30 November, 2004 Halley
November has been a busy month here at Halley with preparations for the coming summer season well and truly underway.
As the winter begins to a get a grip back home in the UK and the days are getting ever shorter we are now experiencing 24-hour daylight once more and will have to wait until February 2005 to catch the glimpse of our next sunset.
On the work side – Gareth has been busy commissioning all the vehicles ready for their summer work-load and has been doing a lot of groundwork around the station. Nigel and Tommo have been busy thawing out the summer accommodation building and re-installing showers and washing machines in preparation for all our summer visitors when they arrive in December. Tommo has also been helping Graeme Barton to install and set up a new generator on the Piggott platform so that we have a new engine running in time for the summer.
November has also seen the last of the monthly building surveys to be conducted this year and these have been performed by Graham Gillie plus volunteers. The next surveys will now be done in the new year just before all the buildings are raised in order to keep them above the snow surface.
The VLF (Very Low Frequency) caboose, that used to house the electronics for the VLF experiment has also just been lifted off its steel legs and has been towed from its old location about 1km away, back to the station so that it can be shipped out in the new year and returned back to the UK for a facelift and re-fit.
On the science side the Simpson, Piggott and CASLab (Clean Air Sector Laboratory) teams have been making their own summer preparations as well as continuing the usual data collection and experiment maintenance.But it’s not been all work, work, work !
The beginning of November saw the last of the Halley post winter trips and part of the last trip involved man-hauling a sledge from Halley 12km to the coast and back. The brave souls to take up the challenge were Ed and Jeff and after towing a sledge containing food and provisions down to Creek 2 they returned the next day having lost a few pounds but gaining a few blisters.
On November 14th a group of us also made the most of a lovely sunny Sunday to take part in a global walk to raise awareness of diabetes. We gathered outside the Laws platform before walking to the Halley memorial monument and then followed the 1km drum-line out the VLF caboose (before we took it down).
On November 20th we also received the first visitors to Halley in nine months. The German polar air-crews stopped to refuel their Dornier aircraft on their way to Neumayer Research Station. Their journey had taken them through South America, over Drakes passage to the Antarctic peninsula and then down the peninsula to Rothera Research Station. From there they flew over the peninsula and across the Weddell Sea to Halley before re-fuelling and to continue the last 800km to Neumayer. The Dornier planes pass through Halley each year and it was good to see some familiar faces after all this time. Not only that but they had brought with them two sacks of mail and a box of food supplies from Rothera containing a few essentials like tomato ketchup and cornflakes.
For the hour and a half that the air-crews were here the Halley ski-way resembled a filling station with two Dornier aircraft sat patiently on the forecourt. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone, leaving us to go back to the laws platform and discuss our brief visitation while opening a few letters from home.
The improved weather has also meant that everyone is spending more of their evenings and weekends outside. If the wind is over 10kts Steph can usually be found outside being towed around by his kite and if there is no wind at all then ski-jouring (being towed on a snowboard behind a skidoo) seems to be the most popular activity.
November has now drawn to an end and we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first BAS Twin Otter plane from Rothera in early December. This will mark the true end to our 2004 winter experience and the start of the busy Halley summer season.
Like many of us here at Halley my Antarctic visit is now coming to an end and I will soon be heading home to see friends and family once more.
Halley is both a harsh and very beautiful place and the memories of my experience here will, I’m sure, stay with me always.
Love to all my family and friends, have a great Christmas and see you all in the Spring.