Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Darkness Cometh may 07

Sundown 2nd May 07.

It appears Halley is a base of traditions, with May being no exception. The traditional lowering of the well weathered and torn base flag by the oldest member of the base. This year, Base Commander Pete, at the ripe old age of 49. This takes place on the last day the sun breaches the horizon, until its return on sun up, around 9th August, leaving us winterers in about 3 months of darkness. Throughout these sunless months the phase of lingering light glowing on the horizon, slowly takes its toll and diminishes into a gradual darkness 24 hrs a day, until the cycle returns into a glimmer of light back on the horizon, slowly burning brighter each day towards sun up 9th August.

The sun up day is also traditionally celebrated by the flag being replaced and raised by the youngest member of the base, this year our Chippy, James aged 22.

As usual, any excuse for a celebration we all enjoyed another frozen BBQ, all huddling around the glowing ash like our neighbours sheltering themselves from the elements, The Emperors, over on the sea ice.

Saying goodbye to the sun on 2nd May 07, see you in approx. 105 days?

The soft pastel colours in the clouds and moon over the 16 Share antenna's, 33 minutes after the sun finally drifted over the horizon.

A blow hinders most outdoor work here at Halley, this one on 17th May. Although the melt tank still needs to be dug, regardless of the minus 17.2 degree temp. 30.5 knot winds and a windchill of approx. minus 43 degrees.

Now the winter is well underway, our local Doc. DR. Richard Corbett has been training us in technical skills for our time away in Antarctica, which will also benefit our day to day living back home in our "normal" lives. This involves anything from ABC, to Hypothermia, to Venflons, otherwise known as Intravenous Cannula's, which are used to give drugs or fluids directly into a vein.

Our Dr. Corbett, assisting Tamsin in putting in a Cannula inside Alex, doesn't look that happy about it? Poor guinea pigs at Halley!

One of the most amazing spectacles of Auroras Australis we've seen so far, 23rd May 07 00.26am, temperature minus 33.5 degrees.

The bright star at the bottom right of this picture is the planet Jupiter.

I'm not sure these pictures do the Aurora justice, so turn your volume on your computer to the max, and enjoy the "Spielberg" epic, directed by my fellow Halley mate, Jules.

Much of May has been frantically taken up with winter present production in readiness for June 21st - mid winters day, our equivalent of Christmas day. On the day the ship left, we all picked secret names out of a hat, for whom we were going to make a present for. Using the skills of our fellow technicians and materials on base, the possibilities are endless?

James, showing me how to use a router for my dog sledge picture frame, on the Laws platform, (personal project). Quite novel doing woodwork outside in temperatures of minus 36.4 degrees.

With the Halley VI build well underway, there is quite a few preparations which need to be under gone now in order for the build to complete in 3 years. Such preparations involve taking out the science equipment buried in the two shafts, which are both located 2 km West of Halley and transporting the equipment back to Cambridge.

The "Maggie" shaft, approx.25 metres below the ice over 7 levels, and contains sensitive radio receivers called a "Magnetometer" which uses a magnet to read and measure changes in the Earths magnetic field at Halley. Such as Auroras and radio noise in different galaxies.

The "Iris" shaft, approx. 10 metres below the ice, contains a rhiometer,
which has 100 metres of aerials all buried below the ice, which are of a higher resolution and even more sensitive, than Maggie.

Inside the Maggie shaft.

From the bottom of the Maggie shaft, looking up.

Even though the sun has left the horizon far behind, its emitting colours glow on the Antarctic plain, silhouetting the Laws in an atmospheric pose. This picture was taken at 11.50am.

Picture taken at 12.40pm

The laws at 21.04, taken with the red glow of the moon on the bottom right and the bright star in the middle, far left is the star Sirius. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky, over 20 times brighter than our sun and more than twice as massive. If you were to be travelling at the speed of light, Sirius would take 8.47 years, to get to from Earth, in comparison to the Sun which would take only 8.5 minutes from Earth, but you would have to be travelling at light speed - 118,000 miles per second. Sirius appears to be one singular star with the naked eye, but is actually in orbit with a white dwarf companion star, Sirius B. White dwarf, meaning it has run out of fuel and collapsed at the end of its life, but will carry on burning for a considerable time to come. A teaspoon of Sirius B would weigh 2 tonnes, its surface is 300 times harder than diamonds, while its interior density is 3000 times that of diamonds. Sirius A is expected to exhaust its store of hydrogen at its core within a billion years, after which it will then settle down to become a white dwarf star.

May was the start of the voluntary biology research. A series of tests to see how our bodies biological clocks are affected by light. Such research, aids in helping other light deprived people in their jobs, all over the world, from us down south to those that go up in space. There are several tests involved in order to evaluate this research. Daily sleep diaries, urine samples, siting in front of a light box for a hour in the morning and 3 different pencil & paper tests, 1st being, copying the symbols related to the number, 2nd being a letter search along a line of letters and the 3rd, the most tricky, is exampled below.

(these do not relate to the alphabet, and are answered true or false)

A follows B - AB
B does not precede A - AB
B is preceded by A - AB
B is not followed by A - AB

The tests are conducted throughout our sunless days, in a series of 12 weeks of alternating experiments on "us live guinea pigs".

Siting in front of the light boxes, in the morning, no less than 40 cm away.

Just a small note, for all those who don't no not to go outside with wet hair, or worse still wash your hair outside in minus 40 degree temperatures. Its not recommended, unless you have a camera!

Alex, Tamsin, Kirsty and Neil after a hair washing session outside.

Even, back in the warmth of the base, Tamsin and Kirty's hair is still frozen hard.

May Statistics:

Max Temp. -4.6 Degrees C on 18th May
Min Temp. -45.6 Degrees C on 27th May
Max Gust 48 Knots


Z-Doc said...

Great pictures as ever Ant.

Anonymous said...

So where is your hair photo?