The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 11 – Paradise in Antarctica.

Posted by Steve - 18 December 2013

On the edge of “fast” ice, about 50km from Mawsons Huts.

Temperature a balmy 7.3 deg; high cloud burnt off by early afternoon, no wind. Paradise in Antarctica. The ice is now getting quite slushy – like spring snow in the Aussie ski fields.

We have a stunning view of the Antarctic coastline near Commonwealth Bay, however it is blocked by several large icebergs. Iceberg B09B ( don’t you think it needs a better name?!) is apparently the size of Luxembourg; it’s the biggest penguin of them all.

We had a briefing after breakfast and discussed the day’s activities. Mid morning excursions to different activities, some science, some wandering on ice.

A reconnoitre over the ice on the Argos, was seeking to establish a route to Mawsons Huts; the Mawsons Huts Foundation members, are especially keen to get there and do maintenance on the huts. They travelled as far as they could, before pressure ridges prevented further travel. Another route has been eliminated from our plans, however we are working on the next best option.

Erik the oceanographer had 5 successful 3 metre ice drills through the ice and then tested the salinity and temperature of the water under the ice.

Tracey and her team played seal mating calls through the hydrophones underwater (attempting to attract seals).

Ziggy and Graham had an adventurous day on the ice, taking underwater footage of the sea life. They had an exciting moment when the zodiac was suddenly lifted into the air by a large Mini car sized ice chunk, that had burst through an ice crack.

Hangout on Air with Google: A historical view of the Antarctica with an old tent, replica of Mawson’s sled and participants dressed in Mawson era gaberdine clothing.

Upstaged by the wildlife ! – a lone emperor penguin appeared amongst about 50 adelie penguins who had just joined us; closely followed by an Orca (killer) whale within metres of the broadcast crew. This certainly silenced the humans, and brought some to tears.

Be sure to watch this Hangout video on the website.

Those who went walking on the ice, reported that it is getting slushy and soft on the surface, and that cracks kept appearing, with little ice islands separating from the main floe during the walk.

Two of the group travelled about 3km on their cross country skis to where 2 Weddell seals were being studied, darted and biopsied; in order to get samples for analysis of the nitrogen isotope levels in their tissues. They made a better pace than the Argos with their passengers, who repeatedly got bogged.

Early evening as everyone on the ice was heading back to the ship, the cracks in the ice widened, separating them from the ship. Our obliging captain, Igor, manoeuvered the ship to a new spot, so that they could safely board.

Christmas Trees, decorations and lights are now up in the bar and dining room, We are festive. The Aussies have loved reminding our Pommie friends on board of that we have reclaimed the Ashes.

9pm. Just at the end of dinner – the ice sheet that we were on all day has had a massive fracture and disintegrated into numerous sheets with large areas of water in between! Good thing that we are all on board, as well as all of the scientific equipment and vehicles.

Special mention – Happy Birthday to Elise, mother of our talented Doctor, Andrew Peacock xoxo

LOL The East Antarctic Coastline, nearly 10:40pm, still sunny.