Wednesday, September 16, 2015


The weather in Antarctica is notoriously fickle. It can be sunny with glorious views of glaciers, ice sheets and mountains, but within an hour a raging storm may engulf you in a white-out. A white-out is just that - blowing snow and winds mean that all you see is a white void and having any sense of direction can be extremely difficult.

Many research sites (including ours) are located on the barren white landscape of the sea ice - yes, we are driving over the ocean! A white-out poses a serious travel risk so all main routes to research sites on the sea ice are set with flags spaced at 25m (~80ft). This is a time consuming, but very important, process.

A blowing snow event and a row of flags marking the road to research sites

A ground blizzard en route to Zodiac Camp. The flag in the top left corner is only 25m away, but can barely be seen.

To set a flag line, we use a Kovacs Ice Auger and drill holes using either a battery powered drill, or a gas/petrol powered drill (called the Echo drill) or some good old muscle with a brace-and-bit.

Going old-school (after the batteries died on the DeWalt and the Echo drill wouldn't start). Doug and Lars put in some muscle to drill a hole with the brace

Lars runs the Echo drill, while Doug readies the flags.

The Turkey-tail of flags marking the turn off to Zodiac Camp. Lars drilled all the way through the sea ice at this location. The ice was 2m (6.5ft) thick.



At September 18, 2015 at 8:40 AM , Blogger Piper said...

White-outs! Power tools! Trucks with tracks! I'm living vicariously through your Antarctic adventures, Drew (while the callouses on my fingertips grow thicker from coding). At least the sun is now a little higher in the sky.

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