Thursday, 15 December 2016

Move to Temporary Camp 6a

A lot has happened in the last few weeks and it has been really busy on the work front – hence the lack of a blog post!

The Temp Camp at 6 is fully up and running and soon to be fully inhabited. 

The entrance!

It's been a busy time! The kitchen stores in the modules needed emptying out and sharing between the stores in the two temporary camps and the other stores we have at the two stations now. Frozen food that was buried last year needed digging out and storing in the freezer in the temporary camp and site 6. This will happen at 6a in the next few days so I’ll try and get photos of that at this side. There was cargo to sort to go out to the Falklands at First Call, when the ship comes in, next week. And there was the small matter of cooking for 80 people in the mean time. Busy times. Thankfully the summer chefs are in to work with Victoria (outgoing wintering chef) and me, so that freed me up to do the admin bit. 

I have now relocated to the new temporary camp at site 6a. It has taken a couple of weeks to get it up and running. A small party of people were based here for that time to enable work day parties to come across and do what they needed to do to get the camp habitable – get it sealed up, plumbing in, electrics etc. I came over a few days ago and we had a few evenings here with just a handful of us, which felt so nice after the business of the past weeks. Nice view from the kitchen too!

We had a bit of weather, though, and with just 3 of us on base here at that time it meant a lot of digging! The snow really accumulates around the Weatherhaven mess tent. If not dealt with it would bury and be crushed and so it needs digging out. Directly by the tent this needs to be done by hand to avoid damaging it, but the diggers can lend a hand when possible. Unfortunately there were no diggers here at 6a, so this meant digging it out by hand several times in the day as the wind kept blowing. Al and Sam did most of it while I sorted some kitchen and stores bit, but I did a bit too! Demoralising when you keep shovelling and shovelling and when you turn around it’s all filled right back in again! The weather cleared up eventually and we had a lovely, quiet, sunny evening to enjoy.

It was really nice to look at the Tag Board here at 6a and see only 3 names. Our tags are metal as we are part of a wintering team, whereas the summer folk have plastic tags. Just nice to see that Al and I were the first of the wintering team to be based here at 6a. The blue tags are layered at the bottom as there are so many people at site 6 at the mo. It's been peaceful here at 6a...

The general set out of the camp is nearly the same as at 6. We have a few more bed room containers and a doctor’s surgery here, and no laundry, which is different from camp 6. We also have less bathroom facilities as the original plan was to move the Drewery building (the one I was living in at 6) earlier and to have it here to provide more bathroom and laundry facilities. But we do have a couple of loos and showers so it will be fine and we send our laundry back to site 6 to be done for us! Not such a hardship!
But as I said the lay out is the same really with a large Weatherhaven tent to use as our mess tent, which is quite a nice space really. The containers are all lined up with a covered corridor to connect everything.

 There were a couple of small spaces that needed sealing after the blow but nothing too serious.  

It’s quite warm really  - perfectly comfortable. The bed room containers actually have under-floor heating and can be too warm!
I’ll make sure to take more photos of all the container “rooms” at another time.

The garage is being moved here today and so more people have arrived and we’ll be up to around 20 by the end of the week.  I hope to get some photos of that when it arrived in a few hours time. The journey time between bases varies as to what vehicle you use – SnowCat, Piston Bully, John Deer – all painfully slow, with the Skidoos being a bit nippier. But when towing a big garage building the time slows considerably!

I managed to take a couple of photos whilst out helping with the melt tank at site 6 before I left. The melt tanks are filled from the top so the dozer makes a ramp up to it and pushes the snow up. All we have to do is then help some of it in and then clear the area where the lid goes so it can close properly.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Temporary Camp at Halley 6

As most of you know, the big (huge!) project this season is moving the camp from it ‘s current position, at Halley 6, to a new position about 23km away – Halley 6a. The main job on site so far has been getting the Temporary Camp up and running so that people can move out of the modules and work can then start on decommissioning them. The Temp Camp is built mostly out of containers joined together by a sealed corridor, which leads to a communal mess tent, or Weatherhaven tent, at the end. The containers have all been kitted out so they work as sleeping quarters, bathroom units, a boot room, a laundry, a melt tank, a freezer, a fridge, a dry stores, and of course a kitchen.

The above pic shows the Temp Camp infront of the Modules. To the right is the WASP (work shop) and then at the far right are the Tech team containers.

The Weatherhaven tent with the kitchen container to the right.

As usual there are also people still staying in the Drewery building (the summer accommodation unit), which is where I am for now. But this year there are also four cabooses outside housing more people. They each sleep four people. I’ll make sure to get some pics of the interiors of them and the temp camp at a later date, as it’s an interesting set-up.

The move to the Temp Camp could come early next week, at which point we’ll have to move out of the main kitchen to be working there. We are three chefs at the moment with a fourth joining us in a couple of week’s time. The idea is to set up another Temporary Camp at the 6a site and have the chefs split between them.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Cape Town to Halley

Lucky for us our plane from Cape Town stayed more or less on schedule and we found ourselves heading to the airport early on Thursday morning. You check in with ALCI (the company we fly into Antarctica with) as you would any other flight and go through normal airport security.

It’s a pretty “no-frills” affair, but comfortable. The flight to Novo (a Russian base) took about 5 hours during which we were offered refreshments and were able to use the loos – two port-a-loos strapped down at the back of the plane. When we neared our destination we were asked to put on our warm clothing and we were able to watch our landing on a TV screen at the front which beams through footage from a camera in the nose cone.

We hung around at Novo for a little while. There was cargo to sort and passenger lists to adapt. The initial plan was to fly us on to Halley in two groups in quick succession. But the crew from the next plane we would be using were called in to help with a medical evacuation else where in Antarctica. Luckily, they were still able to take one group through, and I was in that group. The next group are having to hang out at Novo for a little while until the middle of next week … hopefully!

And so it was on to the Basler plane. These planes fly through Halley from time to time and always look amazing, so it was great to get a chance to fly on one. We helped the crew load her up and we were on our way. A quick 4 hour journey over to Halley in amazing weather! A Piston Bully towing a sledge was our taxi ride from the ski-way up to base. We quickly unloaded our bags and grabbed some dinner, whilst saying hello to the wintering team we left months ago in March. This was followed by a quick briefing and then to bed. Easy as that!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Cape Town

A very quick post from Cape Town. A large group of us from BAS travelled down on Sunday/Monday and should all go well we will continue our journey to Halley tomorrow. But we had a day and a half to have a look around Cape Town with some fantastic weather. An open bus city tour was the order of the day.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Autumn Colours

I've been trying to make the most of my time before I head South in little under a week! It's hard to try and make sure you see people, whilst trying to sort all those little last bits and bobs out. But it's been lovely seeing family, some old friends, and soaking up all those lovely Autumn colours. I'll soon be surrounded with mostly all white, so I'm trying to absorb and remember all these wonderful greens, reds, oranges, yellows and browns while I still can.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Fire Training

When South, there's obviously no possibility to call out the fire brigade! So each year, a few members of the winter teams are trained up on basic fire fighting skills with Breathing Apparatus. At Halley our fire fighting resources are limited as we rely on the built in fire suppression system. We would never be fighting a large fire, but we could well need to locate somebody in a smokey room or something more like that. However, going on a course where you DO get to mess around (safely!) with a bit of fire is pretty fun! And the Breathing Apparatus training is invaluable.

The group with a mix from Rothera and Halley.

Getting ready - making sure you're totally covered up, there's no leaks in your equipment and that it's all working correctly.

 Practicing getting a casualty out of an awkward tight spot.

Putting out a fire on a simulated wing of a plane.

The course is held at Duxford Airfield, which is also a War Museum and they have a great collection of aircraft through the ages as well as tanks and other bits and bobs. It was great to see some old planes being checked over and flown around while we were there. It's well worth a visit if you are in the Cambridge area.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Training Begins

The first step to heading South again is heading to the week long training course at Girton College in Cambridge. All the wintering teams from all the bases attend training there each year, along with some of the summer staff. We have a separate training week with the Halley summer team in a couple of weeks so it was just the wintering team there this year. 
All of the training takes place on site at the college, where BAS takes over for the week. What a great maze of buildings!

Training consists of presentations, group discussions and practical sessions shoe-horned in to busy, information-packed days. It is pretty uniform for most people, though there are a few sessions that differ, depending on what your role will be on base. 

Oil-spill training (pictured above) was one of the sessions I did not attend.

But Fire Extinguisher training was pretty fun (and of course informative!). I have more fire fighting training to come next week when I go on another course so I'll try and put an update about that when I am done there.

After a week at Girton all the winterers (again from all bases - Halley, Rothera, Bird Island and King Edward Point) headed up to the Peak District for a few days of outdoor skills training. The course is held at an outdoors centre where most people slept in the tipis provided - though Al and I drove the van up and slept in that. We had mostly lovely weather and were able to brush up on a few bits and bobs, as well as get to know our fellow winterers a little better.

This is an example of the tents we use down South when on our winter trips. The massive hole cut out in the side is not a usual feature (not great for warmth or shelter) but merely to enable people to easily see in and see the set up, for those who had not seen it before.

We had the opportunity to brush up on our abseiling and jumaring too.

And then there was the no-expense-spared white-out navigation exercise! I suppose it's hard to simulate blowing snow in a lovely, sunny Derbyshire field on a warm September's day. It also has the added comedy value to offer some light relief.