Halley Diary — February 2011

28 February, 2011 Halley

February started with a bang. As part of BAS winter training we have an annual major incident scenario to make sure we are all ready and well rehearsed just in case a real emergency should ever occur at Halley. The scenario this year was set up by Dr Mike Rammage, the out going winter doctor at Halley and he had orchestrated a real treat for us new winterers. The scenario involved two mechanics who had overcome by carbon monoxide and another who had fallen off his skidoo whilst trying to get back to base to raise the alarm. To complicate the response we also had one of our scientists fall down the steps of the Simpson building.

The new doctor, Jenny Hine and her four advanced trained first aiders Rory, Ian, James and Chris were soon on the scene and looking after the casualties while the rest of the base made the dining room in to a make shift hospital.

The scenario was very realistic and made people very aware of the dangers that can catch us out in this harsh remote environment with very limited medical backup. The scenario was a success and all our budding actors who were the casualties came round after a cup of tea and some cake.

Module moves. Martin Bell became the centre of attention (not for the first time) as it was his job along with his gang of operators and drivers to get the new modules from their current building site at Halley V to their new Halley VI location 14 kms away.

These modules had never moved any more than a few meters before so everybody was delighted when the first three blue modules made their way to the new site.

Project manager Karl Tuplin had managed to get them all in line and a crew of Morrison builders then set about levelling the buildings on their massive hydraulic legs and fitting the trelleborg connections, similar to the kind used between train carriages.

Then came the red module. This was the one everybody was worried about as it weighs nearly twice as much as the smaller blue modules and is amongst the largest structures ever to be moved on skis in the Antarctic.

Three Bulldozers two Caterpillar Challengers and two John Deere tractors were what was required to pull the red module from her icy hole. However once on the move just two Challengers and a John Deere happily pulled “big red” (as she is affectionately known by us) all the way to the new Halley VI site. A massive relief for Mr Bell and his team of dedicated ops and a huge milestone for the whole project.

By the end of February all the modules were at the new site, in a line, connected up and levelled. Karl then gave everyone a tour and although the base is not yet operational we could see what an exceptional concept this is and we are very lucky to be involved in such a big part of Halley’s history.

The 13th of February saw the first ever Halley marathon. Nineteen competitors took part either skiing or running around the 5km perimeter of the base. We were blessed with some beautiful weather, a toasty −5 and no wind, perfect running conditions.

We would not of been able to hold the event without the support of the marshals who gave up their day off to make sure the runners were looked after with warm drinks and chocolate bars as they started to fade.

The winner was Base Commander Matt Brown who completed the eight and a half laps of the perimeter in an exceptional time of 3 hrs 33 minutes. In total 18 competitors out of the 19 completed the course, a fantastic achievement.

A special award was given to the member of the base who showed outstanding attitude and ability during the marathon. The winner was generator mechanic, Frank Jaffray who picked up the Phill Moneypenny trophy. Frank had never ran a marathon before and trained all summer to be able to achieve his goal.

We also managed to raise over a thousand pounds for charity through sponsorship of this event… Thank you everybody who contributed.

The end of the season saw a lot of the aeroplanes all of whom have been working in Antarctica, fly through Halley to be refuelled as they left the continent before winter sets in. On the 24th of February Halley International Airport had 3 different aircraft at the same time and our communications manager Emma Philpot was kept busy letting the pilots know the local weather conditions at Halley. This is the first time that more than two planes have been at Halley at the same time so everybody was quite excited and lots of pictures were taken.

The end of the month was very busy; the RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived to take out the Morrisons construction team and some BAS personnel and also back load all our waste that had been carefully separated ready for recycling back in the UK.

The winter team were invited down to the ship for a meal by Captain John Harper and his crew. They laid on a fantastic curry for us and entertained us with a good sing song.

As we waved the Shackleton off the base felt very empty suddenly we went from having over 110 people on base to less than 50 it is a taste of things to come as when the RRS James Clark Ross takes the last summer staff early next month there will only be the 11 winterers left.

This is my second winter at Halley and I am very much looking forward to winter and getting to know my new team. And I am sure they will have some tales to tell over the coming months.

Thanks to my family and friends for keeping in contact and paying an interest in my work. And to my nieces, no I can’t bring a penguin home it’s against the Antarctic treaty.

Ben Mapston
Winter Base Commander