Wednesday, December 1, 2010

12 When hell froze over............................

Hello trendsetters,

Browning, well this is an allusive place to us summer expos to Casey thus my title hell freezing over. Normally by the time we get here and finish our field training and are ready to go out in the field the melt has started and travel to both Browning hut and Peterson Island and the melon (pic to come what a melon is) is restricted to IRB and then its totally dependant on weather conditions which normally mean we don't get there.

I started working on a visit to Browning about 1 day after finding out that i was going to be returning to Casey as i didn't need any field training as it was all done last year and is current for 3 years. Not only did it FINALLY pay off but the weather turned into a absolute cracker of a day too. Browning field hut is the furthest hut from station and dependant on weather and how bad the Sastruga is.

Preferred over snow transport for the Australian Antarctic Division is via a Hagglunds which are absolutely incredible at the job but not the comfortable of rides when your my size, not to mention the noise. Ear muffs and and ipod is a must for long drives like Browning which can take anywhere from 3.5 hours to 5 hours for the 60km drive.

On our way there is it quite normal for see mirages but the ones we saw on that day were the best I've seen. The pic below dose not do it justice.

Pic: Brad Duggan

So after a 3.5 hour Hagg ride we made it to our first destination the four intrepid well just intrepid group picture takers........


Pic: Tim New
                                                                        Pic: Tim New
We made it to the Peterson Island sea ice ramp. It is the safe area where you can cross onto the sea ice to walk over to Peterson Island but first you need to drill it to ensure it is safe................


video

Considering the ice was around the 1.1 meter mark it was safe to say it was good.........

The first think  noticed was a berg and the shine on the ice...........



Then we were being followed and lets let the pictures and video do a little talking for me here................

video

Pic: Brad Duggan
Pic: Steven Leslie






The rocks on the Island were very different to any i have seen anywhere else too and maybe there is a geologist that can explain this too me (Mr Johnson no hints here).............




Then we crossed into the center of the island and there they were HUNDREDS OF HAPPY FEET in all their stinking glory............
video
WISH THERE WAS SMELLOVISION............
video



Along with the abundance of life there was the death too.......................and the death in the winds with eager Skua's just waiting for the Adelie penguins to drop their guard over their eggs.



And then there is the Skua.............





Skua nests................you'd trip over them if they were not so protective!! 



Eventually we climbed to the top of this little hill over looking the rookeries and there was the most amazing sight...........................the Vanderford Glacier

NOTING CAN DO THIS JUSTICE WITHOUT SEEING IT WITH YOUR OWN EYES...........

video





 
Some say I'm overcompensating but i think I'm just fine the way i am.......................................

Pic: Tim New



Pic: Brad Duggan
By this stage it was getting on a bit so we decided to go to the Peterson Island melon for lunch but on the way there there was a couple Weddell Seals that needed a little look at...........




Getting hungry now we walked past the third and kept going.......
video

Well we finally made it to the melon and i was a spent man..........was very much looking forward to the 1hour or so break just to recoup for the much shorter walk back to the Hagg.



While there we were shown the American Flag that was left there during Operation Windmill back in the 1948-49.
More info on Operation Windmill
and another one that was happening around the same time was Operation Highjump

While the Americans were there it was all filmed and made into a shirt film called "The Secret Land" and guess what i found the orrigional footage of it on youtube...............

But where I'm getting to here they stopped in at Peterson Island and left a flag ect................




Again i know it would have been nice to talk to my father on his birthday but after seeing the pictures I'm sure he will forgive me, below is proof forever more that i was there on his birthday!!


Original document but not kept on Peterson Island only a copy but this you see is the original......



On our way off the Island i noticed something sitting in the rocks i hadn't seen that was a little out of the ordinary in Antarctica.................



Then the shattered walk back to the Hagg slowly....................very slowly.  We were so blessed with the weather and it was sooooooooo hot that by the time we got back to the Hagg we had basically stripped back to t-shirts and had all the roof doors and windows in the Hagg open just to cool down.

video
I finally made it to Browning Field Hut...........................


Steve decided he wanted to sleep in the tent as a bit of a memory of Antarctica. Steve is the Chef here and was here over winter and is due to be leaving on V2 (voyage 2) sometime in mid December. Below is a picture of the tent and the ice axe pegs.


As Steve had organized the food for the trip and he cooks every night for us me and Tim decided we would cook for the Chef and cook up a storm we did...........



But it wasn't long before bed was calling me and i think i was sooooooo tyred that snoring wasn't even possible. Here you can see inside the field hut, they all are very much the same. Very comfortable and well stocked with food VHF communication and reading material for those quiet nights. Lighting well not really needed in them over summer as there is currently about 20+ hours of full sunlight it will be 24 hours. Thanks gaud i can sleep anywhere, anytime and anyhow!!

The following day after a little sleep in Steve took us to a known Elephant Seal haul out area, where all i could capture was yep more Adelie Penguins.............



Well the whole reason for going there was Elephant Seals and the closest i got was below you can see the puddle well it is actually the wallow that one has been in.............


And their poo..............


I did see some cool ice that i though would photograph better than it did, it was the most amazing blue colour which didn't really come out in the pic.....




After the short walk back to the Hagg which felt like it was the same 9km we did yesterday even though is was only like 1km total, we headed back the 60km back to station. On the way we saw leads which are a type of crevasse. They were only about 10cm at the most but they will eventually turn into man eaters I'm sure!



Then we ran into a old bridged melt stream................this is where in previous summers water melting off the plateau wore a trench in the ice then snow over the winter covered the trench leaving the hole under. This also happens with crevasses too and this is how experienced outdoors men can sometimes get caught out!


I actually put my ice axe into the hole and it went to the hilt...............today one of the FTO's (Field Training Officers) was out there and it was just over a meter deep.


Is summery.......................One old mate, two new mates haveing the time of their lives in THE MOST INCREADABLE PLACE ON EARTH............................


Thanks Steve, Tim and Brad for a excellent weekend and although it might be one of the lasts for Steve Tim and Brad we got a couple more to go yet guys!!

Well people its now Wednesday night and Ive been working on this blog entry since Sunday and I'm a little lost for words for a change. Out of interest my blog has now had 925 hits in the 11 entries previous to this and I'm kinda chuffed about that. Didn't think that my life was that interesting, but maybe I'm wrong. Never in a million years when i started my working life did i think i was going to end up here.

Its amazing that you can think that you have your life set out for you but in reality you need to get on the bike and go with it where the road takes you. I know when i my parents sold out of the business that my heart and sole was broken as that is where my father had spent his whole life and his father. However hindsight is 20/20 and IF Bruce hadn't have given me the opportunity in his quarry, Bill hadn't have taught me as much as he did, friends having put up with me like they did and most importantly the WORLDS BEST PARENTS that have been soooooooo supportive, loving sometimes a little quirky (DAD) but most of all there when i needed them I WOULDN'T BE HERE.

See i wasn't actually lost for words after all....................

Take care,

Michael

P.S..............."Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken."
                     J. Trump