Alexander Island

Ablation Point Massif

Map showing Rothera research station, Alexander Island and Palmer Land. Note George VI Ice Shelf.

These photographs are from our November to December 2012 season to Alexander Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. We undertook 5 weeks of fieldwork, where Mike Hambrey, Bethan Davies and Ian Hey (BAS Field Assistant) investigated both modern and ancient ice-shelf moraines.

We spent four weeks at Ablation Point Massif, an Antarctic Specially Protected Area. In order to avoid damaging sensitive landforms and the delicate ecology, we used no vehicles, walking across the land and frozen lake. This meant landing a twin otter aeroplane on George VI Ice Shelf and walking from there to our basecamp.

You can explore our field area with the Google Map below. If you look carefully, you’ll be able to see the frozen Ablation Lake and the pressure ridges as the ice shelf presses against Alexander Island.

View Larger Map

You can watch a video of our fieldwork here:

Field Area

The map below shows our field area, our basecamp and the depot on the ice-shelf.

Simple map of Ablation Point Massif, showing our field sites and location of our depot on the ice shelf.

The photographs below show the field area, camp life and working conditions. You can read more about it on my blog.

We were deployed in early November by a single Twin Otter aircraft, which landed on George VI Ice Shelf. We man-hauled all our equipment to a basecamp among the moraines.


We were camped in one three-person tent and we had a poo tent for comfort! We slept, cooked at ate in the tent, using primus stoves and tilly lamps. As it was very cold (about -20°C in early November), we had to cut and melt snow for drinking water. On days when the weather was poor, we worked in the tent, analysing our date and measuring clast shape.


Fieldwork comprised mapping and logging the ice-shelf moraines, and their older equivalents at higher elevations. We took cosmogenic nuclide samples of erratic granite boulders from Palmer Land to investigate the age of these older moraines.

Uplift and Redeployment

We were uplifted at the end of November. It had gradually been getting warmer all month and the ice-shelf was starting to melt, which is why we were in the field so early.

Fossil Bluff

After four weeks at Ablation Point Massif, we moved on to Fossil Bluff, where the British Antarctic Survey have a refuelling depot. There is a skiway and a small stone cottage, “Bluebell Cottage”. We were there for four days, completing geomorphological mapping of the local area.

Read more about our fieldwork on the C3W website.

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