Halley Diary — December 2009

31 December, 2009 Halley

I’ve now been here just over two weeks. As people become familiar with each other, we get another plane load of new faces and names. For a short while, the base seems busier, until you adjust. Most of the newer people go onto the Laws. However tech services are busy putting together annexes to the Drewry building to accommodate the extra workforce for this build season. Nearly 120 people on base, they will carry on with the construction of Halley Six. The site has been prepared and almost everyone turns out to see the first Module moved to the construction line.

Another treat, did I mention Cape Town, The Basler flights etc etc all of which were treats! We went to see the Emperor penguin colony. I don’t think that it was just me who was awestruck at the beauty of the scene. Perfect blue skies, white ice cliffs, deep blue sea and thousands of penguins gathered on the ice. Fluffy fat chicks and attentive parents all around. A few magical hours at Windy Bay.

Another trip for the 11 new winterers meant field training. Abseiling, rescue work, cooking and camping. These new skills will enable us to go into the field on our winter trips later in the season.

It’s getting close to Christmas and the ships are going to be late. Rumours and speculation are widespread. Food stocks, tobacco and Giles’ Guinness are running low. The chefs keep coming out with great food for all despite the shortfalls.

A large shape has appeared on the horizon. It’s not a ship it’s Ags’ sofa. About 32ft × 14ft × 9ft high. It’s a Snow Chesterfield. Over the next week lots of people lend a hand, and by our Christmas Eve (one week early, moved because of relief) it was declared ready. Off we trooped after our Christmas dinner. After glugging Paddy’s mulled wine (hell of a lot of brandy) we all climbed up to have the group photo.

Back on the Laws for a few drinks. A one night only gig for Antarctica’s coolest new band. They had only practiced for six nights but were extremely good and entertaining. Anyone who has met Lenny will know what came next. About 20 minutes of nonstop advert jingles, brilliant.

Christmas is time for tradition, so we had a cricket competition. This was a knockout competition. The boundary was only about 30 yards so every ball was either a miss or a six. The umpires came in for a lot of flack as constant calls for no balls and stumping were paid no heed. Mind you every other ball was a bit much, lots of barracking and gamesmanship made for a good afternoon enjoyed by all. I grudgingly have to say that the best team did win. A special mention to Chris in the middle of the photo bowling, who having been got out at least every other ball was however the most stylish player on the field.

The Igarka finally arrived on the 27th letting us have another Christmas day. The Mechs had made sure that all the vehicles were ready for the expected 2 week plus marathon relief unloading over 400 loads from the Igarka and the Ernest Shackleton. The remainder of the Halley Six project. High spirits as a convoy of Snow cats, John Deares and Challengers headed for the coast. Chris again played a blinder and kept the loads coming. Knowing exactly what to fit on which sledge and when. Two teams worked twelve hour shifts on the sea ice. Lucky with weather, brilliant sunshine, we were kept going by Ant’s Bacon butties in the Ice Cafe. The hours passed smoothly and more importantly safely. Coming off shifts we swapped bunks with our daytime counterparts and didn’t need much rocking to sleep. Staying on a Russian cargo ship on New Year’s night was a little bit different to back home.

That’s about all for December. Hi Mum.

Mark Green (Incoming winter plumber)

Thanks to all those who submitted photos.