Saturday, 21 February 2009


Farewell Antarctica

It's Saturday evening of the 21st February 2009.
The final night at Halley for 10 of us (myself included). For tomorrow we head north aboard the Ernest Shackleton.

And thus concludes my Antarctic adventure...

The past 15 months on this fantastic continent have been simply fantastic.
I guess I don't need to bleat on about how much fun and how enjoyable it was, as you all have probably gathered that from my various blog entries. And that is just a small sample of them...I simply couldn't have recorded everything in this blog.

There have been many experiences whcih will live with me for the rest of my life. To summarise the most significant...In the space of 15 months I have:

- walked amongst a colony of 1000s of emperor penguins, several times over
- watched the southern lights from my front door
- sat under the millions of stars of the southern the middle of the afternoon
- flown an aeroplane over the Antarctic continent
- been to the 84th degree latitude
- watched the sun both set and rise in the space of an hour
- experienced -50degC
- abseiled into a cathedral of ice-crystals in a deep crevasse
- lived in a tent in the middle of Antarctica
- conducted experiments and measurements for world science
- seen some meteorological phenomena I'll never see again (probably)
- ran outside naked in -47degC!

The list above has hardly scratched the surface.

And now it is time to start my 6 week journey back to the UK via the Falkland Islands and South America. And then to reintegrate myself into normal society and slip back into the life I had before I left.

All I can say is this...I am so glad I took this opportunity to experience all of the above (i.e. all that I have shared with you in this blog). I have no regrets at all.

See you all in a few weeks time.
Beers are on you!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Tight deadlines, masses of work, short staffing levels, sacrificed season time...The madness that is "Halley Summer '09"

"Damn you Lidia, and all the men inside you...keeping me awake 'til early hours in the morning"!

It was sure sign that the Antarctic summer was beginning.

The first of the Basler aircraft stopped off at Halley en route to the Russian station of Novo. "Mia" and "Polar 5" had already passed through, Mia dropping off next year's wintering Field GA, Niv, and also vehicles manager, Ben.

"Lidia" came through a couple of days later after a delay following a mis-hap at Rothera a few weeks previously (for mis-hap, read "engine failure en-route and subsequent controlled crash landing").

She was repaired in no time and was flying through Halley with her crew shortly after, thus keeping me awake 'til early hours in the morning having to provide met obs every hour while she was in the air.

Summer 2009...

...forever it will be remembered as probably one of the busiest times in my entire working life so far. It has been somewhat of a mad few weeks. However, I have enjoyed every minute of it.

"Surely you still can't be looking at Halley through rose-tinted glasses" I hear you say!

Well, yes, I can.
Even if the stress does sometimes get to me, even if I do sometimes feel a little overwhelmed with the workload, even if I do get so tired by the evenings I am falling asleep after dinner, I can still take a step back and look at the lifestyle and the varied nature of the job here and get that buzz I got when I first stepped foot on Antarctica.

We're now in the midst of the summer season. Well in actual fact we are coming to the end of the summer season. I have taken so long to get this blog updated.

The initial furore of relief ended early January, life begun to settle into a new routine soon after

The ship (RRS Ernest Shackleton) finally arrived on New Year's Eve, as did the Twin Otter hairyplane. Both much later than planned, particularly the Twin Otter as she was supposed to be at Halley on 16th December so that I could do some early field science work before the summer season kicked off in full.

However, on the flip-side, due to the late start to the season we were graced with the chance to celebrate Christmas as a wintering team. Unlike last year when relief was in full swing at Christmas and base was over-run with loads of people, Christmas this year was a relaxed and chilled out affair for all of us (well, except Paddy who cooked us a proper 3-course dinner)...just like how it should be.

Early December 2008
The calm before the storm...

Another (and I was hoping 4th and final) week on nights began on the 1st week of December.

I have found that the switch from days to nights often does strange things to the fine balance of my mental state. It can make me the funniest person on the planet.

For example, I was discussing with Paddy what kind of theme he could do for food on the up-coming Saturday night. I had suggested a steak night, and Joe had already suggested a burger night. Paddy wasn't sure on either. "Well," I said, "at least I've given you food for thought..."


The Drewery (summer accomodation) building was been given a good scrubout by us all in the morning. I was scrubbing out the kitchen with Scott and decided to show him how to pretend to use a mop as a toy horse. With Scott looking nonplussed I ceased the activity immediately and apologised. I explained to him that I was merely..."horsing around...".


December was a busy time for all. The base was being prepped for the summer.

The garage boys were busy de-wintering the vehicles for relief operations and general transportation needs. This presented an opportunity to have a little play on the machines...

The Drewery building was moved. Each year a wind scoop approx. 1.5m deep forms around the building from a combination of snow accumulation and high winds. If left, the scoop would get larger and larger and would finally fill-in and bury the building. So, each year the building has to be hauled up onto level snow, hence why it is on a large pair of skis. The same goes for the garage building (see early Dec 2007 blog entry for garage move), all the storage containers, the sat-dome, and the vehicles.

Once the Drewery was moved, it was time for the tech boys to jump in and get it up and running again. Big engines sparked up, generators plugged into the power system, the heating, ventilation and water plumbed in and the sewage connected up.

For me, summer science and instructions were coming in left, right and centre from Cambridge over the ZMet email account. I was busy compiling a structured plan for the summer workload which myself and my replacement would be conducting.

"Roadways" between all the buildings and the vehicle park were being groomed to compact the snow into a hard surface.

Rich was training Niv on Antarctic field operations for when Niv spends days out in the field with the incoming science bods.

Such was base life during the few weeks before Xmas.

It was time to have our official winterers photo and various team photos taken...

All around the met office in the Simpson building are photos of the various met teams who have wintered at Halley since Halley V (since 1992 I think). Each year there has been a team of 3 meteorologists and/or engineers on the Simpson, and this is evident in the photographs. Not to break with tradition, I had my own team photograph taken...

Totally egotistical, but that's me!
In fact, it reflects the various roles I have meteorologist, electronic engineer, and data manager. But which one above is which?!

It was announced early December that the ship would be a week late due to springing a leak. Unfortunately they were stuck in the Canary Islands while repairs were carried out! The poor sods. However, it's arrival was imminent.

Late December 2008
It begins...

Christmas begets New Year. And for us at Halley, New Year begets pain and relief.

No, not the relief from pain as one would assume with that above comment...but relief as in the madness of the a) ship docking at the sea-ice, b) the invasion of Halley station with loads of people, and c) the cargo depoting from the ship to the base.

The later-than-originally-planned arrival of the ship allowed us on base to actually enjoy Christmas. Last year Christmas was a non-event due to being in the middle of relief operations and completely innundated with 114 or so people.

However, this year we were able to enjoy the day in the proper relaxed and chilled out way Christmas should be enjoyed
. A quiet morning and afternoon with traditional Xmas films was followed by a full 3-course Xmas dinner put on by Paddy, and the rest of the day was spent playing pool, having a general laugh and watching more Christmassy films.

The Twin Otter aeroplane finally arrived at Halley on New Year's Eve. It just pipped the ship to the finish line as the ship arrived a few hours later. The Twin Otter was originally supposed to be at Halley on 16th December so that I could do a lot of field work on the remote science equipment before the summer started in earnest. This was not to be, and so summer started for us in the science community with the stress of knowing that a season already a week late in starting was also backlogged with flights needing to be conducted. What was worse was the news that the ship was to have it's time down south cut short by another week to save costs. The pressure was on us...

But we were not going to let all that worry bother our New Year celebrations.
The ship was hovering about in the Weddell Sea just outside of Halley and so we had the evening off to see in the new year. And we did it in style. Ags brought out a ceramic pitcher of brandy cladded in a wicker basket which had been stored in the emergency supplies for what looks like since the 70s or maybe earlier. We all had a taster. And it tasted like liquid gold.

And then...

On 1st January 2009 people started arriving on base en masse. Those amongst them were the new 2009 winterers replacing us weary lot, and the summer staff (mechs, chippies, engineers, steelies, etc).

What was 24 hours previously a quiet sleepy base was now a hive of activity, with hardened experienced summerers jumping straight into action with vehicles, base tours for all the new faces (kindly provided by your truly), and plenty of newbies walking around with a dazed look on their faces.

Relief started instantly putting the base into 12-hour shifts and 24-hour operations for the next 5 days gettng cargo off the ship.

Turns also out that the 1st January was also the hottest day of the season so far, peaking at +4.5C. Water was everywhere on (and in) the buildings from the ice and snow melting from the thermal radiation.

The Simpson building, all winter having been quiet and sleepy, was once again the central hub of Halley science. Giles (my replacement) in the met office with me, Ryan (glaciologist and 2009 science coordinator) back in the ozone lab at his little workstation, and DJ Max (electronic engineer) floating about between all rooms getting his kit ready for deployment in the field at A77 and A80 for a few days.

Life on base is now a steady hive of activity. The summer met / science world (a hefty team of 4 at it's peak, but now just 3) is now on 0700 - 1900 days. I am slowly handing over the reins to Giles, (who is willing to continue with the title of "metbabe") and simultaneously plowing through the summer science workload, (which to be honest is somewhat astronomical compared to last summer).

Now, I'm not one to blow my own trumpet (*snigger*), but Giles and I have got the raw end of the deal purely due to lack of science staff and an over-zealous workload this year. We are covering 12-hour days, 7-days/week. Hey ho...this is the Antarctic, and we are hardy heroes after all.

In between helping out with general base duties, doing deep field work, coordinating science cargo, conducting the usual met observations and ozone measurements, conducting the additional science activities, and training sessions for the newbies, I somehow find some time to give Giles his handover so that he gradually takes over responsibilities.

The daily newsfeed of 28th January gave me an opportunity to lay it on thick with one of the headlines on the front page.

The headline was "Stephenson is Next Met Commissioner"

From then on, I referred to Giles as my "metbitch" while I was over all "commissioner of met". It's a hierarchy that works very well methinks. Giles doesn't complain too much, and if he does I give him more work so it works in his favour to keep quiet!!! :o)

(I do of course play on all of the above in jest)

Sunday 11th January 2009
Ozone Network Uplift

Relief was finally over and the base was settling into a summer routine.
Us in the science world (Ryan, Giles and myself) were itching to start getting the science flights started and out of the way with so that we could crack on with the general base science workload.

With the stress of trying to get a lot of science flights (10 flights or so) completed in a matter of a couple of weeks, a plan was devised for the priorities. Ozone network first, followed by Life of Halley kit, followed by GEF (geo-electric field) field deployment, followed by servicing of LPM (low power magnetometer) sites.

The idea wasthat some flights could be sacrificed if time ran out. But credit to us, we managed to get every single science flight completed. Yay, go team science!

So, the first of the flights was the ozone network uplift. A series of autonomous loggers were deployed at coastal sites around the local region last year. Their purpose is to measure the content of surface level ozone throughout the year (nothing to do with the large ozone high in the atmosphere, but rather the effects of build up of ice crystals on the sea). Our job this year was to go to each of these sites, do some tests, download the data, and dig out / uplift all the kit and bring it back to base.

So off Ryan and I go for the first science flight to Ozone Network site Foxtrot to uplift the instruments.
And what a bastard it was!

Not only was it a cold site at -20degC, but it was also at 9000ft altitude.

I read somewhere that at that altitude, air is 20% thinner. And shit, didn't we feel it?!

The snow accumulation at that site is somewhere around 1m per year and thus we had to dig all the kit up. With 20% less air to feed our exertions we were knackered after just a few minutes. As Mark (pilot) said to Ryan and I after we all stopped 5 mins into digging; "I'm a 50 year old you guys know how I feel all the time! Imagine how I feel now!"

The thin air was also making us go a little crazy.
I found myself in a panic that I was not wearing my snowglasses and ran back to the plane to put them on, only to discoverI was actually wearing them.
Mark did the same thing with his hat asking both Ryan and myslf if we'd seen it...yeah, it was on his head!

The digging was finally done, and the tests were completed. Then came the fun bit...lifting the 100kg battery box out of the pit we had just dug. These are not particularly light or ergonomic for such activites, but with a lot of grunting, heaving and pushing we got it out, carried over to the cargo doors of the plane and loaded up. The rest of the kit was loaded, and then it was time to head on to Site Echo to do the 2nd site of the day (which was thankfully at a lower altitude).

And thus continued the ozone uplift flights for the following two weeks or so. 5 flights and 10 ozone sites.

Wednesday 14th - Monday 19th January 2009
Pillow Knob Fuel Depot

Pillow Knob.

An urgent depot job which needed to be done this season was to deposit several drums of avtur and petrol at a location called Pillow Knob at the Pensacola Mountain range. Fuel had to be stocked there in preparation for the arrival of a geologist and his field GA next summer.

The depot run would involve:
a) set up camp and raise a fuel depot at Berkner Dome South. Meanwhile,
b) over a series of 3 return flights, fly fuel from a recently raised depot at Touchdown to Berkner South to provide enough fuel to,
c) fly (over a series of 3 return flights) several drums of fuel to depot at Pillow Knob.
d) Once the depot has been completed, fly to ozone sites India and Juliet en route to Halley to uplift the kit.

I was asked if I would like to go (due to the need to uplift a couple of ozone sites whilst on the job), and I jumped at the opportunity. Who wouldn't?

It was to be 3 days off base flying around the local part of Antarctica. Chance of a lifetime and all that...

What was intended to be 3 days off base ended up being 6 days off base owing to crap weather at Halley.

What do 4 people
in the middle of Antarctica with their own plane and with time to kill actually do? Well, go for a jolly flight to The Therons mountain range and camp there of course!

The night before we left I almost completely jeapardised my opportunity for this big excursion by deciding to mince up my thumb through sticking it into the very fast sharp spinny metal bit of a wood routing tool! Hmph. What a complete retard I was for that.

I was a brave little soldier and didn't cry.

I had a couple of stitches to hold it back together and was cleaned and dressed every day. Susanna (the new Doc) gave me some local anaesthetic to clean it and then proceeded to stitch it. By the time it came to the stitching the anaesthetic had worn off, and I felt every single moment of the stitching process. It hurt like a mother-f...

The issue was that on this fuel depot excursion I would be doing lots of manual hauling of heavy drums weighing 200kg each, so the risk would be of damaging my thumb further. But the doc was being especially nice and let me go anyway. And in the end I was fully capable of working without the use of my right hand opposable thumb. P'hah...evolution obviously got it all wrong!!! Well, saying that, the problems really arose when it came to doing one's "business" in the field...but more on that later!

Finally by the afternoon Mark, Rich, Dean and myself were on our merry way to Berkner South Dome.

It was an amazing few days out. Plenty of hard work and long hours, but we all had immense fun. We were like little children throughout the week, with purile humour, practical jokes and plenty of innuendo-esque connotations in almost every conversation.

Day 1:
Berkner Dome is apparently an island under loads of ice surrounded by ice-shelf. So, from the sky it actually looks like a slight rise in the surrounding field of white. And it is a guess almost as big as Ireland.

Dean and Rich set up base camp there and started to dig up the depot while Mark and I headed off to Touchdown 148nmiles away to collect some 4 extra drums of fuel. On returning to base camp we rotated co-pilots, finally collecting 12 drums from Touchdown over 3 return trips.

Day 2:
The next day flights started for depositing drums of fuel at Pillow Knob approx 300nmile away. Rich copiloted first while Dean and I sorted the drums of fuel into seperate piles for each trip (piles of those to go onto the plane to Pillow Knob and those to fuel up the plane itself).

Rich and Mark returned, a quick tea break, refuelling of the plane and loading of the next batch of drums, and then Mark was off again with Dean copiloting.

By the time Mark and Dean returned it was late, so the next batch of drums went the following morning with me copiloting.

Day 3:
So, off Mark and I were to Pillow Knob. It was an amazing flight. Boring white flatness soon turned into exciting views of mountainous peaks poking up through the snow...the tops of mountains dotted here and there where they rose out of the deep layer of snow to show their dark peaks. These are what are called Nunataks.

Other impressive views consisted of huge glaciers "pouring" down through mountain peaks, huge pressure cracks in the icefields, and me.

Soon a dot appeared in the distance within the whiteness. It was the depot. Seeing it in the middle of nowhere surrounded by all these nunataks gave me a very deep sense of just how insignificant and remote this little depot was. Truly sobering.

The depot was completed, pictures were taken, and then Mark and I were on our way back to basecamp.

The Antarctic Monkey, still not making much of an appearance in this blog, decided to get out for a photoshoot at Pillow Knob.

Back at basecamp we struck camp pretty much straight away on Mark and my return, and we all headed to ozone sites India and Juliet on the eastern side of the Ronne Ice-Shelf. India was approx. 120nm NE of Berkner South and was upifted. Time was running short by the time we got to Juliet (100nm SE of India), so we pitched camp there (using the hold of the plane as our kitchen/dining room) on the premise of uplifting Juliet in the morning.

Days 4 & 5:
Juliet was uplifted without too much hassle.
Word on the HF radio was that Halley was experiencing a blow and so returning there for the time being was impossible.

So, 4 people and a plane with time to kill.
Mark decided that a trip to The Therons would be appropriate and would be ideal to refuel the plane rather than risk flying into Halley with only a short endurance time remaining in the fuel tanks. The Therons are approx. 90nm from Juliet.

The Therons are another mountain range. These ones are cool in that they hold back a plateau of ice and snow behind them on one side and have a good 1000m drop on the otherside. Mark took us on the scenic route in to see this. We ended up flying below the level of the peaks along the wall of snow and mountains. Recent avalanches and crevassing were clearly evident. We landed at the fuel depot...and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the depot is literally in the shadow of the mountains. After spending 14 months seeing no rocks at all, it was simply perfect to be setting up camp with the view of mountains and rocks and stuff out of the tent door.

As soon as we landed the weather, (which had until then been perfect everywhere we went), decided to mank out on us and so we had a very low layer of stratus cloud hanging over us for the next couple of days, preventing any chance of taking off this close to a mountain.

We didn't mind being stuck here though. What was a work trip had now turned into an impromtu Antarctic camping holiday.

And did we have fun!

It is time to go talk about the less glamourous side of camping in the field in Antarctica. Namely that of toilet facilities.
The only way one can expunge one's bowels is to dig a hole in the snow. The best practice is to dig a deep main hole and in front of it dig a smaller foot hole leaving a snow-bridge between them.
That way it is easier to squat over the main hole by standing in the foot hole. A shallow wall made from snowblocks is used to add a little extra privacy.


But apparently not...

Dave and Dean standing by the rear of the plane. Rich approaches holding loo roll, confused look on his face.
Rich: Which hole do we use?
Dean: The one without the poo in it.
Rich: But they have both got poo in.
Dean: What? How can that be?
Rich: Well, someone has obviously got a little confused.
Mark: (leaning out of the cockpit door) Erm...I think I might have been the one who got a little confused.

Rich, Dean and I looked at one another and then burst out laughing. Mark had inadvertently used the wrong hole which meant he had been standing in Dean's shit!

Dean: (wiping tears of laughter away) How can you get confused? Which hole did you use?
Mark: The one with the pile of snowblocks behind it.
Dean: You were supposed to sit the other way.
Rich: But why would you make a toilet so that you would be facing the camp and looking at others?
Mark: (bursting out laughing) Do you like to look at people when having a crap Dean?
Dave: You know, to some people that's a sexual fantasy.
And so the discussion went on.

A third hole was dug as a new foot hole.
But this obviously still caused some by the end of the 2nd day at the Therons there were 5 holes in total, all in a line, and all containing shite!

I myself also had some consternation with the Theron toilet facilities...but of a different nature. It all mainly came down to my invalid thumb. I was at one point using the facilities, lowering myself into squat position when I had to support myself with my hands. Forgetting about my thumb, I had a shot of pain from it and instantly withdrew my hand, losing my balance. I dropped down, and was just able to stop myself falling any lower and landing arse-first into a big pile of turd. Phew!
How would I have ever lived that one down?!

At camp Rich and Mark shared one tent, Dean and I shared the other. Some general light-humoured insults were thrown to and fro between the tents one evening. It later came to radio sched time with Halley. For this Mark has to use the radio in the plane and has to start one of the engines to get the generator running. While this was going on, Rich popped his head into our tent said hello and disappeared. At that point I said to Dean "did rich just come in, bugger off and leave our door open?". A few seconds later Mark rammed the propellor into full reverse thrust, blowing loads of surface snow into our tent with us in it. The git!

Dean and I popped over to the neighbours for dinner the first night. We made a good job of completely destroying the snow surface below Mark and Rich's sleeping bags so as to make the night's sleep as uncomfortable and annoying for them as possible. The next evening they came over our tent for dinner and laid various objects like tins of cheese and tins of tuna under our karimats in an attempt to make our sleep as uncomfortable as theirs the previous night. Unfortunately for them the ploy did not work for we never felt any discomfort! They also spiked Dean's manfood with oodles of curry and chilli powder, but Dean would not let them win that one and so ate the whole lot.

Oh, what fun.

Day 6:
The next morning the mank cloud at the Therons had cleared enough for us to quickly strike camp and take off. Before long we were back at Halley ending our 6-day deep Antarctic excursion.

By the time we got back, life at Halley had finally settled into a summer routine.
Chatter on the VHF radio had once again returned to the usual "professional" level we all are accustomed to.

VHF is a very handy way of communicating with one another when out and about around base, or when working on jobs together requiring constant updates. Conversations on VHF radio can be heard by all on base who has a handheld radio...which is pretty much everyone. Therefore, communications are often quick and impersonal...

...but not always...
For example, the conversation between Baby Joe and Welsh Dean, 22nd Jan 2009:

Dean: Okay Joe, I'm ready when you are.
Joe: Okay Dean, I am pulling it now.
Dean: Joe, you couldn't pull in a brothel!


Joe: Dean, you ... you couldn't pull ... in a field full of sheep!

Classic stereotypical racial based comical quips from Joe.

Entertainment and social activities continue even though everyone is busy. The small social activities are what help everyone de-stress and chill out. Saturday's have become theme nights again.

One Saturday evening after relief we had the summer BBQ.
It was a very social evening. Many people finally getting a chance to interact and get to know one another. A game of rugby was played, many jokes shared, and we all began to start to relax with one another.

We were even joined by a Skua.
(I consider them the pigeons of the Antarctic...bloody greedy sods always scavenging food)

We celebrated Burns Night on Saturday 24th Jan. Whiskey was dished out to all, a full Scottish meal put on by the chefs (Haggis anyone?), and highland games were played outside...welly throwing, some tossing of a heavy deadweight thing, the tug-o-war and of course the caber toss.

I am proud to say that I won the caber toss competition. Much to the surprise of everyone (including myself), particularly the macho burly mechs. Heh heh.

Burns night also was the night a few people on base will never forget.
A "tradition" at Halley (long and forgotten and rarely repeated I am glad to say) is Naked Bar.
The title alone no doubt gives a clue as to this activity. It usually occurs later on in the weekend evening activities.

One previous winterer instigated this activity after talking about it, and soon was joined by 4 others stipping down to their birthday suits. Mark was still in the bar and was not going to join in. He was however apperently happy to stay in the bar chatting.

Said previous winterer was talking about how he was once caught by the Base Commander doing Naked Bar. To which Mark replied that he would love it if our current summer BC (a female) came in and saw the 5 of them like this.

In a matter of 2 minutes later the BC popped into the bar!
And her gaze was met by a scene of Mark surrounded by 5 naked men! Oh dear.
Many a red bashful face was seen the next day.

23rd January 2009
Science Continues...

The following week, a pushed summer at Halley continued.
In the meantime the science flights were still on-going, consuming a lot of the science resources (all 4 - and soon to be 3 - of us):

- Ryan was busy installing his GPS stations at varius locations on the Stancomb Wills Ice Stream (glacier) east of Halley. He was also doing some ozone uplifts at those sites near his GPS stations.

- DJ Max was deployed into the field at M80 (and then A77 a few days later).

- Giles done a round robin of all the LPM stations (7 in total), going as far south at 85deg South, (including servicing my little baby at M84 - the AWS I installed last summer).

- And I was off uplifting more ozone sites. The final two I coordinated were sites Golf and Hotel.

The flight to sites Golf and Hotel was purely amazing. These sites are a few nm down the coast west of Halley. Mark flew us (himself, myself, and Bryan copiloting) along the coast where we could see plenty of icebergs and sea-ice. Dotted all over the sea-ice were seals, looking like tiny slugs from our height.

We dipped down to low level and Mark weaved the plane in and out between massive icebergs. It was a hell of a fun flight.

Some random photos of the flight...

Uplifting Hotel and Golf were fun jobs. The weather was perfectly clear, sunny and calm. We were situated on a rise from the coast and so had a view of the ocean and the icebergs floating in it. Site Golf turned out to be the biggest bitch of a site to uplift having almost 1.7m accumulation burying it. It took ages to dig up.

We got there in the end though. After a lot of sweat I hasten to add.

By the end of January we had managed to complete all of the science flights.
What seemed like the impossible at the beginning of January with the late start to the season and the limited time that we had the plane at Halley was made possible by the hard work put in by Mark, Ryan, Giles, DJ and myself.
If there was ever a reason to be full of self satisfaction and smugness, this was it.

The next stage...
...doing the post flight science and data management, conduct the extra summer science needed around base, continue with the handover to Giles, and continue with the routine met and science requirements.

2nd February 2009
Snowblock Sampling

It was time to do a little digging...for a change!

It was time for the task of delicately extracting a block of snow from a clean section of virgin snow at Halley and somehow get it posted back to Cambridge (without damaging or melting it) for the directorate summer cocktail party!

Sorry, I meant, "posted back to Cambridge for delicate testing of the chemical composition of the snow layers!"

The activity of snowblock sampling involves dressing up in cleansuits so as to not contaminate the snow, and dig a big block of it out. This get placed into a clean plastic liner, which in turn is placed into a styrofoam box, which in turn is placed into a cardboard box, which in turn is placed into a large aluminium zarges box. Repeat x3.

Giles and I kitted out, headed to the CASLab, suited up, and got digging.

The instructions (based on my report and recommendation last year) said to dig a pit, and then cut the block out from the edge of an area which should have been untouched. It also said to dig 1.5m down so as to conduct a snow density and stratigraphy profile.
A what?
Basically, weigh some smaller blocks of snow of certain dimensions and note the ice-crystal structure within them.

Glad my electronic design engineering background has come to full utilisation at Halley!!!

After digging up the snow blocks (which were a fraction of the size of the pits dug) we attempted the density profiling. And found the tool supplied was next to useless.
Therefore, two 2m x 1.5m x 1.5m pits dug by Giles and myself ended up being a complete waste of our time! Grr.

Suppose we should have tested the tool first. Something any engineer would have done! D'oh!

Giles gingerly cutting out a snowblock sample.
Note the f-ing massive pit and the tiny snowblock!

5th February 2009
Raising the Halley 6 AWS

The Automatic Weather Station (AWS) at the Halley 6 construction site needed servicing. After a year it would have been buried by 1.3m of snow accumulation. The job each year is to visit the site, download the data it has logged and raise all the equipment back onto the snow surface.

Yay...more digging!

This was another hand-over for Giles, so we both headed out to Halley VI in a sno-cat, accompanied by summer admin assistant Tracey as a pair of extra hands.

(Tracey who incidently, I find, happens to have a family holiday caravan in my home village...fancy finding out things like that in Antarctica. Small world)

The AWS was finally lifted back onto the surface of the snow.
The cables were tidied and the instrument legs levelled.
New deadmen were dug-in and the equipment secured with guy-ropes.
The data was downloaded off the logger internal memory.
And the job was complete....
...for another year at least.

It was time to head home back to Halley V.
We returned to find Ryan had been doing some modern art and created a sculpture of some sorts!

Well, in reality he had been busy sorting through the multitudes of poles on the Simpson open platform. They are always shipped in for science projects, and the surplus always ended up back on the Simpson. Over several years the Simpson had collected a mass of odd lengths of scaffold poles, glaciopoles, and snow-stakes.

It was time for a good sort out for the scrap metal dump. All non-required poles were literally chucked over the side of the Simpson platform.

And to think I spent a considerable amount of time during the winter in the freezing cold measuring and counting every measly one of them poxy poles for the annual indent. Bugger!

10th February 2009

It is 12 days to go until us winterers of 2008 are finally sailing away from Antarctica after spending the past 15 months living at Halley.

Just under one and a half weeks to complete all the summer work, pack all outgoing cargo, pack all personal kit into boxes, and give any final handover info to the winterers of 2009. Time is a push, but the light is just about starting to glimmer at the end of the tunnel...hopefully not from a train on a head-on collision.

But it wasn't the end of digging for Giles and I yet.
Today was a day for rasing the AWS here at Halley. It too was a bugger of a job, digging 4 large trenches and a massive hole all 1.5m deep. The system was finally raised onto the snow surface, tethered up with guy-ropes, and reconnected.

I sat back and realised this was to be the last big dig of summer 2009, but more significantly, the last big dig in Antarctica for me.

I let out a cheer...for after this season I now absolutely hate digging snow!

This probably has been my last blog update at Halley station itself.
All being well, I aim to knock out another either just before we head out for the last time to Creek 4, or while on the ship heading north to the Falkland Islands.

Either way, my Antarctic experience is not quite over yet as we have Signy base to shut down for the winter and of course lots of cool photos from the journey to the Falklands. More to come on that hopefully, so watch this space.

Many thanks to avid followers of this blog, your comments kept my interest and enthusiasm to write this blog going strong.