On 16th January a Twin Otter arrived at our airstrip. John and Malcolm flew immediately to the site of the subglacial Lake Ellsworth project to see if the radar could pinpoint problems associated with the cavity and the decision to abandon the drilling to the subglacial lake at the end of last year. It seemed a good opportunity to use the appropriate radar while it was so close. Late in the day the plane returned and flew the rocks samples plus David and Stuart to Sky Blu. After one night in a much warmer tent than on the outward flight, we took the DASH-7 to Rothera and the glory of a shave, shower, salad to eat, and a beer in the bar. The remaining members of our party came in during the next two days, all experiencing the same delights at Rothera. We have left a depot of everything possible at the camp site for next season, including food, three skidoos and fuel.
Life at Rothera is full. To see wild life is a delight and reminds us of how much we missed it in the interior. We are surrounded by Weddell and Crabeater seals, Adelie penguins and see Minke and Humpback whales and fur seals. The rock boxes were stored in our science cubicle and the first surprise was to find them standing in pools of water the next day. The small cracks had allowed them to fill with snow while in the field and we had to empty and dry them all out, repack them with Bills of Lading etc. ready for transport by ship in March.
A highlight for us on Monday was our science presentation to a packed room. We covered the rationale for the project and each of us spoke about what we actually did in the field. Scott and Malcolm ended with their video of the project – a fine light-hearted slant on the science. It was good to have the opportunity to talk of our work and the discussions afterwards over beer showed that many were interested to hear of our experiences. It was a good way to remember a field season in which, as a result of good support and fine weather, we achieved more than we had hoped. The flight home via Punta Arenas will give us the chance to fine tune our plans to analyse and publish our results.
So, finally we would like to thanks everyone who has supported the project, both in the early days of conception and preparation, but also our families, NERC, colleagues and especially all those in Antarctica who have helped make it possible.
And did the West Antarctic Ice Sheet disappear in the last interglacial? Probably not.