Halley Diary — November 2012

30 November, 2012 Halley

1st November: As the Winter draws to a close and the last field trip returns the base begins preparation for the arrival of new people. The super warm clothing, specialised boots, and any extreme gear received at the start of winter are returned to the container for the next winterers. The now sparse boot room and increased wardrobe space reminds us that winter is at an end.

2nd November: The station is prepared for visitors who could arrive at any time depending on the weather. The weather at Rothera is not good and the planes wait in Punta. We continue to scrub bits of base to cover any winter exploits. The mass of beautiful photos that adorned the white walls are removed in favour of a more hospital like feel.

4th November: The plane has managed to get to Rothera and is now on route to Halley. We gather at the runway and wait for the plane. The plane is held up by head winds and takes much longer than anticipated. Finally we hear a low rumbling in the distance and see the first signs of life from outside of Halley in 7 months. As the plane arrives (19:45) we are joined by new base staff including the new Base Commander and a handful of Mechs led by Ben Norrish (vehicle manager). After unpacking the plane we take the Mechs to their new home. The Canadian team who fly the Baslers are also housed at Halley VI. After everything is taken into the base and plane secured everybody meets up in the lounge for well-earned refreshments. We hear news that a second plane has also set off despite the head winds. Met and radio cover continues well into the night.

5th November: The second plane arrives at 2 in the morning but most of the BAS staff have gone to bed as they will start the new summertime working hours. Everybody is at work by 7:30. The mechanics start the long job of getting vehicles ready so they can start site works. The new starting time takes some adjusting to.

The winterers are treated to fresh fruit and veg which has not been seen or tasted for many months. We are also joined by a Russian group who are on their way to Novo. The weather at Novo is no good and the two planes that now reside at Halley are unable to take off until a weather window opens up. The two planes are based at Novo for the season and will help deliver resources and people all over the continent. The two planes which are the same, have an interesting story one being an old drug smuggling plane and the other a police plane that tried to catch drug smuggling planes. One of the planes is rumoured to have been part of the D-Day landings.

By the end of the day the Mechanics have already started building living quarters that will go to Halley V for the demolition crews to live in. This will need to be done quickly as when the crews arrive to demolish V they need to start immediately so they are able to meet deadlines.

7th November: The Drewry is moved from its hole that has been formed over winter, it is dragged back up to the surface level. Nigel and Gareth begin surveying so it can be used for accommodation before it is upgraded. The weather has also changed quite rapidly, showers of snow can now be seen coming in off the coast, a true sign that the ice at the sea is breaking up and weather patterns of summer are taking hold.

9th November: with help of the plane crews and BAS staff who secure items to the wall using their bodies the Garage is slowly moved out of its hole into its new summer position. It cannot move far as it cannot leave the gate way tower which supplies power to the building, from the VI generators. Two dozers push from behind while four tractors tow the building from the front.

10th November: The window of weather opens up at Nova however Halley now has bad conditions with full blowing snow and heavy winds. The pilots are keen to get on to their tasks and new home go for a take-off anyway. After some trouble with the brakes both planes leave Halley. Timing their take off with drops in the wind so they are able to see the runway. Polar 6 is now unable to get to Halley and has to wait for our weather to clear up.

Its Rob’s birthday, it is celebrated by doc making a complete replica cake of the garage with a John Deere tractor. This is Rob’s second birthday in Antarctica. His wife and dogs are waiting patiently at home for his return.

12th November: they move the sleeping quarters to V in preparation for the arrival of the demolition teams.

13th November: Polar six stops briefly, drops some well needed engine supplies off to Mr Hooper the engine mechanic who has been working with no replacement parts for some time and four troublesome engines. Within the space of an hour Polar six has left and heads on to its next destination.

19th November: The plane arrives with 20+ people who have come in from Cape Town. These 20 will have to stay on base for the next few days before they are ready to go to the demolition site and begin work. As there is no more space at 6 they are housed in the now fully operational Drewry.

It is my birthday — the last winterer to have a birthday and Doc pulls out all the stops on her last cake. She creates three different ice creams worthy of Hagen Dazs – One Nutella, one Crunchy and one Christmas cake. The three mountains shaped ice cream piles have fluffy white meringue clouds on top. The Christmas cake ice cream has Christmas cake base and a whole candied orange. Homemade Maltesers something I had said I missed most were sprinkled about the cake. The massive effort put in by the doc is quickly destroyed as the winterers with just spoons to hand dive into the cake, collapsing the ice cream Mountains and making a mess. For the new people on base the winterers must have looked an uncivilised lot. After the lot had been devoured and a few sick stomachs later there was still enough to make ice cream cones for other members of BAS who had just arrived.

20th November: The two melt tanks under the bridge are dragged from their holes that have formed over winter. One will be used as the annex water supply; the other will keep VI with water. This means an increase in melt tank duty to once a day. A two person team has been set up to deal with it in weekly slots. The melt tanks are emptied before they are moved and a few lucky people enter the tank to scrub it out.

The demolition crews get their first chance to see Halley v the building they have been sent to take down. By the end of the day they have formulated a plan of attack and have started with very great speed to turn the Simpson (the old weather building) into a base camp. This includes office space showers, kitchen and communal rooms.

22nd November: Another plane arrives bringing an additional 15 people who will help with demolition or base duties at VI. The base is now teeming with life and the winterers begin to adjust into being part of society again.

23rd November: Ant the wintering chef leaves for V to cook and clean for the demolition crews. The 14 man wintering team is at last for the moment divided.

25th November: The demolition crews at V come back to VI for a well-earned break from the hard conditions they live in. Upon returning they wash their cloths and themselves after a week of hard graft in container accommodation. (One of the benefits is V does have a sauna)

27th November: The AWS at V is relocated after the accommodation buildings are situated to close to it. It now is situated 200 m south of the Simpson. Demolition at V is going well. The Laws now completely cleared begins to have its inner walls taken out. Everything is removed and put into the appropriate container for resale or disposal. A Cadburys chocolate bar from 1999 is found in the roof, probably left by the V building team, many years before.

30th November: overall a very quick month as the pace of base life begins to pick up. Time begins to accelerate. The winterers begin to look to their exits away from the continent that for the past year has been their home.