Archive for the ‘Antarctic Science’ Category

More fieldwork – Lorentzenpiggen

Thursday, February 19th, 2009
Fieldwork... bliss in the middle of nowhere

Fieldwork... bliss in the middle of nowhere

I’m waaaaaaaaaay behind with writing some good posts about all the fieldwork that we did this summer, and so I’m just going to make some brief posts with pictures and maybe short descriptions to give a passing impression.  I’ve just updated the post on the first trip (to Flarjuven, when we had to pull out due to bad weather) with some new photographs, so start there.

The next field trip was to the nearby nunatak of Lorentzenpiggen, which forms a distictive part of the skyline to the south of SANAE IV.  The geomorphologists (aka ‘Geos’) wanted to survey the area for specific types of features.  They have several research projects on the go, and are also collecting data for colleagues back in South Africa.  Many of the nunataks have not been surveyed in detail by geomorrphs, so there was a element of exploration to the expedition.  Nunantak lucky pack…


Fieldwork at Flarjuven

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Boy… lots been happening.  Will try to make some nice posts soon, but in the meantime, here are some photos from fieldwork yesterday at Flarjuven Nunatak, 42km south of SANAE IV.  I was assigned as a field guide to our two geomorphologists,  who had to travel to the nunatak to download data from a temperature logger.  The logger is situated on the margin of an area of patterned ground – movement of the rock due to temperature changes creates patterns in the surface – and records both air and ground temperatures at various depths throughout the year.  We flew in, established an emergency camp (the wind was unpleasant and very cold at that altitude) and completed the data download  and maintenance before flying out in a hurry as the weather deteriorated once more.  Pictures below:

Field camp at Flarjuven Nunatak

Field camp at Flarjuven, with the southern peak and mountains to the southwest in view.


Looking north towards Vesleskarvet and SANAE IV (Vesles is the flat smudge on the horizon in the center of the frame).


Aurho, another nunatak near Flarjuven, with its impressive west face.


Self-portrait at the field camp with my beloved MSR Fury tent.


Geomorphologist Mike Loubser retreats from the building weather after checking the temperature logger for the last time.  30 minutes later we were clouded in with snow.

On their way…

Friday, December 26th, 2008

The SA Agulhas left Cape Town harbour on December 23 on her southbound voyage to Antarctica, bringing the summer researchers, support personnel, and the new overwintering team (SANAE 48).  We will be training them and handing over duties during January and February, so that they can take the expedition forward for another year.

You can keep track of the progress of the Agulhas – now just entering the Roaring Forties – by clicking on the link in the sidebar labelled ‘Track the SA Agulhas’.  In January she should reach the German Station, Neumayer, then move to Blaskimen Butka to the east to offload fuel before a bouy run to the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia.  She then returns to Antarctica to backload all the cargo and waste from SANAE, as well as us, before sailing to South Africa in March.  Using the link, you can zoom and pan the map to see exactly where she has been, the weather and sea conditions, etc.

My contacts (spies!) aboard the ship tell me that they sailed intto 5m swells directly after leaviing the Cape, keeping the new doctor very busy with sea-sick patients!  The Agulhas’s ice-strengthened round hull makes her quite susceptible to roll, and they have to navigate a set transect for the oceanographic research, so it must have been hell for those prone to motion sickness… and the Forties and Fifties still await!  Fortunately, ice conditions this year are much lighter than the last.  You can read an interesting and informative summary on the ice conditons by Ian Hunter of the SA Weather Service here.