The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 15 – Summer solstice

Posted by Peter & Judy - 22 December 2013

It might be a gloomy day outside and a day on board, however expedition life continues.

In this part of the world the actual summer solstice was in the early hours of today. It went quietly given the cloudy conditions; unlike recent days when in beautiful conditions some took in the early hour’s sunset and sunrise.

The sea has many patches of loose sea ice, the temperature is about -2 degrees, light snow is falling, a breeze is blowing and the barometer is hovering at around 970.

Some spent time today reading, getting to know people better, learning 500, or catching up on sleep. Others continued the recent 24 hour observations of seals and weather; and sea based ice conditions on behalf of the AAD. If seals are found and conditions are safe, Tracey’s biopsy program will continue using the zodiacs and the ‘dart’ gun. At the time of writing 27 whales had also been observed today.

The deployment of the deep sea observation devices under the guidance of ‘Erik of the Antarctik’ also continued on a regular basis. Today this program is targeting locations previously surveyed many years ago. The ‘mainframe’ computer used on location to ensure the data is being recorded required some creative maintenance today – soldering a fuse onto the circuit board with the help of a Russian engineer. This continues a trend of hands on TLC.

The Shokalskiy shop reappeared for any last minute Christmas shopping that might be needed. It’s products included winter wear and books, together with badges and fridge magnets. In similar spirit two Christmas trees are in place as is the Kris Kringle collection box.

The journey today is to move east around the large B9B iceberg. This will take all day and into tomorrow, hopefully placing us at the shore edge of the Mertz glacier and Stillwell Island area, and providing the opportunity to step onto the Antarctic continent.

A session by Chris Fogwill titled Old Ice, New Ice, Blue Ice’ enlightened us about the creation and movement of ice in these parts, including the taking of ice cores and their embedded air bubbles. The amount of CO2 and methane, and Deutrinium - heavy hydrogen - are indicators of change, when considered with dating of the ice cores. On a lighter note a sample was handed around to see the trapped bubbles, then later put to good use by the bar. Some reported a hint of saltiness which was reported to have enhanced mixed drink combinations.