August – Night shift

15 August, 2003

Week on Night Shift

written by Issy Gerrard

At some point during the winter each base member will do a week on night shift. My turn came around in late August. Being Base chef, I viewed it as a week out of the kitchen and a chance to sample some of the culinary delights produced by my fellow winterers. I was not disappointed, there are some pretty good, budding chefs here at Rothera!

The week starts on Friday night when you accompany the existing night worker on their first ‘night round’ of that evening. This is your familiarisation tour to prepare you for the Saturday night, when you’re on your own. The purpose of the rounds is to check all the essential plant and machinery and ensure it’s working correctly e.g. water pumps, generators, sewage treatment, computers doing all kinds of weird science, fridges and freezers are at the right temperature, all that kind of technical stuff. If you think there might be a problem, then you – very gently and preferably with a nice hot cup of tea – wake up the appropriate person so that they can check it out.

Another part of the night shift routine involves the recording of meteorological observations at 3 hourly intervals. It literally is a case of going outside and looking at the weather – not as easy as you might think when its pitch dark and the middle of winter! Putting the data into the computer is pretty foolproof for us ‘non-met people, you just follow the idiot guide and answer a few simple questions by pressing the most appropriate key and hope that you got it right!

Of course, every job has its less glamorous side and night watch is no exception. There are domestic chores to be done – mopping floors, cleaning loos, tidying up communal areas and restocking breakfast and beverage supplies. If time allowed, I’d make some bread or maybe a chocolate cake, just to help out the duty chef.

All too soon its Friday night and you’re taking the next person on your first ‘night round’ of your last evening. I thoroughly enjoyed my week on night shift. It was a pleasant change from my normal duties. In a strange way I enjoyed the solitude, it’s almost like being in a different world. Watching everyone drift off to bed then keeping vigil over the Base until a new day in the life of Rothera starts.

By Issy Gerrard