Antarctic Expedition: Day 21/12 Print

December 21st 2014. On this day, the summer solstice of the Southern Hemisphere, when the sun is at its highest in the sky over the Antarctic horizon, the weather conditions were excellent. We have been lucky with the weather over the last week. Though temperatures have been low, we have had no wind, and thus the apparent outdoor temperature has been agreeable.

 

aa2

 

We can be outside in shirtsleeves, but after a few minutes our hands start to freeze, so we must use gloves or mittens. We have a similar experience with the solar radiation. While it is good to have sunshine, this can be a danger to skin and eyes, so we must protect ourselves with sun glasses or goggles, to avoid possible temporary blindness.

 

We had no technical difficulties along the route, although the number, frequency and height of snow dunes increased, meaning that the convoy had to move forward at a slower pace, with more swinging, jolting and bumping than usual, thus making it harder to work within the CECs1 module, with computers and other equipment taking a battering, possibly falling onto the floor. The reason for this change in conditions, from soft to hard snow, is that yesterday we were measuring the most Western area to be included in the campaign, which is found right at Pine Island Glacier, where the wind increases and causes greater surface ruggedness. We covered a total of 90 km today, over which we saw a big change in subglacial topography, as we moved from a deep gentle valley, with low snow reflectivity, to a much more shallow, rugged valley, with higher snow reflectivity. Without a doubt, this difference is a consequence of background conditions in geological, morphological and hydrological terms.

 

aa1

 

 

Along the whole length of this route, we came across several beacons that had been installed last summer, enabling us to calculate surface ice speeds and mass balance, which in general give a water equivalent that varies between +16 and 26 cm per year.

 

The day ended after midnight, once the whole team had eaten: chicken with fresh salad, which included our last remaining paltas.