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Flying and the weather in Antarctica

Hello, Pearl here again. I have now been in Antarctica for a month and it has continued to be a really amazing and exciting time.

Firstly, where do I sleep? This is my bedroom, which I share with Bryony and another human, Vicky. You can see me asleep in my bed on the table, Bryony has the top bunk bed and Vicky is on the bottom.

bedroom

Vicky is one of the pilots. She used to work with BAS (British Antarctic Survey) as a meteorologist (they study the climate) but found she loved flying in Antarctica so much she wanted to learn to do it herself. So she went back to the UK and after a few years of flight training she is now in her dream job.

She kept telling me how great flying here was, so I thought I should try it. I was very lucky to be asked to go up in one of the planes with another pilot, Andy. Here we are, in the air, Andy is posing (Bryony and Vicky agree that this is something pilots are very good at).

flying

It was a fantastic flight, I had a go at the controls and we went above the clouds and then down low to see the seals that had come out of the cracks in the sea ice. Here is the view as we flew up to Rothera’s runway:

runway

As a lot of the science studies being done here are a long way away, the aeroplanes are essential to get the scientists and their equipment around. There are four twin otters (the smallest planes, that I was on with Andy) and a Dash 7(the type I flew from Punta Arenas on). They can land with wheels or with skis.

The pilots and air mechanics are very busy in the Antarctic summer, getting the planes ready and flying the scientists all over the place. Sometimes they have to stay out for several nights camping. They also help the scientists digging up equipment and building things. Not something a pilot for British Airways would have to do!

They can only fly when the weather is good, as it can get very windy, snowy and dangerous down here. After a couple of weeks of lovely sun I woke up this morning to see this out of our window (you can compare it to the view in my last blog):

clouds

In the UK I like to look at the weather forecast to see if I should put my scarf and hat on, but down here it is much more important that we know what the weather is going to be like. It is dangerous to be out in bad weather, and landing a plane on snow and ice is hard enough even when the weather is good.

So we have our very own weather forecaster, Don. Today I went to see him and he told me all about his forecasting. He is very important and can give very up to date weather all over the Antarctic Peninsula. He has to get up every day at 4am to get the weather reports for the flying, and if there is a plane coming in late he has to get up again (1.30am this morning!). Phew.

Here he is teaching me how to forecast:

forecast

And here is a satellite photo of the Antarctic Peninsular Don put together with all the ice shelves and sea ice. This one is from October 30th, just before we arrived. Can you see the Peninsular (the sticky out bit of Antarctica)?  All around it is sea ice, which has now started to melt away as the summer progresses. You can see why ships can’t get to us until later in the year!

arial

After all that talk about the weather and snow I thought it was about time I went out and enjoyed it. New snow is perfect for making a snow-penguin.

snowpenguin

That is all for now, it is dinner time and I am sure the chefs have cooked us up something great again. I will need to let you know more about them, as well as the science, the divers, the weather ballons, the field assistants…ohhh there is so much going on I can’t wait to tell you about.