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Back at Halley

28 February, 2010

Ice cliffs of the Brunt Ice Shelf near Mobster creek
Ice cliffs of the Brunt Ice Shelf near Mobster creek

Well the Science section of our cruise duly came to an end and we made or way out of the Weddell sea pack ice towards Creek IV at Halley. The sea was flat calm and greasy looking as we approached the coast a pod of Killer whales crossed our path in the distance and the Halley base not normally visible for the sea miraged above the horizon.

We surveyed the bay ice and tie up points we had previously used and all looked intact, the Captain opting to use the Igarka’s “berth” as the ice looked better for loading there.

Sea smoke early morning off the Ronne Ice Shelf
Sea smoke early morning off the Ronne Ice Shelf

Once tied up arrangements were made for the back load cargo from the base to start trickling to the ship. We arrived a week early so they were not really ready for us but soon organised a plan to keep the cargo coming in a steady stream. The weather held and the work proceeded well.

It is amazing and perfectly understandable how the arrival of the ship acts like a candle to Halley Herbivores. There was no end of base personnel turning up with any excuse to visit. Mostly, it seemed, keen on getting stuck in to some fresh fruit, salads and vegetables. This of course inciting the ire of the catering department who were sometimes caught a little short.

Some of the Halley team came down to the ship for a dinner and a few drinks one evening and several of the ships personnel went up to the base for to be similarly entertained. This proved very successful and good break from routine for all.

The cargo kept on coming for the next few days and by Thursday evening the ships cargo spaces were packed tight with all manner of cargo and we wer more or less ready to roll.

James Clark Ross near Rothera.
James Clark Ross near Rothera.

News from Halley is that they have made excellent progress with the new base and all the modules have now been fully clad with their outer skins. All that needed to be done was to shift the modules into winter positions and the stowing of all the gear and supplies. The project personnel are very pleased with the progress.

On Friday 25th we moved forward to the Shack’s previous mooring point to make way for the James Clark Ross which was due on Saturday morning. She duly arrived and proceeded to tie up with the help of base and ships personnel. Barely two hours later the wind picked up dramatically and proceeded to bash our two vessels against the fast ice. Sea-water flooding over the top of it as it pounded away. One of our moorings gave way snapping the pole clean in half and Capt Marshall decided it would be prudent to get out to sea. As we moved away thee rest of the mooring poles snapped and we headed out. We stood by while the JCR removed herself from her moorings and moved away from the ice. This bad weather interlude has put plans of an early withdrawal on hold.

The JCR and the Shackleton are steaming slowly up and down the coast waiting for a break in the weather.

Words amd pics: Pat O’Hara

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