Antarctic wheather


BLOG 4 26/11/2018

The good weather had to end at some point, so guess what happened Friday. High wind speeds combined with blown up ice made it difficult to work outside. We did find a little window between the blazing winds to go outside and install the automatic weather station of Utrecht University we put on the roof earlier to connect with its satellite. Installation was easy thanks to the straightforward design and easy-to-read guide included. If only every scientific instrument was that easy to handle, congrats to the developers. Data is available on so if you are interested in the weather we are experiencing you can check it out.

While Stefania was working on one of Alexanders (KMI) instruments, I was in a place where I feel very at home; the workshop. To optimize the sampling of dust particles for isotope analysis (one of Stefania’s topics) the inlet system of the pump put in place last year had to be improved. In the preparation, we decided we were going to use one of the passive sampling devices and turn it active. However, with no details on the already installed connections the modification was impracticable to do in advance so we took the risk to do it in the station’s ‘shop. At the end of the day and with the help of Pierre, the chief mechanics, we had a sampling head to be proud of! During diner I met a familiar face, Bryce, who gave me a lesson in how to use GIS for Antarctica some months ago, suddenly turned up at the station. With a team of four they are looking for the oldest ice in Antarctica and their plane had to make a refueling stop.

Saturday the weather continued on the same trend. We were warned by Henri to stay inside as whiteouts may occur. Even trips to our measurement shelter were to be registered. So the only option I had was to do some more work in the workshop (poor me). This time we prepared all the new poles and plates on which we will mount the samplers at the new passive sampling sites and dry fitted everything. We got notice Monday we may leave for the plateau to do the two sampling sites there so everything should be ready to go. Boxes and bottles were prepared and made ready to fit on the vehicle taking us there. A heavily modified Toyota Hilux truck with rubber tracks instead of wheels.

But first, the next day; some relaxing. With a small group including our field guide Manu and the Doc we did a skidoo tour to Dry Valley, around 45 minutes. The route on the ice plane between two mountain ridges was beautiful. Towards the end of the tour, the wind picked up and there was no fun in continuing the tour. We turned off the route and drove up to a smaller but steeper glacier bringing us up to 2200m altitude where it got too steep for the skidoo’s so we walked to the ridge on foot. Views were, again, breathtaking and the remains of the bad weather of the last days added a slight amount of drama to the mountain peaks.

Monday Stefania and I woke up early and excited, today were going to the plateau. Then, minutes before departure, we got a phone call from Alain, there is a storm on the plateau and we can’t go. I went to vent the frustrations on the roof of the garage where a pile of snow had accumulated because of last week’s weather. Shoveling it off together with a few guys proved an ideal way to turn the bad energy into something good! And good news followed. We would take the preparations we made for the Plateau and hop on the snow scooter for a trip to Romnoes (70km) where another one of the already installed sampling stations is located. The schedule was to drive 2.5 hours but the rough terrain made it very difficult to maintain speed. After 3.5 hours of driving, we were still 10km from the site and facing almost impossible terrain to cross. Furthermore, the weather started to become threatening with wind speed picking up. Manu had to make a call, which was to return on our trace and drive back to the station. The disappointment was enormous but in the end, safety is more important and Stefania and I both agreed with the decision. But we will get you next time Romnoes!

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