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

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Creek 4 Relief, Dec 07 / Jan 08

December 2007 already. Ernest eventually arrived on 20th Dec. at 16.00, with a little help from Mark the Twin Otter pilot, guiding her in on a safe passage away from heavy ice, via aerial sea ice observations. But not before, grooming chunks of loose sea ice debris away in readiness for the Amderma's mooring.

Along with all the necessity supplies of relief, which aid in keeping the base running for another solitary year - fuel of every kind, equipment supplies from kettles to nuts and bolts, to machinery and sledges, comes the backbone of every base, the delivery of food.

Another successful "Tesco" delivery service. The Challenger pulling just some of the food required, to feed a base for a year.

Craning some of the "Freshies" which should last all of summer and part of winter, with the hope of some replenishment by the "Shack" at 2nd call - February sometime.

Me standing proud, in my empty food container, in preparation of relief.

It will fit in?

Every tinned and canned item, as well as any other dry food items we need on the laws, and that, which wont fit in the food container, all has to be opened, packaging removed for recycling and stored in our 2 dry store bays on the Laws.

Welcome to the beer / morale container, enough for the summer and winter?? Yes it is locked, yes the spirits are else where, and yes there is more beer locked away on the laws - just in case.

Christmas Eve, and empty Avtur fuel drums are being dug up and dragged back to the ship, for recycling and refilling, with the end of the Shackleton relief coming surprisingly to an end after 4 days of 24hr working, 1500 cubic metres of cargo and a cargo line as long as 250 metres, Christmas Day could be a well earned rest?

Me chilling out by a snowdrift, with the "Twotter", after cooking Christmas dinner. 25th Dec 07.

New Years Eve, Dec 07, and the tradition of the oldest and youngest members of base lowering the old weathered flag and raising the new pristine flag, was brought forward, from mid winter, to now. With Pete Wilmott (Senior Project Manager), lowering the flag on the tick of New Years Day.

Jim Morrisson, (wintering Chippy) raising the new flag, with Pete looking on.

With Christmas past us and the beginning of another New Year soon upon us, next on the agenda was the arrival of the Amderma, built in 1983, which moored up against the sea ice, on 26th Dec at 20.00. The 177 metre long, ice strengthened Russian cargo ship, has been hired by BAS to deliver the 11,000 cubic metres of Halley 6 rebuild cargo, which is dwarfed in its total, 31,185.6 cubic metres grain capacity. When you compare the Shackleton at 80 metres in length and a total cargo capacity of about 3000 cubic metres, its considerably smaller than the Amderma.

A Snowcat loaded with an empty German sledge, travelling down the ramp onto the 1km of sea ice towards the Amderma, its drivers door constantly opened, in case of breaking through the sea ice and a safety man called a drivers mate, following alongside by skidoo.

Me in the John Deer, with Lance the Plant Technician, grooming the sea ice, compacting it, making it easier, harder and more vehicle friendly to travel on, with the Amderma and Shackleton in the distance.

My Taxi - lance in the John Deer, waiting to pick me up from the 3-5 metre thick sea ice.

Cargo from the Amderma being pulled up the ramp, off of the sea ice and onto the ice shelf, carefully followed by its drivers mate.

It was business as usual in the kitchen, feeding a total of 93 hungry labours of both BAS and Morrisson staff, working towards the Halley 6 build. Impressively, within a week both BAS and Morrisson staff had unloaded all 11,000 cubic square metres of cargo, measuring a length of 3km along Halley's cargo line.

4th January 2008.

It would be fractionally sooner than anticipated, that the Amderma would leave the ice shelf, with Ernest nestling around Precious Bay in open water. In the early hours of the morning, with the mist rolling in by strong winds from the icy waters and both ships loosing site of each other from their 1km apart mooring sites, on the sea ice. Pack ice, flowing in with the tide and strong winds, put pressure on the Amderma's dead men (trios of 8ft planks of wood, dug 1 metre into the snow, then drilled into the ice a further 5ft, and attached to 6 mooring lines), all purposely broke from being wrenched in under pressure, all barr one, as the Amderma was being pushed with the tide and heavy pack ice. Her last mooring line eventually gave way, under stress from the pack ice, to free her and the crew on their way North. The Shackleton, with 4 mooring lines, safely removed 3 dead men, before the last dead man broke, from the slack of the other 3 being removed and the flowing pack ice. She manouvered safely around Precious Bay, awaiting the last few passengers to board from base.

5th January 2008. After a speedy relief, Ernest gets ready to leave for Cape Town, along with several summer staff and 5 out of the 18 fellow winterers.

Farewell winterers - Thomas, Alex, Chris, Tamsin, Kirsty, setting sail for Cape Town, some of which have spent 2 years at Halley.

Kirk, the summer Field Assistant, and also this years Halley 6 Project camera man, getting some unusual angles, of Ernest leaving the sea ice.

My last sighting of an Emperor, flicking the icy sea water from its body.

The beautiful ice cliffs of creek 4, what a place to have relief, wave Ernest off and admire the only real resident of Antarctica - The Emperors.

Dec. Statistics:

Max. Temp: + 0.7 Degs C on 23rd
Min. Temp: -15.6 Degs C on 5th
Max. Wind Speed: Gust 39.4 Knots / 34.1 Knots 10 Min. average
Hours of Sunshine: 227.5 hrs

2007 was the 4th snowiest year on record, it was the snowiest December ever and the 3rd snowiest month on record, based on the number of days it snowed. It snowed on 26 out of the 31 days.

The coldest temperature reached in 2007 was minus 47.5 Degs C on 4th June.
The warmest temperature reached in 2007 was plus 1.8 Degs C on 3rd Jan.
The windiest gust was 64.1 knots on 27th July.