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Sun set no more

Posted by Conservators Oct 31, 2013

Author: Josiah

Date: 30 October 2013

Temperature: -16.6C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -23C

Sunrise: None. It's up all the time

Sunset: 20 February

 

I love sunsets. The setting of the sun can be serenely pretty or transcendently beautiful. I spent many years fighting forest fires and saw some truly spectacular sunsets coloured by the smoky air. Here in Antarctica the sunsets have been especially wonderful.

 

1 Early season sunset (Custom).JPGEarly season sunset over Observation Hill © Josiah

 

Each sunset down here is a treasure because there aren’t very many of them. The day that I arrived in Antarctica, 1st Sept, was the first day that the sun had peeked above the horizon in about 4 months and it quickly dipped to the first sunset of the spring.

 

2 First sun rise-set (Custom).JPGFirst sun rise/set of the summer © Josiah

 

From 1st Sept to 22nd Oct we had a series of wonderful sunsets. They can last for hours here as the sun gradually slopes down toward the horizon turning the sky from pale blues to rich oranges, yellows, and fuchsias, then gradually through pastel purples and rust hues and finally into deep indigo.

 

3 Sunset from Obs Hill (Custom).JPGSunset from Observation Hill © Josiah

4 Soft sunset over the sea ice(cropped) (Custom).jpg

Soft sunset over the sea ice © Josiah

5 Sunset over Crater Hill (Custom).JPG

Sunset over Crater Hill © Josiah

 

Each sunset becomes shallower and longer as the days lengthen until eventually the sun just barely dips behind the horizon.

 

6 Dramatic sunset from Scott Base (Custom).JPGDramatic sunset from Scott Base © Josiah

 

And then it sets no more. We had our last sunset of this year on 22nd Oct. Unfortunately we had 2 days of clouds and snow on the 21st and 22nd so the technical last sunset wasn’t visible, but I did manage to get some good pictures of the sunset on the 20th.

 

7 Last Sunset (Custom).JPGLast Sunset of this year © Josiah

 

Now, although the sun no longer sets, it does sink low and traverses the Southern horizon throughout the night. For several more days, or maybe weeks, this will give us wonderful long, almost sunset shows of golden orange skies throughout the night.

 

8 Sun traversing the South (Custom).JPGThe unsetting sun traversing the southern horizon © Josiah

 

Eventually the sun will be high enough that there will be essentially no difference between night and day. Some time in February the process will reverse and the sun will gradually work its way back down to the next sunset on 20th Feb. Here at Scott Base we celebrated the final sunset of this year in grand style with the traditional Hawaiian Luau themed party.

 

9 Last Sunset Party (Custom).JPGLast sunset party © Mike

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All Change

Posted by Conservators Oct 14, 2013

Author: Nicola

Date: 11 October 2013

Temperature: -25C

Wind speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -37C

Sunrise: 5am

Sunset: 10.20pm

 

 

When we arrived at Scott Base, Josiah and I joined a small team of 10 people who had just spent the winter on the ice. Whilst it was busy, it was also relaxed and quiet, but suddenly it’s all change. The summer season has begun and the base population has swollen to over 50 excited people, many of whom have not been to the ice before.

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Preparing dinner in the outsoor kitchen © Issac

 

Last weekend we got to know some of the new crew as we joined them to learn Antarctic Field Skills from the specialist trainers – how to survive in the Antarctic environment, while working, having fun or in an emergency. 

 

We put together sleep kits of layers of thick sleeping bags, collected food supplies, learnt how to light camp stoves in sub-zero temperatures and discussed how to protect ourselves from frost bite. We then headed out to spend the night camping in tents similar to those used by the early Antarctic explorers.

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Breakfast time in a blizzard - warming tea, Milo and porridge © Nicola

 

That evening, after digging a kitchen area protected by snow blocks, we heated water and dined on packets of dehydrated food. When we turned in at 11pm it was still light and the weather perfectly calm. But this is Antarctica! Overnight the winds increased and in the morning we emerged from our flapping tents into near blizzard conditions. Although I’ve done field training on my two previous trips to the Ice it was always in fine conditions, so I really enjoyed experiencing some ‘real Antarctic weather’.

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Preparing to de-camp

    

Thanks to the training Josiah and I now feel confident as we make plans to head out to spend three months camping at the historic hut sites.  We are definitely looking forward to the experience. 

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It's about science

Posted by Conservators Oct 3, 2013

Life in Antarctica is and has always revolved around scientific study and discovery. When Captain Scott proposed his expedition to the South Pole in 1910 he felt that the primary purpose of the expedition was scientific study. He commented in his journals that if they reached the pole then people would pay attention to their scientific research. If they failed to reach the pole then their expedition, with all of its discoveries, would be largely ignored.

Wilson and Bowers check the thermometer on the ramp June1911 (Custom).jpg

Wilson and Bowers check the thermometer on the ramp. 7 June 1911 © Scott Polar Institute

 

Today science is still the driving reason for work in Antarctica. The American McMurdo station is run by the National Science Foundation and New Zealand’s Scott Base, run by Antarctica New Zealand, is used primarily as a staging area and support base for a variety of scientific projects each year. Now, as then, much of the research done on this continent is environmental study. Researchers here study the movement of the Polar ice sheets, particulate concentrations in the upper atmosphere, air and water temperatures, weather patterns over the polar region, biology of the marine life, and any number of other subjects that may have subtle but wide reaching implications for the world in general.

Mike and Tim check the thermometer in the ice (Custom).jpg

Mike and Tim check the thermometer on the ice. © Josiah Wagener

 

As a part of that research, the staff here at Scott Base periodically measure the thickness and temperature of the sea ice in this arm of the Ross Sea. A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to join Scott Base staffers Mike and Tim for an evening trip to check on one of the sea ice probes in the bay. We travelled about 25 kilometres by Hagglund to reach a small instrument table anchored far out in the middle of the ice. Without a GPS it would be difficult indeed to find this one speck in the middle of the vast white flat. They downloaded the recording from the array of thermometers buried through the depth of the ice, changed the batteries in the device, then drilled a new hole to check the current thickness of the ice and of  the layer of soft ice crystals forming on the underside of the sheet.

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Drilling a hole to measure ice thickness. © Josiah Wagener

As we left the remote site we had a beautiful view of sunlight piercing through the clouds onto one of the glaciers that feed ice into this sea.

Sunlight on mountains and glacier (Custom).jpg

Sunlight on mountains and glacier © Josiah Wagener