the other side of tres hermanos and the peninsula, taking in new bits of scenery.
Being a Saturday it was pizza night. But also with hotdogs this week too! And there was a triple celebration for this weeks birthdays – Anne, Cristian (mechanic) and Louis the base commander. That meant three cakes, plus the extra one that Nina made. In addition, two Polish scientists, Adam and Chris, had walked for four hours across the glacier to join us today. They are working at the Polish Arctowski base and met the rest of the Dallmann crew on the Polar Pioneer and combined their scientific visit and discussions with us with a social visit to help Anne celebrate her birthday.
This morning there was an Antarctic eclipse at sunrise but, unfortunately for us, the sun was not high enough for us to see it. Never the less it was the first Antarctic sunrise for me and very scenic.
The base doctor had gone to the Chilean Frei base today so we weren’t allowed to do fieldwork outside the base for safety reasons. Since Steve and I had been allocated Maria today (i.e on kitchen duty) this was not a problem as we could spend the time between sorting out our data at the base and catching up on some required sleep after our recent energetic fieldwork activities.
Today was the best day yet – the most beautiful sunny day with blue skies, incredible to think I am in Antarctica and can get weather like it was today! Steve, Tamara and I had a very successful coring campaign in the morning, followed by a walk after lunch across the tres hermanos moraine to look at stranger point, spotting seals in the lagoons, enjoying a fantastic view across to Fildes peninsula, also seeing the whole of the Nelson Island glacier and as far as Livingstone island, majestic white peaks in the distance. We could also see the Antarctic peninsula! The views were incredible, the glaciers so white and the sky so blue. We also spotted a ship heading for the peninsula with a whale playing in the sea nearby. And to end the most perfect Antarctic weather yet, the wonderful sunny day was followed by the most amazing sunset. We also had a group of penguin visitors (six gentoo ad two adelie) and I sat with them while the sun went down, being accepted into their group so they didn’t even notice I was there. The sky was an amazing array of oranges and reds I didn’t want to leave but finally went inside at 11pm only because I was starting to freeze and needed to warm up. I was told today was very unusual for King George Island weather and visibility and we were extremely lucky to have experienced such an amazing day.
After lunch we ventured back to Lake Mateus. It was very windy and started to snow as we were half way up the hill. We even thought about turning back at one point but so dedicated are we to our science that we continued on. We managed to collect two cores along our transect, despite the strong winds which almost blew us over over at times. So it was challenging. But at the end of the day the sun came out briefly.
I left the UK 4 weeks ago today … this means I am almost half way through this trip already – how time flies!
This morning we all got up at 7.30am to see Dirk off. The caleta was full of sea ice we thought maybe this would be a second leaving-turn-welcome back. But the Castillo zodiac managed to find an ice free patch of water along at the end of the base so we all trudged through the snow to see him off. Dirk we will all miss you!
Later, Steve, Tamara and I tried out the (now defrosted) gravity corer with all the weights that can possibly be fitted on. But even with all weights attached the sediment is still too hard to penetrate. This lake is a real challenge! It was very cold today (again!) so we had to keep jumping up and down or running around to keep warm. It can be hard work to keep warm, especially when you are already tired from fieldwork. Hot tea and chocolate helps of course and our snow wall around our core holes provides a nice (though chilly) seating area.
Today we tried out the gravity corer but in -12C and windy conditions (as well as wet from the lake water) the coring equipment froze as soon as it came out of the lake. Likewise our gloves froze as soon as we took our hands out of the water. And, if we were unlucky, then the equipment and our gloves froze together. So we finally had to admit defeat and return to base to thaw the equipment out. Such is the challenge of lake coring in -12C.
Today was Dirk’s last day – so he had his second (this time “real”) leaving party (the first became his welcome back party almost a week ago). Dirk is off to Punta Arenas via Rothera and the Falkland islands, aboard a BAS Dash-7. We will miss him, especially Steve and I as he has been with us since our field expedition began almost a month ago and it will feel strange with him no longer one of our team.