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Josh's Australian Antarctic expedition 5 - Elephant seal and Mount Menzies

Davis has already welcomed the first Elephant seal of the summer, a large lump of grumpy blubber we affectionately know as ‘Basil’. He’s a huge animal, but nowhere near the size of the fully grown breeding males that congregate on South Georgia Island; these are generally 3-4 tonne, with the largest recorded being 5! Basil lies on the beach all day, often with his face in a puddle, waiting for the rest of his mates who may be up to a month away. 

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 We had an afternoon of quad training out on the sea ice. Very interesting driving, you quickly become reacquainted with concepts such as momentum, inertia and friction (or lack of) on the glassy ice. Very serious business, not fun at all (Nick’s motto is “if you’re smiling you need to slow down”). I’d estimate something like 40-50% of the time was spent traveling in a direction different to that which the nose of the quad was pointing… Awesome afternoon, topped off with a very close encounter with a Weddell Seal.

On Wednesday we took a Hagglund out to Platcha hut at the back of the Vestfolds for field training. Finally we had some weather, so training was a bit more relevant in 40-50 knot winds; still the temperatures were balmy though, and we had a great time practising self-arrests (sliding down a hill and stopping yourself with your ice-axe) and step-cut climbing in perfect snow. Some absolutely stuuning scenery out there, and we were treated to a near-constant commentary of the geology from Adrian. Amazing to think that we were clambering over rocks which formed 2.5 billion years ago! We slept in the 30 year old hut for the night, after compass and map lessons over countless cups of tea and dehy’d meals… Yum yum! The hut is very small and cosy, good practice for the close quarters we will be living in for the next two months.

As I’m writing this I am sitting in a twin otter, about 10,000 feet above the Amery Ice Shelf, en route (hopefully) to Mount Menzies. The weather has just improved this morning so Nick, Paul and myself are going in with the bare basics of our camp to set up and await the others. That’s all for now, will try to keep the updates a bit more frequent, no promises though.

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