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This year we are celebrating 50 years since the first soil/permafrost scientific expedition in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica.  It was undertaken by Prof. John D. McCraw and Dr Graeme G. Claridge.  They set off from Scott Base on the Massey Fergusson tractors that Sir Edmund Hillary took to the South Pole in 1957/58 and drove to New Harbour, from which they travelled on foot for several weeks exploring the Taylor Valley and adjacent areas. Graeme Claridge went on to become an expert on Antarctic soil chemistry and, with Iain Campbell, authored the most authoritative book available on the soils of Antarctica.  Both McCraw and Claridge are fit and well - (permafrost and cryosol research must be good for you) and we will be holding a celebration to mark their original journey in November this year.

Looking forward in time, Meridian Energy, in Alliance with Antarctica New Zealand and with support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), are constructing a three turbine 'proof of concept' wind farm on Crater Hill, Ross Island, Antarctica.  Following commissioning in February 2010, the wind farm will supply power to and link the electrical grids of New Zealand's Scott Base and neighbouring US McMurdo Station offsetting fuel use.  Sub-zero temperatures, absence of batching plant, aggregate and large quantities of fresh water have meant that it is not possible to construct a typical concrete gravity pad wind turbine foundation.  Instead, the project has utilised a pre-fabricated foundation comprising eight 13-tonne concrete blocks buried in the permafrost.  The blocks are fixed to an eight-legged steel 'spider' with a flange that bolts to the wind turbine tower.  Each concrete block is also fitted with two 12m long ground anchor bolts drilled and grouted in as an additional precaution for extreme weather events.

ost New Zealand Antarctic researchers are currently involved in a funding bidding round that will largely determine the fate of NZ Antarctic permafrost research for the next six years.  There is only a small pool of funds and a great deal of competition from many science areas so it is a challenging time for many.

Megan Balks (m.balks@waikato.ac.nz).