A year with British Antarctic Survey

Hi All,

I realise I’ve pretty much neglected this blog for the last month, almost to the day! And the longer I left it, the more of an issue it became to start posting again. I also realised that July marks a full year since I’ve started working for British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and I thought it’s a good opportunity to start blogging again.

Getting there

Let me start with a quick review of the past year – and what a year it was!

  • As you may remember from this article, I’ve applied to BAS in February 2013, in March I received an email with an invitation to an interview for mid April, which went well as beginning of May I received a job offer as Data Manager, with my post starting in July.
  • That started a long-ish three months of preparations and finally my relocation from Dublin to Cambridge.
  • I’ve been working and training for about four months in Cambridge, and I was finally ready to go.
  • Then the actual journey South took place in December, and I finally arrived to Antarctica, and my new home for the next 15 months, just after Christmas.

And this was only a start!

Being there

Many things happened since my arrival and I’ll never forget them, however there were a few highlights:

We celebrated a number of Antarctic special days like the Sun Down and Midwinter Day, not to mention my own birthday!

What the future holds

We’re past halfway through the winter and the 106 days of darkness, with a little more than three weeks left until our first Sun Rise (which again will be a big celebration). We’ve experienced heavy blows (50+ knot winds gusting to 70 kt), low temperatures (-43°C, feels like -60°C), darkness, isolation and solitude. We are lucky to have a brilliant team of thirteen men and we have all built friendships, hopefully for life.

After the Sun comes up things will start to get a little bit more busy, with the second round of winter trips, followed by the first planes arrivals in November scheduled to do over 100 hours of flying before Christmas and the first call of the RRS Ernest Shackleton. The Shack will bring the Summer Staff and the new Wintering Team (our successors), and this will kick off the relief operation as well as hand overs. In the mean time we will hopefully do a number of visits to various scientific sites (Lifetime of Halley – LOH, Low Power Magnetometers – LPM and Automatic Weather Stations – AWS) to service them and to show them to our new colleagues. Hopefully we will also arrange a number of trips to the nearby Emperor Penguins colony as well as some ice climbing trips. Finally I’d like to fly my kite again and I’m sure there’s a number of other things I’ve forgotten to mention!

The second half of my stay here is really shaping up to be just as good if not better than the first! Stay tuned for more…

6 thoughts on “A year with British Antarctic Survey

  1. Hi Mike,

    I wish I found your blog sooner! I have really enjoyed reading through your posts!

    I would love to go to Antarctica and work for SANAP (South African National Antarctic Programme) once I finish studying.

    Did you have any meteorologists in your team?

    Kind regards,
    Chantelle

    • Hi Chantelle,

      Thanks, I’m really glad you like the blog!

      We do actually have a Meteorologist, or as the official job title says, an Atmospheric Scientist, in our team (we call them the Met Babe). Meteorology is a very important part of the science we do at Halley and as far as I’m aware it’s a big part of what all other Antarctic stations do.

      Have a look at this article on my blog, where you can get a glimpse of what an Atmospheric Scientist does at Halley.

      Good luck with your goals, I hope you make it down to SANAE or another Antarctic Station!

      Best Regards,
      mike

      • Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the link. I like your Environmental Portraits – smart idea!

        Does anyone out of the UK come work at Halley or any of the other British camps in Antarctica?
        I was also wondering whether there is ever any interaction amongst the Antarctic stations?

        Kind regards,
        Chantelle

        • Hi Chantelle,

          Sorry for a delayed response.

          Majority of the staff working at British stations in Antarctica are from the UK, however there are quite a few people from other countries too. I think as long as you have the right qualifications / skill-set and you have the right to work in the UK, you can apply for a job with BAS.

          There’s not a whole lot of interaction between the Antarctic stations, mainly due to distances between them – at least on the Continent. Things may be different on the Peninsula as there are far more stations there than in any other part of Antarctica and they are much much closer to each other. On the Continent, there are hundreds if not thousands of kilometres between neighbouring stations – as an example, two of the closest stations to us are 650km and 790km away.

          There are a few events which all stations participate in though and this is probably as much interaction as we get. These are the Midwinter Greeting Cards where all stations email greeting cards to each other; the Antarctic Film Festival (have a look on Google and Youtube) – which is a 48 hour long film festival and where stations which participate make a short video which must fit within certain criteria and so on.

          Best Regards,
          mike

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