Halley Diary — June 2005

30 June, 2005 Halley

Midwinter celebrations, written by Bryn Jones (AIS Engineer)

June began where May left off, with the temperature hovering around the very chilly mark of -50°C. However, life inside our warm and cosy base continued to tick over at its own leisurely pace with absolutely no major incidents to upset the rhythm (honest!).

Moving swiftly onwards and the middle part of the month saw a marked increase in activity as everyone rushed to add the finishing touches to their midwinter presents (or in some cases to make a start). Throughout this time the workshops rang to the sounds of people hammering, sawing, drilling, machining, polishing and assembling all manner of weird and wonderful things whilst doing their best to keep their prized creations hidden from the prying eyes of the intended recipients. Of course none of this would have been possible without the assistance of our skilled and resourceful technical services crew of Steve, Dan, Matt, Jamie and Gareth. Thanks for your help guys.

During the middle of June we were also treated to some impressive mid-day skies as well as the occasional, spectacular aurora.

And so on to midwinter, the highlight of the month and a chance to take a well earned break from the daily demands of delivering world-class science, engineering and cooking in a global context (that last one’s for you Kev).

A plethora of fun-filled activities had been packed into the week and first up was the rowing half marathon. Now quite why anyone would wish to subject themselves to roughly an hour and a half’s worth of mind numbing pain is beyond me, but nonetheless I salute those who did. So congratulations go in no particular order to Craig, Jamie, Kev, Mike, Frances, Vanessa and last but by no means least, Jeff. On hand to offer moral support during this Herculean trial was Captain Matt Butters of the pleasure craft ‘The Spirit of Halley’.

Tuesday the 21st of June was Midwinter’s day; the shortest day and a day on which we reflected upon the sacrifice and courage it takes to be an Antarctic Winterer. But more importantly it was the day we got our presents and what better way to receive them than from our very own dancing Santa (big Dan).

The standard of the gifts was truly exceptional and next year’s winterers will have a hard act to follow. Here follows a quick rundown of the gifts with the maker’s name in brackets:

  • Two piece hat and neckie (Miriam),
  • ‘Laws Wars’ film poster (Frances),
  • Antarctic rock clock (Vanessa),
  • winterer puppet (Petra),
  • crevasse oil painting (Craig),
  • framed photos (Jeff),
  • melt-tank weather vane (Simon),
  • hand carved big-fish-bone pendant (Steve),
  • hand made brass knife and plaque (Dan),
  • steam engine (Jamie),
  • bovine inspired designer bird feeder (Mike),
  • commemorative knot board (Matt),
  • sno-cat derived clock (Gareth),
  • book of culinary artistry (Kev),
  • gold plated electric tilly lamp (Ian) and
  • a robot penguin (yours truly).

Special mention must go to Jamie’s steam engine; an ingenious fire-belching contraption that went with a real bang (!) and a top speed of 15000 rpm.

Next up was the midwinter meal for which Sheff-chef Kev pulled out all the stops to produce a mouth-watering five-course feast fit for any FID. Quite a mouthful and well done to that man.

Midwinter’s Day was topped off by the radio broadcast featuring award winning funny man, Ricky Gervais, plus our very own award winner, Prof. Rapley. Despite their best efforts to steal the show (with what I must confess was a truly inspirational speech from the latter), the highlights for most of us were the personal and poignant messages from our loved ones.

With the sun now on its long climb back up the sky, the rest of the week saw a pool competition (I got thrashed in the final by Mike ‘dark horse’ Rooney) plus a special edition of ‘The weakest link’, entitled ‘The weakest FID’, in which we discovered who was a few shovelfulls short of a melt-tank. Dishing out the acerbic comments was our very own Anne Robinson in the guise of Simon and after a nail biting final round Jamie prevailed to join the likes of Nathan Keen in the show’s pantheon of winners.

The week concluded with a talent(less) night featuring such acts as Simon and Matt on the harmonica, Dr Petra Schmidt MD’s dodgy home-made video on the dangers of venereal disease (very amusing yet educational) plus the latest Antarctic pop ensemble ‘The Met Babez’ with their sensational/disturbing rendition of Britney Spears’ seminal hit — ‘Baby One More Time’.

Sadly, as with all good things, our midwinter holiday came to an end and so the last days of June saw us all return to work.

Best wishes to all my family and friends, wherever you may be, and I hope to see you in the not too distant future.

Bryn Jones