This is a long overdue May Update from Halley. It is unbelievable how quickly the time goes here. Days feel like seconds and weeks feel like hours!
What we have been up to in May
May has been no less interesting than April, even though we’re now pretty much stuck inside the base perimeter. The midwinter is getting closer now, so all around the station you can hear the sound of tools, a sign of people working on their midwinter gifts.
We haven’t seen the Sun since the Sun Down celebration, and each day the glow of daylight is getting shorter and weaker, and now it has all but disappeared completely. The temperatures are dropping as well, and we’re solidly into -35°C and lower, and dipping occasionally towards -40°C. For the most part of the month we have also been very lucky with the weather – it has been calm, crisp and very clear, although cold.
We all watched the BBC Horizon Ice Station Antarctica program, which was shot at Halley last summer. It was great to see some of us in the video, and also to see again faces of our friends from the summer season.
We also had a couple of SAR Team training sessions, where we learned how to attach the load properly to a Nansen sledge using the lashings and how to start SAR vehicles in the winter (taking into consideration the fact that they will be buried in snow, that the snow will fill in every void like engine compartments, etc, and that the vehicles are really cold so they need a special procedure to start them up without damaging them). We also had a training exercise where we were looking for a person who was overdue after having been out somewhere within a base perimeter.
It is quite remarkable how much time and effort tasks which have been relatively easy in summer take now. The station refuelling or pushing the snow into melt tanks take longer now due to cold, the amount of clothes people have to wear and just everyone being that much more careful to avoid injuries.
As part of my goal to take environmental portraits of people at Halley, I’ve spent some time with Ross, one of our Electronics Engineers, and took pictures of him in the Electronics Lab.
There were a few social events too – we’ve had a Beard Competition combined with Beer Tasting as part of German themed evening, as well as Japanese themed night, and a pub style quiz.
And I’ve made bread!
Finally we had a few good shows of aurora, as well as weather phenomena like light pillars, beautiful moonrises and moonsets, some cool cloud, fantastic light and colours and absolutely stunning starry nights. We also took the opportunity the cold weather gave us and goofed around throwing some boiling water up in the air to let it freeze instantly – always a good trick.
I absolutely love your Antarctica 366 photoblog and check it every day. The photos are just stunning! Just read that a crew member is being evacuated from the AS-SP Station. Would this be possible at Halley if needed? (Well, fingers crossed you guys never have to find out!).
Take care and keeping taking and posting photos! Kate
Thanks a lot for that and I’m really glad you like Antarctica366!
It’s really difficult to tell for sure whether it would be possible to medevac someone from Halley. We all come down here to Halley knowing that it most likely won’t be – a lot would have to fall in to place for a successful medevac from here. We’re about the same distance from Rothera as the Pole is (we’re not as far South, but at the same time you’d have to fly a good distance to the East to get to us), and BAS use the same type of the plane (Twin Otter) as the ones which went to pick up the people from the Pole. The skiway would have to be marked with the radar flags (which we normally have set up in summer, but take them down for winter), and some form of emergency lights would have to also be put in place. The biggest question is would the Air Unit be happy to send the plane down, and would the weather cooperate. I know the Twin Otters were waiting for a few days for a good weather window to get to the Pole, but actually I think so far the weather has been unusually mild here with just a few short days of high winds – it could be a completely different story in some other winter season. So I think a lot would depend on the casualty (how badly would they need to be evacuated), offset against the risk of flying down here, as well as the exact time of the year. It’s not something that has been done at Halley before, as far as I know, right in the middle of winter.