31 January, 2005 Halley
After working for BAS for 14 years you feel you know a bit about it, but how different the reality can be. Coming to Halley Research Station was a dream come true.
I first worked at BAS for Dr Barry Heywood, Deputy Director, then Dr Dougal Goodman and Dr John Dudeney. Four years ago I moved to Geological Sciences Division and now work for Dr Alistair Crame and the Division. (Hi, everybody!)
Because RRS Ernest Shackleton had arrived early and relief was almost complete, New Year’s Eve was a celebration and a chance for the Winterers and Summerers to start getting to know one another. We raised glasses at 9.00 pm to our friends and relatives in the UK and raised a glass at midnight to ourselves, some of us experiencing midnight in bright sunshine for the first time.
After a very smooth and successful relief operation, the next two days were time off and trips to the penguin colony at Windy Creek were kindly arranged.
The new Summer Fids were bursting with excitement on the hour-long trip – either in the comfort of the Sno-Cat or bouncing around in the wooden trailer. After a half hour’s trudge through lovely soft snow, we arrived at the cliffs. After some instruction from the GAs (and the fact that they had been ahead and put ropes in) we were able to climb down the cliff easily, using the handrail! We were greeted by hundreds of fluffy, grey, moulting, Emperor penguin chicks. They are slightly tetchy while moulting but soon settled down with their visitors. Plenty of photo opportunities as we stayed for a couple of hours. Two Adelies were amongst the Emperors.
On New Year’s Day we had a barbecue at the Drewry. For those who don’t know, the Drewry is a big red box with accommodation for the summerers! (See below.) It gets towed in the summer and not jacked up, like the Laws, Simpson and Piggott platforms, which are on legs.
It was a novel experience to be sitting outside having a barbecue in the deep snow and bright sunshine. Lots of good food and chat.
By early January the Simpson was jacked.
I took my turn to dig the Melt Tank – shovelling snow into a pipe that leads to a tank where it is thawed and then used for all our water requirements. Refreshing way to start the day! Two teams of four for half an hour in the morning and then the other team in the evening, for a week.
We all celebrated Vanessa’s birthday on 8 January with a special meal and birthday cake. She had lots of presents to open and a bottle of Champagne, so a few of us were able to toast her in style.
Work was started on putting the CODIS dome together and this was finished on 9 January and moved into its position on top of a mound of snow. CODIS will enable cheaper phone calls and access to the internet.
We had a big gale – well to us newcomers it was – minus 16 degrees C with a 30 knot wind – the real Antarctic experience!
Ant Tuson (pilot) showed a video of when he and Shane Rodwell went to the South Pole. There are actually three poles; the Ceremonial Pole (where everyone has their photos taken), the geographic pole and the magnetic pole.
The CASLab (Clean Air Sector) started turning on their machines.
Work commenced on pumping the fuel out of the flubber. After emptying the fuel, teams of five Antarctic heroes (and heroines!) at a time, were set to work on ice-picking the floor level, which had risen, making access to the fuel difficult. This was a long, hard slog but thanks to the grit and determination of the Fids was finished slightly before schedule.
Unfortunately we had a medivac – Dan Stromanis hurt his knee and ended up in plaster before being taken to Rothera and back to the UK.
The SHARE (Southern Hemisphere Auroral Radar Experiment) antennae were taken down, taken apart, and cleaned. Extra hands were appreciated for this work! It was finished by mid January. It looks at echoes bounced off electrons in the ionosphere.
Miriam Iorwerth, Russ Locke and I dug out the entrance to the Ice Cave. It is a magical place, dug out about three years ago, with niches cut in the walls for candles. The light twinkles on the ceiling and walls, like diamonds, and you can see your breath.
Visitors to Halley are the Halley VI representatives with Karl Tuplin, the Halley VI Project Manager. They gave a very interesting presentation of their new design concepts. They are all keen to gather as much information and opinions as possible in the two weeks they are here.
In the middle of the month we had another visitor at Halley – one Adelie penguin possibly walked 16 km to see us – causing havoc by pooing near the Melt Tank. Did you know its bright green!? Not the penguin! He seems to like sitting near the scientific ‘bucket’ that beeps.
January was a busy month for the Halley based Twin Otter, fortunately helped by a lot of good weather at the right time in the right areas, at the deep-field sites. There were some long days out to do data downloads and servicing at the Low-power Magnetometer (LPM) and Automatic Geophysical Observatory (AGO) sites, often 12 or 14 hours between leaving Halley and getting back. It was not unusual to fly 1000 or 1200 miles in a day. Another major job was picking up boxes of ice-cores from the drilling site at Berkner Island, where Rob Mulvaney’s team had successfully completed ice-coring to bedrock, 948 metres down. The ice-cores are transported in well insulated boxes but must be kept at least minus 10 C, so no heat in the back of the plane and straight into the ice-core pit on arrival at Halley (under-snow storage) to await onward transportation to Cambridge in freezer containers.
During the middle of the month the plane went back to Rothera for a service and to bring across the Halley 6 design team. Then it was back to more of the same, clearing out the Berkner drilling camp equipment, uplifting one of the Geology field parties from the Theron Mountains, and more AGO and LPM work. Quite a number of people off base got the chance to go along on the trips, and almost all of the winterers have now had a flight at some point.
Most of the base vehicles had been serviced by mid January and Ben Norrish had some new skidoos to play with!
I taught a few Fids how to do Lindyhop. It’s the original swing jive from the 1930s/40s. I’m hoping for a good photo of The Coolest Swing Dancing in the World, taken outside at Halley, for my website.
The legs on the Laws that had distorted during the winter were offset before the jacking commenced – lots of hard work in harsh conditions for the team.
As soon as there was enough contrast a game of football was organised. There was plenty of action, a little bit of cheating, and five goals. A very close match in minus 9 degrees.
At the end of January we had a celebration of Burns Night, with Graham Gillie taking charge, a soft-ball baseball match outside the Drewry.
The final of the Pool Tournament was won by Pat McGoldrick (BC) and Nicola Robinson (Chef) who played Kev O’Donnell (Chef) and Chris Busby (Carpenter/Builder) – The Battle of the Chefs! Chris and Kev were dressed as firemen! (No, I don’t know why!) They won the first match but it was a close call with Pat and Nicola winning 3-2.
At the end of the month we said goodbye to Adam who finished his moulting and went back to the sea.
And finally, just to show we’re not all work and no play….our Hunk of the Month; Andy O’Dare!
All from me.
Thanks to the people on base who make Halley what it is.
Happy Birthdays to Tam and Mark, hello to all my friends and…..Mark – will you marry me? (I’m serious!)