21st December and it’s the longest summer day. Remarkably the sun seems higher in the sky at midnight than it is in Edinburgh at midday on the same date. With continued good weather and sunshine the tents heat up at night and we are too warm in our sleeping bags. The science is going well and this good weather means we can tie up the Patriot work and we have already started work in the Marble Hills.
Several events of note this past week. Scott saw snow petrels crossing the main ridge of the Patriots. This scarce observation just reminds us of how little wild life there is here. It explains how we delight at the stories on the daily sked about elephant seals colonising a bit of Rothera for their own use and the penguins sunning themselves there. One day last week we had a snowfall of diamond dust. The sun shone brightly but the humidity was sufficient for a constant rain of snow crystals all glittering in the sunshine. This and some rime ice was sufficient to coat the blue ice surface with white crystals. Scott and Malcolm even tried sledging on the blue ice! The humid air made it feel cold all day.
We got a visit by a tractor train one evening! It was on a return trip to the Thiel Mountains where it had dropped 100 drums of fuel. The train of five sledges is pulled by a piste machine. There were five people living in a caboose or driving non-stop, carrying empties back to the ALE base at Union Glacier. It was good to chat and to muse that, with the Fogwill/Turney camp, we have had more visitors in this remote camp than would normally occur at home! Miraculously, when they left there was a pile of goodies such as frozen fresh bread and pizzas.
We celebrated Scott’s 23rd birthday this week with a film sent from home. Our present was a full day of radar, 10 cm by 10 cm. He will never forget the day!
We have begun work in the Marble Hills. Scott and Malcolm explored access routes while Andy and I climbed to 1400 m to recce a site for a rock core of 3m. We found an impressive elevated site with amazing views to pyramid-shaped peaks all around. Looking at the cosmo profile with depth is a way of establishing the age of a surface which may have survived for millions of years. We hope to use this approach to date the highest glaciated surface. Meanwhile, with assistance by Scott and Malcolm, John and Stuart have completed a fine suite of radar profiles in the Patriots which show the persistence and structure of debris bands in the ice underlying the blue-ice moraines.
Christmas preparations are in progress. Stuart and Scott have decorations in their tent. I have retrieved my edible present from the deep freeze in the snow to thaw out. And somehow we have brussel sprouts to go with our meal of ??! More news on this in due course.