Dec 9 – Oh joy!

December 10, 2009

Today was a feast for the senses. We began the day by an excellent breakfast served at our Bed and Breakfast. Fresh tomatoes, eggs and fruit have never given me more pleasure. Peter flew back today morning. He had suggested visiting Riccarton Bush, an old growth forest in the middle of Christchurch. Chris, Kristof and I took a leisurely walk down there. It turned out to be an excellent choice. The trees, bushes, bugs and birds were a pleasure to the eyes, the wind and warm sun a pleasure to feel, the varied bird sounds a pleasure to the ears, the forest smells a pleasure to the nose, and the excellent food in the cafe a pleasure to the sense of taste.

I am at a loss of words to express how great it was to be there, after almost 2 months of not seeing a single plant or animal life form.

Myself and Chris entering Riccarton Bush.

Kristof at the beginning of the forest trail.


600 years old Kahikatea trees.

Kristof smelling the roses.

Dec 5 – Bittersweet goodbye to the dry valleys and party in “town”

December 10, 2009

We flew into McMurdo today. I was both relieved and sad to leave Lake Bonney. I have had one of the most amazing experiences of my life in the past 40 days at Bonney. I struggled through being sick and cold when I arrived; the team worked its way through a myriad of problems; the end result was a very successful season whose accomplishments exceeded all expectations. I have formed a strange kind of attachment with the lake and the valley and it made me sad to think that I may never be here again. However, I was relieved to leave – no more being cold all the time, eating bread and cheese for lunch every day, working 14-17 hour days, peeing in a bottle and pooping in a stinky bucket.

We got together in the evening to celebrate. Below is picture (thanks to Maciej and Rachel).

Starting from left, going clockwise - Jim, Emma (hidden behind Jim), Rachel, myself, Peter, Chris, Maciej, and Kristof.

Nov 28 – Thanksgiving

December 4, 2009

We took Saturday off to celebrate Thanksgiving. I woke up around noon to see almost everyone already up and to be greeted cheerfully by Emma. Peter was cooking turkey (apart from other stuff) , and Kristof was working on a veggie casserole. After breakfast, I decided to hike down valley to the east end of the lake. Emma decided to accompany me and we had a great time. It was very beautiful and quiet there – it was as if we had traveled back in time. It is rare to get such a sense of solitude and freedom. We came back and enjoyed  a very nice Thanksgiving meal and desserts cooked by Bill and Emma.

Peter working on turkey.

Myself on the way to the east end of the lake.

Emma. Behind her is the east end of Lake Bonney.

During summer, glacier melt-water flows into streams that feed into Lake Bonney. Emma walking by Priscu stream.

Thanksgiving dinner. Starting from left front and going clockwise - Emma, Vickie, Chris, Rachel, Peter, Kristof, Bill, Leah.

Nov 15 – Beautiful beyond words

November 22, 2009

We had a very relaxed day today. John made us delicious crepes for brunch in the morning. We had “showers” which basically involve filling an insulated bag with water and sitting under the “tap” in the bag. In the evening, I ended up drinking rather too much of coffee which made me hyperactive. I decided to go for a hike up the hill to see ventifacts. John and Emma decided to come too. It was one of the most beautiful walks of my life and I cannot describe it in words. Below are some pictures.

It had snowed all night. Chris got to work and made snowmen. Emma, Bill, Chris, Bart, Kristof, and Vickie.

John on our way up to see the ventifacts. In the background is Taylor glacier. To the right is east lobe of Lake Bonney leading up to the narrows.

Myself. Thanks to John for this photo.



At the top of the hill. The "zen garden" in John's words.

Nov 14 – Traveling east

November 22, 2009

We spent the morning looking at data from yesterday and trying to debug the communications failure problem. We had some ideas but we were not sure what the exact problem was. The mission for the day involved  traveling to the narrows – the part of lake that connects west lobe to the east lobe. The bot swam about 1.5 km to reach the far east – this is the farthest the bot had ever been. Much remains
unknown about this part of the lake and we were very excited to see the visualizations from the sonars on the bot. We might go there again later for getting more data.
While returning back, we had the same comms failure again. In a flash of inspiration, I was able to figure out what the problem was – a process that had memory leaks and was slowly eating up RAM till 100% was used.
Midway through the mission, it started to snow and Vickie and Bill had a tough time outdoors. It is fairly rare to snow in the dry valleys, so I was very excited. At the end of the day, Bill showed me how to track the robot using the radio beacon. Overall, this was a very good day for us and we have decided to take the day off tomorrow.

A map of lake Bonney showing the profiling points. The points that we have finished are shown in green. Today we went to the point farthest east (D21) on the grid. This point is at the far east of West lobe and at the start of "the narrows" - the narrow channel of water connecting the west lobe to the east lobe.

Bill and Vickie at the end of the day. They were out all day tracking the robot and marking the exact location at whihc it profiled. It snowed half the day making their task difficult.

The first snowfall I have ever seen.

Day off

November 10, 2009

After our long day yesterday, we decided to take the day off today. We saw a movie on the projector in our jamesway last night and went to bed around 3:00 a.m. I woke around 2:00 p.m. today to a warm day (temperature right now is only -7 Celsius), had breakfast, and walked around bit. Then I chilled out with some music and a book. At night, I cooked one of my favorite dishes for dinner and Vickie made brownies. It’s been a relaxing day and was badly needed!


I wandered around for a bit to enjoy the warm day. Lake Bonney camp. We drive up the valley on the lake ice to the Bot-house.


Out tents. My tent is to the far right.


Chris chilling out with a book on the "couch" in the jamesway.


Vickie making brownies.

Beautiful Sunday

November 8, 2009

We woke up today to find that it had snowed at night. It doesn’t snow very much here, so I was happy to witness such a day.  We had decided to work only half a day.  I woke up to  a breakfast of nice coffee (thanks John),  eggs (thanks Leal) and pancakes (thanks Bill and Kristof). We went to work at around 2:00 p.m. We were able to figure out the cause of most of our problems. We have new batteries on the robot this year and the batteries had reset themselves. In the process of debugging, we had a created a large file that filled up the hard-drive and prevented processes from running. The exact cause of battery reset is not known yet, but most likely the readings that show the amount of power left that we were relying on were not right, and the batteries had less power than we thought they did. We have some experiments planned for tomorrow to gather more data to help us understand the problem further.


Myself enjoying the beautiful morning.






View from ATV on ride back to camp from the Bot-house.


Another view during the ATV ride.