Saturday, 13 January 2018

Field Trip

Last week I had the opportunity to head out on a co-pilot flight to the Theron Mountains. There is a fuel depot there that field guides Tom and Julie had been working to raise. If they aren’t raised they will eventually bury under meters of blowing snow over a year or two.

The plan was to get me to stop over with Julie so Tom could head out with the pilot and a couple of other people to service some science equipment at various sites on the Filchner Ice Shelf. There was the possibility of staying out for up to a week, but in the end, due to weather impacting the flight schedule, it was only a couple of nights. However, it is always good to get off base – so I wasn’t complaining.

I gathered my bits and bobs together, including a P-Bag (the BAS lovely cosy field sleeping system), and headed down to the ski way. Daniel and Mark had gathered all their science equipment too so we lined it up to keep it all in one place. 

We helped the pilot load the plane while Paul and Doug fuelled the aircraft. After a safety briefing and the pilot’s final checks we were on our way, with me in the co-pilot seat.

It was only about a two and a half hour flight to the Therons from Halley. It’s great to see the ice shelf from up above and see the massive ice flows and crevasses. We had a great clear approach to the Therons, which looked amazing as we got up close. 

Cool clouds with shadows on the snow below.

Little specs of the camp below

We topped the plane up with fuel, I said a quick hi and bye to Tom, and then it was just Julie and me. 

I quickly laid out my P-bag in the tent and that was us sorted.
The next day, the cloud had really come down low. It was pretty still, but we couldn’t see the tops of the mountains sadly. The previous evening had been spectacular! Julie had to pop out every hour to do a weather observation that she would report back to Halley with. This helps to give a general idea of the weather in the area if the pilots are out and about. Other than that we took the opportunity to have a chat, drink some tea and work on our craft projects (Julie knitting a buff and I Nalbinding a head band).

Murky outside.

Cosy inside.

We had quite a leisurely start to the next morning. That is until we found out the plane was heading back our way to get us, as the weather was too bad elsewhere to do any work. We had 20 minutes until it would be on the deck! So we quickly slurped our brews and sprung into action. We first packed the boxes in the tent and got them out. Then I jumped out and while Julie rolled up her P-bag and sorted her things, I gathered up items from around the tent. Then it was my turn to dive back inside and roll up my P-bag, sort my few things and pull up the ground sheet. 

Packing up!

The plane was down by then so then Tom (the co-pilot) helped us ferry things to the plane using the skidoo. Once everything was packed up we lined up the fuel drums they had brought with them with the other drums and made sure everything was left neat and tidy. Julie took photos and GPS coordinates and then we were on our way back.

Depot lined up into the wind with markers.

We had a lovely clear run back to Halley, with just a very strange fog clinging on to the Halley perimeter as we landed. And I had had a lovely time on my little mini-break in the field. 

Cargo in the plane

Pilot Mark and co-pilot Tom

View from the plane window.

It was so nice to see some different scenery and have some quiet time. There isn’t too much of that during the summer here on base as there’s always somebody somewhere banging a door or calling somebody on the radio. Field and tent living is the perfect antidote.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy Holidays

We had a nice Christmas and New Year here at Halley. It’s the first time I have had Christmas on Christmas day here as it’s always fallen during Relief and so we have always celebrated it a number of days later as Fakemas. Not so this year, though, so we had Christmas Eve and Christmas day off. It’s the first time I haven’t been in the kitchen too, so I was able to sit down with everybody else and enjoy what the chefs had prepared. They did a great job and we had yummy Christmas brunch at about 11 am and then even more yummy Christmas lunch at about 4pm. I lead a team in setting up the tables and we just about managed to make it look festive. The decorations, complete with two fake trees, had gone up a few days before. And we had just enough Christmas crackers to go around.

Christmas excitement! Kind offerings from my family and Al's mum and dad.

Jolly hats from our Christmas stockings.

Al modelling his Christmas cracker prize.

Maybe the most festive outfit. Christmas pud jumper and beard baubles. 

Fantastic cakes from by the chefs.

It was back to work on Boxing Day with a lot to do before the ship’s second call, which will be in a few days. Thanks to a lot of help on station, we managed to get our big food move done, which involved emptying two containers of dry food and splitting it evenly (more or less) into two other containers we had emptied. This will make up the dry food for the next two summer seasons so it was important to get that done well and with an accurate stock take. A big job, but with some organisation and some good weather, we got it done and that takes the pressure off for a little bit. It also means we don’t have to panic about squeezing it in this week.

And it meant I could celebrate New Year without thinking about food spread sheets! Once again the chefs did a great job and laid on a wonderful BBQ for us all. We had some volunteers to set out the BBQ’s and source some scrap wood to burn, so they set it up just across from the Modules. And they dragged over the picnic benches we had dug out earlier in the week. The weather wasn’t quite as good as the evening before but it was still pretty warm and, more importantly, not too windy. I managed to stay up to welcome in the New Year, but headed to bed straight after. And it was nice to be able to enjoy a nice day off to catch up on some much needed sleep and just have some down time.

It looks like I am lucky enough to head out in to the field tomorrow on a co-pilot flight with the added extra of staying out for a few days. A great opportunity! So my bag is packed and my wonderful P-bag (super duper cosy BAS sleeping system) is ready for a few days in a tent with Julie, one of the field guides. I will make sure to take lots of photos and sort as post about that as soon as possible.

Happy New Year to all my friends and family. I hope 2018 will be a wonderful year for everybody. I look forward to seeing everybody when I get back – in just over 2 months (all being well). I miss you and I’m sending lots of love to you all. All the best xxxxxxx