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Author: Susanne
Date: February 15, 2012
Temperature: -8 °C
Wind Speed: 32 km/h
Temp with wind chill: -17°C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


One of the most adventurous things we get to do in Antarctica is to take a helicopter ride to visit the historic expedition bases at Cape Evans and Cape Royds. After several safety briefings, we suit up in our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear and head to the helicopter pad. This can be an intense experience with a loud, heart thumping rotor beating overhead, but the flight crew and Scott Base staff move us safely on board and on our way, enjoying the fantastic scenery that Antarctica has to offer.


After unloading our gear and survival bags at Cape Royds, the helicopter was quickly off to see to another science team. We had a few hours to enjoy the base and appreciate the daily life that Shackleton and his men endured before packing up to meet the helicopter at our scheduled time.  In the meantime the weather had changed.

 

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Setting up camp near the survival wannigan in a Condition 2 storm © AHT/Georgina


After several hours of waiting and regular radio contact with Scott Base, the weather was continuing to worsen to a Condition 2 category with low visibility and high winds. We quickly realised we would be staying the night at Cape Royds. All eight of us snuggly fit into a survival wannigan nearby which provided some sense of relief and a respite from the cold. The survival bags had enough food for three days and tents to provide shelter for the night. Our time was spent as I imagined in a similar to the early explorers by telling stories and playing games with the limited items in the survival wannigan. The following day, the weather continued to change dramatically between beautiful open skies and reduced visibility. Our only chance was to find a window of opportunity for the helicopter to safely travel between Scott Base and Cape Royds. That window came just as we were breaking into lunch and that feeling of hearing the chopper blades in the distance was indescribable.

 

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Relaxing in the living room area © AHT/Georgina

 

This experience was a true testament to how unpredictable the weather can be. Safety precautions, serious training, and regular scenarios are a reminder that we do live in an extreme environment. We were thankful to have the necessary items we needed such as a primus stove, food, and shelter, and I was that much more humbled by the experiences that the men from Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition men endured for several years in the spirit of exploration and science.

0

Author: John
Date: 27 November 2011
Temperature: -2.1oC
Wind Speed: 8.5Kts
Temp with wind chill: -10oC
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


One of the aspects of Antarctica that fascinates me as a relative newcomer is the changeability of the weather conditions, sometimes over periods of less than an hour.


After spending two weeks working at Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, our camp transfer by helicopter to Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans was disrupted by wind and low visibility, and our team was split in half for 24 hours, Monday and Tuesday.


The Icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov, kindly offered the team some showers, but even that was disrupted by changeable weather and low visibility. We all managed to have our showers though, and that was bliss after two and a half weeks without!


On Thursday and Friday we had very strong winds that make working outside at Cape Evans challenging, and sleeping ‘interesting’ with the wind noise and the tents flapping. Interestingly, the Scott Polar Tent double walled design has changed little from the original as used by Scott and has proved itself over the years well able to withstand strong winds.  I am very happy about that!

 

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Stormy Morning, Saturday. © AHT/ John

 

Yesterday morning things calmed down again, with only a slight breeze blowing.

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After the Storm, Sunday. © AHT/ John

 

This Sunday evening the wind is picking up again with the weather forecast to turn.


The transitions from wind and whiteout conditions (like being inside a ping-pong ball) to crystal calm and peaceful can sometimes be quite startling.

6

Author: Julie
Date: 20/7/11
Temperature: -13.1
Wind Speed: 30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -21 C
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

Last weekend we went into “Condition 1”.  Condition 1 means life-threatening high winds, whiteout conditions, and/or low temperatures. We didn’t get the low temperatures – in fact, the opposite: temperature rose to a balmy - 6.4 degrees C at one point, as frequently happens during a storm – but we had winds that reached a maximum of 74 knots shortly after midnight Sunday morning, along with some snowfall, resulting in metres-high drifts.  We weren’t allowed to leave the base during the storm, but I did go out on a semi-protected porch and stick my head into the wind to see what it was like.  Yes, it was windy.  You can get a sense of condition 1 from this video:



 

By chance, the day the storm abated it was my day to be the “mouse.”  Being the mouse is a duty inflicted on all winter-over base staff by turns.  During the day, it involves monitoring the radio traffic, answering the phone, keeping track of who is off base, where they are, and when they’re supposed to be back.  Sometime around 10 – 11 pm, the mouse does “mouse rounds,” meaning the mouse checks laboratories, workshops, machine rooms, hazardous materials storerooms, and other spaces -- both inside and outside -- to make sure nothing is leaking or making strange noises, that appliances are turned off, that snow is shoveled away from emergency exits, that vehicles outside are plugged into engine heaters, and that things are generally in order.

 

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Nice snowdrift.  Somebody, probably me, is going to have to dig out that door.  © AHT/Julie

 

As mouse, I was one of the first people to go walk around in all of the newly deposited giant snowdrifts.  Snow was still falling (wet snow – weird), and it was quiet and beautiful.  I did the rounds, jumped into some drifts, made a couple of snow angels, did a little sketch of pressure ridges (it was warm enough to take my gloves off), and listened to the “whoosh” of the wind farm turbines in the dark, clearly audible a kilometre away.

 

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All these vehicles are plugged in.  I checked. © AHT/Julie