June – Midwinter

30 June, 2006

June, month of maximums, minimums, everything, nothing and mid-winter!

Hello everybody it is I, Riet, the chef here at Rothera and I will tell you about the beautiful month of June. A month where a lot of things have happened.

We are in the Antarctic but sometimes, temperature wise, you really don’t have that feeling. The beginning and the end of the month were typical autumn days like in Belgium and the UK. A lot of wind, very high temperatures, +5.4 degrees and rain. What was that again about the driest continent?? The temperatures were that high that we got a visit in the sub-tropical Ryder Bay from the L.M Gould (American Research Ship) To be honest it was very weird to see a ship again after a few months of isolation. Unfortunately they didn’t invite us for tea!

In the middle of the month we also had the coldest temperature recorded, -21.4. So that gave us for June an average temperature of -7.6 – not bad for the Antarctic!

To be honest bad weather already signifies a big part of the winter. Bad weather means no boating, and then when we had good weather, but the crane that launches the boats into the water broke down. It was a hard job for the Vehicle Mechs (Mat and Tom V) but they managed to fix it. Good news, there was again boating at Rothera. Bernard was very happy to drive Richard H and myself to Anchorage and continued the training program with Lowri and Mark S. The fun with the fixed crane didn’t last for long. The next day the sea-ice came, isn’t that very unlucky!

Being on Anchorage with Richard H, I could see with my own eyes the damage the weather can do to science. Some of the solar panels at the Dutch site on Anchorage were completely destroyed. We dismantled them and brought them to the shore. We also did another check at our own site and there we saw a damaged rain-gauge. So the same procedure as with the solar panels, dismantle it and bring it back to shore. What was supposed to be a quick check on Anchorage took us a lot longer, but still it was a beautiful day. Thanks again Richard to give me the chance to see another aspect of the work on base.

A permanent internet connection gives you the opportunity to keep in contact with relatives and friends. If you can chat with the outside world you also can do that with other people on the Antarctic and with other British Bases. We got invited by Halley to play a darts game against them. Thanks to technology, two webcams, a telephone and our Comms Manager Michael we played darts against Halley on a Friday night. I made sandwiches for the Bar where the game was going on. It was a very nice experience. It was a close game – luckily we threw the last double and won the best of three with 2-1. We didn’t win the BAS championship because a few weeks later we lost against Bird Island.

Apart from fixing cranes, skidoos, snocats etc, the Mechs finished the refit of their office. It has changed a lot. They even have a new option in their office. If you come back with a broken skidoo, you can wait with a nice cup of tea and a car magazine until you skidoo is fixed. To be honest, it is a very nice service.

The highlight of the month was probably Midwinter’s week. Due to the celebration everybody gets a week off. There is a cooking rota so I don’t have to cook and there are lots of things to do during the week. It is still brilliant to see what people create here when they are cooking.

The week started on Friday night with the traditional pub crawl. It was a big success and everybody made a good effort to transform their work space into a nice bar.

We had a pool tournament won by Mark S after a long sloping final against Kirk. Kirk is doing a second winter and had to defend his title but unfortunately last year’s tactics didn’t work for this year.

Probably as traditional as the pub crawl is the winter Olympics. This year we had ice climbing, Super Giant slalom for ski and snowboard and skidoo trails. Ice climbing was won by Richard Hall, he also won the Super G slalom snowboard. I won the Super G slalom ski after beating all the GAs. I was only beaten by Tim but he got disqualified. Reason: too experienced. The skidoo trail was a real thriller. Soon it was clear if you come back for a second winter you make a good chance to win it. The top three were people who are doing a second winter. Number three Tim after getting a 10 second penalty, number two Mark ‘Halley’ Maltby and the winner Tom ‘Marshie’ Marshal.

Midwinter’s day was a big hit. Everybody showed up with beautiful self-made presents and I did my best to impress all the winterers with the meal. Traditionally there was the midwinter broadcast from the BBC, which was very much appreciated by everybody.

We finished the week with a murder mystery dinner organised by Lowri and Tom S (I think the pictures say enough) and a BBQ at North Beach. Wow what a week.

Sea-ice comes and sea-ice goes. During midwinter’s week everybody got their sea-ice training. I went with Tom M up to Mackay Point to do some drilling. Nordic skiing in boat suits is not the easiest thing to do, but we made it back before dark. We had up to 32 cm at Mackay. Everybody started to dream about the new winter-trips on the sea-ice. Unlucky again – at the end of the month we had the perfect combination to make the sea-ice disappear. +2 degrees and 50 knots wind. Yes, that again is the Antarctic.

Everybody thank you for this very busy and beautiful month at Rothera.

That’s it for June, I hope you enjoyed it.

Riet ‘Belgian Fury’ Van de Velde, Chef at Rothera

Vele groeten aan iedereen thuis in Berchem, Denderleeuw en omstreken. Dikke kussen aan mama, papa, Evie en Seba en heel de familie. En voor die het nog niet weten eind november begin december wordt ik peter van Evie en Seba hun kindje is dat niet fantastisch. Ik mis jullie toch wel een beetje hoor tot binnenkort..