Sunday, 15 May 2011

Winter Is Coming

Sea starting to freeze over

The escapees!

Ready to depart

The summer has officially ended. The twin otter planes have left as has the Shackleton...full to busting with both summer staff and ex-winterers who are on their way to the Falkland Islands before flying home to the UK. It was a very strange feeling watching the ship depart. I felt a little bit jealous of those returning home but also excited about facing my first winter in Antarctica and looking forward to working with the small team of us left here.

The 20 of us who are remaining  stayed on the quay until the ship became out of sight and then returned to the base where we searched for the various booby traps that tradition dictates the summerers must leave us! Fortunately my kitchen was a booby trap free zone.
See you in 7 months!
So down to 20 folk from 120 folk, Makes a big difference in the kitchen I can tell you! And I now get two days a week off work which means the rest of them have to take turns in dishing up. I am not sure whether to be delighted or appalled at this. Time will tell I guess.

The first night of being the Wintering Team was spent in the place for a bonding session!

Rothera Winter Team 2011
 The first highlight for me in this new set-up was the treat of going on a Winter Trip. I use the words 'highlight' and 'treat' wih caution here as the thought of being on the Antarctic tundra in a tent, with no change of clothes, at minus 20 with no sign of a beer anywhere for 7 days did not instantly appeal. However, everyone else was getting worryingly excited about it.

Getting roped up

I was to be paired up with Mike, one of the Field Assistants. These guys know everthing there is to know about travelling in snow and ice and can sniff out a cravasse at 50 metres...well that's the story...and I hoped it was true! Before we left I had to do a couple of days training. This involved learning how to drive a skidoo that was roped up to another one. The trick here is to keep the rope tight but no so tight as to impede the leading vehicle. Sounds easy doesn't it.....let me assure you it's not. I also learned about the importance of travelling in pairs when walking on a glacier, harnessing up, learning how to tie several different knots into one length of rope and then prussiking up a rope (climbing up and down a rope with minimal effort - I am not sure whose 'minimal effort' was being referred to here...I suspect Sir Chris Bonington's). The other bit of the training was to actually go down a cravasse...which seemed completely unnecessary to me but them were the rules!

Goodbye Cruel World

Oh What Fun!
Are We There Yet?

How Do I get Out of Here?

But it was more than worth all the effort and intial anxiety. Standing in a cathedral of glass and unusual choral music as the ice broke, dripped and shifted around me.


In the next few days I will upload my picture from my first field trip and meanwhile will get used to more of the weather pictured below.

You think I'm walking to the kitchen in this weather!

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