Halley Diary — April 2010

30 April, 2010 Halley

Welcome to the April diary. My name is Matt and I am the wintering Genny mech this year. So what has happened in April?

We have had our first proper blows, with 40 knot winds, gusting up to 50 knots. This was the perfect opportunity for Ed our GA to take us outside connected to ropes so we could experience a real “white out”. It was just like looking at the inside of a ping pong ball.

The Auroras also started to appear this month. I’m not too sure of the technical terms for them other than they are a like large green moving clouds at night. These usually happen very early in the morning/late at night. Whoever is on nights when they appear wakes everyone up so we can take our pictures.

All the winter trips have now finished. Ian and I were some of the last ones out. We only got to the caboose but that is as far as it got. The weather turned quite bad so with no contrast and poor visibility we were not able to leave the caboose, but still very nice to get off the base for a few days.

We get a second trip at the end of winter before all the summer staff turn up so I hope the weather will be better. Then we might be able to travel a bit further away and see what the Brunt ice shelf has to offer.

Because of the amount of snow fall and blowing snow around the base, which has been very high for this time of year, we have had to go out and raise the drum lines a bit more frequently. For this we take a Sno-Cat and sledge and have to tow the drum out of the ground a re-site it back on the surface. The drum lines around the base are there so we can navigate around the ice shelf without using GPS. With all the snow that has fallen we have had to be outside to clear the platform off as well or we would end up getting stuck inside the Laws building too. WHO SAID IT DID NOT SNOW AT HALLEY!!!

During the winter we all have to carry out SAR (Search and Rescue) exercises, so if something happens to anyone we can go and rescue them. Well our BC (Paddy) decided it was time we had an exercise. He booked himself out to the container line for an hour. During the day whoever is on Gash checks tag board regularly to make sure where everyone is if they are working outside.

The gash man noticed Paddy hadn’t come back so called him on the radio and got no answer back.

If was decided to put a search in place as part of SAR response. Jack who was working in the garage at the time and closer to the container line went out on a skidoo to have a look for Paddy. It wasn’t long before Jack found Paddy hiding behind a wind scope.

Jack brought Paddy back to the base so he could warm up and everyone else could stand down from the exercise.

One day Richard our Met bloke (Beaker) had to go to the Halley 6 site to replace a battery on an AWS. Paddy, Richard and I took one of the Sno-cats and headed off for the new site, which is about 15kms away. When we left all was ok with the weather but about half way there the weather started to turn for the worst. It was decided to turn back for Halley 5 as the visibility was dropping. None of us really wanted to get stuck out and have to set up camp away from the base overnight.

The battery was replaced 5 days later when the weather had improved.

One of my jobs on base is to refuel the two fuel flubbers that live under ground in the tunnels. This can take most of the day and involves quite a few people. We are only allowed down the tunnels in pairs just in case you have a fall. Then you need someone on top controlling the pump and checking for any fuel leaks. This is usually Tim’s job. Whilst down in the tunnels I have to check how much fuel is going into the flubbers so they don’t over fill and a fuel spill, which we take very seriously down in Antarctica.

Well it’s not all work here!! We do have some time for play, of which Fancy dress parties and dog racing nights are a regular fixture. We only bet with plastic chips but are still highly enjoyable nights. We have also had our −30°C BBQ.Which was great fun trying to eat your food before it freezes solid and having to thaw the beer out so it can be drunk while making sure your lips don’t freeze to the can.

Cheers to everyone for photos.

Matt Hooper
Halley Genny Mech