Antarctica Part IV: The continent

After a nine day sail the R/V Araon arrived in Jang Bogo Research Station! As a first time visitor to Antarctica the view not only took my breath away, but dumbfounded me. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and admittedly I haven’t found the words yet to describe it- the sheer scale of the landscape leaves me at a complete loss.  Luckily ORCAA sent me with a camera, which should speak a little more clearly than I can these days.

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Ross Sea Ice two days sail from the continent

After a short stop in Terra Nova Bay on Saturday to bid our Italian colleagues goodbye, the Araon spent ~48 hours breaking through 1-2m thick ice (the noise was deafening and impressive). The ship, as I’ve mentioned before, is state of the art and extremely efficient at it’s job- breaking ice.  The frozen sea stretches in front of us dauntingly, but the ship is not phased as she bows over the ice which creaks and breaks under the weight of the ship, blazing our path toward the continent.

After quite some time on the ship I think both passengers and crew were eager to step onto the ice and  set foot on the continent of Antarctica.  Admittedly, the only thing which seemed to satiate the passengers onboard the ship were the frequent sightings of Adelie penguins, and a very long encounter with an emperor penguin that curiously watched as we stopped to rearrange our cargo deck.

An Emperor Penguin curiously watches the R/V Araon, making its way across the ice over a half an hour to approach for a closer look

An Emperor Penguin curiously watches the R/V Araon, making its way across the ice over a half an hour to approach for a closer look

While I can’t underplay the thrill of watching penguins from the ship, it did not compare to the excitement of reaching the continent itself.

The Jang Bogo research station is one of the most impressive facilities I’ve ever seen.  It is outfitted to comfortably hold multiple research teams investigating a range of environmental features including space weather, geophysics and seismology, geology, and oceanography.  It is also outfitted with an indoor greenhouse where salad greens are grown for consumption throughout the year, a state of the art gym (with climbing wall), an espresso bar, multiple lounges and conference rooms, wet and dry lab space, and considerable charm.

The team currently in residence at Jang Bogo are extremely gracious, and generously toured me through the facility within moments of stepping foot inside the door.  The facility, which officially opened its doors last February, is nearing completion, and various research projects are currently underway. Many of the researchers currently at the base will accompany us on the return journey to Christchurch, NZ.

For now, the crew has been working round the clock (the never setting sun allows for very high productivity- human and primary) to unload supplies, scientific cargo, and fuel for the base.  Tomorrow our helicopter pilots will begin flying missions as various ice dynamic studies progress, and in two days time we will set sail for our oceanographic cruise.

More to come.

Your Antarctic Correspondent,

Michelle

Michelle sailing through the Ross Sea en route to Jang Bogo Antarctic Base

Michelle sailing through the Ross Sea en route to Jang Bogo Antarctic Base

 

 

 

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