Halley Diary – April 2014

18 April, 2014 Halley

With the first round of Winter Training Trips concluded April saw the wintering team here at Halley VI settling in for the long, cold winter to come. You could say the differences between the beginning and end of April were literally like night and day, as we rapidly lost daylight hours at the rate of around 30 minutes a day. The mercury duly took a dip as well, getting down around the -40 mark, although we should easily surpass this in the middle of winter! Funnily enough a bit of darkness was welcome after months of daylight and meant that we could enjoy phenomenon such as the Lunar Eclipse (or blood moon if you like), and of course the Aurora Australis, for which Halley is so renowned.

Halley is not only the most southerly, but also the most remote wintering BAS station. As such it’s vital that the 13 of us here through the winter months are completely self-sufficient in every way. This leads to a great diversification of roles, with, amongst others, a postie who is also a fully qualified Doctor, a Meteorologist who is also a Search and Rescue Team member, and a Chef who is lead singer in a band! Everyone has several jobs and roles, akin to life on the Scottish Isles (albeit a very small and cold one!) and this reliance on each other in every area of life from safety to recreation and socialising is in large part what makes wintering such an immersive and rewarding experience.

These varied skills need ongoing training, and so it was that April saw the SAR (Search and Rescue) Team learning more devious rope tricks for casualty- and self-rescue.

We also had a Emergency Evacuation Drill involving the whole team. Halley VI is a unique station which calls for unique measures in emergencies. In the event of a fire in A module (or ‘Big Red’ as she’s affectionately known) persons in the upper level need to be able to evacuate via an emergency abseil system. All good fun when the outer skin of the station is akin to Teflon with a light hoar-frost coating! Roller-skates wouldn’t have made much difference.

You will of course no doubt already be aware of Halley’s own Folk-Rock Giants, “Amongst Emperors”, following a mention on Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 2 Folk Show this month! The band started off as a small group of enthusiasts and is growing steadily in number, incorporating both new and more experienced musicians. They are available for weddings, christenings and bar mitzvahs, anywhere south of 75 degrees.

Living and working in Antarctica we follow the guidelines set out in the Antarctic Treaty, a multi-national agreement put in place to protect the pristine environment of Earth’s most superlative continent. This informs a lot of the way we do things, and avoidance of damage to the environment is always better than cure. However, we do also need to be able to respond when things don’t go according to plan. With this in mind we had an Oil Spill Response exercise, aimed at making sure we are able to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a fuel or oil spill. It also provides ample opportunity for Beastie Boys or Darth Vader impressions, depending on the kit you’re wearing.

Its not all work here at Halley. With a strong team from such different backgrounds we have a varied social scene too. The band has already been mentioned, but Saturday night is another social focus. Gerard, our excellent (and highly published!) chef, pulls out all the stops and we enjoy fantastic food that wouldn’t be out of place in a top restaurant (although some of us may look out of place in a top restaurant, but that’s what Antarctic life will do to you…). There is also often a theme on Saturdays. This month we had Papa G’s Pizzeria complete with authentic cheap nasty flyer-menus, and an order by phone only policy. The pizzas however were amazing (if about five times too big!). Another Saturday saw a Z-list Superhero theme, with Captain Breakfast, Low-budget Man, and Nido Boy in attendance (Nido is the milk substitute we have here.). I should also mention the inter-departmental Tug-o-war. Onlookers were left visibly astonished when the Science Team obliterated all comers! Heavier than they look those Scientists…

All in all April was a busy productive month, and with the team in excellent form we were well prepared for the next period going into May – and Darkness! But more about that in the next issue..

Al Davies
Halley Wintering Field Assistant 2014