As the clouds cleared so too did my mind. It was a long blustery slog in April. With the low temperatures waking me up at Rumdoodle, and blowing snow forcing all but the essential work to be done inside here on station. I didn’t realise the need for a break until I was a couple of hours into my latest excursion. John, Keldyn and myself enjoyed a much needed break from the station, by pulling pulks across the ice and soaking up the suns fragile rays. As much as we love our jobs, the need for recreation is strong. Given the area that’s available to us I couldn’t imagine a soul on earth who wouldn’t want to explore this gelid environment? Being couped up on station for nearly a month makes staring at the nautical horizon, on an elevated island kilometres from station, so wonderful for the mind and body.
Cookie communicated with Kingston (AAD) regarding the sea ice thickness and as such negotiated successfully to allow foot traffic out onto the ice. There are a set of rules we must follow to remain safe out there on the ice. First up at all times we must have our survival gear which includes at least one change of clothes, GPS, compass, food, ice axe, throw rope, bivvy bag, sleeping bag and mat, maps, goggles/sunglasses, field guide, first aid manual, extra gloves, water, balaclava, radio and other assorted items. On top of this I also add a camera, tripod, ipod etc…. These items are needed regardless of distance from the station. So should we go for a 2 km walk, a 25kg pack is strapped to our backs. 40kms and it’s the same. So out here on the sea ice we have the option of using a pulk instead of a back pack to carry our gear. A pulk is a low slung , small toboggan that is pulled by a harness attached to the waist. Over firm ice or compacted snow the going is easy. Through soft snow or up and over large sastrugi the going can become very tough.
So it was on a glorious Saturday morning at 8am the three of us set out for a hike into the great blue yonder. Hiding from view and wearily making its way onto land, a sluggish sun cast its faint hue in the eastern sky. It was minus 18 degrees celcius, clear and with only 10-15knots of wind, to our standards………….calm. Intent on walking around as long as the sun allowed, our day was to be filled with at least 15kms of hiking, 5-6 islands to climb and maybe a few interesting looking ice features along the way. Well we got this and some. Our walk ended well after the sun went down on a well known Island call Bechervaise. Having walked for over 20kms, climbed 4 little islands as well as the largest (Welch), passed along some awesome glacial features and having stared silently at vast wind-scours, broken ice bergs and tide cracks that foretold the ‘end of days’, Our expectations were well and truly exceeded yet again, by an ice queen whose siren comes not in the form of an audible trance, but of a mesmerising ballad played out with subzero sculptures……………………………..