Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Aurora Basin North Update December 10

Update: December 10 2013, 1230UT
Position reached: E 111° 23.766' S 71° 10.051'
(no change: 1km from ABN drill site)
Elevation: 2677 m
Temperature (evening): -14 °C

The traverse living/generator vans remain 1km from the drill site at the
end of this, our first, day at ABN.

We enjoyed getting off to a somewhat later start today - a chance to
recover a little from the relentless traverse routine!

We had a good day, but with no thanks to the weather. It was snowy with low
cloud and poor visibility all day. We drove in to the site along a
carefully planned route to avoid disrupting the areas we want to remain
pristine for drilling, snow sampling and fresh water, and began to mark out
the site. For this, we used bamboo canes - a standard tool in Antarctic
fieldwork, as they are light, long and strong.

The first task was to assess the wind direction which determines the
alignment of the skiway and the best alignment of camp tents. These are
best distributed across (perpendicular to) the wind, as this alignment
helps to avoid snow drift tails from one tent inundating others downwind.

At the moment we are experiencing a significant weather system that is
producing easterly winds. This, however, is unusual for this site, and we
have records from a nearby old automatic weather station that suggest the
prevailing winds are typically south-easterly. We can just make out older
partly obscured drifts that confirm the more normal SE winds - and so we
bravely ignore the present indications in aligning the camp: and skiway in
days to come.

After marking things out this morning and running the kassi over the area
to level for tents and foot traffic, the weather closed in and visibility
decreased to virtually nil. We retreated for lunch to the vans 1km away,
driving on GPS, as our tracks from earlier were almost impossible to

In the afternoon, we went back in only slightly better conditions and were
able to bring in the five containers on sleds with our gear. We also put up
a medium/small tent for working storage/shelter, and did some preliminary
unpacking/exploring of the containers.

That's about it for the day - it is good to be making a start on the
camp, although working in the windy and snowy conditions is always
challenging, and slows progress. The warmer temperatures are a relief in
many ways, lessening the biting chill and risk of cold injury, but they do
make the conditions somewhat wet - the snow that gets caught in gaps and
crevices and attached to clothes very quickly turns to water.

The forecast for the next few days is much the same, but we are hoping for
at least some gaps with better visibility so work can begin on the skiway.