Antarctica in Pictures, Part 5: Life in the Schmidt Hills

We didn't "make science" all the time - there was some mundane things too.  We did, however, drive snowmobiles a lot.  Here the Glacier and Rock teams re-group to drive back to camp together from the far side of the hills.  The light isn't a result of bad photography:  overcast days created "flat" light conditions, which ruined surface definition.  Driving an unknown route, especially with a known potential crevasse hazard, was not an option.  We quickly learned to scout out and establish driving routes on clear sunny days, so that we could still access routes and radar tracks on overcast days like this. | photo Claire Todd

Likely one of my favorite things to establish was this otter-slide, from No Name Saddle towards camp.  The fixed GPS station is uphill and to the right from this picture.  We needed crampons and ice axes to reach this area, but I discovered that the way down could be much more fun! | photo Claire Todd

The Schmidt Hills Gas Mart.  Credit cards and personal checks not accepted.  The snowmobiles and the fuel they used were critical to the success of this trip - we could not have done a fourth of it on foot.  We took nine 208L/55gal drums with us to Neptune, and initially had two for the Schmidt Hills.  A little more than halfway through our two-week stay at Schmidt, Claire and I did a day tour back to Neptune to cache trash, rock samples, and the two empty fuel drums and bring two full fuel drums back.  Fuel was pumped with a "hurdy gurdy" hand pump, and a full spill kit stood ready in a yellow drum, justing barely visible in the lower left corner of the photo. | photo Claire Todd

I got to do a little bit of skiing during the trip.  It was important to me that the science always, always came first.  But on Christmas day Greg and I got in a couple of turns above camp on the north slopes of Mt Coulter.

Christmas also brought other activities.  This was our first "rest day" in the field. | photo Claire Todd

Mike's looking stylish and coy his new Christmas neck gaiter. | photo Claire Todd

For Christmas, Kat hand-sewed neck gaiters for all of us.  Greg's and mine were in a stylish grey fleece and
tweed. | photo Claire Todd

Getting samples meant a lot of scrambling, and a bit of summiting.  This is a descent from Pt 1000 on the east side of the Schmidt Hills. | photo Claire Todd

We were challenged by a field repair of a snowmobile.  #12 broke a left rear track spring on day.  After a quick talk with the Mechanical Engine Center in McMurdo for advice, we were able to replace the spring relatively easily.  Our only problem was with the left axle wheel - it refused to budge, and we needed to take it off to reach the spring.  In the end we took off the right axle wheel (which Greg is doing here), and then used lengths of bamboo pole to hammer the entire axle off from the other side. | photo Claire Todd

That's the new spring waiting on the rock box.  Greg's trying to lever the left rear axle wheel off, but we got nowhere for all of his efforts.

The easiest way for us to put it back together was for four or five of us to hold up the back end while one or two lined up the axle with the springs and the axle sleeve.  This snowmobile model weighs between 680-720lbs, depending on fuel.  Picking it up as high as it is in the photo let Claire and Seth rest it partially on their thighs.  In the end this repair only took four hours - it would have been half that had we been able to get that left wheel off and hadn't needed to remove
 the axle. | photo Kat Huybers

The broken spring. | photo Claire Todd

Self portrait of a scientist. | photo Kat Huybers

Clouds rolling over the Foundation Ice Stream.  Here, the Foundation is about 7km away from the rock's edge.  That dark wide line is the crevasse-riddled shear zone.  One of Seth's radar tracks runs from the blue ice visible in the photo in the bottom right, to within a single kilometer of the shear zone.

Just as we finished up work, we got caught be a storm system that left us sitting in camp for two days.  Not really that bad by Antarctic standards.  We all read a lot, but Mike also made this chess board to beat the rest of us with. | photo Claire Todd

Kat experimented with stove oven, and camp up with a fantastic loaf of bread.

Christmas dinner was Cornish game hens, stuffing, and vegetables.  Incredibly prepared by Greg.

Catching a ski at the end of the day on the Nervo Glacier. | photo Seth Campbell, Chris Simmons collection

On the last clear day, I took a quick trip after dinner to the summit of Mt Coulter for a ski descent of the SE Face.  There was no wind - as demonstrated by my light clothing at the summit.

The beginning of the descent, a 330m/1000'+ descent.

The inside of the stove-top oven. | photo Kat Huybers

We did accidentally melt a hole in the tent wall, but Kat did an awesome (and humorous) job patching it up on one of the weather days.

Greg, Kat and Claire all had a serious problem with crossword-puzzle addiction.

The storm at the end of the Schmidt Hills trip added a small amount of snow.  On the second day, overcast skies and flat light made it pointless to try to move camp to our next destination in the Williams Hills.

I took this self-portrait the night before we left.  Mt Gorecki, which we never reached, is on the left.  Camp is visible just left of my hip.  The Neptune Range runs in the background.