8) nzTABS Expedition: A bloke called John

Log book record: “Quiet day, but a bloke called John popped in for a cuppa”

After three big field days with people scampering all over the landscape: climbing peaks, navigating ridges, rock hoping granite and weaving through dolerite boulder fields we were all due a rest day. With the whole team back at Base Camp, we had our ear to the radio awaiting news from the helicopter that Prime Minister John Key was on his way to our camp for a visit.

Camp days consist of a variety of occupations. Coffee is drunk, soil samples are processed, bread is baked, yoga is done, water is collected, scones are baked and the crew generally relaxes and gears up for the next onslaught of sampling across the mountains. With 14 people in the one communal tent, the art of dancing around each other in coordinated chaos is finely tuned.

Base Camp - coordinated chaos!

Base Camp – coordinated chaos!

“K020. K020. This is India Delta Echo. Do you copy?”

“India Delta Echo, this is K020. Go ahead”

“K020 we are flying in over Bull Pass, we will be on the ground in 4 minutes. Over”

“Copy that India Delta Echo. The wind here is 5knots from the west. See you in 4 minutes”

Our radio call sign is K020, and India Delta Echo is the name of the Southern Lakes Helicopters Helicopter. Out of the helicopter climbed Lou Sanson, the CEO of Antarctica New Zealand, followed by Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh for a short visit to camp.

Prime Minister John Key arriving at our field camp

Prime Minister John Key arriving at our field camp

With the help of Professor Craig Cary, the Prime Minister took the first biodiversity sample for the new Antarctic Genetic Archive (AGAr), numbered MDV 0001.

Prime Minister John Key and Professor Craig Cary taking the first soil sample for AGAr - photo: Don Cowan

Prime Minister John Key and Professor Craig Cary taking the first soil sample for AGAr – photo: Don Cowan

AGAr, is a tool to link all biodiversity research being conducted in Antarctica, by housing a DNA archive. Once collected, this will enable researchers from all countries to gain access to valuable DNA samples without the necessity of going to the remote locations. This enhances biodiversity research worldwide by making data collection more efficient, and reducing the overall environmental impact on the pristine and fragile Antarctic environment. This continent scale biodiversity archive will be the first of its kind in the world. The archive has the capacity to hold 1 million DNA samples and can be contributed to by any scientists working in Antarctica. Technology now allows scientists to collect, extract and store DNA very efficiently. Once established, the archive will be available to the research community across the world.

nzTABS team with Prime Minister John Key - Photo; Lou Sanson

nzTABS team with Prime Minister John Key – Photo; Lou Sanson

Then on for a cuppa, and some fresh cinnamon pinwheel scones. I had been perfecting the art of the camp scone – and the Prime Minister seemed to like them.

Camp scones - they were inhaled by the crew, so cant have been too bad - Photo: Don Cowan

Hot cinnamon pinwheel scones – they were inhaled by the crew, so cant have been too bad – Photo: Don Cowan

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