Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year from...

... Casey Station!

Some explanation: I started yesterday (Monday) thinking I had another night at ABN, but following some firn air pumping late on Sunday night, the ice was starting to say clear things to us... there was little open pore-space left. The bubbles were largely closed, and at our next level, a metre or so deeper, Jerome and David were not able to extract much air despite pumping with maximum available pressure.

Knowing that this was the case, we looked again at the logistical picture. A flight was due on Monday afternoon to exchange six camp members, and the weather was showing some risk of preventing another flight until Friday. But Friday is also the day of our Airbus flight from Wilkins (the ice runway that serves Casey) to Hobart. This was not a risk we cared for, given that our science role at ABN was effectively over, so we put on our skates, packed our bags and made the Casey return flight.

It was a time of mixed feelings, saying goodbye to our friends remaining behind. For the three traverse team members, who had started this back in early November, this was the end of a long chapter -  Noel (diesel mechanic) and I were leaving, and Sharon remains as field leader. Having established the camp, there was a sense of wanting to see it to conclusion too, but our roles are complete; and the process of extracting people and infrastructure will be an imperative over the remaining weeks to late January when the last tent is pulled down and the remaining few come home. The departure marked another achievement too - we brought out over 600kg of ice core.

It was quite remarkable returning to the coast after more than a month on the high plateau. We were greeted by scenes of meltwater, positive air temperatures and soft, warm, moist air filled our nostrils. The coast is the home of life on this continent and you can see and smell that too - so striking after the barren, sharp cold of the interior. For sure, we saw a few birds far inland, but they were interlopers like we were: able to make the journey naturally, but aliens nonetheless. Of course we could only sustain our efforts with the aid of the fossil remains of past living things - distilled to the fuel that propelled our tractors and planes, powered our generators and heater. This strikes me as something of a circular situation - the past provides energy, for us to extract ice ... to explore the past.

So this brings to a close my personal journey to ABN and back. I will make one or two more posts to this blog, to put up some pictures now that I am back in the land of the internet, and probably to cap things off at the end of the whole project with some kind of summary of events. Watch on twitter (@tasvo) if you want to be reminded. But the story now belongs to the group remaining at ABN - there is the major portion of the main core yet to drill, and another auxiliary (~100m) core for the sulphur studies of our French partners at LGGE. You can follow events through the AAD website.

And a final comment - I've been surprised and pleased to hear of the many folk who've followed this blog... thanks for your interest. The knowledge that you were doing so was a factor in keeping me at the computer after midnight several times (that's a good thing!).

And a final picture from the Basler window as I left yesterday...