Posts Tagged ‘James Clark Ross’

The JCR made it into Stanley just after lunch on Christmas Eve. It was strange coming back into where we had been only a few weeks earlier. It had seemed hilly and remote the first time, but after the ice cliffs and empty islands further South it looked a bit more hospitable now!

As soon as the ship had passed custom’s we made a dash to Peacocks, the only clothes shop in Stanley. Having not expected to still be with the ship come Christmas party frocks had not been packed. Luckily there was enough of a selection that we didn’t all match!

Christmas Day started with a phone call from home and a run along the sea front. We had organised a scientists secret santa and, after complaints from some of those not included, a ship-wide secret santa too. During Christmas morning parcels started appearing under the tree. Official celebrations began with pre-lunch drinks and present swapping. Some of the gifts were amazing, especially considering the limited resources available on a ship. I gave fridge magnets and a tutu, and got an engraved glass and ropework keyring.

After the drinks we enjoyed a turkey curry Christmas dinner complete with stuffing samosas. There was no way I could manage Christmas so close to the sea without going in it -in the afternoon a group of us walked to the closest beach, Surf Bay, for a quick dip. The water was surprisingly warm (or at least not cold), whether this was due to the multiple G & T’s or Falklands summer time I’m not sure. As we were enjoying post-swim beer and jaffa cakes we spotted a seal where we had been moments before.

At 6 am on Boxing Day we set off to the airport for 16 hours of flights back to the UK. 24 hours after leaving the ship I made it back home to start the family Christmas celebrations!

I had a brilliant few weeks on the JCR – the crew and officiers were amazing, the scientists made me feel at home, the penguins were amusing. I hadn’t been looking forward to spending Christmas away from home, but it ended up much better than I could have imagined. I now need to find a way to make my modelling PhD involve some ship time…

Finally, here is what has been going on in my office whilst I’ve been away:



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We left Rothera very almost on schedule – half a day late, giving time for a few last walks up to the monument before departing. Lots of the base staff came to wave us off in perfect sunshine. The trip back around Adelaide Island gave some spectacular views of the snowy cliffs.
The next stop was meant to be Vernadsky. The POL science team needed to drop of some tide gauges from the Ukrainian base. A few cruise ships had been in the area so we thought getting in would be ok. The shortest route was via the French Passage, this was covered with sea ice and with only a narrow channel of surveyed ocean we had to make a U-turn and try to get in another way. The cruise ships take the Le Mayer channel , to get to this route took us right past Port Lockroy. It would have been rude to go so close by without popping in to say hi!
Port Lockroy was initially a British army base used to spy on German submarines during world war two. Later it was used by BAS; then fell into disrepair. When the Antarctic Treaty was made BAS had to dismantle the base entirely or renovate it – they turned it into a heritage site visited by 14000 tourists a year. The base is only open during the summer months; they do limited science – penguin counting and meteorological observations. The only way to the base is little boats – so we were ferried across to look in the museum and see the Gentoo penguin colony close-up. The ride back on the little boat was my highlight; the wind had picked up a bit so we got soaked by waves. I was very grateful for my x4 ‘fat’ suit keeping me snug.

After the fun of the morning I really needed to get on with some work, but we quickly got to Le Mayer channel. Although it was foggy we could see the snowy cliffs either side appearing to go on forever into the clouds. As we came out of the channel we saw the National Geographic Explorer cruise ship waiting to go back up.
As we got to Vernadsky it was clear getting anyone to shore was going to be a challenge – ice flows continued right to the shore. After going round in circles for a while the captain parked up as close to shore as he could get – 32 m off the rocky edge. The crew had a challenge – how to get a full bin-bags of expensive scientific instruments to shore. Attempt one involved throwing a rock attached to a line, this barely reached half way. Next attempt – a giant elastic band catapault, this only reached a few metres! Then one of the motormen came up to the foredeck with a fishing line – after a few ‘practices’ he got the end of it to shore. After a few minutes we could see a ski-doo coming down the slope. I’m not sure the Ukrainians were expecting to have to pull a few hundred metres of rope on shore as the bin-bags were split up into lighter loads, a goodwill gift of a few bottles from the bond  might have helped compensate!

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This afternoon I have started packing, or making a pile of everything I think might be useful. This currently includes a swimming costume, lots of university work and a fleecy rainbow hat. I have 54 kg of baggage allowance, if I use it all I don’t think I’ll be able to get to the airport!

RRS James Clark Ross in pack ice, in Marguerite Bay, close to Rothera research station. The mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula are in the background.

When I tell people I am going to Antarctica they usually have a lots of questions to ask. I have already cover ‘why?’ (Going to see the penguins) and ‘what will you do there?’ (spider on board). Here are the answers to a few other frequently asked questions:

Q. Will you see many Polar Bear?

A. None, Polar Bears live in the Arctic. I will have to make do with penguins 🙂

Q. Have you packed enough warm clothes?

A. I hope so! The same time last year (mid November to mid December) the temperature were generally much higher in the Southern Ocean than they were in th UK. The mean monthly temperature for December at Rothera Research Base, the most southerly point I will go, is above freezing. The mean minimum temperature for Durham in the same month is only a few degrees higher.

Q. Will you see the midnight sun?

Probably! Rothera research base is within the Antarctic Circle and so experiences 24 hour sunlight for part of the summer. I’m not yet sure if it will be when I am there.

Q. Will you see the Southern Lights?

A. The Southern Lights (or aurora australis) are usually seen only during the Antarctic winter, March to September. In the summer the pole experiences constant daylight so the aurora cannot be seen.

Q. Are you looking forward to seeing water going the other way around the plug?

A. Actually the way that the water goes around a plughole is controlled by the shape of the sink. It doesn’t go the other way in the Southern Hemisphere. Large ocean currents flowing around the ocean basins (called gyres) do spin opposite directions due to the Coriolis Force, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and anticlockwise South of the equator. This force is too weak to impact small scale motion. If the sink was reeeeeeally big then the spin of the water would act like in the oceans – click here if you don’t believe me or want to know more.

Q. Can you bring me back a penguin?

A. No, and asking again later won’t change my mind

Q. Where will you sleep?

A. On the boat! It will take about a week to cross the Drake Passage.

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