ICE Fimbul Ice Shelf expedtion diary: season 2
The expedition route
The map shows the expedition route and the day-to-day location of the 2010–2011 expedtion.
A journey ends
Today at 17:30 UTC, our little train rolled into Troll Station, and thus our field season is successfully, safely and happily completed.
The photographer’s experience
Looking through photos taken on Fimbulisen 2009-10 in preparation for this expedition, I wondered how I was going to take good photos in a world of flat ice with a 360 degree straight horizon.
It is impossible to visit the unloading site without encountering the residents, and indeed we did. Whether we had the role of spectators or attraction remains uncertain.
The Last Stake
In the afternoon today we measured our very last stake, and then continued northwards until we could go no further without getting thoroughly wet.
How to see through ice?
The main aim of our field work here on Fimbulisen is to determine the mass balance of the ice shelf: whether the total amount of ice is increasing or decreasing? How can we measure this when changes occur both at the surface and at the base?
Happy New Year
It has been another day of assembly line routine. In fact it has been so good that we end it with a celebration.
Just another day at the office
Everything went by ordinary routine today; just driving interrupted by 45 minutes of GPS and radar work every 10 km. It was wonderful!
Poor weather, poor planning
We had another blizzard yesterday. When we parked the vehicles to face the weather, we made two simple mistakes, and were punished accordingly.
The owners drop by
Just as we were on our way to bed, Kjetil came in saying that there was something on the horizon heading our way.
A good share of the glaciological stakes at eastern Fimbulisen have vanished since last season. But that does not stop us from measuring them.
It was evening and definitely dinner time. As I moved the GPS to the final stake of the M1 stake net my eye was caught by a black dot on the horizon. It seemed to be moving.
After a fairly smooth crossing of the crevasse zone east of Jutulstraumen, we have parked early today to celebrate the holiday.
A descendant of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded is taking a waltz around Fimbulisen and Trolltunga.
The summer has peaked in Antarctica, and to underscore the point Fimbulisen has started melting.
Sembla limps no more
To set an old dog straight requires no spare parts. All it takes is a skilled mechanic with tools and an eye for improvisations.
The storm is over, and finally we are doing scientific work again! Today’s measurements were based on certain properties that glacial ice shares with porridge of oats.
I have mentioned earlier that the more frustrating moments during an expeditions occur when everything and everybody is almost ready to go. I forgot what it is like when the weather is almost good enough.
At the mercy of Fimbul Ice Shelf
After a few days in a storm like this, one can only feel the deepest respect for those who, a century ago, explored this same continent.
Fimbulisen in a gale: what are we doing here?
So after 3 days of storm and despite cappuccinos, cinnamon rolls, pizza and pop corn, my amiable associates are starting to ask me what we are doing here. Science for the good of the world isn’t what they want to hear…
Tore strikes back
The food on this expedition is excellent, except we have a rather more abundant supply of porridge oats than coffee. Tore points out that this is good for us.
Towards the end of their radar driving yesterday, Kirsty and Elvar heard an ominous “clank” from below the driver’s seat.
“Rivers” under the ice?
We mentioned a “radar grid” yesterday. What this cryptic term means is that Kirsty and Elvar have been out looking for channels under the ice.
We completed the second and last round to the south of Jutulstraumen today, and glaciologist Kirsty and Elvar have started out on an extensive radar grid in the vicinity of our M2 camp.
Today the expedition’s pens and keyboards shall rest. Instead we will treat you to a little show by our very own expedition photographer, Elvar Ørn.
The human body works like it always does in other ways too: It gets filthy – perhaps even more so during fieldwork. What do we do about that when there is no bathroom?
Number ones and number twos
Even far into the field, the human body works like it always does: It eats, it digests, and about once a day it excretes the residue. How do we go about this business, hundreds of km away from any plumbing?
Iceberg breeding ground
We are travelling on the huge ice tongue named Trolltunga – the tip of Jutulstraumen, where this ice flow gradually feeds itself to the Southern Ocean as Antarctic icebergs. A new one is about to break off right now, right here.
Word of the day
One of the more valuable components of an expedition like this is the one that keeps the engine running, the mechanic.
We are writing December 7 in our books at Fimbulisen, and finally the winds have abated sufficiently for us to excavate ourselves after 3 days in a blizzard.
The met service at Neumayer is excellent. When they forecast a blizzard, a blizzard is what we get.
Home for Christmas!
I was not scheduled to leave the white continent until 22 December. However, as everything went so well on Fimbulisen, Johan and I got back to Troll early enough for me to catch the flight out yesterday.
First glaciology circuit completed
Around 2 pm today we pulled into our base camp at site M2, having completed the first of four glaciology circuits on Jutulstraumen ice stream.
Like the Antarctic Plateau, the Fimbulisen ice shelf is flat, and white. But anyone thinking that there’s nothing more to it will be surprised.
We are on our way back to Troll Station, with skidoos and mountain tents. This simple outdoor life takes us closer to the nature, be it drifting snow, sun, or penguins.
With only four persons remaining, the main camp has become considerably more quiet. But that may not be the reason why we overslept today.
Two leaving, four to stay
So here we sit, just the four of us, wondering how we are going to find the food now!
Oceanography work completed
We passed an important milestone today: all three sets of oceanographic instruments have been found, excavated, maintained and relieved of all their data.
Crevasses and cracks
Assisted by satellites we had an uneventful passage through the shear zone. En route we found the mother of all cracks.
Like kids in a candy store
It’s our third day on the Fimbul Ice Shelf. We are cruising west towards the Jutulstraumen ice stream. We are followed by two deep ice penetrating radars. The ice is safe, it’s about 300 metres thick.
First treasure salvaged from the Fimbul Ice Shelf
With blue sky and sunshine on our faces, we reached the first oceanographic station today. By dinner time, we met the glaciologists and celebrated our success.
At last, the Fimbul Ice Shelf!
We were uncertain whether our first day would be filled with science or not. The forecast was 40 knot winds and blowing snow - hardly ideal conditions.
Glacier safety in the crevasse area
Today, we left the grounded glacier and reached the desired object of our studies: The floating Fimbulisen ice shelf. On the way, we refreshed our knowledge of glacier safety and practiced the routines for crevasse rescue.
Moving on to science
Twelve days at Troll Station may seem a lot of time spent to just pack up and go. But we will reap the benefits now that the science begins.
Without last time challenges there would not be any stories worth telling
During the last 12 days at Troll we have had every possible challenge thrown at us, just as if we were not supposed to get away too easily.
The more frustrating moments during expeditions like this one always occur towards the end of the preparation phase. Everybody is set and ready to go, everything is packed and checked OK. Almost.
Last station for overwintering crew
While we are strapping the last boxes onto our sledges today, the Troll crew are busy cleaning and tidying up the station.
The natural environment at Troll is 99,9999 % rock and ice, without a trace of plant life. Anyone seeing this place earlier in the year would be forgiven for believing it to be completely sterile.
Repair oil heaters and sledges. Test stoves, radars, radios and generators. Load fuel drums with heavy machines, solder circuit boards. Our work is most definitely varied.
Another Day in Paradise
Phil Collins’ refrain feels appropriate when the day starts with TROLL-weather! That means cloudless and dark blue skies, 15 degrees below freezing, a flat calm and snow petrels busy around the hillside.
The tracked vehicles we will be driving to Fimbulisen are named after famous polar dogs.
I find myself in photographers heaven.
Many irons in the fire
1200 slices of bread, 35 kg of spreads, cheeses and jams, breakfast and dinner for 60 days, loads of scientific equipment , tools, tents, sleeping pads, stoves, camping toilet, satellite phone, VHF-radio, GPS, several generators, four skidoos and sledges, two heavy vehicles and fuel for everything…
Preparations start at Troll
Our 1st day at Troll was spent preparing to get organized.
The transition from sunny Cape Town to an Antarctic airfield can be a brusque one.
Being a tourist in Cape Town is easy work.
Ready for the trip from Cape Town to Troll, Antarctica
We have been in Cape Town for two days, checked through all the equipment that will follow us towards Troll Station, and been to a preparatory briefing by the logistics operator ALCI who will take us across the Southern Ocean. We are good to go!