Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Time To Go

First stop after breakfast is to the local BAS agents who have all our extreme weather kit waiting for us….20kgs each to be precise. This is the first time I have seen my kit having sent my vital statistics via email to Cambridge a couple of months before. I fear something has got lost in translation…everything is way too big and my survival trousers are at least 12 inches too long in the leg. Step up the Base Doctor who let me borrow a pair of hers. I feel faintly guilty about that suppressed smile in Heathrow now.

Next comes the flight briefing and this is the moment when I realize that it’s all deadly serious. The Russian cargo plane is full of cargo and 60 passengers. Apart from the 18 of us there are teams from Finland, Australia and India who are also being flown to the Blue Ice Base at Novo from where each team gets picked up by their respective Bases. Everything is fine except for us lot going to Halley. We are told that because of the weather we have 15 minutes to transfer all of our cargo and baggage from the Russian plane to the Halley plane or risk being stuck at Novo for a week… a tent.

Additionally we are told that the Halley plane can take 12 people plus all cargo or 18 people and some cargo…so if we wouldn’t mind, during that 15 minute period, would we decide which personal items and which pieces of weather gear we wanted to take because we couldn’t take it all….only half of it to be precise. The stuff left would be brought on later….about three weeks later. We are to take off in 12 hours time….swine flu jab permitting.

And yes we really should have the swine flu jab. Unfortunately however there appears to be only 3 doses available in the whole of Cape Town…and I didn’t draw the short straw!

This is the interior of the Russian cargo plane with attached portaloo. In flight entertainment consisted of documentaries (with subtitles) and a little Russian guy handing out sandwiches and tea and coffee. The rumours of vodka and caviar didn't come to fruition. That's me sat under the Canadian flag. Please do not zoom in on this picture as I am not looking my did zoom in didn't you?

6 hours later as we neared Novo everybody indulged in a mass strip as summer gear was swopped for winter gear.
The landing was pretty smooth but deafening with an ever increasing crescendo of high pitched shrieks.

Standing on top of the plane's steps I shall never forget the view...the land of the Ice Queen..and for a moment I didn't notice the cold. Then it hit me and it felt as if the skin on my face was on fire.

We loaded all of Halley's kit onto a sledge which was then towed to the side of the Halley plane and as quickly as we could, with Antarctic gloved hands, started to sort our two bags each into one bag. We were then told that we had more time than had been thought and could go off to the little yellow catering tent for a cuppa....bliss. The tent was double lined and was like a steam room inside.

Arriving back at the Halley plane the pilot was a little confused as to why we had sorted our luggage into two piles. After we had explained our previous instructions he just shugged, said "Russians!" and told us to bung it all us sorting out our undies in -10 had been completely unnecessary.

This picture is of the "Great Sort' we had to do when we arrived at Novo. The stuff next to the plane is what we decided to take whilst the remainder is on the right of the picture. In the background you can see the Russian cargo plane.

We would have to fly to Troll first (A Norwegian station) to refuel so we could get to Halley. I loved this experience as the plane skidded about the ice both on take-off and landing and I was surprised how unafraid I was. However it was a bit scary taking off from Troll when the pilots did an immediate turn around and landed again because two cables on the plane's skis had not been removed which meant the landing gear couldn't fold away once airbourne. We nearly had to refuel again!

On arrival at Halley all our gear was loaded into a trailer which we then jumped on to be towed off to the Station. I am in the Laws accommodation block sharing a room with Julie. I have the dubious honour of being on the top bunk. I still haven't figured out a ladylike way of getting into it. At the moment the floor seems a better option.

So far we have dined on bacon butties, a full lunch, had an induction and a tour of the perimeter by skidoo and santa sledge.

Fantastic fun!


  1. You're there! Doesn't sound like the journey was as bad as you imagined...

  2. As Lin commented, not that bad a trip, although that plane ( of course I zoomed in...) did look dodgy...

  3. sounds like you are having a fab time so far.did zoom in,cant decide if you were reeealy tired or drunk,hopefully it was the former! cant wait for more info.