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.