Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ending 2016 at Rothera

As we approached, the British base, Rothera, we got our first taste of ice-breaking. It was thin sheet ice that stood between us and the Brits, the kind that took only a bit of pressure break. A long dark
crack shot down the ice in front of us. It widened quickly as we sailed forward.

The wind is fierce. I and a few of the scientists, including Stephen Riser, stood at the bow of the ship. Our hats, hoods, mittens, and heavy coats were doing their best to protect us from the chilling wind
that came straight to our faces and made our eyes tear up.

Every few minutes, we'd pass a pair of seals lying on the pancaked ice. They'd awaken from their peaceful nap in the summer sun, look up at us lazily and gave us a chiding roar. We couldn't really hear them over the sound of ice sloshing against our bow and the loud hum of the ship.

Rothera is the largest British Antarctic Survey base. There's an island just west of the Antarctic Peninsula mainland called Adelaide, and Rothera is located on the eastern coast of that island, so you can see the mainland from it. Once we docked, we stepped foot on solid ground for just a few hours. Each of us chose between taking a tour of the coastline around the base, the glacier, their marine aquarium, or their air facility. Ted and I opted for the glacier.

Up we went in the "Tucker-Terra," a monster Snow-Cat truck that conveyed us up the glacier to a snowy pass. The people working at Rothera take full advantage of their physical location. They're
rock-climbers, ice-climbers, skiiers, snow-campers, as well as scientists... and runners.

December 31st was the day of their annual 10k race. It took place on the runway at the base. The Rothera-rians invited the Palmer-ians to join in the race, and we gladly accepted!

Some of us even pulled together a 5-person relay team, (snagging first place in our division... by default).

In the summertime at Rothera, (which is right now), the sun never really sets. It might resemble dusk around midnight, but that's it. At 0300, it may as well be 0800. And it's bright... the ice and snow
reflect so much light. That makes it easy to spot the tiny dots that are actually penguins!

After our visit to Rothera, we returned to the ship and began sailing back out into the deep ocean. Our next float will go into the water later tonight. I'll keep you in suspense of the name...

I'll be back with a summary of how it goes and a walk-through of a typical float profile!


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