Monday, 22 November 2010

Back Again

Hello Again Everyone!

It's happened! I have caught the Antarctica Bug and am smitten with the much so that I have decide to come back again but this time on an 18 month contract which means I will be living and working here for two summers and one winter. I am working on a different base to last time. The Rothera Base is now my home. It is very different to Halley...more of that to follow.

I thought my adventure would start when I got here however the process of getting here has proved more of an adventure than I could have envisaged or desired!

After spending a relaxing summer on Paros I attended the two week induction process in Cambridge for winterers in the Antarctic. The first week consisted of the Girton Conference which is the Pre-deployment Training Course providing practical advice and information regarding the trip, and more general background on the British Antarctic Survey and its work. It was a good chance to meet with the other people I was going to spend a lot of time with over the next 18 months.

Camp Kitchen
It might not look high
But it was....really
Following that was a four day field trip course in Derbyshire which introduced me to such delights as lighting stoves, setting up tents and cooking shelters and harnesses and knots! Oh yes and there was the little matter of cravass rescue and hanging upside down in a howling wind whilst realising I didn't have the upper body strength to right myself or pull myself back up to the top. However I am pleased to report that my team recognised my importance and cries of 'Where's the Chef?' 'Pull the Chef up' and 'Wait for the Chef' could be heard at regular intervals! See where being able to make a lasagne can get you! I had a small laugh at the Health and Safety assessment that came with the field course programme. It stated 'Failure to follow established procedures and instructions will lead to serious injury and/or death'. Good to know where you stand....or hang. I have to admit to really enjoying these four days. It was good to work as part of a team again and it also gave me the chance to meet up with mates from Halley. Whilst I left, wet, cold, muddy and sore in places I never knew I had, it did give the feeling that the adventure was really starting.

After the course I returned to Paros for a few weeks which gave me the time to get all the gear I needed ready. Whilst in the UK I had filled up my P-Box (each winterer can send a box of stuff via the survey ship James Clark Ross). I have decided to take up archery to fill the long winter months....will keep you updated with my progress (assuming there is some!)

The date for departure kept being moved back. The certification for the Dash planes which would transfer us from Chile to Rothera had been delayed and I formed personal relationships with the Olympic Air operators as I changed my ticket details to the UK for the 3rd, 4th, 5th time. Finally a date was set, all the tickets and hotel reservations had been made and I went out for a celebratory meal at my favourite resturant. When I came home my whole world turned upside down.

Exhibit No 1
THE DOG HAD EATEN MY PASSPORT. She had taken my handbag from off the settee and devoured the passport (along with a tube of mints) whilst leaving everything else, credit cards etc intact.

The Prime Suspect
I had three days to sort it out before my flight left to Chile. Back on the phone to Olympic...blah, blah blah. An appointment for the next day at the British Embassy in Athens for an emergency travel document and an appointment the following day at the Passport Office in Victoria, London. Those two sentences really don't give a sense of the stress and hassle and the anger at being ripped off by a 4 star Victoria Hotel....I think I have blanked most of it out. Anyway feeling substantially lighter in pocket (do you know that an emergency travel document...which lasts for 24hours...costs the same as a new passport?) it was a huge relief to get to my hotel in Heathrow and collapse in a passport clutched firmly in my hand!

The following day I met up with the 5 other BAS folk with whom I would be travelling to Rothera. Because of the delays with the Dash aircraft we were to be the first group to land in Rothera this summer. The flight to Santiago via Madrid was long but passed smoothly and as we arrived very early in the morning we were able to spend the day sightseeing. Our taxi driver on the way to our hotel offered to take us on a detour to see the 'shuttle' that had successfully pulled up the Chilean miners. Unfortunately when we got there it had gone.....if it had been there in the first place!

I was very taken with Santiago. Very modern with impressive highrise architecture and MASSIVE. It is the 5th largest city in South America. And of course dwarfed by the Andes....quite beautiful.
Punta Arenas

Me and the gang waiting for grub
The next day we left for the 5 hour flight to Punta Arenas which is the main settlement on the Strait of Magellen and the town which now has all the flight links for Antractica and the Falkland Islands (since we fell out with the Argentinians). A very colourful place with each building seeming to have a different coloured roof than that of its neighbour. We were here for a couple of days and had a wander about and sampled the local cuisine....a tip for would be travellers to Chile...if you ask for the menu you get the set meal of the day...whatever that happens to be, always rounded off with a nice cup of tea!


Memorial to Magellan in Punta Arenas
 Punta Arenas has some amazing statues and monuments. Apparently if you rub the foot of this particular one you are guaranteed to return to the City again. I suppose I should be careful for what I wish for!

One well rubbed foot!

Tomorrow we set out on the 4 hour flight to Rothera. A sense of nervous excitment!