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**Updated: Antarctica Trip

Thanks to everyone who followed our adventure to the ice and the mountains of Queen Maud Land over Dec – Feb.

We’ve made a movie of our best video clips and still photos which tells the story of all the shinanigans we got up to.
We’ll be screening this at the next MCSA first-Tuesday climber’s social.

Tuesday 5th March
7:30 for 8pm
MCSA Clubhouse, Cape Town


Update from Ant (14 February 2013):

Hi family and friends,

When was the last time you listened to ‘Ek wil huis toe gaan na mamma toe’ and ‘Kaptein span die seile’ with delight and a bit of nostalgia?
I thought so… But we did this morning as the Agulhas II departed the Ice for the last time and the captain piped it over the intercom.

The 2012 overwintering team certainly leave with a host of memories, and the 2013 team waved us off to the start of a long and unique winter. Good luck guys!

A lot has happened since the last update in early January (sent out hastily at 2am (Below)

In Antarctica you trade cars and busses for Skidoos – if Eskimos tried to copy Ostrich riding this is what they’d come up with Helicopters – the Twin engine Huey 212 – can anyone hum ‘Airwolf’?
Skis – banned for safety reasons – but the only effective way of moving around when you don’t have the above – which is often…

Antarctica Climbing Trip

Christmas braai. Photo by Ake Fagereng

There are a few peculiarities in the kitchen and cleanliness department – beer must be warmed up prior to consumption, benzene is slow to ignite and the wet-wipes freeze into a solid block.

You can set your own clock depending on where you camp – as much sun as possible is the order of the day, but if you are cunning you can pick a campsite that receives a shadow from 11pm until 5am which helps bring a limited sense of normality to the 24-hr daylight.

The team from Starlite Aviation deployed us at each of our two research sites – each around 180km from the SANAE base, and across the ‘Jutelstraumen’ glacier.  Both fall in what was originally Norwegian claim area, so all the areas and peaks have been afforded Norwegian names by early survey.

Sverdrupfjella is known as the ‘bannana belt’ – at 1900m the temperatures are 10 deg lower than the base (so a refreshing -20deg) but lacks the gale force winds of Antarctica’s other regions.  We had one or two ‘mildly bad’ days which really drive home the enormity of the place, but otherwise were treated to spectacular weather – neon blue skies, sugar-white fairytale scenery and rich-purple shadows – some things you just can’t capture on film.  The team were able to complete their research and start making some interesting deductions about the two major tectonic movements that have taken place.  These are some seriously old rocks!

Antarctica Climbing Trip

Looking out at the ice passing by. Photo by Ake Fagereng

Of course getting around involved making some pretty high and wild walks.  Exploration in these areas is mostly limited to aerial survey or observational mapping from the valleys, and it was quite a thrill to go ‘shear zone hunting’ on high and lonely ridges that are just like they were in 5 billion years ago- and totally excluded from the chapters of evolution and human discovery.  We might also have done a little bit of rock climbing…

What was equally special on this trip was that 6 of us, after the challenges of our preparation, being coop-ed up on a ship and a crowded base for 7 weeks and then eeking out an ice-age existence for several more weeks, didn’t just ‘get on’ – but had a total blast.  Our poor Scott tent – never has so much bollocks been uttered for so long in such a confined and flimsy space.  Thanks team.  Long live the ‘dog’, the ‘horse’ and Jan Stapper…

My hand has healed up nicely thanks to Drs Rob and Jaco – I’ve been careful to look after it and it has only held me back in very minor ways.

Antarctica Climbing Trip

‘Scrambling’ on a ridge in Sverdrupfjella. Photo by Ake Fagereng

The oceanographers are obliged to pick up a stranded ‘glider’ (a very expensive piece of half-floating research kit) en-route back to Cape Town, so assuming we’re ok at hide-and-seek we’re all looking forward to summer evenings in t-shirts in about one weeks time.

We’ve been putting together a little movie of all our best footage and still pictures from the trip which will likely be on show at the MCSA on the first Tuesday evening of March – so please come and join us for a drink and a laugh.

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon,

Ant and the team

——————————————

Update from Ant (Early January):

Hi friends and family back home.

Happy new year from the SANAE base.
A lot has happened in the last month.
Shortly after the last update the SA Agulhas II crossed the Antarctic circle, together with the ‘crossing the line’ initiation ceremony.
All 70 new initiates were lain down on the heli deck pirate style, and sprayed profusely with Atlantic sea water by King Neptune’s Bears, until King Neptune arived to slowly, read out crimes and punishments for each person, at which they were individually dunked, egged and a few other unsanitary undertakings.  The order was carefully devised: Youngest, followed by oldest, followed by order of perceived toughness.  The trouble with being a male ‘geologist/mountaineer’ is that ranked 60-something you have been lying wet on the helideck for over an hour before your name is called! I had flashbacks to my cold night huddling ropes on top of the Du Toits North-West Frontal – This wasn’t as long but it was much colder and there were signs of hypothermia setting in among us.

Antarctica Climbing Trip

Skiing to Oppkuven. Photo by Ake Fagereng

The following day, I was busy with a solo, oxygenless and previously unfreed variation of the descent route down the steps from deck 6 to 5, when my little wee foot did get a little wee caught under the previous step and I did take a little wee tumble, and grabbing for the rail I broke a bone in my left hand!  I was so angry with myself to have done this in the middle of such an adventure! Fortunately when going on a 3 month expedition these things have time to break, mend and perform again all in the same voyage.  The brand new ship has all the facilities of a modern operating theatre, so the doctor opened up the brand new flouoscopy/xray machine (after reading the brand new instruction manual in Finnish) and sorted me out with world class medicine.  Thanks Rob! We only later discovered that the ship lacks the special saw thingy to take it off again, but then we have diesel mechanics from every arm of the military here, so a boer kan ‘n plan maak…

The last few days before reaching the ice, the captain converted the ship to a 200m long ice saw, which he used to carefully carve away the thick bay ice before we reached the ice shelf.  The ice shelf edge sits somewhere between 50 and 200km from the edge of the actual land, and bridging this cliff of between 30 and 60m, is the first hurdle in any Antarctica expedition.  After a further 4 days of cranes and helicopters offloading we were ready to deploy to SANAE via a a HUEY 212 helicopter – a twin engine version of those used in the Vietman war and still used for firefighting in Cape Town.  As one of the first flights, we arrived at the base as a storm descended, so the base had a quiet Christmas with just 30 of us on base.  It was a surprise to see an old friend Jon Ward as a member of the overwintering team.  Jon and I used to participate in junior school ‘venture club’ together where we both learnt to climb.

Antarctica Climbing Trip

Taking a break on a 12km ski to Oppkuven. Photo by Ake Fagereng

The last in a long tine of logistical nightmares, was for a change, fairly unforeseeable, as the second helicopters gearbox has suffered irreparable failure.  We have a spare engine, but no gearbox.  Without a second helicopter, they are loath to deploy us to our research sites across the Jutelstraumen glacier, where the failure of the first helicopter would leave us abandoned without means of rescue.

While a spare gearbox is being flown out we in the meanwhile headed off to Grunahogna – a mountain area about 40kms away from the base and the previous site of the geologists satellite base.  There is not a large amount of geological interest that fits Ake and Johann’s topic of research, but the team eeked out a few days work (possibly enough for an honours project for one of the students), at a rather interesting granite intrusion, and also took the opportunity to explore some of the surrounding peaks.  This entailed keeping a good eye (and rope) out for crevasses, some rock scrambling and some easy-angled snow and ice.  So I can finally say I have been mountaineering in Antarctica!  It was also a good shake-down trip for the others who are seasoned Namibia field-researchers, but for whom the ‘alpine’ environment is brand new!  We have some great photographs and few video clips.  The weather has been beautiful (meaning temps of around -1 degree with only occasional wind).  The scenery is really quite something else – the way the light plays on the frozen lakes inside the windscoops, the sun sliding (but not setting) behind the peak each evening, the fiery red granite protruding out of the dull dolerite and the cascade of icefalls is something to wonder at.

Antarctica Climbing Trip

Lunch at Alanpiggen. Photo by Ake Fagereng

We are back at base, passing supplies around and performing skivvy duties like there is no tomorrow, and trying to look presentable to the international inspection team.  The gearbox arrived by twin otter on the same flight as the inspection team, and we are hoping for a heli flight to our main research area on the 12th, 13th or 14th.  Another set of bad weather has arrived meaning you can’t see anything out of any of the windows!

Other than bunking the occasional dish washing duty, my hand hasn’t held me back at all for which I’m very thankful.
My plaster cast came off yesterday, and has been replaced by a detachable splint which can protect the hand while I’m active, but allows me to remove it to exercise the joint and associated tendons.  All’s on track for a good recovery so long as I don’t do anything silly!

I’ve been thinking of everyone enjoying the summer sun back home. Its also been fun to follow the similarly frigid adventures of the Patagonian team – Craig, Gosia, Julia, Hector, Tim… Good luck over there okes and okesses!

Ant

Antarctica Climbing Trip

Heading for Istind. Photo by Ake Fagereng

———————————————————

Antarctica Trip

Hello from 51 deg South, aboard the SA Agulhas II

The internet aboard the ship is dead slow – to the point that email is hit-and miss late at night and non-existant during the day, so a very brief hello from 51deg.

To save bandwidth, Facebook has been eliminated as an accessible site – so no blogging even in it’s crudest form!

As a brief recap: I am accompanying a group of UCT geologists lead by Ake Fagereng, who will be performing research in a rather remote part of Antarctica as part of the annual take-over voyage to the South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) base.  The nature and location of the work takes them far away from the base for two visits of up to 3 weeks at a time, and my role is expressedly to keep an eye on logistics, and together with Ake try to keep everyone out of trouble, and pull them out of trouble if required.  The team comprises two senior geologists – Ake and Johann, as well as 3 students (Sukey, Tebs and David)  who will each perform their Masters theses on material gathered as part of this project.  The area of study is two escarpment and mountain ranges, about 200km from the base, so it will make for quite a wild area to explore!

 South African National Antarctic Expedition Base

The South African National Antarctic Expedition research base, SANAE IV, at Vesleskarvet, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Photo: wikipedia.org

After a rather dramatic departure from the V&A Waterfront, it turns out we spent the first night in Table Bay while last minute ‘technical issues’ were sorted out, before getting underway at around midnight on the 6th of December.
Since then we have been doing a lot of sleeping and eating.  The galley food is reasonably good, and the accommodation a bit like a hotel.  I am sharing with a geologist from another team, as well as two electronics engineers from Stellenbosch who are measuring vibrations and hull stress/strain during the voyage.

Most of us are in rooms on the 6th Deck, and evenings are spent in the 6th deck lounge.  The social atmosphere, comraderie and connection to those around us is markedly different, for the better, with the lack of mobile phones to distract our every thought.  We are all settling into a great rhythm, with much creativity and banter coming out of the woodwork.
Breakfast, lunch and supper are served at strict times, and the bar is open from 5 – 6 and 8 – 10 each evening.

1st deck, the bottom hosts the engine room.  2nd holds many storage areas.  3rd holds most of the scientific working areas, and access to the ‘poop-deck’ which is the staging ground for much of the oceanic research work.
Crew are on the 4th Deck, drivers and other assistants on the 5th, most academics on the 6th, and the 7th holds the senior academics and the heli-crews.  8th Deck is the officer-crew, and 9th deck is the bridge.  The 4th deck also houses the galley, and a few amenities like the gym.  Running on the treadmill in the rocking and rolling of the Atlantic ocean is at your own peril!

SA Aguhlas 2 icebreaker South African polar explorer

SA Aguhlas 2 in Antarctica. Image courtesy of sanap.org.za

 

The sea was quite calm for the first 4 days, and then last night there was quite a bit of rocking.  Most cabins were turned upside down and half the bar was broken in a large roll, and we changed course to be into the waves for several hours as a result.  Last night both Ake and I were a little sea-sick for the first time – probably the result of helping to tie-down science apparatus in the lower decks while all this was going on.  But after 10-mins of lying down on my bunk I certainly felt much better before drifting off to sleep.

The scientists (non geology) are all busy with their work, and we have watched weather balloons being let off, ocean gliders being deployed, the ‘CTD’ being lowered and retrieved 1000m out of the ‘moonpool’ (it’s called a Moon Pool because when the sun is shining outside, it makes the water inside the chamber glow)in the centre of the ship, as well as several other toys.

CTD Moon Pool Agulhas 2

Sea-Bird Electronics CTD System successfully deployed through S.A. Agulhas II moonpool. Photo courtesy of seatechnology.co.za

Yesterday I offered a sort-course in glacier travel and crevass rescue which was attended by about 30 passengers, and today there was a 10 min presentation by each scientific group describing their project to everyone else on the ship.  2 days ago I had a reasonable ‘run’ around the 5th deck including the heli-deck.
There might have been one or two night-time ‘patrols’ of the upper decks, some with permission and some with not-so-much permission from the officers on watch.
In two days time there is an unofficial ‘graduation ceremony’ planned for all the students who would have graduated with their undergrads this week if not for being on the vessel.

So apart from about three 2-hr stops to deploy underwater gliders, we have been full-steam since leaving Table Bay.
One of the helicopter pilots on board is Bees Marais who is one of the old-hands with the AMS rescue service.  He has ‘retired’ several times but is evidently still at it!  Good to have one of the veterans among the heli-crew!

The sea remains a little bit rougher, and it has got extremely cold.  I think the air-temp is around 1 degree.
Activity on the back deck now needs to be done with full Antarctica weather gear on – no more ‘just stepping out for a bit!’
The captain reports that we will see our first icebergs tomorrow, with the actual ice-breaking starting in 2 or 3 days time.

I have a renewed respect for the first explorers who carted out here in tiny leaking wooden boats with a map and compass and a few blankets!
60deg South marks the start of the Antarctic Circle – where the ‘crossing the line ceremony’ takes place and new recruits are ordained into the ‘Order of the Antarctic Fellows (OAFS)

We also had some time to get more clarity on our exact activities once we get to the mountain range which is our final destination.  The students are pouring over papers on the topic (although there aren’t that many to go on).  There is still a lot of bay-ice which may hamper our off-loading onto the ‘proper’ ice, but we are hoping to have arrived, made transit to the SANAE base and get out into the field by the very early New-Year.

I hope I manage to get some comms through before Christmas, but sending best wishes to everyone in Cape Town.

Ant (and Ake and the team)

Anthony Hall profile picture

Ant in Yosemite during 2011

Hi family and friends,

When was the last time you listened to ‘Ek wil huis toe gaan na mamma toe’ and ‘Kaptein span die seile’ with delight and a bit of nostalgia?

I thought so… But we did this morning as the Agulhas II departed the Ice for the last time and the captain piped it over the intercom.

The 2012 overwintering team certainly leave with a host of memories, and the 2013 team waved us off to the start of a long and unique winter. Good luck guys!

A lot has happened since the last update in early January (sent out hastily at 2am – sorry for the limited distribution list – hopefully you caught it on www.on-the-edge.co.za and www.climb.co.za)

In Antarctica you trade cars and busses for Skidoos – if Eskimos tried to copy Ostrich riding this is what they’d come up with Helicopters – the Twin engine Huey 212 – can anyone hum ‘Airwolf’?

Skis – banned for safety reasons – but the only effective way of moving around when you don’t have the above – which is often…

There are a few peculiarities in the kitchen and cleanliness department – beer must be warmed up prior to consumption, benzene is slow to ignite and the wet-wipes freeze into a solid block.

You can set your own clock depending on where you camp – as much sun as possible is the order of the day, but if you are cunning you can pick a campsite that receives a shadow from 11pm until 5am which helps bring a limited sense of normality to the 24-hr daylight.

The team from Starlite Aviation deployed us at each of our two research sites – each around 180km from the SANAE base, and across the ‘Jutelstraumen’ glacier. Both fall in what was originally Norwegian claim area, so all the areas and peaks have been afforded Norwegian names by early survey.

Sverdrupfjella is known as the ‘bannana belt’ – at 1900m the temperatures are 10 deg lower than the base (so a refreshing -20deg) but lacks the gale force winds of Antarctica’s other regions. We had one or two ‘mildly bad’ days which really drive home the enormity of the place, but otherwise were treated to spectacular weather – neon blue skies, sugar-white fairytale scenery and rich-purple shadows – some things you just can’t capture on film. The team were able to complete their research and start making some interesting deductions about the two major tectonic movements that have taken place. These are some seriously old rocks!

Of course getting around involved making some pretty high and wild walks. Exploration in these areas is mostly limited to aerial survey or observational mapping from the valleys, and it was quite a thrill to go ‘shear zone hunting’ on high and lonely ridges that are just like they were in 5 billion years ago- and totally excluded from the chapters of evolution and human discovery. We might also have done a little bit of rock climbing…

What was equally special on this trip was that 6 of us, after the challenges of our preparation, being coop-ed up on a ship and a crowded base for 7 weeks and then eeking out an ice-age existence for several more weeks, didn’t just ‘get on’ – but had a total blast. Our poor Scott tent – never has so much bollocks been uttered for so long in such a confined and flimsy space. Thanks team. Long live the ‘dog’, the ‘horse’ and Jan Stapper…

My hand has healed up nicely thanks to Drs Rob and Jaco – I’ve been careful to look after it and it has only held me back in very minor ways.

The oceanographers are obliged to pick up a stranded ‘glider’ (a very expensive piece of half-floating research kit) en-route back to Cape Town, so assuming we’re ok at hide-and-seek we’re all looking forward to summer evenings in t-shirts in about one weeks time.

We’ve been putting together a little movie of all our best footage and still pictures from the trip which will likely be on show at the MCSA on the first Tuesday evening of March – so please come and join us for a drink and a laugh.

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon,

Ant and the team

7 Responses to **Updated: Antarctica Trip

  1. GregB Dec 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Sounds cool but what are you doing there Ant? You are not a geologist.

  2. andrew p Dec 13, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    High adventure Ant! Put the SA flag on top of something rocky and high (and cold).
    Andrew

  3. Nic Le Maitre Dec 13, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Ant is there to scrape them out of a crevasse should they fall into one

  4. Steveb Dec 14, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    Wow, looks incredible. I think Garron Fish did a bunch of climbing around that base (picture looks familiar). Have a wild time!

  5. Cuan Dec 14, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    Ah man, I wish I was still studying and at UCT to have a chance to join in on this! Always wanted to head out and see the geology of Antarctica….It’s actually very much similar to here around the southern Cape if I’m not mistaken

  6. Richard Jan 21, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Don’t worry, I have heard all the cool kids hurt themselves in the middle of an adventure :)

  7. Gosia Lipinska Feb 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Wooooohoooo Ant, sounds really awesome! Looking forward to having you back – sharing some stories and some wine :)

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