Halley Diary — March 2010

31 March, 2010 Halley

So here we are at the start of another winter season at Halley!

Since late Feb the numbers on base have dropped from 111 to 11. It has been a busy finish to the summer season. Two flights out of Halley to Novo and then onto Cape Town with 35 people on board. Also for the first time in years we had both BAS ships alongside at Creek 3 at the same time.

The Ernest Shackleton moored up and began to off load our fresh fruit and vegetables for the winter. It was also her job to take away any waste which we had produced over the summer, which was quite a lot due to the building of Halley VI. With good sea ice in place this was not a hard task but still took a week as the ES filled every nook and cranny. The James Clark Ross then came into view a few days later and moored up next to the ES.

Nobody had decided to tell the weather of this rare occurrence and it duly started to blow and cause the sea to swell heavily. This caused both ships to return to sea and wait for the weather to break. At this stage everyone was ready to leave and return home to their families and friends. There was a lot of waiting around in the 4 days that followed as the wind stayed strong. The wind eventually dropped and the people moves started in earnest. With all people on board both ships they were ready to depart but sadly for the winterers we had an Aircraft to deal with so the tradition of waving the ships off was put on hold for a year!!

The base had gone from being manic to deadly quiet within 24 hours. The new winterers will be all alone for at least 10 months. GOOD!!

At Halley there are some traditions that do happen every year and one of those is the Melt Tank party! Before we shut down the summer accommodation block for winter, we use its melt tank to have our final long soak, before all we have is 2 minute showers. It was a good night and some hardy (stupid) souls decided to run round the building and back into the heat of the water.

Looking shrivelled like fish we made our way back to the Laws platform which would be our home for the next year and our first night alone.

We still had a lot of work to do and started the next day after a lie in. The Drewry scrub out and shutdown began and Tim, vehicles ops, started to winterise the site. Anything that we could get off the snow we did, saves a lot of digging!

We had our first Sat night together and with great wonder we completed the mid winter presents draw. We all pulled a name out of a hat and now all we have do is design and make a present for that person to be opened on Mid Winter’s day in June. It was a good night and the team started to bond well over insults and jokes, well mainly insults!! Looking like a vintage Halley Wintering team.

March is also a busy month in the field, Ed our Field Assistant, who only arrived about a week before everyone else left, takes the team out on their winter trips. Sledge Bravo consisted of Ed, Mike (Doc), and Rich (student). They headed off to the Hinge Zone. This is where the ice shelf and continent proper meet and causes all kinds of depressions and mounds, as well as some really big crevasses! Sledge Bravo was having a great time but the weather turned quickly and they got stuck in poor contrast for an extra week.

This was a frustrating time for both Sledge Bravo and base, which were waiting on their return to start the next round of trips. Again Sledge Charlie, Matt Hooper and Ian Sissons, had poor weather for their trip. Winds of 35 knots stopped them from doing much apart from spending a few nights in a caboose at Creek 3 but at least they could make it back. Next out was Sledge Delta (Ed, Ant Dubber and Jack Parker). They were also hit by the Halley weather, after a glorious summer the weather is now having payback!

Meanwhile on base works continues apace. There is a sledge line to move, hand lines to rise and drumlines to move. There is also the very important job of filling the flubbers. These live in tunnels about 35 metres underground and hold our fuel.

Jack our vehicle mech is busy winterising any vehicle that we don’t need for the next year. One of the jobs that everyone really enjoys is the base scrub out. We clean the base from top to bottom after the busy summer period so that our “home” is all clean and tidy.

With all the work going on we still had time to play!! We had Matt Hooper’s birthday bash, for which Ant our chef created some big burgers at Matt’s request, some managed to put 2 away????

Then we had St Patrick’s Day and me being Irish I had to celebrate all things Irish. Irish stew and Guinness Cake were washed down with the finest Black Stuff to the sound of the Pogues and U2. Some fashionable wigs were worn!!

Around this time we also had our first big “Blow”. Winds gusting up to 50knots and driving snow made sure no one would doubt the fierceness of Antarctica’s weather, but we still had to dig melt tank!!!

To round off the month it was Craig’s birthday, our sparky. He chose a fancy dress night, but it also coincided with a darts match against Bird Island, another of our stations. I think they got a shock when they saw who they were playing!!

The days are beginning to shorten as we head towards the darkness. This does have its benefits as the sky becomes a magical image.

All the best for now.

Patrick “Paddy” Power
Winter Base Commander

Thank you to all those who supplied pictures.