Monday, 25 January 2010

Back Again!

 I expect you thought I had been eaten by a Weddell Seal? Well they don't come as South as these parts very often but our colleagues at Rothera often have to gently persuade them to leave the runway there. Apparently the best way to do this is to tickle them under the chin with a sweeping brush....try it next time you want someone to move out of your way. The image at the top is the size of your average Weddell compared to a 6 foot (2m) man.

Anyway I digress. I have now switched to working the night shift and life is gradually getting into a routine again after the chaos of the unloading of the boats.The picture above left is where the boats came into....a dramatic meeting of the ice cliff with the sea ice. The unloading went on for 24 hours a day and took nearly 3 weeks to finish. The guys who were ferrying the stuff across the sea ice had the doors and windows removed from their vehicles just in case they fell through the ice and so aid a quicker escape! Pretty cold work!                                                                        

I had a bit of a treat for my birthday....I was made an Honoury Winterer. This may, to you, not sound anything special. However...only Winterers are permitted to walk on the 5 of the Winterers and I walked over the sea-ice (with the instruction still ringing in my ear that if I were to fall through the ice, to spread my arms out as wide as possible as quickly as possible...yeah right) and climbed on board The Shackleton where I was treated to a tour of the ship and several rounds of drinks at the Ship's 2 small tins rule here...Hee Hee. The journey back seemed much quicker for some reason....

And I do remember that I promised you pictures of representing Scotland in the Antarctic Cricket tournament. A flashing cover drive to the boundary no less!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Happy New Year

Hope 2010 is a good one for everybody.

Sorry I've been out of touch. We've all been hanging about a bit waiting for the arrival of the Russian cargo boat that is bringing the bits and pieces to build the new station. It was supposed to turn up on Cristmas Day but due to the sea ice being unusually thick for this time of year the boat turned up 10 days late...not bad considering on several days they estimated that they had only travelled 200 yards trying to find a weakness in the ice to steer through.

So there has been a bit of extra leisure time during which I was able to show off my cricketing skills (although in reality it was a glorified game of rounders) and to spend quality time tobogganing down the ramp the garage guys have bulldozed in the ice cliff down to the sea ice! I also had the dubious pleasure of launching one of the daily weather balloons.....and remembered to let go just in time!

And then with the boat having turned up...all hell broke loose and whatever your primary role in life may be it is changed into getting 200 tonnes of cargo off-loaded as quickly as possible.

The garage guys have spent a lot of time drilling a channel through the sea-ice so the cargo boat can dock as close to the station as possible and have cut the ice at an angle in the hope that the boat will hit it hard enough to break a big chunk of if off to make mooring the huge beast easier. Their idea worked....almost too well. The ship hit it so hard they had to leg it back up the sea cliff just in case the whole sea-ice shelf broke off.

Now starts the Depo Line. The skidoos drag one sledge each from the ship up the ramp to the waiting Challengers which can drag two sledges each back to the base. It's a minimum 40 minute round trip and goes on 24 hours a day. Because of the distances one of the chefs (Ant) has been deployed down to the ship to create a basic kitchen to feed the guys as their sledges are being loaded.

But it's very interesting despite the 18 hours really don't know what is going to pass the kitchen window next. From the window I can see the Depo Line right to the horizon. It's a bit like a line of ants! This is a picture of part of the new Halley VI station being pulled into place.

Oh joy...and then the Shackleton turned up. So the plan of being able to off-load the cargo boat before Ernest made an appearance has not worked and there is yet another 50 tonnes of supplies to offload. Priority is being given to the cargo boat as it is costing BAS 2000 pounds a day just to be moored there. However the fresh food on the Shackleton has been unloaded and I have spent the last few days trying to find space to store it....and cooking of course....and no more opening tins of spuds....I've got to peel them......tiresome.

Now all the new folk have arrived we have opened the second kitchen which I work with John (the one with the beard!). The routine now is 2 chefs work the day, 2 work the night and the other 'floats' between kitchens and is responsible for making the bread etc for the next day.

It's a tight operation and despite my weariness I am beginning to get the hang of it and enjoy it.

Hopefully in my next post I shall have some photos of the ships etc. Forgive me if you don't hear much in the next few days but after this unloading is done I should have more time.