BLOG: On Thick Ice

1 July, 2021 Rothera

Rothera Field Guide Ed Luke is part of the skilled team who safely facilitate fieldwork year-round in Antarctica. In this blog, Ed takes us on the experience of conducting winter sea ice thickness tests near Rothera Research Station.

We conducted this year’s first sea ice test on the 11th of June, heading out from Hangar Cover around the Northern end of the Rothera airstrip and into North Cove.

We head out in teams of two wearing insulated flotation suits and skis to spread the load and make travel more efficient.

Two people cross country skiing in the snow
Into the ice! Field Guides JB Chandesris and Andy Hood heading out with hand drill and bog chisels. Credit: Ed Luke.

The sea ice thickness testing is conducted after two weeks of continuous entries in the Rothera sea ice diary, which is reviewed at the BAS Cambridge headquarters. The conditions in the weeks leading up to these tests were particularly cold and settled with the ice covering all the waterways inland towards the peninsula. A small open pool around the headland became a hangout for penguins, and fur seal tracks (groove with flipper marks either side) could be seen heading way out across the ice for as far as the eye could see.

A man sitting on top of a snow covered slope
Attempting to find a low reading! Close to and in between icebergs should be the location of lowest readings.

Accurate sea ice thickness figures mean that the Rothera dive team can gain safe access to the sea ice to continue their long-term monitoring programs throughout the winter months in Antarctica.

A person skiing on the snow
Field Guide Mark Chambers drilling sea ice in Hangar Cove. Credit: Ed Luke.

The sea ice thickness measurements are also shared with our friends in the US and Russian Antarctic programmes, part of a network of communication and collaboration across Antarctica.

Two people kneeling in the snow
Mark takes the measurement as Andy notes the location (with GPS) and thickness. Credit: Ed Luke.
A person cross country skiing in the snow
Andy smiling at a job well done. Time to head back to Rothera for a brew. Credit: Ed Luke.

As I write this from Rothera Research Station towards the end of June, the sea ice has now mainly all gone with the exception of hangar and north cove. This follows high winds and temperatures of +2C!