Pitching Camp – Horseshoe Glacier

0n 27th November we all got to our field site and are camped on the snowy surface of Horseshoe Glacier surrounded by the magnificent scene of the Patriot Hills, the Independence Hills and Marble Hills. We are on schedule and raring to go.It all sounds so straightforward in one sense but the organization and support of many people carried out a complex plan. 

Let’s pose the problem.We have six people and 5 tons of equipment. The original four of us from the science side have been joined by two field assistants, Malcolm Airey and Scott Webster.The total weight sounds a lot and is a lot but it includes 4 skidoos, petrol, five tents, radar, large batteries, two generators, paraffin and food for two and a half months.The total load involves 5 Twin Otter flights into the camp.We are five and a half hours flying time south of Rothera and, indeed are the furthest south field party.Each Twin Otter needs refueling from fuel drums.Each 40 gallon drum of fuel delivered burns up 3-6 drums of aircraft fuel, depending on the remoteness of the camp. So you can see the level of organization involved.Next year will be much easier since the skidoos, tents and anything we can leave will be left here and the input load will be far less. 

So we shuttled down from base to base.To Fossil Bluff on skis to refuel the plane, then to Sky Blu, a blue-ice runway which had some of our equipment delivered by the wheeled Dash 7.Then onto an airstrip on Fletcher ice dome, a wonderfully scenic camp and airstrip backed by the main ridge of the 5000 m peaks of the Ellsworth Mountains.Finally onto our camp site where the pilot must make the first landing on skis with no ground guidance.Later on Andy and Malcolm, the first arrivals, leveled and marked an airstrip!On one day we had people in Sky Blu, Fletcher and at the camp site.More shuttling and the final flight was on 27^th .

The Sky Blu experience is quite something. You sleep in a plastic domed Melon or a large tent. John and I (David) were there for three days and became quite expert at unloading two plane loads of ice core which had to be transported to a store below the ice surface for temporary storage, and four Dash loads each of four and a half tons of fuel in drums. We also climbed two adjacent mountain summits and collected rock samples to try and date a phase of thicker ice.We also saw two snow petrels — our first!On the same days Stuart and Scott were loading the ice cores at Fletcher and Andy and Malcolm were establishing the camp erecting tents, assembling skidoos, besides constructing a smooth airstrip. They also watched the video Celebrity Juice on an iPad.

Life is good and we will write more in due course.

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2 thoughts on “Pitching Camp – Horseshoe Glacier

  1. Hm, I noticed the comment about “next year” too. After all this is David’s 16th trip (or t 17th?) to Antarctica and then he has had all the trips to Greenland, Alaska etc. in between. I seem to remember that David’s four previous trips were meant to be “the last one”. Rachael, you might just as well get used to it!!!

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