|Antarctic Expedition 2016|
December 29 and 30, 2016
The day started with great conditions leading to the confirmation of flight IL76, which will take us back to Punta Arenas. We had a quick lunch and after getting our things ready, we said good bye to Union Glacier around 7:00 pm.
The return trip took 4 and a half hours. We successfully landed in Chacabuco at midnight. That night we slept in beds with sheets for the first time in 30 days, it was very nice. The next morning we had to run to catch our flight to Puerto Montt and arrived at 2:00 pm. Then we traveled to Valdivia, thus finalizing this new and successful Antarctic campaign.
We would like to thank everyone who followed this blog daily, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Until a new expedition!!!
Wednesday December 28, 2016
Glacier Union “town” is celebrating. Meteorological conditions were very nice today, even a “baby football” match was played by the Chinese delegation and the ALE’s team reinforced by our Felipe. Good conditions are also in the forecast for the IL76 flight for tomorrow.
We prepared our gear, what follows now is to arrange our mobile station and get it ready for next winter, also secure and pack the radar antennas, the ice cores box, accessories and tools.
In the afternoon we had a work meeting with Tim the UG representative, to thank him for all his support and share our opinions for improvements and to coordinate other tasks related to our module in order to leave it well prepared for 2017.
Finally, around 8 pm, Andrés communicated with Rothera to know about Alex and Nick from BAS, we wondered if they had returned from Beamish or if they were still at base camp. Fortunately, they left yesterday for Rutford with their cargo distributed in two twin BAS flights.
Tuesday December 27, 2016
Today we woke up in the town of Union Glacier. It’s a western like settlement but in Antarctica, there are more than 20 nationalities that work, eat and sleep in tents within a 500-meter radius.
The people here are mountain climbers, ALE workers, adventure and record seekers and some scientists. Among the last, there is a group from project POLNET, USA. Their leader is Bob Smoley, an old acquaintance who is retrieving data from a huge network of GPS and seismological stations. There are also 3 people from the Brazilian expedition who came from their base Criosfera 1, near Monte Thiels and lead by Francisco Aquino, another old friend and veteran from our South Pole campaign in 2004. Among ourselves we discussed science, what we do and what’s coming.
We prepared the cargo for our scheduled departure on December 29, as long as the meteorological conditions permit. It’s too soon for forecasts, but it seems that the possibilities to stay on schedule are looking good.
We rested and shared with the wild mix of people that reside here. However, we are beginning to relax after a long campaign.
Monday December 26, 2016
Today was cloudy, cold and with low visibility, winds of 5 knots, a temperature of -18ºC and completely covered with clouds. These conditions were not adequate for the ALE and BAS planes to land and take us from our mobile station, so we will have to wait. However, there were many things to take care of before leaving; pack our personal belongings, prepare the cargo that travels with us and the cargo that stays behind in the convoy for use later on.
In the morning we distributed everything we will take with us on the ALE’s Twin Otter. It was approximately 100 kg. added to 3 Zarges boxes and a BAS’s wooden box that would travel with us. The remaining boxes and gear will stay in the module. We also have to comply with environmental regulations to dispose appropriately of all expedition remnants and debris. This is how we fulfill all the required environmental protocols and completion of our Antarctic mission, having accomplished 100% of what we planned to do!!!
We had pizza for lunch and waited for the proper weather conditions for our aerial pick up and departure. BAS reported its condition to their Rothera base hourly for them to authorize take off. We did also, but to Glacier Union (UG), where Ross waited for the go-ahead to take off on its “Twin”.
At about 4 pm, conditions improved and Glacier Union informed us that if visibility conditions remained good they could take off at around 6 pm, however, the growing visibility and harsh contrast persisted. At 5 pm the mountains became visible on the northern horizon so Glacier Union confirmed the flight. Nick from BAS reported the same conditions, so the Twin take off from Rothera was authorized. Everything was going well but at 7 pm the flight to our base was cancelled due to poor visibility. Our British companions will have to wait.
Our twin took off from Glacier Union despite the fact that the conditions had worsened, but Ross the pilot in charge of our twin was very experienced and he had no problem flying and landing on the CECs’ lake at 7.15 pm.
We were very emotional and hugged Nick and Alex good bye, after such intense weeks together, each group would now embark toward different continents… we will meet again soon.
After overflying the Ellsworth range we returned to Glacier Union around 8 pm. We were welcomed by old friends and after eating we took a needed shower (we hadn’t bathed in 3 weeks) and went to sleep.
Our BAS partners stayed at the CECs Lake sleeping comfortably in our mobile unit, waiting for the next day to be picked up and taken to Rothera.
Sunday December 25, 2016
Before reporting our daily activities, we want to wish a merry Christmas to all our friends, relatives and partners of adventures. You all know we hold you in our thoughts on this day of family gatherings.
For the first time on this expedition, we got up a little later to have brunch at noon. Alexa and Nick began packing up their gear and we prepared for the last remaining readings. Around 1:00 pm, Felipe and Andres went out on the snow bike to cinematically measure all the seismic lines. They had to do it in very low temperatures, 10 knot wind and white vision. The task ended around 4:00 and they came back to base. Rodrigo was packing our equipment and preparing the meteorological station for the long winter ahead.
At 7:00 we ate together and exchanged some presents. Santa brought Alex a John Le Carre’s book in Spanish (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) and a CECs pennant with our Occidental Antarctica expedition logo. Nick got a CECs’ Jockey and a pennant just like Alex’s. We got some candy.
Alex shared a bottle of Oporto and after a few drinks we went to bed early.
Saturday December 24, 2016
This day began with an early breakfast in hopes of finishing the third and last seismic line of this chapter in just a few hours.
We went out on two snow bikes with sleds. The line is about 30 minutes from our base. Once we reached it we began planting the geophones. They are contained in a total of 48 bars of aluminum, each needing to be connected to the main cable that sends the signal to the receptor. Once this task is completed, detonation and recording take place, followed by the digging up, moving, burying and detonating again sequence. This repeats 16 times in this line (it was done 24 times in the previous ones). We only stopped half way through for a few minutes to drink something warm. We worked until 17:00 when we finished our last readings.
We went back to base and only then we realized that it was Christmas eve, so we prepared a special dinner, steaks, mashed potatoes and strawberries for dessert, then we started a little party when Rodrigo pulled out a fruit cake made by his sister. Alex also had a Christmas cake, they were both very good, although a bit dry, so Alex pulled out some whisky to moisten them up and to not be less than them, we brought a 7-year-old Ron Havana that we had kept in our module for three years, it was just waiting to be opened to celebrate an accomplishment such as this expedition. So with European and Latin American spirits, we ate the cakes and talked and laughed until midnight.
In the meantime, Alex pre-processed the data collected today and we could once again observe a great profile with a strong and clear lake showing a depth of almost 100 meters. With these readings, we complete the lake’s features, which was much more interesting than we thought.
Friday December 23, 2016
The summer solstice is the longest day in the southern hemisphere and we had a great day. Here in Antarctica daylight lasts 24 hours during the summer and today the sun shone on us from its highest altitude over the horizon.
We had a busy journey preparing the last measuring line that we hope to get tomorrow. Line C is composed by 17 perforations, each with their own charge. First we installed the flags along the line with the help of our GPS. Then we perforated each measuring site, charging the boosters and triggers to finally re seal the perforations with compacted snow.
It took almost 10 hours in the field, everything came out ok and now we are heading to bed in order to leave early in the morning to take the last measurements. Let’s hope everything turns out ok.
Thursday December 22, 2016
Once again, a great day with shining sun, cold with 19ºC, but no wind, we are blessed with sunrays. We had a good breakfast and got ready for another action packed day. We charged batteries, verified browsers, filled up our flasks and went out at approximately 9:00 to line B. This is a second transversal prospection line on the CECs’ subglacial lake, we waited to continue measuring its most fundamental properties. The readings began on the B line’s south section and moved forward taking sounding readings every 20 to 30 minutes.
Working as a “well-oiled machine”, with clear, specific and coordinated roles, “we played by heart” to optimize time and do as many measurements as possible in the least amount of time. The measuring contemplates 24 sites where sounding needs to be applied in order to measure the return waves from the CECs’ lake.
We had no problems and when a third of the mission was completed, we took a break to drink something warm and eat a high-calorie snack. The CECs’ members contributed with dried fruit and chocolate, while the BAS shared oatmeal cookies made from a yeast paste similar to a typical British product called “marmite”, whose slogan is “either you love it or you hate it”. Alex shared a home-made chocolate nut bar made by Andy Smith. It tasted good and had plenty of fat, ideal for this kind of weather. After a short break, we continued working on our task, to dig up snow and plant the geophones, moving to the measuring point, standing still quietly making no noises for 10 seconds after the pulse and wait for the return.
After confirming the data feedback, Alex gave the go ahead and we went back to work, this time pulling the geophones and moving them 240 meters along the transect for a new reading. It’s a hard operation and becomes tedious because of the endless repetition, but it must be done carefully and strictly to avoid reading mistakes. Finally, after 10 hours work, we completed the line and returned to base camp where a very spicy, juicy beef curry awaited us. We reviewed the preliminary data and verified that they are consistent, and were recorded without evident measuring errors. We went to bed very tired but with the satisfaction and joy of the explorer who opens its own way through the unknown or unexplored territory. We are convinced that with these key journeys we have taken the first steps to explore the deepest entrails of the CECs’ subglacial lake.
Wednesday December 21, 2016
Today broke with a splendid sunshine, a comfortable temperature of -13ºC and almost no wind. After breakfast, which consisted of oats and dried fruits, we went to work on line B on three fronts: Alex and Felipe to perforate, Nick to charge each perforations and Rodrigo with Andres to fill each perforation. For this last task, they must wait at least 3 hours otherwise the temperature may not be cold enough for snow to compact.
The perforations were going well until the fuel run out, which naturally made the perforation system’s hoses freeze. Work had to be suspended and go back to base camp to defrost the system. Finally, when the system thawed out, we decided to take one precaution, we replaced the motor pump with the spare, so this setback only delayed us a few hours.
After filling the perforations, Rodrigo and Andrés came back to base camp very chilled, while Felipe and Alex finished around 5 pm, followed by some rest time to later finish filling the last perforations that had recently compacted. Nick finished placing charges in all the sites. We are ready to measure tomorrow the complete B line.
At night we ate a meat and vegetables dish with mashed potatoes and we went to rest early expectant of the hard workday that awaits us tomorrow.
Tuesday December 20, 2016
Our good weather window has been stable. After a restless continuous 10-hour “super Monday” work day, today we started early. With fried eggs in our bellies we went out to work on two fronts, while Felipe and Andres did GPS measurements and installed the markers for the B line (our next goal), they repositioned the Trimble equipment, which allowed us to finish measuring all 27 markers, with an error margin of no more than 10 cm. These readings must be very precise so that the markers’ line is perfectly straight and it doesn’t derive in azimuth distance, with the additional difficulty that one flag can barely be seen in a 6 km radius. We were finally able to confirm that they were in perfect order.
On the other hand, Nick and Alex did a superficial charge test to measure the firn’s refraction index and take down the system we left last night. Rodrigo worked in the module taking care of gear maintenance, residue and batteries.
We regrouped for a quick lunch and went back to the field. This time in three groups: Alex and Rodrigo perforated each of the markers that we installed in the morning, Nick and Rodrigo met and placed the charges in the perforations, Felipe and Andres sealed the perforations with snow, leaving them ready to operate.
At the end of the day, we had advanced more than 60% of the B line, so tomorrow; if today’s weather conditions remain the same, windless and very nice temperatures of -15ºC-, we should be able to complete preparations for the line and eventually start with the actual seismic readings tomorrow in the afternoon.
We went to sleep after having an exquisite pasta bolognese.
December 19, 2016
We finally have a window! Today conditions were good after many days waiting. Low wind and partial clouds, the elusive Antarctic sun peeked often through the clouds and seeped in our mobile station, we tried to enjoy for a brief moment its effect on our smiles.
We got up at 7:00 am for a quick breakfast and got everything ready for a long day of work, for that purpose we established a strict chore division, which we all had to comply with synchronically in order to complete all measurements of line A in just one day.
The operation involved the installation of two chains of 24 geophones, each to a depth of 25 cm, then we connected each geophone to the receiving system and we waited quietly for the prospection pulse. Nick on the radio told us how many seconds remained, 45, 44, 43 and then complete silence until Alex said 10 seconds. We all remained quiet, barely breathing. We saw nothing on the surface, but a deep echo was perceived and we lightly sensed the wave on our feet. We had to stay quiet for 10 seconds while the data was recorded. Only then we are able to move again and begin extracting the 24 geophones, which immediately were moved 240 meters to the next measuring line.
This task was complicated in the beginning due a number of details, measure, connect, dig, insert, etc. But after a couple of takes we managed to have a “well-oiled” machine, we know how to do this by heart now and we were able to do each pulse in less than 30 minutes, which forecasts a good work day of at least 12 hours.
Thanks to efficient work, we were on the field for less time, with two breaks to eat something. We dug 600 ditches in total, in a coordinated and mechanical fashion until exhaustion.
After 5 hours we were almost half way done without stopping for a second. We had some coffee and ate chocolate in order to finish. When 4 pulses remained, one of the charges didn’t work. We thought we would have to drill and start over, but to our relief, Nick advised us that it was a polarity problem and it was promptly resolved.
When we were about to take the last measurement, we decided to snap the only pictures of the day. We arrived to our beloved mobile unit around 9 pm to eat something we had defrosted during the morning. It was a quick dinner because we were very tired.
We went to sleep happy and with the satisfaction of a job well done. After so much planning and preparation, we finally have a complete, clear preliminary transect with very good data.
December 18, 2016
Conditions did not improve and the wind once again prevented us from doing the seismic sounding. However, we were able to complete the last drillings of the first line and the 10 sites are ready. After Felipe and Rodrigo filled each one with snow. After several hours at work we were done, now we just have to wait for a window of good weather.
According to the weather report, tomorrow could be a good day for the task at hand, since the wind is slowly dying out and the temperature is rising a little.
December 16 and 17 2016
On Friday 16, we woke up with the whistling of the Antarctic wind coming from the south, the gusts exceeded 24 knots and this added to the -23 C, made us experience a wonderful thermal sensation of -45 a -50 C.
As the morning progressed it started snowing, despite the wind the clouds continued to build up, we only had approximately 150 meters of visibility. The snow and wind increased as the hours went by so we suspended our outings. Basically we took care of maintenance tasks in our camp and then we rested to be ready when better conditions allow us to go back to our task.
Saturday 17 started with similar temperatures and visibility conditions but the wind decreased to 16 knots, which allowed us to leave early to drill and seal the first 13 sites of our first seismic line and place the two geophone lines.
After 7 hours of work under -20 C, we enjoyed a great meal while listening to music, as we should on a Saturday night.
Thursday December 15 2016
Yesterday was a difficult day. Meteorological conditions remained windy and cold, with poor visibility and snowfall. However, we decided to go ahead with the first seismic testing on each test site. We are simply running out of time to continue waiting for a window of good weather.
Despite the difficulties we did quite well. We were able to capture data that in later analysis done by Alex, and after debating these with Rodrigo, Andrés and Andy Smith from BAS in Cambridge (via iridium), we arrived to the conclusion that the CECs’ sub-glacial lake is at 2,600 meters (similar readings were obtained by echo sounding in previous years), indicating that there could be considerable depth, a matter that we should confirm when we complete all the transversal lines. These tests allowed us to define the loads size and the optimal depth for installation. Following these results, we went out again to prepare the first of three lines with loads located every 240 meters.
We all worked very hard and completed 60% of the lines, but we had to suspend activities at around 9 pm, exhausted from hours of work and a -40ºC thermal sensation that didn’t relent. We went back to take shelter at our mobile base. Inside with 13ºC felt like a tropical delight to us. We ate and went to bed very tired but certain that despite the bad weather, we proved that echo sounding was viable.
Wednesday December 14 2016
Today we got up early in hopes of having better weather, but a brief visual inspection from our mobile unit was needed, to establish that it had gotten worse and the wind would not allow us once again, to do the seismic tests. Tomorrow or the day after perhaps…
We always have to get work done ahead of schedule, so that when our fair weather “window” opens, we can make the most of those beautiful windless days, those days of almost absolute silence, when our sensors can take measurements without noise. We decided to continue GPS measurements of the markers installed years back, so Felipe and Andres went out in one of the snow bikes.
Naturally, the conditions didn’t improve during the 5 hours of measuring, we faced uninterrupted wind with speeds of 14 and 20 knots, with temperatures in the -20C and white vision, which made it impossible to get oriented without instruments. A beautiful and huge halo around the sun shone on us at times and it was the only visible sign of the magnificent desolation in which we do our job.
With perseverance and some luck, we found and measured all the markers, including last years, which we hadn’t been able to locate. Even in days like these, there’s always something to be happy for and to celebrate.
From our measurements’ preliminary results, we know that 44 cm of snow piled up during 2016, a similar value to last year’s.
Rodrigo stayed configuring the AWS and although it’s working, is having trouble transmitting. Alex and Nick remained in the module taking care of basic maintenance of the charges. We went to sleep early, waiting for our window of good weather.
Tuesday December 13, 2016
It looks like Tuesday the 13th does indeed bring bad luck. We had planned to do the first seismic tests early on, but the wind picked up making it impossible to continue with measurements. The problem is that the geophones used for this task are very sensitive and with a 22 knot wind, they can only detect noise.
With the wind against us, we separated in two groups to take advantage of the day and complete other tasks. Alex, Nick and Rodrigo went to test the phased array designed by them, which allows viewing the vertical structure of ice in detail, but also to compare successive measurements with this instrument, it can detect melting within the ice via a phased analysis. Felipe and Andres went to take GPS measurements on the markers’ network, installed in the area some years ago, for this purpose, they readied a snow bike and emergency kit.
Everything was going well until once again, the wind increased progressively until it reached 22 knots with an air temperature of -18ºC, which generated a thermal sensation of approximately -40ºC. As we needed to operate a Palmtop and GPS receptors with bare hands (no gloves), we began to get cold and while walking against the wind, our faces began to freeze also.
Finally, after measuring 12 markers, we decided to return to the base camp, where Rodrigo was waiting for us with a lunch of Filet Mignon “Zamora style”. In the afternoon, the strong wind meteorological conditions persisted, so we had to stay inside our module downloading data, reading and resting.
Tomorrow we hope to go back to work.
Monday December 12, 2016
Today we finished measuring line 1 of our seismic mission with the GPS. Me made several trials until obtaining optimal results, because during the coordinates’ conversion process we realized that the markers were not exactly at 240 meters of distance, so we had to readjust them to fit the distance that the geophones require.
Alex y Nick placed the loads on the test sites, they had to drill again one of the sites, which was covered in snow before loading it.
In the afternoon we made satellite contact with Claudio Bunster, our Director, who was with all the Cecs’ staff celebrating Christmas, in the traditional “Christmas package” give-away. We had the chance to greet everyone and receive a warm ovation in return, so with the best of moods and renewed spirits, we went out again to measure our lake.
At night we dined together as always and went to sleep early.
Sunday December 11, 2016
We got up a bit later today and had breakfast at 8:30 am. We decided to start later because the weather is windy in the mornings but tends to get better in the afternoon. Today however, the wind was worse and it got very cold.
In the morning we began learning about the BAS perforation system, Alex instructed us on the usage of the steam drill. The whole system weighs several hundred kilos and includes a generator, a water pump, a boiler, a 30-cm hose, a water tank, plane fuel, gasoline, antifreeze, etc.
The system is quite simple but has many tricks, so we spent several hours learning to use it. By the end of this morning we perforated four 30-cm holes to test the loads. In the afternoon we did a survey stakeout of seismic measures, for which we used 2 Trimble receptors in RTK mode. The process went well, but we run out of time to measure the markers.
It was very cold with low wind, so we went back to base around 8 pm, half frozen. After a tasty salmon stew, we went to sleep at 10pm.
Saturday December 10, 2016
Today was cloudy and all as white views. We got up at 7:00 am for breakfast and started the day early, there was some wind, low contrast and -18ºC, which made it impossible to go out in the field.
Despite the fact that we had low visibility, we continued preparations for our measurements. Alex and Nick assembled the steam drill, Felipe and Andres, prepared the GPS receptors for RTK (Real Time Kinematic) measurements. Rodrigo was dealing with AWS data transmission problems.
We had great pizzas for lunch and in the afternoon we installed some markers, for a perforation depth test to install boosters. Approaching those points wasn’t easy because we had to survey the positions to centimeter precision, which with wind and low temperatures is a bit complicated. At any rate, the measurements came out right and we are ready to begin perforations tomorrow.
We returned to the base camp around 10 pm and we had a very nice lamb stew, except Rodrigo who “punished” himself with a kilo of Salmon.
Friday December 9, 2016
Today has been a great day despite the contradictory information we had at first, since we were not clear about when we would meet our BAS partners. We were able to contact Union Glacier via iridium in the morning and confirmed that the BAS cargo had arrived from Punta Arenas yesterday, after an arduous journey from England.
The logistic material and scientific gear was ready waiting to be loaded to go to CECs Lake. The primary information was that it would be moved in a BAS Twin coming from the South Pole. At noon we were informed that things had moved ahead and the BAS’s Twin Otter would fly directly to Rutford Glacier to pick up Alex and Nick to bring them to CECs Lake.
Ready to welcome our partners, we saw the BAS’s red plane at around 3:30 pm, it overflew our campsite and landed softly on the strip, which was prepared the day before by David and his Pistebully tractor. The pilot, a crewmember, a logistics support person and Alex Brisbourne, BAS’s glaciologist, who will be in charge of seismic measurements.
They brought plenty of camping gear, but were quite impressed and happy to know our mobile base, equipped with two residential modules with a total of 10 beds, including a kitchen, bathroom and shower, “it will not be necessary to pitch our tents”, they happily commented.
We welcomed them with the “Unión Jack” at the tip of the flagpole, along with the “lone star” of our patriotic pavilion and the CECs flag flanking by the Valdivian totem. Behind it, a banner that read “Welcome to SLCECs”. It was exciting and joyous to see so many months of work consolidate magically in just a few minutes.
The twin took off towards Union Glacier, which a few hours later moved all the remaining BAS’s gear; 23 “Zarges” boxes, all of them from sender “Rivera/Smith”. We were all thrilled and many were surprised that despite all the changes, we stood strong and on schedule.
Finally, we shared a great welcome banquet with our British partners, whom couldn’t get over all the fresh fruit and other delicacies such as eggs, foods that they had not seen for the last two months, while camping on the ice. They were in awe by the colors of the food, so diverse, Nick stated, while peeling an orange with a wide smile on his face.
At 10 pm we went to sleep to start the following morning with the hard work we are here to do.
Thursday December 8, 2016
Today we woke up at the CECs subglacial Lake. We reached our destination with very good atmospheric conditions. We got up with a great view of Vinson Massif and other hills of the Ellsworth. For breakfast we had coffee and pancakes prepared by Andres.
We divided the work; Andy and David took care of the snowmobiles and smoothed out a landing strip for the BAS’s Twin Otter which we expect will arrive tomorrow. We shoveled the snow at the meteorological station; the sensors were located half a meter over the surface, which means accumulation of 20 cm of water in the last year.
The snow was hard, but after a couple of hours we managed to pull out the boxes with the batteries that had stopped working in July 2006, during the Antarctic night. We then began digging at greater depth to reach the AWS structure to be reinstalled on the surface. The AWS tower is 2 meters tall, but underneath there’s a 3-meter spear that served as support during the harsh winter.
All the data was downloaded from the AWS, we measured the air temperature at -18 degrees ºC. Afterwards, it was fairly easy to remove the tower, but the spear was very hard to retrieve until David made a pulley system and eventually we pulled it out. We had to reinstall it on the surface this time, which resulted in another challenge that required lots of work from Felipe, whom struggled for half an hour with a snow gauge, until we inserted the spear just a couple of meters in the snow. This wasn’t enough, so we decided to cut the spear in order to leave the AWS on the surface.
Having finished all these tasks, we had dinner and a well-deserved rest.
Wednesday December 7, 2016
We woke up early in the morning to have breakfast, when Mike Sharp (one of ALE’s owners) and Seth, a geophysicist in charge of the GPR in ALE, arrived on 2 Scandik ski-doos. The idea is that prior to crossing the Hewette path, both ski-doos with all the necessary mountain gear, recognize the route and verify that the snow bridges are deep enough for the tractors.
Both bikes climbed up with Eddy’s tractor, after half an hour they came back safe and sound. Then our convoy went up pulled by 2 tractors (for added safety). The crossing was successful and at the high point our module and sleigh were disconnected, so that both tractors could descend and get the rest of the convoy. At the low point ALE left a sleigh with gas, so only the ALE module was brought up.
Once up on the path, we all gathered to had coffee and say good-bye to Eddy and Will, who returned to UG in their tractor, Mike and Seth also returned in their bikes. We then began the second part of our journey to CECs Lake, located at 80 km distance, which will take approximately 10 hours to reach.
In the afternoon we stopped to dine and appreciate the typical plateau scene, with 360º of white horizon and just a few rocky peaks (nunataks), showing in the distance.
We arrive to the lake around midnight, we parked next to the weather station and the GPS we installed in 2015.
Tuesday December 6, 2016
We started the day with a great breakfast of fruit and eggs. We finished preparing our next trip and tied our cargo for the journey.
Immediately after lunch, at 2:40 pm, the ground expedition departed from Glacier Union (UG) heading to the CECs subglacial lake. The convoy is composed by a Pisten Bully 350 driven by Eddy, our old Maori friend, who has joined us for several expeditions and Will, also from ALE, who’s in charge of taking the ALE kitchen/bathroom module and the boosters box.
The convoy also includes a second tractor, a Camoplast BR3 this time, driven by David, a kiwi geologist working for ALE and Andy, a British mountaineer who’s worked with us before. This tractor carries the CECs 1 module (with Rodrigo, Felipe and Andrés), a Lehmann sleigh carrying the two ski-doos and the rest of the necessary cargo for seismic measurements.
The journey began auspiciously and the base cap bid us farewell, we won’t see them again until Christmas (approximately). The journey followed the route designed by CECs on 2010, with some minor variations due to the type of cargo we now carry, which does not allow the use of VHF communications and the reason we had to put distance from the base camp immediately. The route was in good condition, with fresh snow for the most part, except in blue ice areas which made the sleigh passing very difficult. After 10 hours, we reached the Hewette Path base, a narrow glacial valley with a fantastic folded metamorphic rock geology, which allows the final crossing of the Ellsworth to reach the Antarctic plateau.
This valley was mapped for the first time by CECs with satellite images and recognized on land by our friend Tim Hewitt in 2009. This valley has some cracks detected by our GPR in previous years. These can be crossed over thanks to the ALE mitigation maneuvers (filling with snow the narrow sectors). However, this year they detected that one of the cracks had widened, so they had to alter the route a little to avoid problems.
We spent the night in this place after dinner.
Monday December 5, 2016
We started the day with great weather, clear and windless. We continued preparing the module for the journey, we held a meeting for a scientific discussion with the Polnet Project team, followed by an operations meeting with the British Antarctic Survey’s staff (BAS).
We installed a GPS on rock, which will serve as basis for all the journey’s measurements and we finished preparing all the scientific equipment and materials for the campaign.
We had lamb and fresh fruit for dinner. At night, Felipe went for a jog, Rodrigo saw the Chile-Uruguay soccer match with ALE’s staff, who had been expecting us for days and Andres stayed reading a book by Le Carré.
Sunday December 4, 2016
Today began our new Antarctic expedition, composed by Rodrigo Zamora, Felipe Napoleoni and Andrés Rivera.
This year’s main objective is to study in detail the depth of the CECs subglacial lake, the presence of sediment in its basin and the surrounding subglacial features. To accomplish this, we will be recording GPS and seismic measures with 2 British Antarctic Survey (BAS) members, who will be flying from Rutford Glacier to the Cecs Lake, after we reach the place by land coming from Union Glacier (79.7ºS). We will remain there for 2-3 weeks.
We took off from Punta Arenas at 10:30 on board an IIiushyin IL76 (A former soviet freight plane), which after a 4.5-hour flight, successfully reached Union Glacier, landing safely on the blue ice strip.
A Korean film crew and a group of scientists lead by Bob Smoley of the Polnet project travelled with us.
Once we landed, we moved to our Antarctic mobile research station, Cecs 1, where we will sleep for the next 3 weeks. Our module has 6 beds, bathroom, eating and working space. The module was in good condition except for some ice on the inside. We turned on the heating system, as well as the electrical system, making us fully functional for our next journey.
At the end of the day we ate an exceptional meal prepared by the base’s Chef and we went to sleep.