Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Waiting, waiting...

It?s a long time, nine months, a winterover. But definitely the
perception of the time passed varies. In the last week of a cycle of
data collection, I?m tired and it feels like it?s been forever. One
week of good sleep later and it can feel like it's been hardly any
time at all. But that?s nothing like now. BUt right now, time seems
to be passing particularly slowly, and the winterover just feels

It?s because the summer crew are late, and we don?t know how long they
will be. And yesterday, the day the first plane was planned to
arrive, all our normal communication lines went down, and information
was very hard to get. MZS?s HF radio developed a fault and we
couldn?t speak to them. Email had been down the last 24h ?we?ve
still never figured out what it is that affects it - We knew that the
crew in Christchurch were delayed getting to Antarctica, finally in
desperation for news, Paolo phoned ENEA in Italy.

What?s happening? Are they coming soon?
Not yet.

The Twin Otters that will be working for our program are stuck at
Rothera, on the other side of Antarctica, bad weather preventing them
from getting over. They can?t even get to the Pole. The earliest
they can get to MZS and then up here is Saturday they think. The
waiting is starting to really get to some of us. For me, the thought
that maybe one day soon I might actually get something fresh to eat is
starting to get really distracting... The first of the summer
campaign personnel, on the other hand, are at MZS presumably
thoroughly enjoying it as I did last year.

The Astrolabe is not getting on much better. We hear that she?s
stuck in pack ice 200km from DDU, and she can?t get further on. And
to make matters worse, she might have to turn around and go back to
Hobart without putting in to DDU. She has a helicopter on board
that?s necessary to offload the cargo, and it?s developed a fault,
something big, something they don?t routinely carry spares for.
There?s some discussion about whether an airdrop could be arranged to
deliver the necessary parts to her where she is, out in the ice. If
not, it?s back to Hobart. Once she can get out of the pack, that is.
Fred tells me R0 (R zero, the first rotation she makes from Hobart to
DDU and back) each year is often beset with problems in the pack.
She?s not built for ice breaking, as she needs the flat hull for
manoevering in the islands and icebergs at DDU. So when the pack ice
is thick there?s nothing to do but wait. Storms are handy ? the waves
break up the ice and then with the helicopter to guide the vessel,
she can find a way through the fragments. No luck this time, it seems.

I have to admit thought in terms of my work here things couldn't be
going better. The delay means I'll get all the crew through the
final cycle of testing before the winterover ends, and make good on
all the delays we had at the start of the winterover. And we could
get our first plane on the day I finish the project. Funny how things
work out...

Concordia station
75°06'06''S - 123°23'43''E Local time UTC + 8

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