So the last boat has left, and we’re on our own for the next 90 days. Not much of a period of isolation I admit, but I’m really looking forward to it. This is a great crew, right up there with the crew at the South Pole Station my first time there. Despite the lack of wildlife right now, I’m still constantly awed by the beauty of this spot. Every day the wind and waves bring something new to our harbor to look at, and the ice formations are like our own private sculpture garden that someone modifies on a daily basis.
The days are starting to get longer again with about 15 more minutes of daylight each day. We’re trying to take advantage of it, but the weather hasn’t been cooperating all that much lately. We’ve had a bunch of snow storms and windy days, and the harbor has been getting so iced up that we can’t put boats in the water. Nevertheless, we do what we can to get out which more often than not means heading up the glacier in the backyard. A couple of the guys have dug out a ski chalet that’s protected from the wind at the top of the hill, and it usually has a couple of people hanging out between runs up and down the slope. It’s a great spot for photography with a nearly 360 degree panorama of the ocean and surrounding islands.
One thing that we’re all watching for is the first appearance of the pack ice from the south. Pack ice is usually defined in a broad sense as any sea ice that’s not attached to land. Every year Antarctica nearly doubles in size due to the sea freezing and breaking up into chunks of ice ranging from open pack where the ice isn’t very thick to close pack where it’s just a constant sea of floating ice chunks bobbing about in a tight mass. We’ve been watching satellite images of the approaching pack, and it’s gotten to about 30 miles to the south of us moving towards us at about six miles per day. While it will be cool to see, what we’d rather have is fast ice which is frozen sea water that’s actually in a more or less unbroken sheet. When we get the fast ice, we’ll be able to set up ski trails going between the various points of land down here which will be yet another recreation opportunity. Woohoo!
If the pack gets here before the sea surface freezes, it’ll be tough to set up extensive ski trails…in fact that hasn’t happened since the mid 90s. What we need is a few days of constant cold and calm weather that’ll let the sea freeze over without the wind blowing it apart and out of the harbor. We’ll know one way or the other in the next couple of weeks!