I've been back in Antarctica working for the British Antarctic Survey for the last 3.5 months. This season I led a collaborative British/German scientific expedition to the Filchner Ice Shelf.
The scientific goal of the project was to drill 3 holes at 3 different locations through the floating ice shelf, into the sea, and then deploy a series of oceanographic instruments designed to give an insight into the future stability of the ice shelf. In order to drill these holes through ~600m of ice a technique of hot water drilling is utilised.
My role in a project of this nature is as camp manager, field safety and co-ordination of logistics in terms of input, camp moves and uplift at the end of the season. The project was a complicated one logistically speaking due to the amount of equipment required. In addition to this the input and camp moves between drill sites were originally intended to be done using Pisten Bully vehicles but due to the approach being heavily crevassed this was not possible. Instead we were dropped off by aircraft and moved our camp using snowmobiles. In total we had approximately 40,000 lbs (18 tons!) of gear to move between the sites! This translates into about 4 rotations with 3 skidoos each pulling 1.5 tons on every run!
As always when working in Antarctica the weather was mixed, but on the whole we were very lucky with the conditions. Poor weather early on delayed the whole team arriving on site by almost a month but once everyone was there work progressed quickly and successfully.
Thanks to the team in the field; Tore, Jorg, Johannes, Pete, Paul, Lewin and Svein for a great season. And thanks to everyone else involved in the process!
Antarctica has featured in the news a fair bit over the last few months in relation to the Halley VI station on the Brunt Ice Shelf where I was working last year. The team at Halley this season have been super busy with relocating the base but the decision has been made not to over winter any personnel at the station due to the instability of the Brunt Ice Shelf. This is a big decision for BAS and it will be interesting to see what happens next with the Halley station. I worked at Halley last season assisting Dr Jan De Rydt in investigating the massive crevasse that has opened up near to the station and necessitated the need to move the base. If you have seen the BBC Horizons programme with Peter Gibbs you can see me as a tiny speck inside the chasm filmed from a drone!