Sunday, 27 January 2008

Manhauling & Climbing with Orcas

15th January 2008

With relief well and truly behind us and the usual living and working, ticking along on base life, the odd trip out accompanying Richard, the new wintering Field GA, with some science equipment updates is always welcome. In this instance a solar powered, battery operated GPS system, which is continually monitoring which direction and how far the Brunt Ice Shelf is moving. There are 6 GPS devices scattered around key points of the Brunt Ice Shelf, being studied by Ryan Anderson (Life Time of Halley Science), to determine and possibly predict whether the ice shelf is moving as one or if some parts of the ice shelf are moving quicker or slower than other parts. All towards, being carved off and floating away as a huge iceberg, hense, why a new base needs to be built and moved further up onto the shelf.

The GPS site, based 10km South of Halley, which has already moved approximately 33 metres from 15th Jan - 19th Feb 08.

Richard making some adjustments and improvements, whilst getting instructed by Ryan, via radio.

Saturday 19th Jan 08, at a little past 9pm, myself, Richard (Doc) and Richard (new wintering field GA for 2008), took our first manhauling steps on skis to creek 4, 12km away from base. We'd been practicing and tweaking different rope traces, and who goes where on the system prior to our trip, by pulling the Nordic trail groomer, around the 5km perimeter of Halley. Which we all new would be harder, as it digs in groves behind it for skiers to glide in.

I'm sure i'm working harder than those two.

With our manhauling Nansensledge, tightly cramed, but very systematically packed with all the essentials for our trip - sleeping bags, tents, radios, spare warm clothing, food, cooking stoves and pots boxes and of course all the ice climbing and abseiling equipment for the following day. It was finally time, to experience a litle of what it must have been like all those years ago, when Shackleton and Admunsden manhauled to the South Pole.

Richard (field GA), skiing ahead and capturing the sillouettes of myself and Doc, on the vast flat plaines towards Creek 4.

Are we there yet??? Me manhauling with Doc.

And this time with Richard (FGA).

After 3 hours of leisurely manhauling, with a few chocolate nuggets and water stops enroute, we finally arrived just after midnight, at the caboose at creek 4, with fantastic vistas of the ice cliffs ahead of us. With plans of an early start for ice climbing and abseiling, sleep was on everyones list, eventually after the adrenaline and excitement relaxed out of our bodies.

Me preparing to abseil down the 30 metre ice cliff, with a possible Scottish grade rating of 3, (9 being hardest), while Richard checks my harness and rope work.

As always what comes down must go up!! Richard giving me the all clear to start the impressive ice climb, although this part rated a possible grade 6!

As if our manhauling trip, dingle weather, ice climbing and abseiling down the cliffs couldnt have been more perfect, a pod of Orcas swan up and down the stretch of sea ice along the cliffs, spouting air continuously, for the entire day we were there.

As the weather was so good it was also a good opportunity, for others to get off base, and so a nice walk back along the cliffs to our caboose at midday, saw 4 other eager climbers ready to throw themselves off the cliff - i mean abseiling, ofcourse! And off we went roped up as an Alpine 7.

Me (far, top left) and Doc, abseiling down the cliffs, with spectators already at the bottom - they look very small from up here.

Views of the sea ice and cliffs on top of Creek 4, with an Orca skimming the surface in the middle of the photo.

Its never a dull moment at Halley, especially half an hour before lunch, with the fire alarms going on full blast and the Laws platform looses all power. A full muster and Fire Emergency procedure are followed, including me "Donning" the Draeger Fire Fighting Equipment, in readiness for any insytructions given to me by the Fire Co ordinator.

Please excuse the scruffy right boot, i was in a bit of a rush and it was dark!

With an afternoon out of the kitchen and glorious weather outside, a short ski with some of my wintering buddies to the 4km marker, was a perfect excuse to get out and about.

Left, Dave, Me, Doc, Deano.

Some Alto Cumulus clouds over Halley, on our way back to base.

Jan. 08 Statistics:

Max. Temp: + 2.89 Degs C on 15th
Min. Temp: -19.62 Degs C on 20th
Max. Wind Speed: Gust 32.92 knots / 10 Min Average 30.0 knots

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