Rothera Diary – November 2014

20 November, 2014 Rothera

October saw the arrival of the first Dash 7 of the season containing the first of the summer staff, and quite a few other planes from different Antarctic programs. It was nice to see some familiar faces after it being just the 19 of us for the last seven months, although this meant a lot of snow clearing, especially keeping the runway clear to allow the planes to land. After the initial Dash 7 there was a steady stream of summer staff arriving every four or five days, so by the First of November there were approximately 70 staff on base.

I spent the beginning of the month opening up Sky Blu, which is a small camp with a blue ice runway used to support deep field operations. This involved getting the camp set up and getting all the machinery and camp infrastructure from its underground winter storage. Setting up the camp proved to be quite interesting with temperatures of −20°C and strong winds most days. We managed to get all of the tents pitched in a couple of days, and then the day after the last tent was pitched, we had a storm with winds gusting up to 70 knots. This put our tent pitching skills firmly to the test, but thankfully all the tents held fast. Once the camp had been set up, the runway was cleared to allow the Dash 7 to land and start bringing in cargo and fuel for the summer field science season.

Just a couple of days after I got back from Sky Blu we had a surprise visitor on base, a rarely seen at Rothera, Emperor penguin.

The next Dash 7 to come South brought with it a new engine for one of the machines on base. This kept us three base mechanics busy for a week or so, and meant that we were back up to a full fleet of machines. This allowed us to start snow clearing on base, ready for transporting cargo around when the James Clark Ross arrives at the end of December. It was Remembrance Day this week, so a small ceremony was held at the base memorial, on top of the hill overlooking Ryder Bay.

The following Sunday turned out to be a beautiful cloud free day, so the marine team organised a recreational boat trip. There was plenty of wildlife to be seen, and still a lot of icebergs which made the trip really interesting.

Quite often on base, people will organise different things to do on a Saturday and this week, the musicians on base decided to hold a music night. We had an early dinner then all made our way to the lounge to enjoy the talents of the musicians on base. There were a variety of acts playing a plethora of instruments, and a good night was had by all. The next day was my turn to do ‘gash’ which involves various cleaning duties and washing all the dishes after lunch and dinner. It’s a Rothera tradition that the ‘gash’ person picks a film to watch on Sunday night, so after much deliberating, me and my fellow gash man went for something possibly a bit too high-brow for a Sunday — ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’.

One of the field science parties was despatched into the field the following week, and this required a mechanic to go and service the two skidoo’s that had been depoted in the field over winter. I turned out to be the lucky one, so flew to Fowler Ice Rise and stayed the night and serviced the two skidoo’s. The following day me and Vicky Auld (pilot) were sent to dig up an old drum depot situated near the Fowler camp site, then flew to Sky Blu and picked up some science cargo. We took this to another field science sight called Site 5, and stayed there overnight. The next day we went to the Ronne Ice shelf to pick up some drums again to be dropped off at Site 5. We camped at this site overnight again, then flew back to Sky Blu the following day. We spent the next two nights at Sky Blu, then finally made our way back to Rothera for a well earned shower.

My five day trip in the field staying at a few different sites was a great way to end a busy month. With Christmas coming up and the James Clark Ross due in for first call at the end of the month it looks like December’s going to be another busy one here at Rothera.

Chris Evans

Vehicle mechanic