Hi All my Dear Readers!
It’s been two months exactly since I’ve left the UK for my journey to Antarctica and I thought it’s a good occasion to write a new article, especially that I haven’t updated my blog in almost a month!
Read more after the break!
So much has happened since my last blog entry that I don’t even know where to start! And because of that, I’m going to just split this article into multiple sections, each dedicated to one highlight or another, not necessarily in the chronological order…
Early on in January we went through the fire drill. As you can imagine, being here means there’s no fire service, or rather – we’re it. We’re quite well prepared to deal with any disaster – there’s a very detailed and yet quite simple to follow procedure for dealing with fire, we have some cool equipment to fight fires and in case we do lose the battle, we do have two accommodation buildings: the main Halley station and also the Drewry, which is our summer accommodation (but can be de-wintered if need be).
Each of us got some training in setting up, testing and using the full Breathing Apparatus. In fact, it’s not that dissimilar from Scuba Diving kit and it actually shares a few elements with it – the hoses, regulators and cylinders are the same, and even the harness is very similar (although there’s no buoyancy device!).
We went through the whole fire drill (and then a few times after the training) and roughly the process is:
- The first person to arrive to the Muster Station is the Fire Coordinator, mans the radio and takes a list of personnel on station
- The second and the third person to arrive at the Muster Station take fire extinguishers and go to the module / room in which the fire was detected
- The fourth and fifth person put on their BA (Breathing Apparatus) and get ready to follow the first pair
- Everyone else arrive to the Muster Station as quickly as possible to be accounted for and then they lend assistance as needed.
- There’s also a role for the Station Doc in the mix – they don’t usually go in to the fire, instead getting ready to provide medical assistance
On a few weekends, when the weather was nice, we took the opportunity to do a bit of skijoring. Skijoring is an act of being dragged behind a skidoo, using skis, snowboards or anything else to slide on the snow.
We built a little kicker to have something to jump off, we set up some flags to mark it and a flash gun on a tripod for photography and off we went! The craic was mighty!
Christoph jumping on a board
Hamish – his board was maybe 5 cm away from my lens!
Another take on skijoring
Christoph doing 180° rotation in the air
Part of the fun for me was the photography – I really enjoyed it a lot. I’m also very happy with the results I got. It truly was a professional setup, with the flash on the tripod and all. I’m sure Mr Strobist would be proud of me (and I’d like to use this opportunity as well to thank David for running his blog and providing us, mere mortals, with a wealth of knowledge on flash photography!)
Professional photo setup
Visit to LOH and AWS sites
It’s not all fun at Halley, we do have to do some work every now and then, which is fun too!
The Science Team (which I’m a member of) has a task to maintain all remote sites. The maintenance consists of a yearly visit to raise the sites out of snow, download the data, make sure everything is still working fine, service the devices are required and leave them happy for another year of operation.
I got a privilege to visit one of the LOH and two AWS sites.
LOH stands for Lifetime of Halley and is a network of GPS receivers placed at various locations on the Brunt Ice Shelf (which is where Halley station is sitting on) and which monitor the ice movement. The idea is to try to predict any potentially dangerous movement of ice, which could put the station in jeopardy.
AWS are Automatic Weather Stations and these are also placed at various locations on the Brunt Ice Shelf. The two I visited was the old Halley V site and the Windy Bay.
To get to all of them we had to use Skidoos. The LOH site is not on a flagged / barrelled route, so we were all linked up (four skidoos and two sleds, roped up in pairs in a skidoo-sled-skidoo system) — the idea is that as it’s ice we’re traveling on, there could be cracks / crevasses on our way and in case one of the skidoos falls into one, the other skidoo can stop and hopefully hold the whole set. That’s what the theory says at least!
Lifetime of Halley site before raising
Preparing to dig
Ready to leave!
The AWS sites are on a flagged route, so we were able to travel without the need to tie tie together, which means we could go a bit faster. Both days were really good fun!
Al the Field GA doing his best to look like Antarctic Hero
Windy Bay happens to be near the sea (who would have thought!) so we took the opportunity and walked towards the edge. This was the first time for a month for me to see something else than just ice!
Looking out to sea
I’m also trying to use every opportunity I get to go out with my kite and skis. I don’t have any pictures yet, and up until not so long ago the kite was definitely winning, but the last two or three times I managed to stay upright more than not, and even got to move a bit on the skis, so it’s all good!
Polar 6 Basler visit
We had a visit of the Polar 6 plane. It’s a DC3 built in 1943, although this particular plane has been actually put together from 3 other planes, according to one of the crew. She was also refitted with turbo prop engines and more modern avionics, so it’s a bit of a new and old. She’s a really beautiful plane.
They came in twice for a short stop over to refuel, first on their way out for their survey flight over Ronne Ice Shelf and then on the way back to Neumayer. As it turned out, they had to stay overnight with us as the weather deteriorated at Neumayer and they wouldn’t have made it there in time.
It was a nice day as well, and I managed to get out to the Skiway for it taking off at lunch time and then again for it arrival and once more after dinner for some static shots on the ground. This was like airshow in Antarctica, only better!
These are some of the things that happened over the last month, and there’s plenty more to happen next. We’re off for our Winter Field Training tomorrow if the weather allows (and everything seems to indicate it will happen) where we will practice some ice climbing, rescue techniques, pitching tents and camping, and so on. This should also prepare us for our Winter Trips, which will take place from late February till mid April. I’ll let you all know how I get on, but for now – see you later!