Halley Diary — November 2009

30 November, 2009

November started with all hands on deck as we prepared for the first plane to arrive. The electrician Robert (wrongun) Johnson, plumber Robert (zebedee) Dunn and myself were busy de-winterising and starting up the Piggott and Drewry buildings. This takes a few days to do as each building has to be warmed up from about −18°C to a nice liveable temperature.

The 8th of November and our winter was officially over as the first plane arrived with some of our replacements on board. There were mixed feelings among our wintering team as we had such a good team many did not want the winter to end, although everybody was happy to see the first batch of fresh fruit — even Curly the vehicle mech was seen to be nibbling on an apple. This was very strange behaviour as he is normally only ever seen with a bacon sandwich. He later told me an apple a day would keep the doctor away and our pesky doc had spent most of the winter in his garage painting a fire sledge.

The winter team had to have the swine flu jabs when the first plane came in, so Karen our comms girl decided to be the doctor for the day and was giving out the jabs under the watchful eye of the pesky doctor Susanna Gaynor. She was not so willing to give the Chef his jab as he required it in his buttock instead of his arm so he could carry on stirring his sauce pans.

Once a few more people had arrived on the first plane our first job was to clear a site for the Drewry building so Colin (Shifty) Reston our vehicle operator was bulldozing snow all day until Mr Bell was happy. We then connected 4 bulldozers, 2 Cat challengers, and 2 John Deere tractors to the building and with one almighty heave she came out of her winter bed and then we were on the move to her new position — it looked like the world’s largest member of the caravan club. It was then a few long nights for the members of Tech Services as we got the Drewry lights, water and heating on and ready for the next lot of 18 people who were to come in on the Basler aircraft.

Halley was now becoming a proper little airport with the help from G.I. Les (Giles Finch) our resident meteorological expert who keeps the pilots up to date with the weather and flying conditions at Halley.

Paul Cousens was onboard the second aircraft to arrive at Halley. As well as my line manager for technical services, his secondary job at BAS is the beard expert and his arrival signalled the end of our beard competition on base. He spent several hours inspecting our beards before declaring our chef John the winner, with myself and Rob the sparky not far behind. Giles had attempted to grow a beard, but there is more grass in Halley than there is hair on Giles’s chin.

Niv our GA managed to get himself a co pilot seat in the BAS twin otter plane to go and help take some fuel to a field depot in the Theron mountains and some field kit to Sledge Romeo at Pillow Knob in the Pensacolas. He did bring back some stunning photos.

One of my weeks in November was spent on nights. My nightly duties included the making of bread for the increasing numbers of people on base; no two loaves were the same much to the amusement of the chef. I also had to mop the corridors, wash the chef’s whites and tea towels, and make tea for Nicholas (curly) Gregory, the vehicle mechanic, who is normally up and about at 5:30am warming up the vehicles.

Nick had done a great job looking after all the vehicles over winter — every skidoo on base had a full rebuild and spray job. It was great to see all his good work put to use as now vehicles were working all over base and one of the most impressive sights of the season so far was when after much preparation by the Morrisons construction team, the Halley 6 modules were moved by bulldozers from their resting place for the past two years to a new building site so work can continue with the impressive new structure.

We were all working 12 hr shifts, 6 days a week assisting the building of the new Halley 6 base, so when we were given a chance to get off base to get to the coast to see the penguins, nearly half the base decided to go on the little trip. I was quite surprised by the changes at Windy Creek; I had only been there 5 weeks before on my winter trip when the sea was frozen as far as the eye can see, now most of the sea ice had blown out with only a few hundred metres remaining. The emperor penguin colony and their chicks are now quite cramped on this small piece of ice. It was quite a special moment going to the ice edge and watching these great creatures diving in for food and even more impressive watching them get back on to the ice from the sea as they come up from the depths of the icy water, then appear as they almost torpedo themselves back to the safety of the sea ice away from the dangers of the killer whales and seals.

We were lucky enough to have some emperor penguins come up to us on station and the winter base commander Agessjhvggf (ags) FRYC,HJGWSC had the great idea for us to have our winterers’ photo taken with them in and we were all really happy with the result.

I am the last 2009 winterer to write a diary so I would just like to say thank you to everybody involved with our special experience, especially all our friends and family back home.

We now hand over the base to the new winter base commander Patrick Power and his team of winterers and I have to admit I’m a tiny bit jealous to see them all taking pictures of the surroundings that are now so familiar to us as they start their own special experience, but hey this has been happening for the past 50 years or so at Halley Bay and I’m proud to be part of its history.

Ben Mapston
Generator Mechanic