Tuesday, 28 February 2017

My last full day?

One thing that's been obvious this summer is that here in Antarctica, plans change all the time! Having said I may be off today, that then changed and I should be off tomorrow...maybe. The ALCI Basler came in but the passenger list changed and instead of eight people flying out it changed to six and twelve of us should head to Rothera tomorrow. 
It's a lovely day here today. The sun is out and still offers some warmth, though it's getting a lot chillier in the shadows. I thought I'd try and take a few quick pics to make the most of it.

The plane coming in. Jan's wind farm is there in the foreground. That has been recently put up to power some science equipment over the winter.

John's taxi service to the ski way.

I look out of the window in the kitchen area here and see the neat lines of containers outside and thought I'd say a little about that. The base is kept really neat and tidy throughout the year and is very organised. We don't just park skidoos anywhere, or pop a container here or there. Everything has to be kept in a certain way in order. This means that windtales and wind-scoops won't develop where they aren't wanted, which can be dangerous when the visibility goes. The snow can be more easily managed when everything is ordered and of course it's then more easy to keep track of where things are. The vehicles guys do a great job of keeping it all sorted and really tidy.

All the containers are put on to winter berms to avoid them getting buried as snow accumulates. Sometimes this is one long "super berm".

And sometimes these are smaller separate berms like in the left of this pic above.

The Drewry is already sat in a little windscoop of its own after the last couple of blows. The snow is packed down directly by the building and then built up around it. 

The side door into the living area used to have quite a drop to the "ground". No longer. Since yesterday's blow the snow comes up and above the door in a pretty snow drift.

The sides of the Drewry windscoop are really pretty now with the textured sastrugi.

I forgot to include an inside shot of our phone booth in my last post. Not exactly super private, but pretty cool. Photo proof of Shrove Tuesday pancakes also.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Cosy new digs.

Just a quick post with a few pics of our living area and the kitchen in the Drewry. We're down to our last few days here, should the weather work out. My plane is due in today, though we haven't yet had confirmation of that. The plan was then to fly to Rothera tomorrow. We shall see!
It's very comfortable here though. Cooking for twenty with a small domestic oven has actually been fine. It's very different sharing your work space with other people to whom it is their living space, but it has worked well (I think). We're getting the last bits and pieces sorted to make sure the Drewry isn't a big mess when people are back next summer - cleaning products could freeze and burst and then thaw next year and other such things. Everything will be drained down and winterised before the last people have left.

The News and crossword on the table in the foreground are still a daily staple.

The far wall is where we project any movies or TV programs we watch from the vast media drive we have down here. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Life in the freezer.

Earlier this week it was time to bury the two reefers that have been outside the Drewry since Relief earlier in the season. They were housing all of this year's new frozen order. They obviously need power to work usually, but should keep the food at a good constant temperature when buried. It is fairly common to bury frozen food in Antarctica and the supplies we had buried last year for this year did really well and were in excellent condition. 

We have a small supply buried for the very start of this season, which will be more easily dug up than the large reefers (which weighed in at just over 10 tonnes each). And to last the next week or so, we have our mini-freezer that the vehicle guys made me - located just outside the Drewry where the reefers were. It's working a treat and is actually more accessible than the reefers were. There had been a lot of climbing over things and belly crawling inside those reefers to locate certain items. This one is just a small hop into a large whole. Really it's a two-man job - the getting out part at least. But using a box of fillet steak and a helping hand from Al, it was easy enough to be heaved out!

I took a couple of more pics of our melt tank here. We get quite a big mound of snow pushed up by Pete in the Bulldozer, which we then shovel into the tank itself by hand. The red flags mark the pretty deep and lengthy hole the digger leaves, so that we don't stumble or drive in to it on poor visibility days.

We are having some lovely mornings and evenings at the moment since our first sunset last week. So here's a nice shot of the Modules from the other morning for good measure.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Camp dismantled!

We moved out of the temp camp one day last week and by the end of play on that same day it was nearly all dismantled. Sorry for the not great pics - I was taking them through the window of my new room in the Drewry. The Weatherhaven mess tent, which was set up at the far end, had already been taken down in the morning. At that point I was getting to grips with my new kitchen and trying to make sure people still got their meals on time - so know photos of that I am afraid.

And after all of that, one of the Baslers came through to take a few people home. Their route was first to Novo, with a quick stop at Neumayer on the way to refuel, and then on to Cape Town from there. It was a great day on weather front. The ski-way is not visible from where we are situated at the moment.
The airport transfer was the usual sledges being towed behind skidoos.

The plane coincided with the closing of the science camp at site 6. Ten people had been stationed over there to oversee the last bits of science work there and to pack everything up. That leaves us with twenty people all here at 6a together. The next flight in will be the one taking me out to Rothera,
 from where I'll head home via Punta Arenas.

Last days of Temp Camp 6a

We moved out of the 6a temp camp last week and into the Drewry, which is usually the summer extra staff accommodation "building". I managed to get a few pics of the various containers before the camp was taken apart.

The Kitchen - where I was working for most of this season. It worked pretty well and had everything we needed for the past few busy months.

This is the entrance. The door on the direct right takes you outside. The door straight ahead on the left was a little phone booth with the door on the right being another phone booth/tools storage area.
The board hidden by the door on the left is the tag board. We each have a tag with our surname on it so when you leave the camp you move your tag to another location listed on the board. You also use the book by it to sign in and out. This is the same system we use whether you are in the Modules, a temp camp, or now in the Drewry.

The Boot Room. This was the next container down from the Entrance. Obviously you leave your outdoor gear here so it doesn't take snow all the way inside to melt and leave patches of water everywhere (which you then stand in in your socks!). 

Not a good pic I'm afraid. Each bedroom container had a little entrance foyer where you could also leave any gear. I kept my outdoor stuff in here to avoid it getting mixed up in the boot room while it was really busy. It had a separate heater in there so you could get it nice and cosy to dry stuff out. Snow down here is mostly dry and not the wet sleet you get back at home sometimes,so luckily stuff doesn't usually get really soaking.

he Bedroom. Four beds with a wardrobe each. One wardrobe is out of shot to the right of the pic leaving three running down the left hand side with space for a desk by the window. The room had already been boarded up for winter by the time I took this shot so there was usually a slightly better view out of the window. The great thing with these containers is that you could open the windows, which you can't in the Modules or here in the Drewry.
My bunk was the front top one.

This is the main corridor looking up from the mess tent. The kitchen door is right at the edge of the pic on the left - the blue door frame.

These containers were the fridge and freezer for the camp. The mess tent doorway is on the right of the pic.

The uni-sex bathrooms. Toilets at the front, showers to the rear. The "modesty curtain" is swept out of the way. This was used to varying degrees of success!

The dry food store. This was opposite the kitchen, across the corridor. There were two shelves running down the one side, but we had already removed one.

The food container once we'd cleared it out.

The mess Weatherhaven tent. It's already a bit cleared out at this point as quite a few people had left and we had slowly worked our way through a lot of food by this point. 

Even more clear here.

With a lot of prep work done, the final move out of the camp was pretty smooth. We only had to shift out as far as the Drewry, which was only a few meters across from the main entrance. It had been a LOT of work in the run-up though. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Neighbourly Visit

I had a quick and wonderful visit to our neighbours at the german Neumayer station yesterday run by the german equivalent of BAS called AWI. BAS were sending a Twin Otter to pick up some cargo and my line manager John offered me the opportunity of co-piloting the flight. It's always great to get outside and go off base as I don't get a lot of excuses to do so. So I was really excited to get up and head off the following morning. 

We are still using the ski-way at site 6 at the moment. After take off we flew along the "road" from 6 to 6a and then over Halley 6a.

Olly, the pilot, offered to show me the latest crack, Halloween Crack.... the one that is causing all the latest problems. We flew over and had a good nosy. It's amazing and you can see it stretch for miles and out to the coast. It is close!

We then flew on to Neumayer. It's about a three and a half hour flight and we had clear weather all the way. 

It looks very ship-like to me. I made the excuse of needing the loo to dash along up to the station on my own. Olly had said he would be fine loading the cargo without me. So I toddled off and made my way in by the elevator (!). It's the block in the middle of the building in the pic above. I was then able to pop my head in the first office I came to and ask for a sneaky quick tour. Unfortunately it was very speedy and I didn't get a chance for photos inside but it was very cool. Spacious and homely I would say. I had to have a look at the garage too. This is underneath the station and houses all the vehicles in an ice garage. You enter and exit through ramp to the outside (or a lift from the inside) and this saves the vehicles getting frozen and buried. The building stands on legs a bit like the ones at Halley.  But here the feet stand in the garage and they manage the raising, each year, from in there. It was amazing to see. The people were really friendly too and happy to exchange a couple of small gifts.

After the quick tour I walked back down to the skiway and we went on our merry way and had a great flight back. 

Back at Halley 6 we just needed to unload the cargo, refuel the plane with Mike K and Matt and then get back to 6a in time for Saturday night dinner! Not a bad day out!