While one would normally be pleased to pass from negative to positive temperatures after experiencing the polar winter, this event has actually caused us a few concerns.
With the cold temperatures we have been able to stock a large part of our meat supplies outside on the deck, frozen in boxes. Now with the rising temperature this meat is at risk of defrosting. In an effort to keep this meat frozen we constructed a large freezer with blocks of ice and snow, covered in foil insulation material to reflect the sun. We constructed this ‘meat igloo’ on the foredeck, safe from any ice movement and possible hungry polar bears. However, unfortunately the interior temperature of our deck freezer continued to follow the ambient temperature outside. Consequently, we were forced to cook some of the meat, effectively reducing it in volume, enabling us to store it in the freezers in the forward hold after removing the butter and cheese. For the remaining meat and fish, we have been busy salting and drying it, discovering perfect second uses for our sauna and heated tent!
The rise in temperature has also caused a few problems inside, although this was not completely unexpected. We have passed a few days with rain inside as the ice that formed due to condensation during the winter has defrosted. The most significant area of ice build up during the winter was in the poorly insulated forward hold. The strategic placement of buckets, tins, Tupperware containers and plastic covers enabled us to catch or divert the majority of the monsoon, however we have also had a large amount of material and supplies to dry, air and restock. All drips seem to have stopped for now so we are hopeful that we have gone through the worst of it.
Other than that, we have been continuing with our regular scientific activities. The only problem being a broken hydraulic pump on the oceanographic winch. Consequently, we are unable to undertake the deep CTD soundings until we receive a new part and we have had to modify the method for the biological sampling. With necessity being the mother of invention and innovation, after a couple of days installing the hardware and battling with cable that always wants to twist in the wrong direction, we succeeded in setting up a system with a boat winch on the aft deck that enables us to continue the biological sampling through another hole in the ice.
Satisfied that we are on top of things for now, we decided take a long weekend this week, celebrating the Queen of England’s official birthday. However, there is never really a moments rest up here, the strong wind a couple of days ago providing us with some snow digging even if it is the ‘holidays’.