Rothera Diary — July 2012

20 July, 2012

July at Rothera. The excitement of the midwinter’s week festivities is slowly dying down and the base is returning to its usual routines. All the midwinter presents, that many people spent weeks and weeks perfecting, have now been made and exchanged. For some this means a little extra time on our hands and as such a few people on base have made a start on various winter projects. An Antarctic winter is a great time to undertake a project or learn something that you have always wanted to do. Sometimes this is learning a new language. Tom our PSD engineer is well under way completing a sailing course. Tim our sparky is building a chair. My particular project is to attempt to build an electric guitar. It has so far been a very enjoyable experience and one that I have always wanted to try and a great way to fill my time when the wind is howling outside. I have slowly watched my chunk of wood take the shape of a proper guitar and with luck the final parts will be coming down early in the summer season and I will be able to put the guitar through its paces at one of Rothera’s many musical nights.

As part of station life one of the tasks that everybody on base undertakes is to work a week on the night shift and during July it was my turn to roam the base whilst everybody else was sound asleep. Most of us on base quite look forward to our week of nights as it’s a break from the normal routine, which for me means a week out of the kitchen and letting the other base members cook for the week. This break from the norm means that it almost feels like a little holiday, even though you still have to work pretty hard. The main point of nights is to check that all the base systems are running as they should. So several times each night we do our rounds, quite a mission when the weather is bad, checking each building for problems and making sure everything is as it should be. With only 18 of us Rothera never feels crowded but on nights you mostly have the base to yourself with only the howling wind, the creaking buildings and some loud music for company.

During July we undertook a SAR exercise, a very important part of the Rothera experience. Basically the search and rescue exercise is vital training for the base members in case there should be an incident or emergency on or off base. This particular exercise took the form of an injury to our base commander George during a local walk around the point. The twist was that Rob our doctor was out in the field and unable to return. This meant that the medical assistants, members of the team that had gone through training back in the UK, had to take the place of Rob regarding the treatment of George. Firstly though we needed to get George back to base to be treated no easy task itself in the depths of winter. The whole base mobilised. Some were sent out to the injured George to complete ABC checks check his status and perform any assistance they could for him at the scene. Others raced off to the surgery to prep everything for George’s arrival and skidoo’s and sledges were prepared and deployed so that the injured man could be safely returned to base.

It was not possible to get the transport all the way to George, so when he had been made comfortable and an emergency splint placed on his leg we carried George around the point until we arrived to the sledges and skidoo’s at which point he could be carefully driven back to base. The exercise highlighted how important each one of us needs to take our safety down here and also it showed what a combined team effort is needed if something was to go wrong in this cold and beautiful place. I have to say that the team did a fantastic job.

Since the 18th May there is one thing that I think all on base has been looking forward to and that is the return of the sun. There is nothing better than a dingle day at Rothera with the sun shining surrounded by breathtaking mountains and iceburgs, the middle of July saw the return of this much needed ray of light. We had the raising of the flag ceremony (the opposite to sun down in May) on the 19th July. The sun was actually above the horizon a little before this date but we had had quite a few days of very cloudy weather so the 19th was the first day that the sun really came out to play. Scott the youngest of our motley crew had the honour of raising the new flag. Several members of the team celebrated by braving the cold and wearing just shorts and t-shirts (not for very long by the way).

I can not write the July diary without mention of one of my favourite Rothera pastimes and that is playing in the winter band F.T.P. We had our very first performance at the end of midwinter’s week, which took place in the new “green room” (music room) and it seemed to go down very well and we practice regularly sometimes twice a week. In the band with me are Rob Green on drums, Ash Cordingley on bass and Ash Fusiarski on vocals and guitar. We have a punk rock style that most of the time means turning it up very loud! Watch out for us soon at a stadium near you.

This leads me on nicely to one of the last events of July, which was Rothera’s got Talent, a chance for the base to show off some amazing and some rather dubious talents. We had music, music with some comedy thrown in, poetry and a disturbing but funny comedy opera performance piece from our sparky Tim. All in all a good night was had by all.

So that was July at Rothera. We all look forward to the remaining winter months, continuation of the science, film competitions, winter trips and then the return of planes and ships bringing with them more people, but more importantly freshies!

Justin Boulton