UTIG polar researchers Dillon Buhl, Anja Rutishauser and Natalie Wolfenbarger joined colleagues in West Antarctica to conduct vital surveys of one of the most unstable glaciers on Earth. The team are part of LIONESS, an international collaboration between The University of Texas at Austin, Montana State University and the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI), which aims to resolve unanswered questions about the sprawling Thwaites Glacier system.
After successfully freeing the Korean fishing boat, HONGJIN, which had become trapped among ice in the Ross Sea, the R/V Araon continued on its voyage to Antarctica. After several days breaking through ice, the field team finally deployed on Thwaites Glacier on January 31, where they made camp.
In the third post of her four part field journal, UTIG postdoc Anja Rutishauser, continues her tale of drama and adventure at the far reaches of the Earth…
Although, the rescue mission had set us back weeks, our team was optimistic and we looked forward to a tight, but manageable two weeks to finish our scientific surveys.
However, as other parts of Antarctica scorched under record breaking temperatures, conditions at our camp went from bad to worse. Thick clouds brought snow, which quickly turned to blizzards.
That very first day, I piled up chunks of snow on the sides of my tent in case things turned stormy. Little did I know keeping the tent in place was the least of my worries!
At night, the wind howled and snow “battered” my tent. I admit it was nerve-wracking and I found myself wondering what condition my tent would be the next morning, and how long it would take to dig my way out!
Earplugs, sleeping mask, and a warm sleeping bag can do wonders in the field and after a while the wind and snow became almost soothing.
The snow and bad weather continued for eight days. As one day merged into another, we found our patience severely tested, fighting boredom as much as we fought the snow.
To stay busy, each day, we planned the next day’s survey flight in the hope that morning would bring better conditions. The rest of the day was spent in the camp’s mess tent reading, knitting socks, and even watching the occasional movie.
In fact, once we got used to it, life at our camp was great! Being surrounded by nothing but snow and ice is an indescribable, but very special, feeling.
One of the advantages of being grounded is having plenty of time to cook! Some delicious meals we prepared included lamb chops, all kinds of pasta, Bolognese, pizza (yes, you can cook a pizza in a frying pan), steak and burger.