RotheraIt was shorts and t-shirt weather when we got here. All this gnarly polar explorer hero stuff with frostbitten noses, layers of fur, snotticles forming on matted beards - it's all just for show. We're only a degree or so south of the Antarctic circle here, and in the middle of summer on a windless day on the sun it's really quite pleasant.
All the planes appear to be mended now, and the Dash 7 came back to rescue us from Stanley on our 9th day stranded in the Falklands. The flight south becomes pretty dull as soon as you've taken off from the little gravel airstrip, banked sharply over the town (if you can call it that) and turned south over a choppy sea... until four hours later you begin to close with the Antarctic peninsula. A hazy white line on the horizon begins to grow and sharpen into an unending range of breathtakingly beautiful mountains, with frosted glaciers tumbling down the intervening valleys, and in the front, icebergs and cakes of fractured sea-ice dotting the sea. Gradually you descend until you are flying through the mountains, then you are dodging the icebergs themselves, and suddenly you've touched down on the runway.
Rothera itself is about as aesthetically pleasing as a cross between a small provincial airport and a quarry, but as soon as your gaze leaves the dusty rocky tracks and the functional corrugated iron buildings, the views in every direction are quite astonishing. And although there is only a tiny fraction of the wildlife that South Georgia supports, the odd seal will be hauled out sleepily on an ice floe, and as well as plenty of seabirds there are generally a few inquisitive Adelie penguins hopping about gawking at you. We were lucky too to spot a Minke whale blowing in the North Bay as we walked around the point on the first evening.
After a week of thumb-twiddling in the Falklands the pace of life has changed drastically, for there is plenty to do to get ready before I head out into the field to do my work. All my equipment came in by ship to Rothera - the James Clark Ross was still unloading its cargo on the wharf as we arrived - and that has all had to be brought up to base for checking and testing. Then there is the training - how to light a primus stove without blowing your tent up; how to fall down a crevasse and climb out of it again; how to drive a skidoo, and all sorts of other fun things. Even if you've done it all before, they put you through it again, so that has occupied much of the last few days.
Everything is pretty much ready to go now though, so in a couple of days, when the weather is good and one of the little-ski-equipped twin otter planes is available to take me, I should get airlifted to the first of my field sites.