Thursday, 6 March 2008

Goodbye Summer...Hello Winter

It seems to have come about all of a sudden.
The very day each of us Winterers have thought about non-stop for the past 3 months has finally arrived....

It is the day when we no longer have to find water jugs in the fridge with no water in them. It is the day when a visit to the loo is no longer a game of "bog-roll roulette", never knowing if there's going to be loo paper in the cubicles or not. It is the day when a seat is available at the tables at mealtimes. It is the day that digging snow for the melt-tank is no longer for 100+ people. And it is the day when Halley V is stopped being used as a hotel. It is of course, the day when
all summer staff are safely on board Ernest Shackleton and are sailing away, marking the end of the summer season.

It is a glorious day.

5th March 2008 - Goodbye Summer...Hello Winter

In no time at all since my last entry into this blog the moment for everyone to depart suddenly arrived. The number of staff on base dropped from 100 or so down to 11 in the space of 24 hours. The usual hustle and bustle on the Laws platform and the constant stream of people and activity around the station has now gone, leaving feeling like a deserted ghost-base. The silence and the space and the privacy seem so alien. But it is backed with a good feeling of achievment and relief that each of us 11 feel. There's not the slightest bit of remorse amongst us. We are here, like it or not, for the next 8 or so months. There is no ship as a potential life-line and there's no aircraft to take us out via air.

We are now a fully remote Antarctic research station manned by a handful of the essential staff...oh, and the science-type-guy too.

Despite the strain put on the base to support such a large complement of people and despite the extremely busy nature of the summer, the season went well and a lot was achieved.

Summer '07/'08 Team Photo
(photo courtesy of Richard Burt)

Adios Shackleton

It was finally time to see off those who were the last to join the ship. The winterers (joined by the Antarctic Monkey who had been absent from the limelight for some time...the summer obviously affected him enough to turn him into a recluse) went down to the coast to say our goodbyes and watch the Ernest Shackleton depart.

Once the final bits of cargo were loaded, it was time to pull up the gang-plank and release the mooring lines. Soon the ship was pushing away from the edge of the ice and manaeuvring itself to sail away leaving us standing on the ice alone. We marked the occasion by firing flares from the coast.

In no time at all, the ship was on the horizon, leaving a trail in the grease ice marking it's path from Creek 4. There was no turning back now...we were now officially over-wintering at Halley.

Soon we were heading back to base for a well earned cuppa. The dining room furniture had already been rearranged by Bryan and Les (who had remained at the station) to give us a single communal table to sit around for lunch and dinner. We 11 sat together drinking tea and not a word was said by anybody.

Thursday 6th - Saturday 8th March 2008
Welcoming the winter in style

Summer over.
There was a little work to be done in prepping the base for winter. This included shutting down the summer accomodation building (The Drewry building). Les, our mechanical services technician was busy Wednesday and Thursday draining the plumbing and shutting down the boilers in the plan room. Before putting the Drewry to bed, it is Halley tradition to have the annual melt-talk party.

Melt-Tank Party

The melt-tank for the Drewry is drained and cleaned for winter. But, before this is done, it is used as venue for a party.

At one point we had the whole 11 of us in the tank. It was a squeeze, but it was good for group bonding.

This was to be the first "bath" we've all had since November, and the last one we will enjoy until we leave this chunk of ice.

In practice for our mid-winter naked run, Joe, Hannah and myself decided to jump out of the tank and do a run around the Drewry in just our swimwear - at -20C.

And it was f***ing cold.

The following day it was my responsibility to clean the inside of the tank. The filth at the bottom of the tank was unbelievable (and I assure you, not from the dirt and grime of us bathing in it the night before). There were all sorts of crap in the bottom, the most hideous being the cigarette ends which had obviously been unwittingly been shovelled in when people dug in the daily snow. Ick!

1st 2008 Winterers Meal

Saturday saw the first Saturday evening meal for the 2008 winterers. To mark the special occasion Paddy whipped up a gorgeous 4 course meal, and everyone poshed themselves up for the event.

It was also the occasion to draw the names for the mid-winter gift nominations. It is tradition at Halley that we all make each-other a gift for our mid-winter celebrations. This is done "secret Santa" style from drawing names out of a hat.

A simple name-drawing affair I'm sure you agree.

However, this wasn't the case.
It took us 7 attempts before we got it right. People kept pulling out their own names...myself doing it 3 times out of the 7.

To quote Harry Hill...."What are the chances of that happening, eh?"

Already people arew working on their presents, and I have yet to come up for inspiration for the person I have drawn to make one for.

Another Meteorological Phenomenon

Friday 7th March saw yet another meteorological phenomena at Halley

A Fog Bow.

It was a foggy day, with low fog. The sky was devoid of cloud and the sun was shining brightly.
Perfect conditions for a fog-bow. And again I didn't have my decent camera with me on the Simpson building...only the shitty little point and click thing I bought. Thankfully Rich heard my call on the radio informing of the phenomena and got his out (his camera of course). Thank you Rich.

My Empire begins

The only beaker at Halley.

The sailing of the ship saw the departure of the remaining science person on station. Simon Coggins, the Science Coordinator, was gone, thus leaving me in charge of all the science and the data management
at Halley.

I now have the Simpson building all to myself.
It gets lonely now that there are not 6 people working from it.
But, it's mine, all mine.

I find it ironic that I moved from an office building in the UK where more people were shoehorned in it than it could support, where hot-desking and overcrowded office space was a contentious issue. I now have an entire building to myself to work in in the Antarctic.

I think I am excused to feel a little smug.

The days get shorter

The coming of the winter is symbolised by the shorter and shorter days we experience here at Halley. The 24 hours of daylight experienced when I first arrived in November is now no more, and presently (23rd March) we have a normal daylight/darkness daily pattern as would be experienced in the UK. This will gradually evolve into 24 hour darkness.

Final sundown is on 30th April.

At the moment, we are experiencing some amazing sunsets and evening light.

Halley VI Build...the end of the first construction season

I'm quite conscious that I have posted hardly any news of the Hally VI build all summer.
There's a good reason for that:

I inadvertently deleted all of my photos of the construction site and the stages of the build.
D'oh. What a muppet I am. I still have a few.

Cladding was only shipped in for one of the modules to test it's response to the extreme cold. The module above is an accommodation module.

A lot of fitting has yet to be completed within the module. The pit-rooms come pre-fabricated and are slot into the steel infrastructure prior to the cladding being added. These are then pushed to the side to make the internal corridor and are then connected up with the appropriate services.

The space frames unloaded from the Amderma were fitted with the hydraulic skis which will enable the Halley VI modules to be raised above the snow accumulation each year. All the verious plant and services were installed on the services modules. Note in the above picture the pink coloured fuel tanks and generator housing. A wonderful idea from the architects to give a more psychologically aesthetically pleasing and calming effect for the Genny Mechs. You can imagine how pleased the Genny Mechs are with the colouring!!!

That's me done for now.
I have stories of my winter trip coming up in my next entry.
Three men, one tent, a lot of cold...what could possibly happen?