Return to Normalcy!
The drive onward from Recovery Lakes brought many welcome changes—the campsite, the scenery, and most importantly for me, the snow conditions!
Location: ”NUS08-7”, 74º 7’ S, 1º 36’ E, 2700 metres a.s.l.
Weather: Overcast, light snowfall, -28 C, wind 14 kts
At each stop, the devil snow that we had been dealing with at the Recovery Lakes—the sugar snow that fell apart as it left the shovel and thwarted several drilling attempts—gave way to more “normal” snow. This is happy news for Lou especially, as it means that the drilling will hopefully go more smoothly in snow that will stay together. In my pit, it means that the snow is not so sugary and easier to cut into blocks. The improvement in snow conditions is due to the increase in snow accumulation as we leave the lake area. While the sugar snow is not as problematic, the MOAHLs (the Mother of All Hard Layers) are still here, and even harder and tougher than in the lakes area.
One such hard layer I found 2 m in the pit resisted any attempt I made at sampling it. The cutters and the snow saws I had could hardly make a dent in the layer, let alone cut all the way through it. At Lou’s suggestion, I used one of the hand augers to drill through the 5 cm section, and that finally worked, given the sharp cutters on the drill head. I’ve decided to call this layer the Chuck Norris layer—since Chuck Norris doesn’t leave messages, he leaves warnings.
I’ve been using a near infrared (NIR) camera that helps me to document the layering in the pit. The NIR detector in the camera is sensitive to differences in grain sizes in the pit, and so the layering is apparent. The pictures help document the changing conditions as we move towards the coast.
NIR photos taken from the Recovery Lakes area, left, and this site. Darker shades generally mean larger snow grains. The arrows mark two thick (5 cm) layers made up of loose sugar on the left. On the right, the arrow marks a more normal hoar layer, large grained layers that form in summer seasons from vapour movement in the snow pack. Photos: Zoe Courville