Friday, 24 November 2017

Cracking on

We are still 13 people on station…

More people were scheduled to have arrived by now. There have been hold ups on the route from Cape Town to Novo outside of BAS’s control but these will hopefully be resolved this coming week. There is quite a lot of work building up that we need more bodies for but having less people on station does make it a little more peaceful on the living front. I think we are all enjoying that.

We are all staying in the Drewry building while the tech team work at getting the modules up and running. As more people arrive we will need the Modules living space, kitchen and bed spaces, but the Drewry sleeps about 30. I put a little short post with some pics at the end of last season here.

As we were expecting more people, it was crucial to gain access to more food. Up until now I have been working with what dry stores we stocked the Drewry with and some frozen food that had been buried at the end of last season. The buried supplies were in two different locations but both survived the winter well and proved invaluable at start-up this season.

The freezer hole marked by flags. It's covered by two boards - one of which I can dig free and pull out to gain access. That's some good snow build up behind!

I can jump down in to the freezer and grab what I need. I dug some holes in to the side of the wall which enable me to clamber out.


We buried two reefers with the majority of our frozen stock in a large hole last season. This was only accessible using the digger to dig it out and the crane to lift it out and onto sledges to move it to the Drewry with the Piston Bully. So it's a big big job for the garage as they had to get all those vehicles de-winterised and then get time to excavate these containers. The frozen supplies have done well over the winter, as expected, and this week they were dug up and relocated to outside the Drewry to be plugged in. I had mentioned my little hole-in-the-ground freezer and the reefers in a previous post here.


I plucked up the courage to have a nosy at them yesterday. It’s a daunting prospect having all that food to manage (I haven’t even posted about the containers full of dry food yet!). All our food is packed into containers in the UK – on to pallets that are stacked high and then cling-filmed around to keep them in blocks. And this is the case in these reefers too. They also get moved around quite a bit before they get to us, so if there are loose bits and bobs these get shimmied from side to side quite a bit. We do not have the luxury of unloading these into better spaces and organising it and so all our food is there,... in those containers, ...but not necessarily accessible. And of course the item you want is at the bottom of a huge stack right at the back! The reality is you just work with what you can get your hands on, until you work through enough stuff so you can get your hands on other items.





In other news the Weatherhaven tents went up this week giving the Field Guides and Scientists sheltered areas they can sort their kit out in . Space is at a bit of a premium here ironically.






And in amongst worky bits and bobs there is the odd moment for a bit of down time. Al and I have managed the odd ski out to the perimeter.






A couple of weeks ago we had a little ceremony here to put the Halley signpost back in its’ rightful spot. Stu, one of our mechanical services leads, took this lovely pic. The small team who were first in at the start of the season had done a really great job, which enabled the rest of us to be there. So it was nice to acknowledge that and to take a bit of pride in our base and keeping her going under difficult circumstances. It’s no mean feat!


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

It’s a long ol’ way South!



There is nothing simple about the journey south - least of all the difficult goodbyes. And then there are the hours...and hours...of travelling!

This time I headed to Punta Arenas again, which is where I travelled on my first time to Antarctica. Heathrow – Sau Paulo – Santiago – Punta Arenas (with a short stop off at Puerto Mont without getting off the plane) to be more exact. There had been some delays in Punta Arenas for some parties before us so we were unsure how long we would be there for. As it turned out it was only for two nights. Enough time to have a little walk around Punta and feel terrible about your absolutely rubbish Spanish! Then it was on to Rothera on BAS’s Dash 7 aircraft. The flight took about 5 hours and it’s pretty comfortable – especially when compared with commercial airliners and their lack of space!


We arrived at Rothera on a lovely sunny evening with clear views as we approached.









 We arrived right in time for dinner, after which we were able to stretch our legs on a walk around the “Point”. It’s great to catch glimpses of the wildlife there – a few seals, gulls, terns, snow petrels and shags. And the icebergs are really quite impressive too.





Lounging seal!





Some snow steps up a steeper bank of snow.



The above picture is the memorial at the highest part of the "Point". It commemorates those who lost their lives at Rothera and also pays tribute to the dog teams who worked at Rothera over many years.

This is the view looking back over the base from the memorial. You can see the runway to the left, with the hangar next to it, and the larger green building centre right is New Bransfield House. This is where the kitchen, dining room, bar, tv lounge, library and computer rooms are housed - nearly all with wonderful views of the bay. To the left of the pic and out of shot is the "Ramp" which is the gateway to skiing and climbing areas.

New Bransfield House from the opposite direction.




We had no idea when we would be heading on to Halley. It’s all about weather and you can never take the flight schedule for granted. We had arrived on the Friday and had been told we may need to sit tight for five days or a week but come Sunday evening we were told we should be ready to go in the morning. That means meeting for 8am and awaiting news from the pilots briefing. If it’s a goer you have half an hour to grab your things, get your warm gear on and meet down at the hangar. So that is what we did!

The first time I made the journey over to Halley three years ago we stopped to re-fuel twice. So I was all set for a whole day’s travelling. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out the Twin Otter was fitted with a long-range fuel tank. This meant we could carry more fuel with us and so only needed to stop the once – brilliant! 
I was able to take the co-pilot seat until Fossil Bluff. It was pretty over cast with low cloud so we only had views at take off and landing. Fossil Bluff is a small fuel depot staffed by mostly a couple of individuals - BAS staff from Rothera swap in and out throughout the season. We re-fueled there, stretched our legs and used the facilities (a pee flag - a flag off to one side to use as a designated area for having a wee so people don't just go anywhere!) and from there it was about another 5 or 6 hours to Halley. 

Fuelling up at Rothera before heading off.

Take off from the co-pilot seat.







Back through the clouds approaching Fossil Bluff.







View from the pee flag - refuelling.

 The aircraft is not pressurised so the air can be a bit thin, but apart from that it’s pretty comfortable and you get to stretch out for a bit too. On the Twin Otters we always have to travel with a “P-bag”, which is a super cosy sleeping bag system, in case the weather turns and you have to stay out in the field somewhere. These were secured inside the plane in a way that we could then use them to stretch out for a snooze. I was travelling with Jan, our glaciologist, so we took it in turns.

 View from the passenger seat looking towards the back of the plane. The long range fuel tank is at the right of the picture.

View from the passenger seat looking forward in to the cockpit.

The weather was mostly cloudy again on our journey over so we couldn’t see too much. But it cleared up a bit over the Weddell Sea so we could look out over the sea ice. We also flew right by a huge berg the size of the M25! We then flew into some cloud as we came to the ice shelf so no nice views there and it continued to be a little rubbish until we landed. 

That is one huge berg!




And so here I am at Halley once more. I've been here just over a week but I haven't been able to log on to sort this post out until now. I’ll make another post describing how things are around here at the moment in a few days. In numbers we are 13 right now. We have plenty to do, though it is nice for it not to be crowded with people quite yet.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Another Season

So another season begins......

I'm heading down to Halley again. I am finishing of my "Halley Winter" contract really. I know it's been a while since my last post but most of you will remember nobody wintered at Halley over the past winter. I was offered work in Cambridge (at BAS HQ) over the souther winter - our summer, so that is where I was from May until mid October. And now it's time to head South again.
I write this quick post from my hotel room in Punta Arenas, Chile. We arrived last night and should hear in an hour or so when we're expecting to head to Rothera. Then, once I'm there, I'll hear when I will head off to Halley.
Also...it has been confirmed this week that nobody will winter at Halley next year either. There's a little bit of info about it here (along with some weird discussions in the comments).  Of course it's a blow, but we will have a full and busy summer despite the news. A very small team are at Halley already waking the base up ready for more of us to arrive.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

My last full day?

One thing that's been obvious this summer is that here in Antarctica, plans change all the time! Having said I may be off today, that then changed and I should be off tomorrow...maybe. The ALCI Basler came in but the passenger list changed and instead of eight people flying out it changed to six and twelve of us should head to Rothera tomorrow. 
It's a lovely day here today. The sun is out and still offers some warmth, though it's getting a lot chillier in the shadows. I thought I'd try and take a few quick pics to make the most of it.


The plane coming in. Jan's wind farm is there in the foreground. That has been recently put up to power some science equipment over the winter.





John's taxi service to the ski way.


I look out of the window in the kitchen area here and see the neat lines of containers outside and thought I'd say a little about that. The base is kept really neat and tidy throughout the year and is very organised. We don't just park skidoos anywhere, or pop a container here or there. Everything has to be kept in a certain way in order. This means that windtales and wind-scoops won't develop where they aren't wanted, which can be dangerous when the visibility goes. The snow can be more easily managed when everything is ordered and of course it's then more easy to keep track of where things are. The vehicles guys do a great job of keeping it all sorted and really tidy.



All the containers are put on to winter berms to avoid them getting buried as snow accumulates. Sometimes this is one long "super berm".



And sometimes these are smaller separate berms like in the left of this pic above.


The Drewry is already sat in a little windscoop of its own after the last couple of blows. The snow is packed down directly by the building and then built up around it. 



The side door into the living area used to have quite a drop to the "ground". No longer. Since yesterday's blow the snow comes up and above the door in a pretty snow drift.



The sides of the Drewry windscoop are really pretty now with the textured sastrugi.





I forgot to include an inside shot of our phone booth in my last post. Not exactly super private, but pretty cool. Photo proof of Shrove Tuesday pancakes also.