Working in an extreme environment

Whilst we’ve been out of main internet contact, we have still been receiving daily news reports of what’s going on back at home – and the weather in the UK has been consistently making headline news.

Although we don’t have constant rainfall (as Antarctica is the driest continent on Earth), we have had our fair share of tough conditions to work in! Over the past 10 days, we’ve worked in temperatures down to -15 degrees C, with wind strengths of up to 45 knots (about 52 mph) – that’s approximately -35 degrees C once you take the wind chill into consideration!! As I write this, the outside temperature (at 3.30am local time) is -10 degrees C, with a wind speed of 7 knots – which feels relatively warm compared with previous days!

When we work on deck we have lots of layers to put on to try to stay warm, but for longer jobs the scientists and crew rotate every 30 minutes so no one gets too cold – their time off is spent in front of the heaters to try to warm up before heading back out into the cold!!

But it’s not just the people on board the JCR who have had to deal with the cold; the equipment has to as well. With such cold temperatures we’ve really been testing our instruments to the limit – the CTD and VMP regularly freeze in the short distance between the deck and the labs inside where they’re kept, and our autonomous underwater vehicles (Seagliders and Autosub) have both experienced sea ice forming on their communications antennae! Even our radiosonde launches haven’t escaped without some hitches; one balloon was launched as a gust of nearly 50 knots blew across the ship, catching the balloon and driving it into the mainframe of the ship, resulting in one burst radiosonde.

Overall, however, our data collection is proceeding at some pace – we have now completed over 180 microstructure profiles, 70 CTDs and 25 radiosonde launches, as well as 2 Seaglider deployments and recoveries and a 2nd Autosub mission in progress as this blog is written. We are currently collecting data to the west of Pine Island Glacier at the ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier, where we hope to find some Weddell seals for the seal biologists to tag. The nights are beginning to creep in slowly, with longer periods of relative darkness – the moon is now visible overnight too.

Via: Ocean2ice blog

Website by Martin Black