Saturday, 11 April 2015

Punta Arenas (11/04/15 - 14/04/15)

I very much regarded Punta as the entry gate to my travels - not expecting too much really as I was not going to do any hiking in Patagonia (shame really but I have got a feeling that having not enough time to see everything will be a reoccurring theme on this trip). The first highlight was the dinner we had on Saturday evening. The salad for starters was absolutely amazing - so much fresh stuff (like mushrooms and bean sprouts) that I had not seen for so long. The salmon was pretty good too.
On Sunday we met up to go for a walk in “Reserva Nacional Magallanes” which is just outside the city. It was raining in the morning but cleared up in the afternoon rather nicely. We walked for nearly 6 hours between the hills and I hadn’t realised before how much I had missed the forest. It was a very dense forest and I was fascinated by all the mushrooms! Once we got further up, we had a brilliant view over the valley which was covered in trees painted in autumn colours - I guess I thought such a view was only possible in places like Norway or Canada.When we reached the end of our walk we asked the ranger to order us a taxi. However, he was just leaving, so he gave us a lift instead :)
We found snow on top of the hill and got excited ...
Pepino something - nice tasting fruit.

We had some pizza for dinner and than ventured to the Sky Bar. For the past 2 years I had always heard other people mention it and am quite glad hat I have now seen it. It is on the 11th floor of one of the only skyscrapers in Punta and the walls to the outside are entirely made of glass - the view was amazing, even from the toilet. I had some Berry Sour (Pisco - the national drink with berry juice) which was rather nice. Just as we left some German Garden TV show came on (they mainly just showed the music clips from it but it was still rather weird!).
A poo with a view!
Well, now it is just me left! On Monday, I had my yellow fever vaccination. In the morning, I went to the city centre - literally 2 minute walk - and got some proper walking boots (after my trainers got wet yesterday I decided that that was the better option). Someone from Agunsa (they are an agency organising logistics for Antarctica) was so kind to organise the vaccination for me and came with me to translate - she nearly had to hold my hand - yes I am still scared of needles … In the evening she invited me along to join her and her friends for some drinks - it was a nice evening.
I have never seen these baskets before. My guess is that they are for rubbish so the dogs/wind cannot get to them?
The place I stayed at was called Hospedaje Magallanes. I can only recommend it. It is very clean, cheap and the people are lovely. It is a family run place by a German-Chilean couple. The husband came to Chile on his travels and met his wife their. He decided to stay and is now happily married. They are very helpful but also interested in my story which made me feel very welcome. I also met quite a few other people who had been to Antarctica, some on a cruise, others had worked at Palmer Station. What is even more amusing is that they knew some of the people we had met from the Gould! That’s it - off to Santiago now on a 4 hour trip with a stopover in Puerto Montt. I cannot wait for some warmth - and catch up on some sleep on the way!
One is supposed to touch the toe of the man on the bottom when travelling to Antarctica. Too late now, maybe next time?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Falkland Islands (07/04/15 - 11/04/15)

Back in the real world - well as real as one can call the Falkland Islands I guess. It is quite weird walking on concrete and grass again! And the legs hurt after half a day of walking, but I will just have to get used to it again.
We tried to organise some diving but the Falkland Islands does not have a diving centre or anything like it. A contact tried to organise some kit for us but only got some snorkelling gear together which was still absolutely amazing. We went to Surf Bay and in the beginning it was just great to be in the water. We had to share 2 pairs of fins, for masks and 2 snorkels between 4 of us which was good fun. We went out to the kelp (kelp!!!! yay :)) and along the rocks. However, there were a lot of waves which was stirring up all the sand and we could not actually see much. However, we than find a massive rock pool which was sheltered from most of the waves (apart from the bigger ones which still spilled in) and the amount of stuff we saw was absolutely amazing!
Ali enjoying the rock pool!
Massive limpet grazing
A chiton :) They were massive too - and pretty :)
In the evening we had a nice sophisticated meal in Malvinas. The day after we got picked up (with a slight hangover) to go to Volunteer Point to see the King penguins. I was in heaven despite the wind and rain. Absolutely soaked, but happy the driver took as back again. The drive took about 2 1/2 hours each way. Only 1 hour was on real road though - the rest was off road through fields. We got stuck once and the other 4x4 had to tow us out - this means we had the real experience.
All sophisticated!

Everyone left on Friday to return to the UK (apart from Nick who is also flying to Punta Arenas on Saturday). I finally managed to go to the swimming pool and had an amazing swim that will probably make my legs hurt. Saturday was the most beautiful weather - calm and sunny. The land scape and type of houses remind me a lot of Norway - just without the mountains. Apparently, this happens about twice a year - what a send off! But now I am finally entering South America!

Bye bye Falkland Islands!
Hello South America!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Going Home!

It has been coming long but than it was still quite sudden! We had been preparing for weeks and yet when the ship was there, so much was still to pack, finish up and prepare (well, at least my personal stuff …). As usual the ship was unloaded during relief and loaded with rubbish and cargo to go back north. I managed to miss most of the food move and so on as I was ill in bed for a couple of days - the lurgy that was going around base had finally gotten to me.
The evening before we left, we went around base as tradition demands and played tricks on the new winterers. Than, finally, the morning of the 2nd of April came around, we said our goodbyes at 8 in the morning and went aboard the Ernest Shackleton to commence our journey home. As usual the winterers fired flares to wish their goodbyes but luckily missed the ship. However, for me it was rather unusual to be on the ship this time and not amongst fellow winterers on the shore. It was very sad to say goodbye to a place that I have been calling home for the last 2 1/2 years. Equally though it is exciting to leave for new adventures such as my planned travels through South America.
We had a fairly quiet journey. The weather was good enough to sail through the Lemaire Channel which was absolutely beautiful with whales and penguins everywhere. On the way we picked up an American glider which was rather exciting as it was quite rough - the crew managed to get in on board though. That was probably the roughest day we had. Seeing as no one was actually sick, it was not all that bad. It was my rooms turn to be on “gash” that day (washing dished and cleaning the ship) which was rather exciting. When we got closer to the Falkland Islands we saw some dolphins (first time in my life - now I believe in them as well!). On the morning of the 7th of April we got into Stanley.
Adventures to Penguinland are over for now but there is much more beyond! 

CTD line going through the Bonner - just a little bit!

The winterers firing flares ... Bye bye!

Lemaire Channel on the horizon.

Recovering the glider

Monday, 1 December 2014

Flying in Antarctica

Refuelling at Sky Blu!
So apart from having to help out with cleaning on base, another thing everyone can get involved with is the flying! BAS operates two types of planes. The DASH 7 which mainly flies between Rothera and Punta Arenas (Chile) or Stanley (Falkland Islands) to get everyone from and to base during the summer. It also supplies Sky Blu (one of the refuelling stations further south of Rothera) with fuel drums. It can land at Sky Blu because it has a blue ice landing strip. The twin otters are the other type of planes operated by BAS which are fitted with skies once they get her and can land in the field. They are flown by a single pilot. However, they always take a co-pilot with them which is someone from base!
Keeping the plane on track!
In the beginning of the week it was finally my turn. It is a little tricky for us sometimes to go for co-pilots as it means no diving for 48 hours beforehand. On Saturday we set off to bring scientists into the field. They were on their way to the Ronne ice shelf on a big drilling project. In order to get there we had to make 2 refuelling stops; one at Fossil Bluff which is closer (about 1.5 hours away) and Sky Blu (another 1.5 hours way). From Sky Blu we flew to the Ronne and dropped the scientists off at "Drilling Site 1". The project involves some travelling and drilling at various sites. Apart from the South Pole this site is the furthest south that BAS is flying to this year (S 80° 20.00, W 054° 46.40). On the way back we stopped at Sky Blu again and stayed there over night. The next day we waited until late afternoon to return to Rothera, but the weather at Fossil Bluff was not good enough to stop there. In the end it was decided that we would go straight back without refuelling at Fossil Bluff which is a 3 hour flight and possible. However, as it is more expensive to get fuel to Sky Blu than to Fossil Bluff this is generally avoided.
Blue ice runway at Sky Blu!
View from the plane!
On Monday we did a fuel run to Fossil Bluff which meant that we delivered some drums. On Tuesday we took off again to get a field assistant and his scientist (a geologist) into the field. We flew to Fossil Bluff and refuelled. Than we had to wait for the weather to improve. As it did not but looked very good for the next day we stayed at Fossil Bluff over night and took off the next morning. The weather was absolutely amazing at the site. When a plane has to land where there no one is on the ground the pilot does a couple of low fly by's first to assess the area (crevasses will be dangerous for landing). Next the pilot trails skis - meaning that they land but do not stop and take off again straight away in order to make sure that no crevasses open up which were bridged. Than we finally land. Once the guys were all set up, we left and flew back to Rothera via Fossil Bluff. 
At Sky Blu.
Caboose out on the Ronne.
Field party out on the Ronne.
Team on the Ronne with pisten bully from the Germans (AWI).

Input of the Geology project.

Leaving the two behind!
Home, sweet home.