Journey to Antarctica: Part 2

01 November 2012

When you’ve been living on a ship floating in the pack ice just off the continent of Antarctica, at times it feels like you’re living in a giant snow globe. It’s been five weeks, and our journey is no less surreal. Every once and awhile we get off the ship, and get to play on the ice. By play, I mean dig trenches in snow (anywhere from 10cm deep to 1 metre), take cores of meter thick ice – not an easy task when you are manually turning the 9cm metal corer, and drill holes through the ice to sample the seawater below. But all this hard work is usually rewarded by a visit from some curious penguins and the occasional game of ice Frisbee. Oh, and the plethora of dessert aboard the Aurora Australis isn’t too bad of a motivator.

At first field work on a floating chunk of sea ice seems daunting and unusual. But once you have been out shoveling snow and taking cores for an hour, you quickly find your sea ice legs. On this voyage we have successfully moored the ship at five ice floes (including the first station that broke up within a few hours, that was mentioned in the previous blog post). We stay at each station for only a few days, and it is always a treat to get out on the ice. The breaks between stations can be long if the ice is thick and the ship has a hard time breaking through, and cabin fever can set in pretty quickly on a 100m ship. Once the ship is successfully moored in place it’s usually a mad dash to get out onto the ice and collect samples.

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