Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Being reunited with Ernest & Co-piloting the Shackleton Mountains

Its been all go here on base since the arrival of more and more flights, bringing an entourage of helpers on hand to aid relief, from all manner of technical service guys to RAF mast specialists to scientists to vehicle mechanics and field assistants to two other chefs aiding the 24hr food required to feed the ever increasing mouths on base. After careful scouring of the Brunt shelf, for a suitable relief site for both ships, with added requirements for suitable shelf height and sea ice thickness. The route to creek 4, which is 12Km North away from base to the edge of the ice shelf, has been groomed and flagged. With an epic day of ramp dozing from the shelf edge onto the sea ice, ensuring a safe entry and exit point for the cargo, from the sea ice onto the shelf. The bets are on, as to when the Shackleton will materialise along side the 3-5 metre thick sea ice.

It was an exciting time for me, travelling down on the back of a sledge being pulled by a Challenger to Creek 4, and being reunited with Ernest, which arrived on 20th Dec. at 4.00pm. Seeing her for the first time, since leaving me here 10 months ago - what a bizarre feeling, remembering her bright red paint work, the galley which i spent so much of my time in, the rooms, and also, taking advantage of having a shower with no limits and a sauna - what a luxury.

The cliffs at Creek 4 and my first sighting of Ernest.

The man made, dozed ramp, enabling access to and from the sea ice.

View of the ramp from the sea ice.

Snow Petrols flying above Creek 4.

Ernest moored up alongside the sea ice.

View of the sea ice and cliffs, taken from the Monkey Island on Ernest.

A small proportion of surface cargo, on board Ernest.

21st Dec, 07

One of the perks for the summer is the chance of co-piloting in the De Havilland dhc6 Twin Otter, VP-FBL, and it just so happened my chance was the very next day. A trip to the Shackleton Mountains at A80 and at A77, (A is the name and the number is the degrees south), where LPM's are buried (low powered Magnetometers), which measure the earths magnetic field, and help detect solar flairs that may knockout our satellites or potentially enter our atmosphere, causing disastrous harm to our Earth.
The reason for co-pilots, is because the pilots aren't allowed to fly on their own, just in case anything goes wrong, in the air or on the ground.

Richard and Chad (the air mech) refueling the Twin Otter with Avtur (205 litre drums of Aviation fuel, weighing 410lbs each), at Halley International Airport (skiway).

Inside the Twin Otter, with full fuel drums strapped in at the back, to be dropped off at A80, to replace the ones used in previous flights.

The first sightings of the Shackleton Mountains at (S 80* 53.270 / W 022* 15.590), were from the aircraft at 9000 ft, but when we landed on the ice, we were still at 3,860 ft above sea level, which is a good indication, as to the thickness of the ice there.

Shackleton Mountain ranges.

The Twin Otter coming into land, at A80.

Fuel drums at A80, with the Shackleton's in the background.

Mark Beasley, the Otter Pilot flying me over the Shackleton's.

The Shackleton's peaking out of an Antarctic dessert plateau.

Me co-piloting.

Coming into land at A77.

A refueling stop at A77, (S 77* 31.400 / W 023* 25.090), at 5200 ft above sea level, where there are more LPM's.

Me and Mark digging the Avtur fuel drums out of A77.

Loading the empties on board for recycling.

Part of the Hinge Zone, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where ice glides off of the continent onto the shelf, creating a hinge that stretches wright across the Brunt Ice Shelf.

Part of the Rumples and coast.

Flying towards the creeks and Halley

The creeks clearly visible and the Ernest Shackleton moored up alongside the sea ice, at creek 4.

Ernest moored up and ready for another relief, with a Snowcat and sledges awaiting cargo.

Halley, just to the right of Ernest on the horizon.

Coming into land at Halley Research Station, after our 697 km round trip.

Chad, me and Mark, relieved with another successful flight and landing - pheewwwwwww!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Penguin Paparazzi & Farewell Sune

My last and final trip to Windy, Emperor Penguin colony. I thought i'd put together a collection of photos, which will hopefully portray some of the characters of the colony, the cuteness of the fuzzy chicks and the devoted adults as both parents and companions towards one another.

The most expensive Taxi to the zoo, i have ever taken. The monster Caterpillar Challenger, with 325 bhp and costing a whopping £125,000, pulls away carrying a cargo of 2 German sledges, 8 passengers and a medley of survival gear. The first sledge is purely to catch all the blowing snow kicked up from the tracks, otherwise there would be 8 snow buried passengers.

A lone Emperor, snoozing amidst the dramatic blue ice cliffs of the Brunt ice shelf.

Tucked up cosy, for a morning nap.

Sunbathing in the mid morning sun, an Emperor adult and chick trying to cool down in minus 14 degs C, laying on the ice.

After a snooze, a flexible body enables any part to be scratched and ruffled, ready for the day ahead.

Synchronisation, adult and chick enjoying a vocal chorus..........

.............And a wavy flap.

The vast sea of adults and chicks.

A rare sighting, trying to capture the black eye of an Emperor on a black head.

A fond, final farewell, to the Emperor Penguin colony atop the cliffs.

Me being dwarfed by the Caterpillar Challenger, and a chance for me to work, each of the 16 gears on our way.

Summer mode is definitely underway, the garage and Drewery have both been moved from their wintering slumber, leaving a crater worthy of a large house's foundations. And now the Drewery is up and running with its first inhabitants of the year, our quiet, cosy wintering team has grown from a comfortable 18 to 31 people for now, but when the rest arrives, is anyones guess.

Me, Mat & Ben raising the 4km marker on 22nd Nov 07, out of its snow drift.

All too soon our wintering team of 18 is about to be sethered, as Sune the field GA, has a 2 and a half month "Camping Holiday" collecting rocks with a Beaker (a term derived from the Muppets character - Beaker, the scientists assistant). The rocks in particular are detrital zircons which occur as tiny crystals in rocks, and are robust enough to withstand erosion, sedimentation and remelting. The study of these crystals will hopefully aid us in answering the origins and evolution of Antarctica's continental mass and that of other land masses.

But, before Sune goes a last minute celebration of his 26th Birthday, on 25th Nov 07, with probably the last cake made by Dr. Richard and soaking up the last few nights in his Halley base pit room.

A disc of music and voices from his wintering team - just so he doesnt forget us, however annoying we were to him, hahaha.

An exciting day, Sune's off on his holiday, allegedly a working holiday, and more of the new winterers and summer staff are arriving by Basler, or Lidia as she's known.

Lance, refueling the Basler with 13, 45 gallon drums of aviation kerosene, which contains FS II, an additive used to stop the fuel freezing.

30th Nov. 07

Sune, sharing a last minute joke, before the Twin Otter takes him off to Troll station, a Norwegian Antarctic base, located in the Droning Maud land, where his expedition with his beaker will start.

Chad, the air Mech. taxying the Twin Otter carrying Sune, out towards the skiway.

Halley International Airport. Even in Antarctica you have to wait your turn to takeoff.

Farewell and good luck my wintering friend.

Nov. Statistics:

Min. Temp. -32 Degs on 1st
Max. Temp. -1.3 Degs on 27th
Max. Wind Speed. Gust 49.3 Knots /39.8 Knots, 10 Min average
Hours of Sunshine. 250.2hrs