A busy last morning at Mario Zuchelli Station involved packing our pile of gear onto the back of a tractor trailer for the trip up the hill to the local airfield to be picked up by a Twin Otter aircraft.
These planes work in remote conditions throughout the world. Our flight was the crew’s last flight of the season and they were taking the aeroplane to northern Canada via the South Pole, Chile and upwards. It puts the concept of a ’long commute’ into perspective! Anyway, our freight is nicely trimmed to basically fill the plane.
We had excellent views on the way south. As we flew over our sea ice site, the aerial view revealed a large crack a little to the south of the camp that must’ve appeared in only the last four days. Beyond that we passed over open water as well as vast areas of pack ice broken into a huge variety of scales.
These will either drift north and melt or be reintegrated into multi year ice contributing to a highly complex ocean skin that challenges us constantly in terms of mapping its thickness, resilience and suitability for biological habitat. The challenges around predicting future possibilities for the earth system and its climate has placed a strong spotlight on this aspect of Antarctica and realistically we are only scratching the surface.
Now begins the task of collating, verifying and archiving the data. Actually much of this we’ve been doing as we go in the down-time between sampling. Once we’ve settled on good quality realisation of the results I have to tease it into some form of scientific story whereby the data fit into a context of need, questions, critique and implications. I’ll do this in conjunction with my various colleagues in the field, many of whom are vastly more knowledgeable than me on the topic.
And after all this I’m not going to tell you the punch line as to what we found! Before that happens I have to run my conclusions past my peers – where it get examined in minute detail by people who know as much or more about the science than me. Peer review is an essential part of science and research to ensure robustness and accuracy in our work – even if the process is a little frustrating at times.