Wednesday, 15 November 2017

It’s a long ol’ way South!

There is nothing simple about the journey south - least of all the difficult goodbyes. And then there are the hours...and hours...of travelling!

This time I headed to Punta Arenas again, which is where I travelled on my first time to Antarctica. Heathrow – Sau Paulo – Santiago – Punta Arenas (with a short stop off at Puerto Mont without getting off the plane) to be more exact. There had been some delays in Punta Arenas for some parties before us so we were unsure how long we would be there for. As it turned out it was only for two nights. Enough time to have a little walk around Punta and feel terrible about your absolutely rubbish Spanish! Then it was on to Rothera on BAS’s Dash 7 aircraft. The flight took about 5 hours and it’s pretty comfortable – especially when compared with commercial airliners and their lack of space!

We arrived at Rothera on a lovely sunny evening with clear views as we approached.

 We arrived right in time for dinner, after which we were able to stretch our legs on a walk around the “Point”. It’s great to catch glimpses of the wildlife there – a few seals, gulls, terns, snow petrels and shags. And the icebergs are really quite impressive too.

Lounging seal!

Some snow steps up a steeper bank of snow.

The above picture is the memorial at the highest part of the "Point". It commemorates those who lost their lives at Rothera and also pays tribute to the dog teams who worked at Rothera over many years.

This is the view looking back over the base from the memorial. You can see the runway to the left, with the hangar next to it, and the larger green building centre right is New Bransfield House. This is where the kitchen, dining room, bar, tv lounge, library and computer rooms are housed - nearly all with wonderful views of the bay. To the left of the pic and out of shot is the "Ramp" which is the gateway to skiing and climbing areas.

New Bransfield House from the opposite direction.

We had no idea when we would be heading on to Halley. It’s all about weather and you can never take the flight schedule for granted. We had arrived on the Friday and had been told we may need to sit tight for five days or a week but come Sunday evening we were told we should be ready to go in the morning. That means meeting for 8am and awaiting news from the pilots briefing. If it’s a goer you have half an hour to grab your things, get your warm gear on and meet down at the hangar. So that is what we did!

The first time I made the journey over to Halley three years ago we stopped to re-fuel twice. So I was all set for a whole day’s travelling. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out the Twin Otter was fitted with a long-range fuel tank. This meant we could carry more fuel with us and so only needed to stop the once – brilliant! 
I was able to take the co-pilot seat until Fossil Bluff. It was pretty over cast with low cloud so we only had views at take off and landing. Fossil Bluff is a small fuel depot staffed by mostly a couple of individuals - BAS staff from Rothera swap in and out throughout the season. We re-fueled there, stretched our legs and used the facilities (a pee flag - a flag off to one side to use as a designated area for having a wee so people don't just go anywhere!) and from there it was about another 5 or 6 hours to Halley. 

Fuelling up at Rothera before heading off.

Take off from the co-pilot seat.

Back through the clouds approaching Fossil Bluff.

View from the pee flag - refuelling.

 The aircraft is not pressurised so the air can be a bit thin, but apart from that it’s pretty comfortable and you get to stretch out for a bit too. On the Twin Otters we always have to travel with a “P-bag”, which is a super cosy sleeping bag system, in case the weather turns and you have to stay out in the field somewhere. These were secured inside the plane in a way that we could then use them to stretch out for a snooze. I was travelling with Jan, our glaciologist, so we took it in turns.

 View from the passenger seat looking towards the back of the plane. The long range fuel tank is at the right of the picture.

View from the passenger seat looking forward in to the cockpit.

The weather was mostly cloudy again on our journey over so we couldn’t see too much. But it cleared up a bit over the Weddell Sea so we could look out over the sea ice. We also flew right by a huge berg the size of the M25! We then flew into some cloud as we came to the ice shelf so no nice views there and it continued to be a little rubbish until we landed. 

That is one huge berg!

And so here I am at Halley once more. I've been here just over a week but I haven't been able to log on to sort this post out until now. I’ll make another post describing how things are around here at the moment in a few days. In numbers we are 13 right now. We have plenty to do, though it is nice for it not to be crowded with people quite yet.


  1. Hi Sarah, great update look forward to more!! The photos are cool in both sences. Carol and i had a lovely evening the other weekend with your mum, dad and Carola with supper at Macaronis. Take care sweetie and best wishes from the Cookies. X x X

  2. I love reading your updates, and looking forward to hearing more xx

    It seems odd to refuel at the pee flag.