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).
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.
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.