Dan's Antarctic Dairy - Week Five

Sunday 30 Jan
Exciting weather day today because some windy and snowy weather was expected for this evening, overnight and Monday! After working in the morning went out on boat during the afternoon and visited some nearby islands. There are a few boats here and thay are principally used for scientists to do marine research, for diver support and for safety when aeroplanes come in to land. However, on a weekend if the weather is OK the boat crews are willing to take people out for a bit of a 'cruise'. So, got my survival suit and lifejacket on (just like going offshore to the rigs!!) and hopped on the boat. The boat is one of these small rubber looking ones with 2 engines and seats about 6-8 people. It's quite nippy and can get up to about 25mph, which when the sea iks a bit 'lumpy' is incredibly bouncy and requires passengers to really hang on! Because of this endearing characteristic the boatmen are a) keen to take me out on the boat on a windy day....for their own amusement rather than my pleasure I believe and b) the boats cannot operate when it's quite windy.

Anyway, the weather was reasonably benign and we pottered around for 2-3 hours. First of all we went north of Rothera and had a close look at some icebergs we'd been able to see from shore for a few days. Some were 30-40m tall and pretty intimidating close up. The thing that amazes me is how blue bits of icebergs can be. Also saw one or two seals on some icebergs. One greeting us by weeing all over his/her iceberg. This seal then re-inforced my opnion that seals are just big fat slugs by rolling around in its own urine. Classy.

Next we went south of Rothera where there are a number of small islands. One such island is little more than a rocky outcrop with some sort of sea bird colony on it. It stunk of bird shit. Who'd have thought a load of birds could be so smelly. We stopped at an island called Anchorage where some of the beakers (slang word for scientists - think Muppets) here do some research. Here I got a close look at some Elephant Seals (find out more here). They must have had some night on Saturday because their eyes looked bloodshot. They wriggled about and roared and burped a bit. They stink, but I can run faster than they can wriggle so no danger there. The trick, it seems, to get a 'playful' reaction out of them is to get down low. lie close to them and make eye contact and then copy some of their movements; they're a bit short sighted out of the water so presumably thing you're a seal too (or maybe I'm just a big fat shit - take your pick). There was also an Adelie penguin here. Always a pleasure seeing a penguin fool about. We then sailed around some more icebergs and the end of a glacier (basically an iceberg factory) and then went to another island called Lagoon. Here's there's a hut where people can stay and where we had warm drink. There were more Elephant Seals about here and then we went back to base.

So, a nice pleasant cruise. Saw some big icebergs, saw a couple of penguins and discovered just how smelly a bird colony is (very) and re-affirmed that seals aren't cute but are really quite unpleasant!

Big blue icebergs!!Elephant SealMe and a big balloon!

Monday 31 Jan
It snowed during the night. Not too much though so I didn't wake up to a winter wonderland. I launched a weather ballloon this morning and this was the highlight of my day you are now going to hear about. Ah, the benefits of a one-way conversation. Anyway, a weather balloon is a helium filled balloon which carries a small package of weather instruments called a radiosonde up through part of the atmosphere. The radiosonde transmits its data back to base where it can be used for all sorts of things. Basically the radiosonde data provides a 3-D cross section of the atmosphere overhead (or overhead and just downwind to be really pedantic about it) so from the data I can see where layers of clouds are (and could form) and how cold it is at certain points of the atmosphere and so on. Loads of these balloons are launched 2-4 times a day from lots of places around the world and as well as being used in weather forecasting the data is used in research and in the computer models which help weather forecasters guess the weather.

To launch one of these things there are some preliminary checks, like checking the instrument works, making sure the battery that powers it is charged up and ensuring the data receiver is on. Then the balloon gets filled with helium. The balloon is, as you can see from the photo, pretty big and you need to remember to hold on to it else it'll float away! And the helium comes out of the cannister at a fair whack so you can't do a bit for the balloon and a bit for yourself. Anyway, once the balloon is filled up the instruments were attached and then I went outside, had my picture taken (I needed a picture of me looking like a weather geek) and let the balloon go!

The rest of the day was more mundane. I worked, I surfed (the net) and updated this internet page.

Dan Suri, 31 January 2005. Click here to go to my home page and click  to email me.