Friday, 23 February 2018

Nearly there

Once again, I have been totally rubbish with updating this blog. And it’s the usual excuse – general busyness.

We are gearing up to us closing down for the season. In fact, I am heading to Rothera in a BAS Twin Otter tomorrow already! 30 people left, nearly a week ago now, on the Baslers through Novo and on to Cape Town. The rest of us moved out of the Modules and in to Drewry. The Modules are now being decommissioned and winterised and general end of season prep is well underway. I helped Ollie (our chef) set up in the Drewry kitchen, and yesterday we finally said goodbye to our outside reefers. They are now buried, once again, for the winter, and the Drewry has a little outdoor freezer pit, just like last year.

Preparing to move the reefers. 

Lifting them on to sledges to tow them away to be buried,

The hole-in-the-floor freezer covered with a couple of sheets of ply wood. The yellow plastic drum is somebody else's kit.

The garage have been busy building berms for various items to winter on. These are raised platforms built purely out of snow. It means items parked on top of them will not get as badly buried in snow as the berm get's buried first. Containers, fuel bulk tanks and sledges all get parked up on berms to avoid all the snow accumulation. 

Items are placed on berms far away from the modules and other structures to avoid more snow accumulation.

Al and I have been staying in one of the Emergency Cabooses for the past few nights. They are kitted out to be stand-alone living spaces and are pretty nice inside. The under floor heating can be a bit savage, but these are first world problems I think! 

A few weeks ago we had a brief visit from the AWI (German polar institute) helicopter. Their ship, the Polarstern, was in the vicinity and they came over to have a quick logistics chat and for a quick look around. They also took some pics on the way over to give us a clue as to how the very edge of the ice shelf was fairing. 

Cool mirages in the background here.

The Shack picked up some AWI Pistenbullies earlier in the season, which the Polarstern will pick up in a week or so. It will also take nearly 20 of our folk to Punta Arenas. The Shack is a smaller vessel and the part of the edge of the ice shelf that we used for Relief is no longer suitable. And other parts of the ice shelf are a bit too high for the Shack to work with. As the Polarstern is bigger, it does not have the same difficulties, so it will pick up our people instead. I have been lucky enough to squeeze on to a flight though, so I won’t have to die of sea-sickness (as was the case a couple of years ago).

We had our annual Folk Night a couple of weeks ago too. It’s not just for folk music – it’s just an open forum for anybody to get up and entertain the rest of us. There was a lot of musical talent on station this year, but we also had readings, self-penned verse/poems and some dance. It’s always a great night, but especially this year some how. It’s so nerve wracking getting up in front of people, but there is always a supportive vibe from the rest of the base so that helps a lot.
I like to put myself forward to do something at Folk Night in order to do something a bit out of my comfort zone and scare myself a bit. Essentially, I know I can do it; it just makes me so nervous. I thought I would do a couple of bits singing with my bad uke playing. And I also agreed to do something with the other Sarah’s - there were three of us on base this year. We somehow settled on playing Kazoos. Just as our two masterpieces were coming together, Sarah Comms (our resident comms manager) was sent out into the field and stayed out there due to bad weather. This left Sarah Sparky (obviously our electrician) and I in a conundrum – to betray Sarah Comm’s efforts and go on as a duo, or wait and see if we could do it another time with all Sarah's present. What would Sarah do? was the question. After a final practice, and realising it was totally stupid, but actually pretty good, we decided to just do it. And it went pretty well. Who’d have thunk?

I designed a quick poster leading up to the night.

And a quick running order

Captive audience.

Some of the guys got together to form a very good band and did a few numbers.

Kayoing. Not a photogenic hobby.

Not a great angle, but proof I did something :)

Last night we had a little Flag Down ceremony. This is usually done in winter when the sun sets for the last time. Of course nobody will be here then, sadly, and as the Modules have been vacated, half the station folk have gone, and we are only set to shrink in numbers, it seemed as good a time as any to reflect a little on the season. The would-be-winterers did the honours, while a few of us stood at ground level and listened to a few wise words from Al. It’s one of the few nights we’ve been able to see the sun set due to clouds/weather on previous evenings.

And so tomorrow I will start the journey home. First to Rothera, once again, for a couple of nights and then on to Punta. I have yet to get my exact travel details, so I will get back when I get back. How did the season go so quickly? And how have I not got better at this blogging malarkey yet??

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