Halley Diary — July 2008

31 July, 2008 Halley

Red sky at night…

July is always a quiet month here at Halley. Midwinter has come and gone, the sky is still dark and sometimes the base feels like a scene out of ‘The Shining’! On the up side mother nature has decided to start turning the dimmer switch and the sun is slowly peeking over the horizon, giving us some amazing displays of colour.

July started with a very windy spell. Probably the strongest winds we have had yet, getting over 50 knots. We were all sitting, well swaying, at the bar one Saturday night and all of a sudden the fire alarm decided to go off. We all jumped up to find a phantom alarm had gone, setting off the spare zones. We all thought the ghost of the pool table had come back to haunt us, but it turned out just to be the building vibrating!

On the same night a bang was heard on the roof. We all thought nothing of it, until on Monday, Dave (the scientist / met babe) realised his met balloon receiver dome wasn’t working properly. Dean (welshie) and myself decided to go and check the antennas on the roof, but something didn’t quite seem right. Then it hit us, the big fat dome had gone! Disappeared in to the night. After searching in vain we found it at the Halley 6 building site 1km away, and then had to drag it all the way back! Considering this thing is 4 feet across and weighs about 40kg that’s pretty impressive.

Every so often, especially after a blow, the platform gets completely caked in snow due to the shape of the building, so Ags decided we needed to clear it. Dean, Les, Ags and myself all went out spade and brooms in hand to clear all the snow off the platform. We can finally shut the doors properly again. This also means that catenary lines are buried. These are basically hand lines that we use to move around the base in times of bad weather so we don’t get lost. This means we have to go round raising all the lines on base.

Scott has been busy again this month. He has been busy repairing our fleet of sno-cats. Every time I have been to the garage dashboards have been all over the place and he has been stuck in a maze of wiring looms getting gauges working again. Lance has also been busy keeping all of the snow under control, well trying to anyway.

We all try to make Saturday nights a bit different to break the routine of the week. Paddy always comes up with a cracking feast, but for a change Ags, being of Polish descent, decided to have a Polish night. She spent a good two days making a mixture of Polish dishes for us to sample, with a shot of vodka (or wodka if you try to do a polish accent).

The weather finally calmed down enough for a trip to Windy Bay for Rich, Dave, Lance and Les. On the way a small detour was made so Dave could do some maintenance for one of the ‘life of Halley’ GPS points. The GPS markers measure how the Brunt Ice Shelf is moving in different regions and attempt to predict when and where the next carving will take place.

Les and Lance completed some general maintenance on the caboose, while Rich and Dave popped down to the shelf edge to see how the access to the sea ice is for trips out to see the Emperor Penguins when the sun gets higher in the sky.

Mid-July a suggestion for a Moroccan night was made, so a huge selection of dishes was laid out in our little Aladdin’s cave. It’s amazing what a few white sheets, some sheepskins, and a screen saver can do. It made for a very interesting night especially for Pat.

SAR (search and rescue) training has also been taking place this month for our SAR team. Plenty of trip out and kit organising have been taking place for this, hopefully they won’t ever be needed but you can’t be too careful, especially down here in the bowels of the world.

This month has also been frightening for some and a lot of fun for others, as Doctor Hannah and Nurse Lance have taken the plunge and delved in to our mouths for our midwinter teeth check up. I think it was time for them to take some revenge on some people and cause them some pain.

At least we get some nice tasty banana gel stuff to lick of our teeth for 3 hours afterwards, apparently for someone who drinks coke, I have got very good teeth which is nice to know, but the whips been cracked and we all have to start flossing, using mouth wash, and brushing properly.

Doc school has also been continuing this month with Hannah teaching us how to put a chest drain in. As long as it’s not me I don’t mind. Some plastic bottles were harmed in the training of this technique!

As with every month I carry out a fire drill to check everybody can use the breathing apparatus equipment, and we all keep in touch with the fire procedure. We are slowly getting better, and everybody managed to get less than 3 minutes going through all of the tests and putting the equipment on.

Rich has also started to do general maintenance on the Nansen sledges. We use these for our winter trips and whenever a trip is made off base using skidoos. They carry fuel, a tent, food, and general equipment to keep us warm and alive if an accident happens or the weather suddenly comes in.

We are all looking forward to getting the sun back and being able to get outside, although we will be coming into the coldest part of the year during September and October. We have winter trips to look forward to, a visit from the passing Basler planes and finally the arrival of the big red boat that will take us home.

As the light comes back we are all looking forward to what is probably the most challenging period of the year. I will finish with a couple of pics from the end of the month.


Joe Corner
Halley Electrician