30 March, 2006 Rothera
By Tim Burton
photos by Tim Burton, Lowri Bowen and Chris Martin
Mad March. So much is happening. Emotions are running high as people either prepare for their return to the UK, or for the Antarctic winter.
People are leaving. Snow is falling. Weather is changing.
Everyone has mixed feelings with the imminent event at the end of the month, and then finally it happens: The Shackleton arrives, drops off many tonnes of building materials, frozen and fresh food and the infamous winter bond (booze!!), then disappears leaving 21 of us for 7 months.
It is also Mad March because people are realising how much they still have to do before they leave and are trying to get it done – a ski at vals, a crevasse visit, a fancy dress party – it’s the last chance for many men to wear a dress or bikini top and not feel too embarrassed (no names mentioned ahem).
At the start of the month, the aircraft depart, taking many people with them. This means a few things: No more fun flights around Antarctica. No more risk of death when crossing the runway of doom. No more planes taking up valuable sports space in the hangar. Sad to see them go, with friends on board, but also another step towards winter…
A fond farewell was said to Ant ‘Acoustic’ Tuson, who has served BAS for many, many years – both in pilot hours and music talents. He made his ‘final’ departure from Rothera (never say never Ant) in a Twin Otter on the 3rd. As usual, Alan and Geoff, in the Dash-7, buzzed the tower in style before heading north to the UK for the winter.
In a recent survey, it was found that 28% of the wintering team were called Mark or Tom.
After spending most of the summer season away in the field (although most of that was spent trying to get there and back) I returned to Rothera at the start of March. I was the last of the winterers to arrive, and finally the whole team was together.
Preparing for the winter comes in many forms – learning how to use breathing apparatus should there be a fire, how to contain oil spills, how to stitch someone’s head, or how to winch the Base Commander up an ice cliff in a stretcher. Admittedly, not skills you want to use regularly, but they could come in handy one day.
A more exciting bit was a talk by Kirk and Tom (which one though!?!?) about the winter training trips that each of us have during winter. Watch this space for polar hero stories about these trips in the next couple of months. The gnarly field assistants (see photo) had a trip out to McCallums pass to flag a safe route for winter.
Bernard was so keen he went on his trip before the winter had even started. A week at the luxurious (and newly refurbished) Lagoon Lodge, where he entertained several people over his 6 days away. Many a seal was photographed over a can of Guinness or two!
As it’s the last month, people tend to get out and about a little more, and celebrate indoors a lot too of course. One highlight was a Bar-B-Q at Vals (our very own little ski resort) It had an air of Chamonix, with pumping tunes over the mountain and a wide selection of abilities on the slopes, on boards, skis, sledges and ironing boards. Good fun was had by all. Many thanks to Rob Smith, Andy Barker and Riet Van de Velde for organising it!!
As the nights draw in, the snow falls and the temperatures drop, we felt there was a need to warm the place up a little. The Rothera Recreation Assistants (you know who you are!) decided on a hot, sweaty and sandy Beach Night. Without the sand. Palm trees and beach volleyball nets in the bar, (strong) punch lapping at your toes, paper fish stuck to every wall – as usual, we pulled out all the stops. The Saints, Riet and various helpers made a wonderful beach themed meal, and many a leg was bared by shorts and – er – other attire, and perhaps a bit of midriff or more later on if you were lucky/unlucky. Needless to say we’re not old fashioned here – bikinis aren’t just for ladies – other photos on request!
The end of March usually marks the start of Winter, although this year the occasion was a little delayed for various reasons. The RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived on the 28th March for final relief – bringing the final food and fuel for the long winter months. Base had run out of beer and other essential items, so relief was the correct word for most people. She was still here at the end of the month – so you’ll have to wait for next months diary to find out more about her departure and the beginnings of Winter 2006.
A fond farewell to all the Winterers who are leaving on the Shackleton, after spending between 18 and 32 months at Rothera on the trot. Thanks to them and of course all the Summer Crew for another fantastic season. Have fun back in the UK, keep in touch and remember to send photos of green stuff!!!
Much love to all my family and friends at home, sorry I didn’t make it back this March. I’ll only be a year late though! Have a fantastic wedding day Jules and Martin, and I hope you dress Anne up like a pink blancmange – photos please!!
See you next year and keep in touch Tim xx