We have finally finished our work. We completed 2.6 km of sampling and measured the velocities of about 20 stakes precisely. We found that ice velocities were about as expected from our previous years data and in-line with our mathematical models. That means that the ice flows at between a few cm and 30 cm year along our flow line and in the direction of the ice fall at the bottom of the valley – which is also lowing into the valley, but more slowly. The two flows meet at the start of our profile line, and that’s where the oldest ice in the valley is.
Our samples were transported to the Aboa freezer by the Swedarp tracked vehicle traverse. It took them 2 days to travel the 200 km distance, as despite being very comfortable, they are very slowww – crawling at less than 10 km/hour when pulling 2 sledges uphill, but they can pull more than 10 tons of cargo. While the Swedes were with us at Svea, they gave us some potatoes, half a cabbage and some apples, and they were so sweet, it really was marvelous to taste real food again.
The Swedish TR4s at Svea; the peak to the left is Gerhardsennutenwith with the luxurious living module is on the sledge below it. They had plenty of space for our gear waiting in the foreground, including our insulated ice core boxes (white boxes at left). The mountain and low sun shadow most of the valley for long periods in late January. Photo: John Moore/FINNARP
We traveled to Aboa a week or so after the Swedes left, with light sledges and over really nice flat and smooth surfaces. We had new 4-stroke Yamaha Viking scooters with us (having swapped scooters at Christmas for ones straight off the re-supply ship). These scooters are very powerfull (120 bhp), but not very stable (having quite high centres of gravity) so take a bit of getting used to. Anyway the combination of excellent surfaces and pretty good weather meant that we could pull our sledges at speeds up to 60 kph, which is really amazing compared with the speeds that we could manage when we first went to Svea 3 months earlier over heavy sastrugi.
We need to wait for Kristiina to analyze the chemistry in the laboratory in Rovaniemi, and for our Dutch colleagues to analyze the water isotopes before we can say much about the paleoclimate record. Kristiina will be working on the data for her PhD and it will take several months to analyze all the samples we have taken, even running the ion chromatograph 24 hours a day.
We arrived back at Aboa in time to watch the other scientists leave. They had finished their experiments that had been running since the ship came at Christmas time. It was with rather mixed feelings that we helped them load the Basler aircraft and head for home. At least I was enjoying being on base and doing some of the non-science logistics activity of looking after a base and preparing it for the 9 month winter before the next expedition arrives. Though of course after 3 months, I think we were all enviously imagining the group spending a few days enjoying Cape Town’s hot climate.
After the group left, we were only 5 of us remaining. Since then we have been storing the 8 snow scooters and our many sledges in the garage (and closing it up so that hopefully a bit less snow is packed inside over the winter than we found when we opened it up this season). We taken down the antennas and our flag route markers and strapped down or put away all the things that we are sure the wind can not blow away _ that means practically anything smaller than a house. There is still perhaps a week to go before our plane picks us up, so we have had not had to work too hard on the base activities. We have had some free time; I made a chess board from old packing cases and rubber, and others have found new and varied ways of playing cards. This kind of work and leisure is the closest most scientists get to over-wintering these days.
Back on base
Fresh sheets, clean, scour skin anew
Water – from a tap, and not on the floor
Cabbage green, sharp, sweet cooked, best raw
Sun filtered gentle through windows screened
Food cupboards filled, seven chocolate bars a day
Cotton clothes soothe nylon sweats past
Machine washed clean with spring-pine freshness
Evenings wallowing in hot sauna baths, cold beer on hand.
Can this be Antarctica?
A world away from a tent, from hint of hardship,
But it’s only a day, or is it really a century since
Death marches from that awful place,
Forty years since dogs and half year long trips?
People still die, of stupidity or ignorance
But the wind is less keen, the weather is warmer, we are softer
And it is better for all that.