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Rothera Diary — February 2013

So, we’ve been back at Rothera for a couple of weeks now after spending the previous two and a half months "deep field" working on a scientific project in the Ellsworth Mountains. Our team left base in mid November shortly before the bulk of the summer staff arrived, and got back to a very busy Rothera in late January.

The Geomorphology project that I was working on was in the Ellsworth Mountains in The Horseshoe Valley, and was a joint Edinburgh and Northumbria University collaboration. There were six of us working together; David Sugden and Andy Hein from Edinburgh University, John Woodward and Stuart Dunning from Northumbria University and Scott Webster and myself as Field Assistants with BAS. The aim of the project was essentially to identify and understand the formation of blue ice morraines and then to use this information to work out how stable the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is.

The team used a variety of different techniques as part of the data collection including ground penetrating radar, un-manned aerial vehicles (UAV), laser scanning, detailed GPS measurements and rock sampling.

We carried out the above work in 3 core locations; Patriot Hills, Independence Hills and Marble Hills. During the 2 month project we kept the same camp site and commuted to the various areas. Patriot hills was the closest with a 10km round trip, Independence was 20km round trip and Marble was 30km round trip. A relatively short commute compared to some of the other field projects, but over some mountainous lumpy sastrugi!

We were also lucky enough to be able to summit several stunning peaks in the area in the search of rock samples, and carry out some rock-coring, a previously un-tried technique in Antarctica, which involves carrying a drill, fuel, all the coring bits, and around 60 litres of lubrication fluid up a rather large hill. Good exercise to work off the manfood calories!

Without going into too much detail, hopefully the pictures below will go some way to conveying the beauty of the Ellsworths, and how privileged we are to get the chance to work in such a stunning location!

A massive thank you must go to all those involved in the season, particularly the four scientists David, John, Stuart and Andy for being such good company, and all the logistical team at Rothera and Cambridge for all their support.

Campsite Horseshoe Valley (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Campsite Horseshoe Valley (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Andy Hein with his trusty angle grinder (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Andy Hein with his trusty angle grinder (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
On Patriot Hills, with Independence and Marble visible behind (L and R respectively) (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
On Patriot Hills, with Independence and Marble visible behind (L and R respectively) (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Stuart about to launch one of his UAV planes for an aerial photography survey (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Stuart about to launch one of his UAV planes for an aerial photography survey (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Andy Hein collecting a rock core for cosmogenic dating (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Andy Hein collecting a rock core for cosmogenic dating (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Independence Hills (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Independence Hills (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Panorama view of Marble Hills with Mount Fordell just right of centre (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Panorama view of Marble Hills with Mount Fordell just right of centre (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Andy collecting a rock sample on the summit of Mount Fordell (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Andy collecting a rock sample on the summit of Mount Fordell (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Pulling the radar across the moraines at Patriot Hills. In 2 months we covered over 10km pulling the radar 10cm every 6 seconds! (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Preparing our Christmas meal - pan fried duck breasts! (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Preparing our Christmas meal - pan fried duck breasts! (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Twin Otter - our ride home (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Twin Otter - our ride home (Photo: Malcolm Airey)