Allow me to briefly introduce myself and tell you about my life in the Antarctic:
Name: Ina Wehner
Previous work and training: Geophysics degree followed by three years working in industry
Home: Kiel, Germany
Plans after returning home: Cycle tour through the Baltic States
Best experience in Antarctica: Trekking to our remote stations
What do I miss most? Family, friends, my bike and Gouda cheese
It’s 6.30 am. My alarm goes off. Slowly I struggle out of bed and pull on my sports things. On my way back from the bathroom, I pass by my office. A glance at the four monitors tracking live data, and at my inbox, tells me that everything is running smoothly. I then continue on towards the sports room. A quick “good morning” to our engineer, who’s already going through his daily paperwork, and to our electrician, who’s putting the rolls for breakfast in the oven. Since the sports room is underneath the station, there are more than just a few more steps to conquer; there’s also the corridor on the lower floor. However, the last stretch isn’t in the heated part of the station, which means that the temperature can reach -15°C – which can be pretty cold in shorts and a T-shirt.
After half an hour on the treadmill, a refreshing shower and breakfast, I’m wide awake and ready for the day. According to our work roster, today it’s my turn for earthquake picking. While Noah sets off for the magnetic observatory, also known as the “Magobs”, I look at the seismometer data for the past few days.
Our observatory has three seismometer stations. In addition to the seismometer at the Magobs, we have two remote stations; Watzmann lies 45 km to the southeast on the Halvfarryggen Ridge, and Olymp is located 80 km to the southwest on the Søråsen Ridge.
The three seismometers record earthquake waves that have spread through Earth’s interior. On 30 October we registered signals from the severe earthquake between the island of Samos and the Turkish mainland. For over an hour we received signals that had followed various routes through Earth’s internal structures and along its crust.
I’m now searching through the data for the first sign of the earthquake. Comparing when seismic waves reach several different stations allows us to calculate the epicentre. At our station, we record 15 earthquakes per day on average, although it was once as many as 40. On that day, there had been a major earthquake with numerous aftershocks. Most of the earthquakes we register originate in South Georgia, South America, New Zealand and the Southwest Pacific. We send all this data to the International Seismology Centre, where researchers can access it.
Today, this task takes all morning. At 12 o’clock sharp, lunch is served. With the exception of our atmospheric chemist, who is still busy collecting snow samples, we are all there, devouring roast chicken legs, potatoes with rosemary and ratatouille. While a few members of the team take a short break, I go straight back to my computer. I still have to enter the data we collected from our mobile station a few days ago into our database. At 3 o’clock there’s another break – with coffee and cake.
Afterwards, I gather all the equipment we need for tomorrow’s gyroscope measurements at the Magobs. Using a gyroscope is practically a historical surveying method. Unlike a compass, which points to magnetic north, a gyroscope is used to determine the direction of geographic north.
Today, when it comes to precisely determining positions, GPS is almost always used. But since we unfortunately don’t have GPS reception at the Magobs, and we drift with the ice shelf, once a month Noah and I have to determine geographic north using a gyrocompass. This measurement is particularly important for our magnetometers, which measure the strength and direction of Earth’s magnetic field.
So that I can say that I left station at least once today, in the late afternoon I accompany Mario when he fills the snowmelt. This involves driving round with the snowcat and shovelling the snow in at the edge of the melt.
At 6 o’clock, supper is ready. After the shared washing up, I enjoy some time on my own in my room, sorting the photos from the last trip. Later we spend the rest of the evening watching an animated film together. On my way to bed, I pop into my office one last time, and am happy to see that everything is running smoothly! So now I’ll say good night!