It seems like on one hand I’ve only arrived here yesterday, and on the other I’ve been here for ages. It’s been around six weeks since we landed on the Ice Shelf and we have another five to six weeks until the final ship call. And frankly speaking, I can’t wait!
I know I keep saying that in pretty much every post, but the summer really is busy here and I’ve not had a day when I was just sat down doing nothing. Most of the days are filled with work and any time off we do get, whether that be just an evening or a full day, I tend to fill with other activities. So here’s a quick update on what I have been up to so far!
Winter team Field Training
The day after my last post, my whole wintering team went to the Creeks area for a weekend of Winter Field Training. We practiced pitching up tents and setting up the camp, cooking and using the stoves and tilley lamps, as well as some outdoor skills like roped travel, fall arrests, setting up anchors, crevasse rescue and we threw in some ice climbing on the cliffs of the ice shelf for good measure.
The weekend was heavily packed but what a blast! And it was great to be away from station, with only our team of winterers and nobody else!
Last winter there were a few experiments running here at Halley, which were conducted for the European Space Agency. Most of these experiments will continue on throughout our winter and we will all take part in those (as guinea pigs). I’m looking forward to taking the opportunity and I think it’s brilliant that I can do my bit, even if only tiny, to help mankind send a man to Mars and beyond.
Some of those experiments are more exciting than others – the most exciting one for me is we will get some training in a Soyuz space craft simulator and then we will be tested on our performance and how the darkness and isolation affects us.
Other experiments are a bit more invasive and while equally as important and useful, are less of a pleasure for me. One of those is the sleep study, where we get a bulky logger box attached to a body and have several pads with wires stuck to various parts (face, head, chest, neck, legs, and a finger). The idea is to take measurements from those various parts of the body and monitor the sleep quality using those. It’s a clever system, and it can figure out when a person falls asleep, which phase of the sleep they’re in, what’s their breathing like and so on, but it’s a pig to sleep with!
One of the favourite past times here is all sorts of kite skiing, kite boarding and skijoring. And luckily we have quite a few people who are keen on the kites, which means there will always be people wanting to go out and play. I’m pretty hooked now myself, and it all started to fall in together really this summer – I feel more and more confident and with the right conditions I can properly enjoy kiting for hours.
As you may know, our part of the ice shelf gets about 2m of snow accumulation each year. Because of that, every summer we need to go to various sites to dig the instruments out and place them back on the surface, to let them bury again. If we don’t do it, then the following summer we will need to dig out 3 to 4 meters of snow instead of just 1.5 to 2, so it’s better to stay on top of this and do them often.
We went a couple of weeks ago to Windy Bay, to dig out the Automatic Weather Station located there, and we had a cracking day. The weather was really good, with almost no wind and lots of sunshine. We managed to get the AWS dug out quite swiftly and so we had a little bit of extra time to actually go towards the edge of the ice shelf, to look at the bay and a few icebergs in the distance. It was a beautiful day!
Similarly to how we need to go to remote sites to dig instruments out and raise them to the surface, we also need to raise all buildings around Halley for the same reason.
With the Halley Modules, the process involves using the built-in hydraulic legs. First the vehicle guys need to prepare the snow surface under the modules and drag a jacking sledge underneath the first module. The jacking tower is jacked up to take the weight of the module, and a module’s leg is hydraulically retracted in to make room for a snow plinth. A bulldozer pushes the snow under the raised leg, and the leg is then lowered back to take the weight of the module again. Repeat this for each of the four legs per module (six for the big red), and then eight times (as that’s how many modules there are). Once this is done for all legs of all modules, each of the modules are very slowly raised, one at a time, about 10cm at a time. Overall the station is then raised this way, over the course of a week, by about 2m or so – which is the full length of the legs.
We also raised the CASLab and it being a much simpler structure, we used the muscle strength to do that. We had chain winches installed at the ends of the four legs which the CASLab rests on, and then by pulling the thinner chain on each of the winches in unison, we were able to raise the whole building about 1.5m up, using the mechanical advantage of the winches.
Throughout all this we had a number of planes either passing by, bringing people and cargo in and out or doing science field work. At one stage there was a German Polar 5 Basler and two BAS Twin Otters on the deck at Halley. Some of our guys even got lucky enough to go on copilot flights!
Every year a few Adelie penguins end up coming to the Halley station, and this year is no different. We’ve had a couple Adelies show up a few times – I think they might even be the same ones (although most likely they’re not). They’re always a source of amusement and provide good entertainment. They are, in my opinion, the best penguin – they’re curious, inquisitive and very interactive.
I’ve just realised, I’m pretty much 1/12 into the project! Yesterday I published picture 30 out of 366 and I’m just about to go hunting for number 31. I’ve had a full day on today – I’ve been on Met duty since the morning and I’m now on evening watch, so I didn’t get that much time. Be sure to check the Antarctica366 gallery page, while I’m off to take pictures!
This post wouldn’t be complete without any images, so here goes!