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Mairi Nicolsons Antarctica Index    

July 7 2001

Hello again

Thought Iíd write and tell about the exciting events of this weekend. The temperature has dropped to a chilly minus twenty and our sea-ice is finally beginning to form.  Thirty years ago the winterers at Signy base invented a Thin Ice Race that involves a running on ice that is only just thick enough to hold your weight. We got dressed in thermal under-suits, diving dry suits, hats, gloves and optional fancy dress.  The winner would be the first person to make it round a marker buoy and back to the shore.  The ice was hard enough to stand on and it didnít look like it would be difficult, but as soon as you tried to run it broke up and you fell through into the water.  With dry suits on you donít notice the cold and they are very buoyant so you donít go too far into the water.   I was considerably lighter than most of the boys so I didnít have that much trouble getting across the ice.  My problems came when everyone started jumping on each other and I kept getting pushed through holes.  It was such a great afternoon with everyone thoroughly enjoying the experience. Even the people of safety duty on the shore, and in the water, had a good laugh watching us thrash around on the ice.  It was good to experience how fragile the sea ice is and we will all be completing sea ice training modules if the ice thickens later this month.

With the formation of sea ice I am confined to the laboratory, and cannot get to my island field sites. This is good though because at minus twenty itís much nicer to be indoors working.  During our daily walks around the point we canít help but laugh as ice builds up on everyoneís eyelashes and hair. This happens when the moisture in your breath gets blown onto your face and hair and it freezes where it lands.  The boys are really lucky as they can grow big beards that keep their faces warm and they think they look really cool with big icicles hanging from them.

Our wildlife numbers are also dwindling as the sea ice forms. The seals, birds and penguins like to stay close to the ice sheet edge where they will have access to open water.  Some seals can keep small ice holes open when the ice thickens and I have often heard then snorting when walking around the wharf. If youíre lucky you can see a black nose sticking out through the hole while they take a few breaths.

Well thatís it from a cold but sunny Rothera. Hope you are all well?

Love Mairi