Halley Diary — April 2004

30 April, 2004

Pish Tash By Vanessa O’Brien

April has seen the end of the first winter trips and for two weeks the base has been at full capacity. It is very odd to see all 18 of us sitting around the enlarged dining room table at every meal. As usual, when you sit down to write the web page and think about what has happened over the past month, you discover that we have had another jam-packed month full of events worthy of sharing with the world. I shall begin with the events that have made the most conversation around the dinner table.

At the beginning of April we had an Italian themed evening, complete with costumes and lots of Italian food just like Mama would make — except ‘she’ was Kev, the chef, in our case. The Mafia paid a visit, but were very well behaved and didn’t cause any trouble in our peaceful home. The women resided in the kitchen to eat, so that the men could discuss important political issues over their polenta.

The first ever Pish Tash (Moustache) Competition has been taking place all month. All entrants have been carefully growing and grooming the best pish tash that they can muster on their upper lips. The rules are simple: everyone started clean-shaven on April 4th; no shaving is allowed above the angle of the mouth; and judging is on May 1st. The judges are the non moustache growers; Rhian and me, for hopefully obvious reasons; and the developed beard growers, Frank and Simon, who have both been cultivating their facial hair for a considerable time now. The judging and results will be published next month.

To commemorate the end of the winter trips, or perhaps to congratulate Ed at surviving all six; we had a whole week of social activities that were dedicated to the wonderful decade of the 1980’s. ‘Ferris Buellers Day Off’ launched the week on the big screen and revived many ‘I had/did that’ stories. Memory stirring music saturated every CD player on base, and only movies that were made in or were about the 80’s were watched. The week culminated in a party on Saturday night. We were blessed with the presence of a few celebrities and all on base raided their wardrobes to dig out those choice 80’s items that we could never bear to be parted from. Kev turned out another spectacular meal, Prawn Cocktail, Lamb Wellington and Knickerbocker Glories, all washed down with a glass or two of chilled chardonnay. Fabulous!

However, we must remember that our days as well as our nights are busy, but this time on the work front. The Technical Services team have been making the most of the light and any warmer spells to work outside. Nigel has been doing some annual maintenance work in the Drewry building. Gareth has been preparing all the vehicles for sitting out the winter and is almost finished — he only has one Nodwell Crane left. He might even let himself have a proper day off soon! Graham has mostly been looking at legs — of the building variety, fortunately! Because Halley is on a moving ice shelf the legs that support the main platform and the three science platforms have to be surveyed each month and raised or lowered to keep the platform level and to help prevent the legs twisting too much. Tommo has been wearing his Fire Officer hat and training all on base how to use the breathing apparatus correctly, so that if there were a fire we would be capable of carrying out a search and rescue procedure to find any missing people. We have all been warned that a full fire drill is imminent! Graeme has refilled the flubber, which is a tank that holds 108 barrels of fuel and powers the generators on the Laws for about 3 months, supplying us with electricity and heat. Nigel has also organised a chain gang of workers to help him clear the tunnels, which are beneath Halley, of snow that has blown through gaps in the hatches. His little team included Simon driving a skidoo connected to a bucket tied to a rope and lifting the bucket out of the tunnel shafts. Stuart and Frank then man-hauled a sledge of snow away from the shafts and carefully dumped it elsewhere in our big, big garden.

On the science side of things the CASLab and the Simpson have both run Intensive Observational Campaigns (IOCs) and life on the Piggott platform has been running smoothly. The CASLab’s IOC was toward the beginning of the month and for a week Rhian and Steph collected daily, 12 hourly and 6 hourly samples of air and snow. The results from this campaign and others like it will be used to help understand how the air and the top few metres of snow interact. In turn these results will help with the analysis and interpretation of ice cores, which give very important information on how the global climate has changed over past millennia, and improve prediction of possible changes in the future climate of the world. Craig, Stuart and myself have run another kiting campaign. We worked around the clock for 24 hours with greatly appreciated volunteers to collect data on turbulence and layering within the boundary layer. March hosted the first and the kiting technique was more successful than the data. April was the month of triumph, the kites were superb and the data is too — we hope! The wind and the cold hampered our enthusiasm at the time, but I am looking forward to next month and the next IOC when we can run an even smoother operation. Russ, Mark and Jeff have been keeping themselves quiet but diligently busy listening to the upper atmosphere. We have just received shocking news that the array of SHARE antennas has the capability of stopping missiles and planes ‘dead in their tracks’. Mark is insisting that this is just American propaganda and we have no reason to worry about being a target for military attack, this does not convince everyone though. Otherwise, they have had fingers crossed hoping that nothing breaks.

Mike our grumpy but lovely communications manager is arranging regular contact with the other BAS bases. We have had a couple of HF radio scheds with Rothera and Bird Island have been in touch via the telex text transmissions. Thankfully, Frank has been particularly un-busy in his capacity as doctor. Instead, he has occupied his time with photography lessons, and joining in with every activity that has needed an extra pair of hands, he is very accomplished at driving the bulldozer. Ed has almost recovered from being our holiday rep during winter trips spanning two months. I think he is almost out of life-story, and looking forward to a winter in front of the sewing machine repairing tents. He keeps having this crazy idea that I might do it for him; the deal is that he has to become a met babe for the duration though!

Well, that just about covers the spirit and mind parts of life, just body to mention. Neglecting your fitness and eating too much scrummy food is far too easy to do here, so with a little willpower many of us are fighting the urge. Aerobics classes are going well and there is now regular turnout of folk who grapevine very convincingly around the dining room. Mike has started a competition of speed and determination by encouraging everyone to declare their personal best times over different distances for running and rowing. There is much glee to be had if you nip a few seconds away from your rival! Craig has also discovered the table-tennis table, at the moment it is still for sheer entertainment that we play, but once we become more adept a contest of some kind is bound to emerge. Look out for future Olympic champions?

I think I have thoroughly run through April for you all; Rhian shall fill you in on May. I am sure that I can vouch for everyone when I say that we are all having a wonderful time at Halley, but we do say hello and send our love back home too.

Take care and don’t forget about us!


Ooh, one last thing: Happy Birthday, again, Rich. Happy Birthday Dad and Happy Birthday Mum. I love you all very much xxx