Halley Diary — April 2006

30 April, 2006 Halley

Well, another month passes at Halley. For me, April started with a week on nightshift. As well as the pleasure of cleaning the toilets every night, this was also a good opportunity to for a bit of relative peace and quiet! Nights are another of the base jobs that we all do every now and then – mainly to keep an ear out for the fire and science alarms, but also check the generators, make the bread, and get round with the mop and bucket.

From the almost normal day and night lengths at the beginning of the month, the sun spent much of April steadily abandoning us, with sundown on the 30th. It’s been a month of variable weather. Temperatures soon dropped below -30 in the first few days, getting below -40 towards the end of the month. We’ve also had 40-50knot blows for quite a few days on and off in the middle.

Getting around the place becomes quite interesting once the wind gets up. We’ve got handlines between the buildings, which are suddenly quite useful, with visibility falling to a few metres, and nothing but white around. The handlines also bring an additional hazard — in the form of some quite bracing electric shocks, from the static build up. There’s no getting round it by not touching the handline, because sooner or later you’ll reach your destination, a nice building with a set of metal steps, conveniently at a different potential to yourself! Zzap

Static electricity aside, there’s been plenty of other things going on. We’ve had a few good nights including a sci-fi themed evening with entrants from Captain Pickard to men in black. Nicola (Zchef) did us proud with a number of superb Saturday night meals (not to mention the great food during the week.).

We lowered the flag for sundown at the end of the month. The only logical way to follow this was a barbeque, at -43 of course, and in the dark. There were a few problems with the food freezing half way through eating, but a quick warm over the fire soon sorted that! The next night saw the sundown cocktail party, with with Fran and Vicki acting as cocktail waitress (we’ll say nothing about the amount that ended up on the floor!).

Work wise there’s been quite a bit going on too. There’s been a fair amount of outside work to get ready for the next 3 months. Bob(Zgenny mech) and Brian(Zplumber) + others spent a few days on the bulk fueling to last for a few months. There are underground bulk tanks (flubbers) for the Piggott and Laws to be refueled from the above ground bulk tanks and drummed fuel.

Anto (Zvehicle mech)and myself (guess who turned up at the wrong moment) refilled the garage heating tank to last the winter. Anto was busy as ever moving round sledges to avoid too much in the way of wind tails and snow accumulation. With occasional assistance from Fran (Zmet) he’s spent many days putting various vehicles on mounds for the winter months. As well as that there’s been plenty of routine maintenance. I’ve been over at the garage in my spare time doing some repairs to a skidoo, after it was “found” with a dozer.

Brian’s been out and about servicing various boilers about the place, and creating a fine day of smells clearing out the grifters at the end of the month.

Liz (Zchippie)treated us to new carpet tiles in the lounge, and pitrooms and has been keeping busy making sawdust!

Simon (ZGA) has been recovering from the winter trips, and gradually sorting out and repairing gear. He also treated us to a chilly afternoon letting off flares and smokes, should we ever need to use them in anger.

Mark (Zsparky) has been on up and down the tunnels quite a bit to sort out some fuel pump / heater related problems causing the Share to trip out, as well as the usual!

In the absence of any spectacular injuries, Vicki (Zdoc) continued to make us lots of excellent cakes, and look after Zwaste (Antarctic bin woman!).

Dave (Zcomms) kept the network and comms all ticking over nicely, with a few jaunts out to look after the mast stay tensions.

John (ZWBC) been busy keeping things organized, the odd radio interview(!), and getting really stuck into a lot of the base work, Sunday cook, melt tank digging whenever anyone else can’t.

Over at the Simpson (Zmet), we’ve had a good month — all the usual activities like daily balloon launches, 3 hourly met observations clean air sector work and snow / air sampling. Kirsty’s been out and about with Jules looking after the masts. We’ve been having some trouble with anemometers (they don’t like high winds!), leading to a few trips up the mast for all of us and quite a bit of tinkering for me. We stopped routine Ozone observations in the middle of the month, with the sun getting too low, but Fran’s done a couple of night time moon observations (dedication eh?).

The Piggot’s boys (Jules (ZAIS), Alex(Z VLF/Data) & Chris(ZShare)) are still working hard with a few problems to solve here and there. They’re unfortunate enough to have a Science alarm over on the Laws, so whenever anything goes wrong they know about it! As ever they’ve all had at least one rude awakening during the night.

Hopefully I’ve not missed anyone out there!

All the best

Andy (Zmet)