Today was another really nice day in this part of Antarctica. We had good visibility and almost no wind, great for flying.
Our pilot was very gracious and showed us around to a couple of the sites. We went a little bit out of our way to go and see the edge of the sea ice. This is the part of the ice that is breaking into water and floating away, this is also the place to be if you want to see wildlife. At certain points in the season there can be more orcas than you can count, the same for penguins, and seals. This time around we only saw penguins but one out of three is not bad.
Since it was on the way we also made a closer inspection of a seal that had long passed but somehow made it on top of the Commonwealth glacier before doing so. How he made it up twenty feet of sheer ice is something I cannot understand. Part of me thinks it may have been moved by a prankster pilot just to have a few cheap laughs.
Being back in Lake Hoare feels a little bit like being home. Leaving the noise and traffic of McMurdo to get back to familiar and friendly faces. Within minutes we were sitting down with cookies and tea and catching up with our fellow campers like we were old pals.
After getting settled it was a quick trip around the lake to get to our field site. This week we found a new challenge and obstacle. The glacial melt was in full swing. Since the ice in the lake is frozen all the way to the bottom at this point in the season the water flows along the edge of the lake and can be pretty deep in places. It freezes only on the surface and only about an inch or so. This means that breaking through is commonplace. How deep that middle layer is turns out to be the real mystery of it. Sometimes it is six inches but it can be a lot more. The other hazards are, the entire middle of the lake (completely slushy and impassible), the edges of the lake, thawed and unpredictable, rocks or shallow spots (these are also thawed and unpredictable), and then there are just random low spots that accumulate water and melt from the top. Driving the ATV around the lake is both thrilling and scary.
Our experiment went well. We were able to get all of tubes into the ground and set for the next group to come and pick up in a months time. We hope that we find growth in our tube farm.