Sampling snow last year – compare how bright the white snow surface is with the image below.
The first team was successfully deployed on the ice sheet this afternoon, and the good news for the project is that they are camped on about one foot of snow. The team are Andy Connelly, Alex Holland, Jenine McCutcheon, Jim McQuaid, Ewa Spyanska and Chris Williamson, and they are based at the same camp as last year, where the Dark Snow team were based a few year ago too.
This year’s mission is to examine how the snow influences the eventual growth of ice algae. We currently have little idea about how they overwinter and where, and we only have a few clues of the conditions they need to start growing in abundance during and after the spring snowmelt season.
The fieldwork is potentially very tough, because when the snow melts and turns into slush, our puppies are going to be cold whatever this time of year, and they need to avoid getting too wet else they will quickly become very, very cold and uncomfortable. We have purchased a variety of neoprene waders and wellingtons that we hope will help in the cold and wet, and we have upgraded our sleeping kit to make sure that the nights are as warm and comfortable in their individual tents as is possible. We hope that the wet snow will not be too problematical for the tents, and particularly for the large mess team. We hope that pitching them on high spots in the ice will minimise the number of times they have to be re-pitched as the snow melts and the slush starts moving around the ice surface.
I’ve got a lot of respect for the team. The science rewards will be very high, but the hardships they will have to endure during this time of big change for the ice sheet surface are uncomfortable too. Hopefully, they will be smiling as much as they were on being put into camp today in a week or so when the snow will be melting away. Our first satellite phone in will be midday tomorrow, and I will post on the first night on snow as soon as I can afterwards.
Flying home from the snowline last year. The snow patches are still bright white, but look how dark the ice surface is after the snow has melted away. The dark ice is already full of ice algae.