George VI Ice Shelf

Holt, T.O., Glasser, N.F., Quincey, D. and Siegfried, M.R., 2013. Speedup and fracturing of George VI Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula. The Cryosphere, 7: 797-816.

George VI Ice Shelf

George VI Ice Shelf, Alexander Island

George VI Ice Shelf, Alexander Island, showing ice flowing onto the ice shelf from both the Antarctic Peninsula and Alexander Island

Alexander Island and George VI Ice Shelf is an area I’m particularly interested in (see our project details), and the ice shelf is worth investigating for several reasons. For a start, it’s unusual, being trapped between the mainland and Alexander Island, and secondly, because it’s right on the -9°C mean annual air temperature isotherm (like a contour, but of mean annual air temperatures).  Some people have argued that this mean annual air temperature is the critical threshold above which ice shelves may dramatically collapse, which has implications for accelerated flow of glaciers and ice-sheet thinning. Ice shelves are also susceptible to warming from below by warm currents penetrating onto the continental shelf. So, research into this important part of the peninsula is always welcome. Holt and colleagues have just completed a study (open access) that investigates the response of George VI Ice Shelf to environmental change (i.e., oceanic and atmospheric temperature variations), and offer an assessment as to its future stability (Holt et al., 2013). Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Part 8: Fossil Bluff

Saturday 1st December

After a final difficult day striking camp and manhauling everything out to the new depot and skiway on Friday, we were airlifted out and moved to Fossil Bluff, where there is a small hut and a fuel depot. We joined Andy and Rob, who are responsible for maintaining the hut (Bluebell Cottage) and skiway and for refuelling the planes that pass through to field parties all over the pace. Although Bluebell Cottage is very basic, it is luxury compared with the last month. It is warm and there are beds, and it is good to have a table and chairs again! Continue reading

Part 7: Move to Fossil Bluff

Wednesday 28th November

Today we took all but essential living kit (leaving behind the pyramid tent, P-bags, tent box, pots box, medical box and 1 manfood box) out to the depot. I had two sledges with my orange BAS kitbag, rucksack, 1 rock box, and the red geology trunk. So a reasonable load, perhaps slightly less than on my our input (either that, or I am fitter!). Ian had a massive sledge as usual. Mike had his kit bag, rucksack and the Irridium phone pelicase. Continue reading

Part 6: Fieldwork III

Friday 23rd November

It has been an exciting few days as we near the end of our third week. Yesterday we had a good, fruitful day in Unnamed Valley and today we walked right to the head of Ablation Valley. We climbed to the top of The Mound, a large bedrock hump in the middle of the valley, where we found some massive boulders on the ice surface. They probably originated from a rock fall onto the glacier surface, at some unknown time ago. We also mapped and sampled some cosmo samples from the high glacier lateral moraines. At this elevation, we appear to be above the drift bearing Palmer Land granite erratics. Continue reading

Part 2: Training and preparation

Thursday 1st November

We use skidoos to get around. This one is named after my sister Sian!

Today our training for deep field began in earnest. We were given a more extended tour, taught how to safely drive skidoos, how to avoid being eaten by aeroplane propellers (Rothera is a busy airport with one of the few gravel strip runways in the area), how to use the items in the field medical boxes, and how to light and prime a tilly lamp and primus stove. Continue reading