24 December, 2013

Christmas messages from Antarctic staff

Many British Antarctic Survey scientists and support staff will be spending this Christmas thousands of miles from home on the frozen continent.

BAS has five research stations around Antarctica — Rothera, Halley VI, Bird Island, King Edward Point and Signy — as well as running two Royal Research Ships — the RRS James Clark Ross and the RRS Ernest Shackleton.

Some scientists will be in the deep field, including a group traversing the huge Pine Island Glacier as part of the BAS-led iSTAR programme. They’ll be spending their Christmas in pyramid tents on the glacier.

Jane Francis, director of BAS, said:“Having spent Christmas in Antarctica myself I know how those based at our research stations, on our ships and in the field will be feeling at this time of year. They will be missing their families and friends of course but the camaraderie in Antarctica is fantastic and everyone working there knows they are helping conduct world class scientific research which aids us in understanding our planet. We wish them all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Rothera, situated on the Antarctic Peninsula, is the largest research station with just over 100 people working there during the Antarctic summer months. Its Base Commander Mike Brian said Christmas day would be the “calm before the storm” as the RRS James Clark Ross was due to arrive on December 28 with supplies and, hopefully, a Christmas parcel or two.

He added:“Although we’re guaranteed a white Christmas here, it is in fact the height of summer, with temperatures soaring to around 1 C at times (compared to around minus 25°C in July and August) and sunglasses and factor 50 sun cream being vital. Although we hugely enjoy Christmas on station, inevitably our thoughts turn to our friends and family we can’t be with while we’re down here. We’d like to wish them the very Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of Hogmanays.”

Adam Bradley, Base Commander of Bird Island Research Station said its crew of seven were dreaming of a white Christmas: “But we are more likely to get the standard summer recipe of sleet, fog and high winds, usually all at once. Whatever the weather, our scientists will spend Christmas day on the beaches and up the hills, making the most of the long daylight hours to study the behaviour of the thousands of seals, albatrosses and penguins that inhabit the island.”

Afterwards they will all make time to call relatives and get changed in time for a meal and then a party, said Adam, adding: “Wherever you are in the world, the British Antarctic Survey team at Bird Island wish you a very merry Christmas.”

At Signy Research Station the hard working staff will have to celebrate a day earlier as the RRS James Clark Ross is due to call on Christmas Day itself.

Matt Jobson, Base Commander at Signy, said: “Two members of staff will be busy packing in readiness to depart Signy on Christmas Day and as they leave there’ll be three new members joining us. Hopefully then our Christmas Eve celebrations will turn out to be a quiet traditional affair with the base staff having a well earned day off. Even though it is summer here we’ll be pretty much guaranteed snow and a white Christmas as temperatures are set not to exceed minus 3°C. Best wishes to all our families, friends and loved ones from a very snowy Signy.”

Meanwhile at King Edward Point Research Station (KEP) they are preparing for a Christmas season full of cruise ships and tourists as the mild weather means they could well get snow on December 25.

Dickie Hall, KEP Base Commander, said: “This time of year always sees a lot of people visiting the old whaling station of Grytviken which lies just around the bay from our base, this year is even busier due to the church there celebrating the centenary of its consecration. We’ll be looking forwards to a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and, weather permitting, venturing out into the amazing countryside we have here to climb a local peak or two and get some fantastic views.”

Wherever BAS personnel are based overseas– be it on ships or on stations – all the staff at Cambridge wish them a very merry Christmas.