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(It has been two weeks since I last had internet access so this post is a bit of a catch up!)

 

After arriving at Scott Base and having a refresher AFT (Antarctic field training) course, we spent two days packing our field gear. We had a long list to get through ranging from equipment, radios, solar panels, tents, sleeping bags to food and toilet kit.

 

Cages with field equipment in Hillary Field Centre:

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...and this is our final pile of everything that we would need for the next two weeks out in the Wright Valley:

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As last year, we flew out by helicopter to our first site in the Wright Valley. We were very lucky to get out on the scheduled day as the weather and visibility are often too bad to fly.

 

 

Arrival at the helicopter pad:

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We caught our last views of Scott Base while flying - last year the sea ice broke off at Scott Base and therefore the ice is still very thin and forms beautiful meltwater ponds.

 

Scott Base and meltwater ponds:

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Flight into Taylor Valley

The flight to our first site took nearly one hour. We passed the ice shelf and flew into the Dry Valleys via Taylor Valley and then crossed over to the Wright Valley via the Asgard Range.

 

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Crossing over the Asgard Range into Wright Valley:

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Last view of the helicopter:

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Our camp

We found a great camp spot on a large snowbank near the Wright glaciers. We had each a tent and a small kitchen tent. This will be our home for the next week.

 

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Two-days ago we went for walk to the pressure ridges in the evening. The pressure ridges are forming where the ice shelf and sea ice are being pressed together at the shores of Ross Island. Last year the sea ice broke out and therefore the ice is still relatively thin and many large bright blue meltwater ponds have formed.

 

Meltwater pond in the pressure ridges

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Mt. Erebus is an active volcano that is ca. 3,700 metres high and is about 64 km away from Scott Base. Usually you can see little bit of smoke appearing from the top of the crater.

 

Pressure ridges and Mount Erebus

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Every year a few Adelie and Emperor penguins can been seen near Scott Base. At the moment, there is a lone Emperor penguin wandering through the pressure ridges. The penguins come from parts of Ross Island where the sea ice breaks out every summer. The Emperor colonies on Ross Island are quite far away and nobody really knows if these individual penguins will be able to get back to the colonies. Let's hope for the best!

 

 

Emperor penguin

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After a one-day delay, we left for Antarctica. It was a beautiful hot summer day in Christchurch and it felt a little bit strange to change into our Extreme Weather survival gear. We had check-in at 6.30 pm. After check-in there is always a safety briefing before everybody is driven to the C17 airplane.

 

                                                                                          Check-in for Antarctica

 

 

 

 

 

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The operations are shared between the New Zealand and US Antarctic Program.In the C17 there was a lot of cargo including some rather larger rotor blades.  Most of the passengers usually sit a long the sides… which is actually quite comfortable. We even get a brown bag lunch with yummy sandwiches, crisps and chocolate.

 

                                                                                 On the way to the C17 aircraft

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                                                                               In front of the C17 at Christchurch airport

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We left at 9 pm from Christchurch and got there just after 3 am in the night. It has been relatively warm on Ross Island lately with temperatures around 0 degree. Therefore, the flights are currently arriving during the hours of the day, when the temperatures are likely the lowest to prevent any damage on the ice runway.

                                                                                     Inside the C17

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When we arrived it was cloudy but not very windy nor cold. ….. At the moment there is 24-hour sunlight in Antarctica. It took 1 hour to get from the landing strip to Scott Base. The landing strip is on the ice shelf.

                                                                               Arrival in Antarctica

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At arrival we had a short welcome briefing and went to bed.At Scott base usually 3-4 people share a room. The windows have wooden shutters to block out the sunlight at night. The rooms are really comfortable.

 

 

                                                                                        bed rooms in  Scott Base

 

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                                                                                     View from the bed room

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I arrived on the 1st of January in Christchurch. The flight was pleasant and  involved a lot of eating, sleeping and watching movies. When I arrived in Auckland it was raining but the sun was shining in Christchurch.

 

                                                                                     Auckland Airport

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                                                   Flying of the Southern Alps and Canterbury Plains, South Island

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It was nice to suddently be  in the middle of summer. I went for a stroll and did some last shopping for the field trip including some extra chocolate, tea and coffee. People are really into gardening in Christchurch and everywhere you find beautiful gardens.

 

                                                                           Summer in Christchurch

 

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Unfortunately, I got little sleep in my first night in Christchurch because there were quite a few earthquakes overnight. The biggest one was at 5.45 am with a strength of 5.5. Luckily, I am staying with somebody from our team and her house did not have any damage throughtout the last year. This is reassuring and I am slowly getting used to the rumbling. I am staying in a part of Christchurch which had little damage of the last year in comparison to many other parts of town.