30 September, 2004 Rothera
September was a very diverse and dynamic month on base. Our penultimate month of winter had lots in store. It got off to a fine start after an incessantly windy August. The month was a great improvement on the previous, with many more Dingle days (fine weather days).
The Caboose was broken out of its resting place on the Wormald ice piedmont and carefully escorted down to base for a full renovation. The Caboose is an all weather emergency shelter, which is possibly 20 years or more old. It is more commonly used for recreational purposes such as making tea after a hard days skiing or spending the weekend off base.
The mechanical team of Airth and Booth were pivotal in the safe traverse of the Caboose, as were the Field Assistants and anyone else who could spare time off their gruelling work schedule. The remainder of the month was spent gutting and refitting it completely.
There were numerous successful winter trips. Sledge Mike, (Paul Torode and myself) had a short but action packed 4 day trip. On day one we climbed Orca peak and managed to get through the notorious McCallums pass. We had a forced nights stay in an emergency pup tent as strong winds and blowing snow crept upon us, reducing our forward visibility to zero. The following day we awoke to glorious sunshine and breathtaking scenery. It’s amazing how fickle the weather can be down here.
At the same time Sledge November, (Graeme and Rob) had one goal in mind; to climb Mt. Bouvier, at 2250metres, the highest peak climbed in recent times at Rothera.
They reached the summit at 14:00 on Wednesday after a challenging 6 hour ascent. There was just enough time for some photographs and a bite to eat before descending the peak and retiring to the pyramid tent for reflection and a well earned nights sleep.
On Rob’s second winter trip in September, Sledge Romeo, he and Hamish managed to get to Carvajal, an old British Base now run by the Chileans as a summer only operation. They also successfully climbed the peaks of Snow Ditte and N2 and enjoyed two days of rest and relaxation confined to their tent due to inclement weather.
Toddy was out again in September, but this time with Dan. They were one of the lucky few to have excellent weather conditions for most of their trip. After their initial skidoo breakdown setback, they were soon cruising the glaciers of Adelaide island again. As well as a day trip to Carvajal, they climbed the Myth in glorious sunshine.
Sledge Papa, Dougal and Andy Wilson, had ambitious plans for Andy’s winter trip but sadly these did not come to fruition as poor contrast and visibility prevented them from getting through McCallums pass to the other side of the island. Not to worry, Andy will have two more opportunities next year as he has opted to spend a second winter at Rothera.
September also sees the start of snow clearing operations. This is a frantic time for the vehicle mechanics as they are forever clearing snow from the runway, apron and access roads only for it to be drifted in again the next day. There is also plenty of snow relocation necessary by shovel and elbow grease. Our Base Commander, Steve, is often spotted around station digging out windows, doors and the like.
Cyril also got behind the wheel of the big JCB 456 for a couple of days and as well as doing a fine job, thoroughly enjoyed the experience away from the hot stove.
Kat, Adam, Graeme and Toddy excavated a fantastic snow-cavern out of a snow drift which had formed alongside Bransfield house. They spent many hours carving the finishing touches to the inside before inviting the rest of the station for a Saturday night’s entertainment. The theme was James Bond and although cold, the ambiance created by well placed candles had us partying into the wee hours. Of course, people dressed up in various outfits – from Jaws and Pussy Galore, to one of five evil non-descript henchmen.
After weeks of anticipation and keeping our eyes peeled, we had a newborn Weddell seal pup on the sea ice in north cove. The first of the year, it was born early one Saturday morning. Several others were to follow and they are probably the cutest of all the animals here, even more than the Generator Mechanic. When born they resemble an empty fur sack that quickly stuffs and bloats itself on milk over the next two weeks before being taken into the water for its first swim.
Fin, the base Doctor, instructed us on the finer points of blood transfusion in the unlikely event of our services being required. We took each others blood, tested for type, and examined samples under the microscope to check for compatibility. Some went a little green at the use of needles and had to have a lie down on the Doc’s couch!! A most informative course for all who attended.
Errr…Well…what can I say about this one. Does exactly what it says on the tin? Basically, winterers dress up in random outfits, resembling everything from a member of the opposite sex (Kat, Adam and many others we think) to a Traffic Warden (Phil ahem!), Gary Glitter (Jules) or YMCA Builder type (Rob). Others included a particularly convincing French Maid (Toddy), “Conan the Barbarian on Slimfast” (Tim) and a rather frightening “man” with a beard in a skirt (Paul B). As Rotherites, we never pass an opportunity to humiliate ourselves in public, and this was a great chance to do so in style!!
Cyril, as ever, cooked a fantastic meal for us, but it was easy to be put off by the way he was dressed whilst serving! This is a photo of some of the more publicly acceptable outfits – Dan as a body paint fanatic and Kat as…er…..Dan!
The majority of the post midwinter winter training trips were badly affected by the poor weather, which has plagued us since mid July. As a little compensation for people who couldn’t get out at all, some people managed day trips through McCallums pass and the Wright Peninsular, with some activities included.
Scotty and Phil had a day trip through McCallums Pass of sorts, with Dougal as their friendly and able Field Assistant. This was work not play though – to rescue a badly injured skidoo from Dan and Toddy at P-Buttress. They took them a nice shiny working one and dragged the other back on a sledge.
The next day Paul Booth went out with me on a whistle stop scenic tour of the area, going through McCallums pass for a breathtaking picnic and coming back via Sunnyside Bowl for more sightseeing and then some skiing and snowboarding. This was the first time that Paul has managed to get this far off base, and he came back with a suntan and a huge grin on his face.
For his day trip, John told me he wanted a long snowboard run. I don’t think he realised at the time my idea of a “long run.” As well as the whistle stop tour I dragged John up Mt. Gwendoline for more than two hours – an ascent of almost 3000ft! John got what he asked for though – with some of the most amazing views and a very long board back down.
Next month brings lots of changes to Rothera – after having the place to ourselves for almost 7 months, the planes arrive and bring fresh faces, fresh food and our long awaited post and 20kg parcels from Family. By September, the end is feeling pretty imminent, and some people are trying to complete the projects they had been talking or thinking about doing for the last six months!! For most of us it will mark the end of our only winter spent in Antarctica, and for some the first of two!! It’s easy to take things in your stride here and not always think about where you are and what you’re doing – I imagine next month will be a time where we realise and appreciate these things and get ready for the busy Summer season ahead.
Hello to all family and friends from the Rothera Crew and a special Hello to the Brennans and Burtons (and you Sally) Thinking of you all, and looking forward to seeing you in a few months.
Anthony and Tim
For a map of Adelaide Island, Rothera and places of interest, click here.