Digging to find our sample sites

We ventured up to Lake Mateus today, through the snow drift from the last couple of days, equipped with shovels. Our ice holes and staked out coring site was buried under a foot of snow but, with the aid of GPS we managed to find them and dig blocks of snow to make a snow wall barrier around our sampling site. We also needed to dig out the equipment bags and crates. It was hard work (let alone being a Sunday morning, post Saturday night/Sunday morning dancing …) and had started to snow again before we had finished but at least it should be easier to find next time …

Visibility was getting worse by lunch time so we decided our next step to take some cores and slice up the sediment in the field would be better put off until the weather improves (which is forecast to do over the next few days – we hope …). The afternoon was instead spent catching up on water filtering and taking water chemistry readings from the lakes within the base area – still quite an accomplishment given the continuously developing horizontal blizzard.

Snow, penguins and pizza

Today was full of blizzard and snow drift, very atmospheric but still not a good day to trek to our lake to do fieldwork. Instead Steve and I braved the elements to have a look at the lakes within the Jubany base area. At one point I thought I was going to be blown away the wind was so strong it almost made it difficult to breathe. But once we were in the shelter behind some moraines it was really atmospheric, the snow drift blowing frantically across the hills and glacier, and blustering around like smoke at the top of tres hermanos in the distance.

We walked back along the beach and were delighted to see some Gentoo penguins so spent some time penguin watching and collecting samples (such excitement at finding fresh Gentooo-pooo!). The things we do for science, hey. Next stop was the lab for some water filtering, and more joy at finding a vacuum pump to speed things up, it’s cold in the lab you have to keep wrapped up and hope you don’t get snowed in, reporting when you are going and when you will be back, radio to hand when working alone.

Saturday is pizza and beer night,- goodness how the last week has flown by – followed by dancing. But the dancing is not optional when the base doctor is around – she kept grabbing people and dragging them onto the dance floor, and she was not someone to disobey. Saturday night dancing is a big thing here at Jubany, apparently people from the Korean base round the next bay also sometimes come here to party. And because we are still early in the summer season it is even more exciting and new as there have not been many Saturdays in the season yet. In the winter apparently since there are no women here, dancing is substituted with playing cards. And apparently cards isn’t quite as much fun.

Recharging thanks to a blizzard

Today the blizzards returned and for the first time I could not even see the towering tres hermanos rocks from the base. Usually it is at least visible behind the grey snow haze but today it was completely obscured. Not a good day for fieldwork. But after yesterday’s efforts we were quite thankful for an excuse for a lie in and catch up on sleep to recharge our batteries, though Steve ventured through waist high snow drift to get to the gym just a few buildings away which sounded like an expedition in itself.

A perfect day

Today was the most glorious sunny day, really the perfect day for fieldwork. And a long day to take advantage of it – we took a packed lunch and were out for eleven hours, only just making it back (a bit late) for dinner. The sun was out, the sky was blue, there was no wind and it was almost warm, we could not have asked for more. So what did we do? We drilled twelve holes with the jiffy drill, finishing with the hand drill (hard work as over 1.7m of ice in some places!), took water chemistry profiles at 10cm intervals to the bottom of the lake (a bit chilly as you have to sit still holding the probe for over an hour), collected water samples from different depths of the water column, measured ice and snow thickness, and enjoyed a packed lunch in the sun (including Antarctic crushed ice fruit slush – remember slush puppies? Not sure why they were called that but perhaps this should be named an Antarctic slush penguin..?), and biscuits and tea in the afternoon. All in all a very successful days work. And enjoyable too. Plus it was a good work out to burn off some of the recent dulce de leche diet.

Snowy day at the base

Last night and on and off today it has been snowing so we used today as a catching up day – sorting out and logging samples, water filtering and sorting out GPR data. Also it was a nice excuse to rest aching muscles from the copious trips we have made to Mateus lake over the last few days, carrying an assortment of drilling, coring, safety and other equipment, bags and crates that we need for our work, let alone all the work we have been doing once on site. I am hoping that, despite all the food that I am eating, I am perhaps getting a bit fitter from all the outdoors activity. I can’t believe we have now been at Jubany for one week!

Sunny summers day at Lake Mateus

Another beautiful day today with bright sun in the morning and absolutely no wind it’s incredible how varied the weather can be. Again we took advantage of the perfect conditions though, for some these are not perfect conditions – the caleta was filled with sea ice which prevents Christian, Nina and Dolores from doing their studies. Today we also had help from the German girls (Ilona, Julia and Anna) who came up to do some ground penetrating radar (GPR) of our lake for us – and Nina who came “for some exercise” and to do some “site-seeing”. GPR is really useful to give us a quick way to get information on the thickness of the ice, the water depth and where the deepest point of the lake is, and how much sediment there is. Steve and Tamara continued with ice coring while I worked in the catchment doing vegetation surveying and sampling. This, as yesterday, was a very productive and successful day.

In the evening Dirk was told he could get a lift with the Argentinian Castillo Navy ship back to Marsh tomorrow at 8am for a flight back to Punta so we decided to have a leaving party for him. After dinner he found out there are no scheduled flights from Marsh to Punta until December 1st so what was going to be his leaving party became his “welcome back Dirk” party instead. Now he has no idea when he will leave but I think is actually not so upset that he will stay with us for a bit longer.

Lost penguin at Lake Mateus

Today was a beautiful day with sun and little wind. We even talked about it being so warm (all relative, it must have still been hovering around zero). Perfect weather for fieldwork so we spent the day setting up the harness and testing the ice thickness at Lake Mateus with the hand drill. It was hard going but the good news is the ice is up to one metre thick. Even with all the asado and dulce de leche that we’ve been eating we won’t go through that in a hurry. Before we can start drilling a core hole we need to determine the best point to take our core. We want the deepest point where the most sediment should have accumulated.

We had a local visitor at the lake today. A lonely lost Adelie penguin which came running and skidding across the lake towards us, obviously on a mission. It stopped next to me before running off again towards Steve and the ice drill in the middle of the lake and stopped next to him, observing him for a while. Then it called out, quickly turned around and set off waddling back from where it had come from. So exciting is lake coring on the ice that even the local wildlife wants to come and join in! We took advantage of the good weather and had a long day in the field, only just making it back in time for dinner.

Wind and waves

The wind made the caleta (cove) waves surfable this morning so we couldn’t venture out to continue our fieldwork. Instead the day was filled with catching up with work that could be done inside, though also when the wind is strong there is no internet connection so after lunch some joined in with the movie afternoon in casa principal.

Friday in Jubany

We decided to have a more extensive walk around the field site today to see what sort of ice situation our other potential lakes are in. There is no way of telling how thick the ice is without testing it but we wanted to double check which might be best to prioritise. We concluded the one we had chosen yesterday (Mateus) is still our first choice. Best to be sure. We returned to base accompanied by strong winds and a horizontal blizzard bringing snow across the cove from the glacier opposite. That put a stop to any further outdoor work today.

Friday night is empanada night – as many empanadas as you can eat (which we did, not realising there was more food to come..) followed by chorizo hot dogs and a huge cake to celebrate and thank the staff for keeping the base running over the winter. The copious amount of food was washed down with Argentinian wine with Antarctic glacial ice, cocktails (for some), then the table football tournament which we signed up to just before we were to leave for bed as we thought it was tomorrow night, only to be told it was now! Dirk’s team managed to make it to the final. Steve got to the quarter finals thanks to Ilona who has been practising hard and apparently spent much of last season here playing (with Nina). I didn’t get very far, though was impressed with myself for even scoring one goal. I can’t even remember the last time I played table football and was certainly not expecting to be playing in a tournament on an Antarctic base! By bedtime the wind was so strong it made walking from the casa principal (food, TV and table football building which is about 20m away from the Dallman building) difficult and, rattling and whistling around the whole building, I was rocked to sleep in my bunk bed.