Antarctic ice research … 2015 season

The season’s Antarctic research gets underway, while their supply ship ploughs through thick fast ice and bergs to a position where they can resupply:

Current speed 0.13 (knots)
Distance in last 24 hours 2.6 (nautical miles)
Distance to next waypoint 2.4 (nautical miles)
Weather conditions Sunny. Winds NE 10 kts
Air temperature -6.8 (degrees Celsius)
Sea temperature -1.8 (degrees Celsius)
Sea conditions nil swell
Ice conditions Fast ice and many icebergs
Remarks One of the interesting things about travelling in Antarctica is that plans change quickly so we use the word ‘flexibile’ a lot. You start with a plan and then as situations evolve so does your plan. Yesterday the plan was to fly 10 people from the ship to Davis in preparation to fly to Mawson on a fixed wing aircraft called a twin otter. An aircraft that is regularly used around Antarctica. By 8pm that plan had evolved to include flying 13 people to Davis and an additional helicopter from the ship. Also to sling load six cage pallets of cargo ashore. Sling loading is hooking a long line underneath the helicopter and attaching a piece of cargo eg: cage pallet and flying it under the helicopter.This morning’s operations all went well and we recommence breaking through the ice shortly after midday. We are now down to 48 expeditioners on board having flown off 49 in the last 24 hours.

Mawson and Davis are surrounded by thick ice, which makes the change-over of winter crew to summer, far more difficult.

The image from the bow, stern and port side of the Aurora Australis captures the conditions well:

Webcam image looking from the port side of the Aurora Australis, at 11:00 am ship local time (3:00 pm AEST)

It’s no wonder the Australian Antarctic Research Division is looking for a bigger, stronger, new Icebreaker.

About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley) Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Incorporated Kimberley Environmental Horticulture (KEH) is a small group of committed individuals who promote the use of indigenous plants for the landscaping of parks and gardens. Rehabilitation of Kimberley coast, bushland and pastoral regions are also high on our agenda. This includes planting seedlings, weed control, damage from erosion or any other environmental matter that comes to our attention. We come from all walks of life, from Professionals and Trades oriented occupations, Pensioners and Students, Public Servants and the Unemployed. We have a community plant nursery where we trial many old and new species, with a view to incorporating these into our landscaping trials. Our labour force are mainly volunteers, but with considerable help from the 'work for the dole' program, Indigenous Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) groups and the Ministry of Justice, with their community work orders; in this way we manage to train many people in the horticultural skills needed for indigenous plant growing. We constantly undertake field trips that cover seed and plant collection in the Kimberley. Networking around the Kimberley region and the east Pilbara is a necessary part of promoting our activities. We consult on a range of Environmental and Landscaping matters that deal with our region. Our activities involve improving Broome's residential streetscapes by including 'waterwise' priciples in planting out nature strips. Sustainable environmental horticulture is practised by members of our group. We use existing vegetation as the backbone of any plantings, using these species to advantage when planning to develop tree forms or orchards. The Broome region is sensitive to development. Subsequently many weed species have become dominant in and around developed areas. The use and movement of heavy machinery is the biggest single cause of environmental degradation. We dont live in a 'Tropical Paradise' but on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The plants that survive best here, grow in well-drained pindan sand, and are found from the Dampier Peninsular southward to where average rainfall is below 600mm. When we use rainforest species, detail is important when planting, water catchment, sunlight and understorey species are all considered. The use of recycled 'grey' water is an advantage here as well as treated waste-water, although many local species do not fare well with nutrients from this source. We use waterwise planting methods which include harvesting asmuch rainwater as possible, with swales designed to hold up to 200 litres, to help recharge the local groundwater aquifer. There has been a serious decline in this aquifer over the last few years. With the fast expansion of the Broome peninsular, more and more land is being covered by concrete, iron and bitumen so that much less water is available to replenish the aquifer, allowing the salt content to become significantly higher. The small Broome Peninsular is on the south-western corner of the Dampier Peninsular (bound by Broome, Derby and Cape Leveque at the northern tip). Compaction by vehicles also inhibits water retention due to the content of our local pindan sand, hard as concrete in the dry, going to soft and sloppy mud after rain. None of us are botanists, inevitably we have got some names wrong, names changed, or have not gone to sub-species level. If you note a photo or description may be wrong, please e-mail to
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