Halley Diary — May 2005

31 May, 2005 Halley


The month started with the yearly Sundown ceremony, to mark the day that the sun disappears and we start three months of darkness. As the oldest member of the base, Jeff had the honour of taking the flag down. It was looking rather sorry for itself after being up for 9 months – only half of it was left! The ceremony ended with the flag being raffled off, ironically this year it went to Petra, the only non-British person on base! It is definitely a good memento for her though.

After all this excitement we had a barbeque (whose idea was that?!) to celebrate. Kev spent the morning preparing all sorts of goodies for us, and Simon braved the elements to make sure the platform wasn’t set on fire. It wasn’t the best weather, -25 degrees C and blowing about 15 knots, so the food was burnt on the outside, raw in the middle, and frozen by the time it was taken inside. Still, with a little bit more cooking inside, a good time was had by all.

Work-wise, May has been the month for stocktaking. Everything on base is being counted, from the nuts and bolts to the toilet rolls, and lists being sent back to Cambridge to order everything we need for next year. It is important to get orders right, or we could run out of something vital, or end up with mountains of spares (would anyone like a coffee? Go on, you know you want to…).

Things on the Piggott have been ticking over as usual. Jeff is looking after the VLF and optical experiments, Bryn looks after the AIS, Simon deals with the data, and I am responsible for the SHARE, Geologger and IRIS experiments. Now it is dark most of the time, we have to fit outside work into the three or four hours in the middle of the day when the sun is close enough to the horizon to give us some light if it is a clear day. A lot of the experiments run from the Piggott (and Mike’s comms equipment) have antennas that need constant maintenance to keep them in safe and working order. SHARE on its own has 64 stays that need loosening every month to counteract the snow build-up. As you can imagine, this is a pretty tedious job, but Dan helps me to do it each month, and we manage quite well without freezing our fingers! Bryn looks after the AIS masts, which is very important, as they are 45m high, so any wrongly tensioned stays could be very dangerous.

Back on the Laws, in between counting everything, the technical services people have continued keeping us alive, warm and with electricity. Steve has also been continuing the monthly breathing apparatus training.

Petra is mainly counting things, but likes to keep her hand in looking after the occasional illness or injury, and also deals with the waste, which has to be sorted for recycling (when will people learn that clingfilm is not the same as a plastic bottle?!). Kev is usually found in the kitchen cooking something lovely, and being concerned about people’s health in the food department.

Off the Laws again, Gareth is always busy servicing vehicles that have been used and abused over the summer, and on the winter trips, in his garage. The Simpson people have been looking at the weather as usual and working funny times as Craig has been on nights. They have also been looking through the met records to find out whether this month has been the coldest May on record – unfortunately it wasn’t, the mean temperature for May was lower in 1964, and the lowest May temperature was in 1995.

We have also had two birthdays this month, Simon and Dan both celebrated in the traditional way – cake and a late night in the bar.

In the middle of May, Gareth gave over his garage to Club Nido on a Saturday night. Much fun was had by all, and the dancing seemed to be split into shifts – the Simpson people had the early one, followed by Matt, Kev and me, and Gareth, Steve, Jeff and Ian kept on going until they had to come back to the Laws for food! It’s good to see that the older generation can keep going longer than the young ones!

The last day of May saw the magical temperature of –50 degrees C. This was celebrated in the traditional way, with over half the base streaking around the Laws platform (no, we haven’t got any photos of this…). We spent the afternoon defrosting and coughing, as our lungs warmed up. Simon also persuaded Frances and me to go outside with wet hair and dangle our heads upside down – we proved that ice is as good as hair gel! Frances’s worked much better, I think my mop-head is getting a bit too shaggy for these kinds of antics.

Next month we have got Mid-Winter to look forward to, with holidays, presents, and more streaking.

Lots of love to everyone at home, especially my mum and dad, Helen and Iain. Also congratulations to Gerri and Chris, Jen and Darren, and Claire and Rob.