Part 9: Return to Rothera

Tuesday 4th December

Today we were uplifted without fuss and were back at Rothera by mid-afternoon. I took great pleasure in showering, and then eating as much food as I could in the evening meal! It’s great to be here and everyone has welcomed us back. There are lots of new faces around base, which is much busier than when we left. The snow has also melted much more, and gravel is visible. It’s quite warm – highs of -02 to -04 degrees, and sunny. I don’t believe you get bad weather in Antarctica! Tonight, we shall all enjoy a few bevvies in the bar.

The flight back was as stunning as the first. Mike and I were glued to the windows the whole time, snapping photos away. One cannot drink enough in.

Friday 7th December

Mike and I have been kept busy on base. Last night, Mike gave a talk on the history of exploration around Antarctica, which was very well received. Many excellent photographs to look at. On Wednesday, we counted all the pebbles that we collected at Fossil Bluff – I can’t think of many activities more drowsiness-inducing; but that is now all finished. We have mostly been occupied with writing up field notes, mapping, and processing data. In the evenings we have been skiing or walking around the point, where the sea ice has now gone. Penguins and seals are now busily staking out various parts of the peninsula, and they are a delight to watch. I have counted elephant, weddell and crabeater seals, but haven’t seen any leopard seals.

I have given a few ski lessons to some of the beginners on base, and this has proved an excellent way of getting to know people.

Sunday 9th December

Skiing at Stork Bowl

Saturday; a half day for people on base. I spent the morning working on my field notes and on this blog (internet access! Communication with the real world!), and then in the afternoon, Ian drove a party of us up to Stork Bowl in the snowcat. This was a grand experience; we ski-mountaineered up the slope and skied down in the fresh powder. Beautiful.

Saturday night is always a big night on base, with table cloths and wine and people dressing up. The chefs prepared a Lebanese extravaganza with fresh vegetables, my first since leaving Punta! Raw carrots, celery, cucumber and broccoli, with hummus, freshly made pita bread, various dips, stuffed cabbage and chicken. They sure know how to please.

Sun salutations in the sun

Sunday was a slow day with most people having the day off. I enjoyed a yoga class with some girls and then a peaceful and tranquil walk Around the Point.

Monday 10th December

Today I spent working in my office. It has become very warm with our first positive temperatures. The snow is turning sugary, but it’s still and quiet walking around the point.

The boating officers were kind enough to put on an evening recreational boat trip around the islands, to look at penguins and seals and icebergs. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. It was great. There were lots of elephant seals. I’ve decided they’re my favourite because they have lots of character. The other seals just lie there and don’t move, but the elephants are always farting and burping and growling and fighting. There is an awful lot of testosterone! These elephant seals are mostly adolescents, and while a few may pup this year around here, it is not a large breeding colony. So there are a lot of practice fights for when the dominant males are older.

I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves!

Tuesday 11th December

Today I was on Gash. There is a rota and everyone does their turn. This means helping the chefs by pot washing in the kitchen and helping the domestic staff (the Saints). So, I hovered, cleaned toilets and bathrooms, washed up a lot of stuff, washed the windows and generally tidied. Rothera is always very neat and clean, and now I know why!

Most amusing thing seen today: Clem trying to chase a skua off the runway in a Gator, at full speed, with the skua just hopping down the runway in front of him.

The road is blocked

An elephant seal has colonised the road down to the hangar. Someone had to chase him off with a Gator (a little car thing). I’m not sure this will be a permanent solution; he looked quite comfortable!

Wednesday 12th December

The weather has turned; it’s colder and windier and cloudier. I’ve been asked to give a science lecture tomorrow, so I have been writing that. I also helped out a little washing up in the evening before heading down to the Ramp for a little Davies Ski School. I had three beginners. The snow on the Ramp is sugary and a bit difficult, but it’s very close and it’s great being able just to walk there!

Highlight today is the return of Cheese from Sky Blu. Cheese was my field assistant on my last expedition in March 2012, so it’s great to see him again.

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