Recce to Bandits Hut
On Thursday morning, four intrepid expeditioners left the station on their Antarctic Ponies (quad bikes). Their mission was to measure the thickness of the sea ice between Davis Station and Bandits Hut, and also to explore the surrounding area for a vehicular entry point to Ace Lake. The temperature was -25 degrees Celsius.
Drama aside, it was an amazing trip. The air was icy cold and we had to use every trick at our disposal to keep warm, but the sky stayed cloud-free. Considering there’s only a few hours of daylight each day now, it was as good as could be hoped for when new ice needs some exploring. Any sort of cloud cover what-so-ever makes it difficult to see dips and bumps in the snow, which in turn slows down travel enormously. We had no such problem.
Here we are on one of our many regular ice drilling stops. At regular (and sometimes irregular, if the ice visibly changes or one of us gets curious) intervals we stop and measure the ice. Aside from helping us know how thick the ice is growing around the Vestfolds, it’s also important to make sure the ice stays more than thick enough for quad bike travel. We do this by using an off-the-shelf ice drilling kit that fits into a battery drill. Then we drop in a tape measure with a folding brass anchor on the end. This anchor fold up with a small pull on a piece of string for easy removal.
Here was our home for two nights; Bandits Hut. This photo was taken in bright moonlight, as we used all available sunlight for exploring the area. It’s cosy, but it’s one of the most comfortable huts as the layout is quite good. The door on the far left of the building is the toilet, whose toilet seat also gets to -25 degrees. Eek.
Here’s Corey, Alyce and Sara checking out a tide crack. We’d already drilled and confirmed that the area was likely to become suitable for Hagglunds access, so this ended up being the pick of the spots for attempting to access Ace Lake (for scientific sampling) later in the season.
Of course, we also stopped to take photos when we found the occasional interesting iceberg or ice feature. We still had to make good use of our few hours of sunlight, however, so quick snaps were taken with full riding gear still on.
Most of the time we were too busy or too cold (or both) to take many photos, but after a few hours of the heater being on and a few cups of hot tea, we warmed up enough to take a few photos outside. Lots of them were experimental and may appear at the end of a future blog post sometime, but a few simple long exposure shots under the moonlight turned out quite well. It’s great to see the moon illuminating everything nearly as clearly as the sun, but with full view of all the stars still.
I hope to update this post in the future with a few photos of me, as taken by my fellow expeditioners on this trip. Until then, here’s another photo making use of the full moon, but showing our more permanent home this time: