Sunday, November 17, 2013

Not so fast...

In my last post I was conscious not to be overconfident, and noted the DDU weather was looking a little uncertain for flying. Well, we got ready for a 6am briefing yesterday and departure straight after, but the weather did indeed turn out to be unfavourable. So here I am blogging from Casey again.

We had hoped that at least the benefit of another slippage would be the arrival of the C130 from McMurdo with some of our cargo. The 6am briefing brought the news that indeed the C130 was in the air - but half an hour later it turned back due to mechanical issues, so we are thwarted on that front, it seems. As I said in the last post, the C130 cargo isn't a show stopper, so never mind!

At this stage, it looks like the weather will line up for a flight to DDU on Monday, so we are waiting to see. The word from our French colleagues at DDU is that they are nearing readiness for the traverse departure, so the timing is looking nearly ideal.

So what to do with an unexpected day or two longer here? We are digging a bit deeper into planning for the sequence of events to take place once the traverse arrives at ABN. Given the cold and the pressures to locate gear, make the most of the French snow-grooming assistance and make a safe and self-sustaining camp as rapidly as possible, the more thinking now the better. Details can be critical, like how to orient traverse vehicles post arrival relative skiway, quarantined areas (clean snow and drilling) so that we don't paint ourselves into a corner and can minimize hauling. Some of this depends upon what the surface looks like when we get there, but clearing flat areas will help the task of putting up tents.

A pause here also has a couple of other benefits. One being a chance to fiddle with new gear. We have a couple of GoPro cameras we want to use over the project, for example. The other significant benefit is a first opportunity to get out for some fresh air and exercise, and relax. And Casey turned on a brilliant day for this.

We took a walk to Shirley Is., which is a must-do Casey outing. Shirley is home to an Adelie Penguin rookery, and only a few km walk. At this time of year, the island is accessible across sea-ice. This is therefore and excuse for wildlife pictures. Adelies are most inquisitive and will often come over and check out visitors before dismissively walking by. The photo at the top of the post is part of a caravan of penguins that decided to follow us for a while, until our choice of direction didn't suit and they peeled off.

Adelie Penguin (Photo T. van Ommen)

At the moment, the females are laying eggs and about 10% or so are incubating eggs already. The first thing that greets visitors is the cacophony of squawks and calls and the unmistakable smell of penguin poo.

Most of the birds were milling around the rookeries, and just a few like the fellow above were out strolling around.

Adelie Penguins aren't the only wildlife, we saw some Weddell seals basking like slugs on the sea ice, but the really noteable others were the Skuas perched on almost every high point around the rookeries; or cruising menacingly a metre or so over the penguins looking our for an unguarded egg.

Skua (Photo T. van Ommen)

Skuas (Photo T. van Ommen)

Shirley Is Adelie Penguin rookery (Photo: T. van Ommen)
Interestingly, the skuas and penguins aren't too fussed by each other if they are just bird-to-bird. I saw one skua sitting next to a rock and a penguin less than a metre away eating some snow. Neither seemed to care at all for the other.

It was a very warm day, probably getting close to being above freezing, and a pleasant change of pace for the ABN traverse team:
ABN Traverse team

To finish up, a couple of pictures of Adelies getting out of the water...
Adelie penguins emerging from the water (Photo: T. van Ommen)

... "flightless" birds indeed!

Adelie Penguin emerging from the water (Photo: T. van Ommen)