Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Antarctica's science, 1st sunset and goodbye Ernest

There are many reasons, to why i am down South, reasons i think many of you could answer yourself. However, if it weren't for the science here in Antarctica, and all the science boffins, the need for a chef here would be obsolete. I've taken part in a small percentage of the science, from air sampling, balloon flights to using the Dobson spectrophotometer, both of which, the information is passed on to world wide meteorlogical bodies whom then advise the government bodies for the study of the Earths weather. Antarctica's air is sampled and studied back in America, as a gauge of how clean the rest of the planet's breathably air is - or not as the case maybe in many smog filled cities.

Taking air samples requires a certain amount of breath holding approx 20 metres away from the apparatus, as so only Antarctica's finest air gets sampled, not the coffee driven breath of the Met team.

My balloon launch on Wed 7th Feb at 8am sharp, code A252009.
Apparently all balloon launches take place at the same time all over the world, so a clear, concise record of weather data is recorded. The balloon, filled with Helium, reached a maximum height of 23,509 metres before the increase in atmospheric pressure burst the balloon, which landed on the Brunt Ice Shelf, and recorded the coldest temperature during its flight as minus 53.4 degrees. These temperature changes recorded at different heights in the atmosphere, aid the Met Office in Exeter to predict our weather.

Checking for holes in the ozone layer, at the Simpson, using the Dobson.

Now the Antarctic summer is drawing to an end, temperatures are nearly always in double figures below and the sun is lingering less each day on the horizon, until finally on the 14th Feb at 1.08am (10.08pm uk time) the sun set for the first time for 2007, be it just for a moment, (1 hr 50 mins) but it went down clear of the horizon. A message to everyone - Winter will soon be upon us.

Going, going. 1.08am Antarctica time.

Gone! 02.58am Antarctica time.

With the first sunset behind us and the old winterers growing more and more restless on base, it would soon be time for us to be reunited back with Ernest. An exciting time for all, a chance for both new and old winterers to be left alone on base and cope with the "Real Antarctica".

The departure date of 18th Feb 07, was to be the final time, Ernest would knock on our icy shores for at least 9 months. A strange feeling of "time flying by and what the hell am i doing here", circulated my thoughts, along with stories of mid winter madness and coldness, impossible to imagine for the first time, but never forgotten afterwards. Thoughts i'd never really payed much attention to, until now. The point of no return, (or for a while anyway).

An escort was assembled of 3 Snowcats and various sledges and an emergency caboose. We were off, the sky was brilliantly blue and a temperature of -13, ensured the leaving winterers to warmer climbs had a chilling last breeze of Antarctica. The journey had started for some and ended for others, although, the time it takes to get down south, the old winterers have an epic journey in itself, to reach the real end. After some hours of being bumped and bashed around in the back of a Snowcat, Ernest was in sight, N9, the same location as where we left him. Luggage was stowed, old winterers aswell as new, and the last of any summer stowaways boarded for a well earned cuppa, before Alex, our posty for the winter (also a scientist and data manager), proceeded to stamp and sell last minute cards and stamps to the ships crew and any stragglers with last minute Halley merchandise. All before the call from Captain John harper, "deportation will take place at 5pm".

Last minute goodbyes and emails exchanged, the winterers disembarked before the mooring lines were released, and the last of the ships crew boarded. For the first time we were segregated, split in half, the choice was now taken away from where you wished to stand. Flares were dished out and on the signal of Ernest slowly drifting away from the ice shelf, flares were fired like fireworks in the bright blue sky.

The shackles are finally off the "Shackleton", Goodbye & farewell.

A very strange feeling. My only pathway to sarah and the outside world was finally disappearing through an eerie mist, which approached wright on cue.

Throughout my journey back to base, now home, (how strange) i contemplated having 17 other beings as company for the duration of the year. The sunset seemed quite ept, in ending our day. As if the sun was portraying our thoughts for one last glimmering ray of light before the long cold winter.

After a very long journey back from N9, time to fill a very empty Snowcat at Halley petrol station.

More importantly on my mind, was the tradition of our 1st wintering meal. A menu which i guessed, their taste buds would enjoy?

Monday 19th February 2007
!st wintering meal

Salmon, prawn & guacamole mousse with roasted red pepper dressing

Seared thyme beef fillet with root vegetable mash & a porcini whiskey cream

Wild mushroom, thyme & parsley rissotto

Baked chocolate blueberry tart

After dinner another tradition at Halley is pulling rooms out of a hat, as so everyone has their own room. Although, any old winterers doing a second consecutive year get the option to stay where they are, seeing as they've lived in that room for a year already. And finally, winter presents. Everyone pics a secret name out of a hat, of the winterer they have to make a present for, which is presented on 21st june, mid winters day. What can i do apart from bake?????

My new room, window view & real lambskin rug, cosy. GPS reading approx. S 75degrees 34.807 W 026degrees 41.874. Just to see how far we will have moved, by the time i come to leave.

February Statistics:

Min Temp: - 25.1 degrees on 24th
Max Gust: 40 knots
Total sunshine 125 hrs
15 Days of fog
21 Days of snow

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Major Incident Plan & Flight over the Brunt Ice Shelf.

WARNING! This edition of real life drama, contains scenes of a graphic nature, with contents of blood!

MIP, Major Incident Plan. This took alot of red tape to cut in order for me to publish. A plan was designed especially for this type of incident. An incident that involved several casualties and everyone on base, helping out Dr. R. Corbett, as best they could. Accidents happen everywhere and anywhere, they are no ones fault, which is why they are called accidents. But in Antarctica, with resources stretched and limited, extra care on every aspect of your day to day living and working has to be that little bit more conservative. With casualties scattered around the base and only one Doctor, it was up to the First Aiders, to assist where ever and however they could.

It would have been another great Saturday, 3rd Feb. to be precise. No one was to predict what was about to unfold......... until mid morning........squelch and screams on the radio...................."AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH HELP, HELP THERES BEEN AN ACCIDENT, BLOOD EVERYWHERE, ON ON ON THE SIMPSON". Simultaneously, another two calls came in, all from our work colleagues requiring medical assistance, all from different parts of the base.

"Attention all personnel, theres a major incident involving several casualties, please muster outside the Laws platform. All casualties to be transported to the Drewery"!!!!!!!!!!!!

kathy, laying in the Simpson with a nasty head injury, with Advanced First Aiders at hand.

On the scene, a semi conscious casualty with a broken leg.

The snowcat "ambulance", carrying a casualty with suspected back and neck fractures.

At the Drewery, the Advanced First Aiders (me) treat a open wrist fracture and give necessary oxygen to John, an unfortunate casualty.

Thank goodness for the medical training in Plymouth, skills i always hoped i'd never have to use, how wrong, was i.


I was rudely awoken once again, as i am every morning by the annoying dolcit tones of my small portable, very throw able, square, pale yellow, ticking box, beside my bed, which pitches its tones tenfold just as i am dozing off into some well earned rest. It always seems to bounce back into life each morning, after every onslaught i dish out to it, occasionally missing a tick tock beat, but never in those crucial early morning hours.

The morning of 5th Feb started as usual, get showered (2minutes), get dressed, eat crunchy nut cornflakes, brush teeth, put eyes in (contacts) and then head off to work. The only difference on this crisp -9 degree morning, was the announcement, that we all had a flight in the Twin Otter sometime during that day. With the excitement building, i quickly scrambled the timetable of flights, saw i was departing in the morning and proceeded to make and bake something for "Smoko" (morning snack).

Our flight transfers were staggered, and soon it would be time for our "Happy Sledge" pick up. Our journey to Halley International Airport would take approx. 5 minutes.

The flight groups were split up into, 6 passengers, 1 being the co-pilot and the other the pilot, Ian Potten. All the usual flight precautions were in place, the comms by Dean Evens, fuel tech man Dave Kully and the fire skidoo by Doc. Richard Corbett.

Plane spotting at Halley International Airport.

You can just make out the contrast between the sky and the horizon. A landing destination not many pilots, would be experienced enough to land and take off in.

A quick fuel stop at the local fuel depot, (also at Halley International Airport), with the Polar 2 Dornier plane in the background, on a stop over from flying out some of their wintering team from the German station in Neumayer.

The Polar 2, Dornier.

The Twin Otter, which is owned by BAS.

Frozen sea ice and the shelf of Antarctica.

Halley, aerial view.

After a successful flight, a Champagne reception in the arrivals lounge at Halley International Airport.

Me, Manning the fire skidoo, just incase, for the other flights.

With no delays at Halley International Airport and a swift return journey by skidoo back to work, it wouldn't be too long before the evenings skidjuring and kiting would complete a typical days work (leisure) at Halley.

Dave the MetBabe (left) and Thomas the meteorlogical scientist and UAV pilot for the flight project, preparing for my skidjuring lesson, with me, a willing victim of their driving?


Ooops, well not quite.

My next attempt at kiting, but this time with a snowboard attached to my feet.

Perfect finish, to a usual day at Halley.