Thursday, 25 December 2014

General Stuff

I finally got round to taking a few snaps around the base so that people at home can get a more general idea of how things are here. So I don’t want to write too much really.

We had a lovely early Christmas on the 20th. Dinner and everything went well and we decorated the main A module, or Big Red, for a more festive feel. I won’t post a pic of my room (pit room as they are called here) as it’s a huge mess and mum would be ashamed of me. So perhaps that will have to wait! For now, here are a few pics.

Merry Christmas from everyone here at Halley

The view from my bedroom window

Some views from inside.

Picnic bench outside the workshop

And last but not least, here's one to prove to my sisters that I am practicing my ukulele!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Ice climbing and penguins

It’s been over a month since I arrived at Halley now. My day off is usually on a Thursday, which obviously means everybody else is working.  With some bad weather last week it meant that all unessential travel on base was restricted. So it was great when a trip was organised last Sunday and was I offered the day off to make the most of it.  How nice it was to get off base with a bunch of good people for a fantastic day.
We all piled into the snow cat and drove about 2 hours to where the ice shelf meets the sea ice. Al, Will and Mike set up some top ropes off the ice cliff and we were all able to have our first go at some ice climbing. I hadn’t had a go before and had visions of it being nigh on impossible but it was actually really manageable and a whole lot of fun! The weather played along too and the sun came out for a pretty warm and wonderful day. It also gave us another chance to see some penguins, who don’t usually hang out there so much, so it was a real treat.
I will get round to posting some photos of general day to day life at Halley one of these days – I’ll make sure of it. At the moment we are gearing up for “Relief”, which is when the ship (the Ernest Shackelton) gets in with the annual supplies, the rest of the 2015 winterers and some more summer staff. That will push our numbers on base up to 56 I think. During relief it’s a 24 hour work day, so people are on day or night shifts. Another chef is coming in for the summer so he’ll be on nights first, and then we’ll work out a schedule so we can hopefully get a solid couple of days off. It will be great to have somebody else in the kitchen and he is very excited for his first trip south too. The ship left Cape Town the other day so hopefully they are having a smooth a journey as possible!!
We have our Christmas celebration on the 20th, to squeeze it in before Relief. So John is in the kitchen today making some Christmas cake, and we’ll work together on the day to get dinner sorted  and make it as nice as possible for everybody.
Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now. As I said I will post again soon with some inside photos of more “normal” life here in Antarctica.  Until then, bye for now.

Monday, 17 November 2014

First Trip

Last Sunday turned out to be an amazing day! The incoming wintering team members who are here already were given the opportunity to go and see the Emperor penguin colony down at Windy Bay. The very same ones we had flown over less than a week before.  It was a slow and bumpy drive there along a flag line – heading off to what just seemed the middle of nowhere! Eventually we arrived at the small caboose that BAS has set up there – a small cabin with bunks and a heater/stove. We had our briefing in there with Ian, while Rich and Al went to set up the abseil. The penguins are down on the sea ice, and we are up on the ice shelf, so to see them we had to abseil 30 meters down the ice cliff. Quite a daunting task when it came down to it…but GREAT! Once down we were free to have a walk around.  Under the Antarctic Treaty you are not actually allowed to get too close to the penguins, but they don’t really stick to it and often come up really close to you to give you a good looking over. The penguin chicks were, of course, a real highlight too. To then get back up on to the ice shelf we had to dumar up the 30 meters. We had done 5 meters on our field course back in the UK and that had been a challenge, so we had all dreaded this a little.  However, it turned out to be fine! Of course it wasn’t easy but it was absolutely manageable and so we had great satisfaction when reaching the top. It took a while until everybody was back up, so it was nice to get back to the vehicle and have a slice of cake and a warm place to sit. After another bumpy journey we were back at Halley – slightly weary but having had a GREAT day!!

Long Journey to Halley

Finally… a moment to sit down and write what I’ve been up to in the last couple of weeks. After all the build up over the past months it was time to get my stuff together and go. With lots of help from my family I managed to sort my last bits out and get packed. They’ve had a lot to put up with me this year so I should just say a HUGE thank you here!! With the very difficult goodbyes done, I met up with some fellow BAS folk and we set off on our long journey. 
First it was Heathrow to Madrid with a few hours to wait there before catching our next flight to Santiago, Chile. From there we headed to Punta Arenas, briefly stopping at …… to offload some passengers and pick up some more. The journey to Punta came with some amazing views of the Andes and massive glaciers and fjords.  A night in Punta allowed us to go and get some good food (after the plane food muck!), a couple of Pisco sours, a visit to the sky bar and a little stretch of the legs, not to mention a good night’s sleep.
The next morning saw us heading straight back to the airport for our flight to Rothera. The weather was pretty good most of the way and we landed just time for dinner. It was good to catch up with some people from the field course who are either there for the full winter or just the summer season. We ended up having a full extra day due to weather disrupting our onward journey. To fill our time we went down a crevasse, snowboarded and went penguin spotting! Not bad!
And the next day we were off. I flew in the co-pilot seat for the first leg of the journey to Fossil Bluff. Here we had a fuel stop and a toilet break – consisting of a visit to the pee-pole…it is what it is.  This is how it’s done out in the field here. Consequently it was probably the nicest view from a “toilet” I’d ever seen (if you wanted to know). From there it was on to the Three Ronnies Depot for another refuel and pole visit, where it also suddenly felt a lot colder! And then it was back in the plane to head to Halley. We had a great view as we approached the ice shelf and flew directly over the Emperor Penguin colony at Windy Bay! What a treat! A short while later we finally viewed Halley for the first  time, - surrounded by miles and miles of ice.
A very long journey! We arrived pretty knackered and with heads spinning to a warm welcome from out colleagues here, and again – in time for dinner! We had the next day to settle in and explore the crazy place a bit before getting to work. I’ll stop there for now. Enough for one post I think.  The next one can tell you more about my time here so far and our first trip away from base!....

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

To start things off...

This is really just a token post to get the ball rolling. I meant to start this some time ago, but time ran away from me a bit and so here it is....just over a week before I head off! Still a few things to sort out but I think the majority of it is done. I'm trying to spend some nice times with family before I go and also trying not to panic!