Saturday, 26 April 2008

Only 105 days 'til the next sunrise. And, oh yes...Aurora yay

In the gloom of the late evening, the external lights of the Laws platform barely penetrate 20metres through the thick blizzard of blowing snow. The whole building shakes and sways in the wind, standing proud on it's 20 legs, akin to a gesture of defiance to the hard winds which buffet it.

Inside, in the warm and relative safety, 11 people take shelter from the harsh Antarctic blow. The long flourescent lit hallway runnng the length of the building is devoid of people, and many of the rooms either side of it are dark and uninhabited. It is as if the building is deserted. The only evidence suggesting the contrary are the sounds eminating from the lounge...

To an outside observer,
permeating through the howling winds from this lonesome building on an Antarctic ice shelf one would hear the sounds of whoops of joy, screams of passion, and groans of disdain.

What sordid group activity could possibly be going on in the lounge?
Had the group dynamics of a small isolated team living in close proximity to one another degenerated into a kind of orgy-fest?

The answer to this burning question will have to come later.

Wednesday 2nd April & Sunday 6th April 2008
More Met Phenomena

9th April 2008
The First Aurora

It was only very faint, and it was short-lived, but Halley saw the first visible aurora of 2008. Save for Dean, it was the first experience of such a thing for many of us. And it was a beautiful sight.

Joe came rushing down the corridor excitedly screeching that there was an aurora outside. As soon as Joe had made his announcment in the lounge/bar there was a momentary pause and then suddenly everyone leapt up and the base was alive with commotion. People scrambling over each other in the boot room to get kitted up in outdoor gear. People raiding the dark room for spare camera tripods. People fighting to get out of the door onto the open platform. It was close to all civility being lost.

The external lights were extinguished plunging everything into darkness. Soon our eyes had adjusted to the low light and then...

...suddenly there it was.

In the distance to the south was a faint arc of a green-ish hue. Slowly the hue could be seen to move, dancing subtly.

I was witnessing my first aurora.

It was short lived and had all but disappeared within 30 minutes.

Seeing that aurora was in itself justification for uprooting my comfortable life in the UK to work in Antarctica for 18months. And I was pleased that I had several more months of more intense auroras to come.

Saturday 12th April 2008
Casino Royale

Another Saturday and another opportunity to have a theme and dress up for no other reason than being fun. The theme for this weekend...James Bond Casino Royale.

It was Paddy's suggestion. And everyone put in an effort. Even Paddy who was busy cooking a predominently Russian style meal managed to find time to get dressed up. The dinner table was set out with betting chips strewn over it and laminated playing cards acting as coasters.

The lounge/bar was decorated as a casino theme to continue with the theme after dinner.

We had all kinds of fancy dress, from Joe being commando Bond to Lance being a Bond-girl. We had evil henchmen in the form of Les, Odd-Job (or was it Random Task) in the form of Paddy, Pussy Galore in the form of Ags (who employed a good use of lateral thinking for the costume), Dean came as Q and Bryan came as a gun-weilding bad-guy. I was running out of ideas and ended up coming as my own made-up bad-guy....a smooth one-eyed Spanish-Mexican gambler complete with pencil moustache and a guitar as my secret weapon (I would kill people with the tunes I played on it).

A few friendly, non-competitive games of blackjack and poker were played as the evening entertainment.

20th April to 28th April 2008
The life consuming world of "Rezy"

The week began with a beautiful full moon on Sunday 20th. A slight mist had caused the light from the moon to produce a subtle halo. I tried and tried to capture it in it's full splendeur, but only to get the result you see below.

So, what had happened to the residents of Halley during the blow of the week of the 20th to 28th? What was causing the cries of joy, screams of passion, and groans disdain?
Was it an orgy?

The answer is no.

For instead, a new addiction had taken over the lives of this group in the form of a video game. Resident Evil on the Nintendo Wii had ensnared and consumed the lives of a certain few of us in the group.

It's quite extraordinary how a video game could capture the passion of so many people and compell them to play from early evening until 0100 or 0130 in the morning. A core group of 7 people would sit down ech day after dinner to watch and/or assist in the zombie bashing.
The game is so consuming that all observers would be shouting assistance to the person playing the game. People would whoop when a puzzle was solved, scream when a monster jumps out of nowhere, and groan when another life was lost. And on this went, all of Sunday 20th and every evening of the following week. By the end of the following Sunday we had managed to rack up 24 solid hours of playing time on this one game. 24 hours out of 144. That's almost 13% of the the week spent sat in front of the big screen shouting at monsters on a video game. Bonkers.

And now it is complete we're all suffering from a feeling of loss and emptyness. We are also feeling very cheated. The ending was a complete anti-climax. We had fought through villages, fortesses and islands over-run by possessed zombie-like people. We had rescued the girl after killing 900 monsters (ourselves having died 70 times in the process). In the end, as we floated on a jet-ski basked in the golds and reds of sunset, the girl offered herself to our character...


Oh, how we men booed and bayed as the end credits came up.
Booed and bayed I tell you!

The week of Rezy also brought us several chores, activities and celebrations to remind us that there is also life outside of the world of computerised zombies and sexually confused heroes.

The 21st April was Laws scrubout day. A day for everyone to get down and dirty and give the entire base a damn good cleaning out, doing the stuff that gets missed in the weekly gash chores.
Ags and I got busy with the walls and the stores in the utility room, Paddy commanded a crew for the kitchen, Dean and Joe blitzed the lounge. Everywhere throughout the Laws was the satisfying stench of chemical cleaning agents and sweating armpits. By the end of the day the entire place was spotless. Dinner was served and then we settled down for some zombie/monster bashing.

The 23rd April was the beginning of another few days of a blow. It was also St. Georges day. Paddy agreed to cook up a traditionally English dinner for the evening. But that was as far as the celebrations went due to crappy weather and being mid-week. We soon lifted our spirits by settling down for some zombie/monster bashing. I suppose the blood bath of cutting down the maurauding undead with shotguns and rescuing the presidential daughters can be tenuously related to the legend of St. George slaying the dragon and rescuing the girl.

The evening of Saturday 26th April was a surprise to us all. We all went to bed on Friday night (at different times of course!) to find a balloon attached to our bedroom doors with an invitation to the dining room at 1930 on Saturday. What could this mystery be?

Something secret was going on all afternoon and nobody was allowed in the room. Then, at 1930 the door was opened to reveal the dining room decced out into a party venue, complete with decorations, buffet and cheesey music. Everyone even had a party bag with treats and toys in them.

Oh, how I was excited. Cheesey parties are the times when I shine, revealing my amazing dance routines and oh, oh, oh....the prospect of getting the ol' patented Leg Guitar out!

But it wasn't to be.
False alarm. The party was shorted lived and soon people retired to the lounge/bar and chilled out. A few of us kept the party going by playing some games. But alas, the opportunity for the leg guitar had passed.

A slight aurora was showing itself in the south sky that evening, but it was only subtle.

Thursday 1st May 2008

Now that Halley is fully into winter mode of operation, there is a more generally relaxed and chilled out atmosphere on station. It is easy to lose oneself and spend hours playing video games as you do not get the guilty feeling that time has been wasted. We do still have our 0900 - 1730 jobs to do Monday to Friday, but even work days are relaxed.

Back in Beakerville I continue to monitor the weather, launch the daily weather balloon, take air samples, sample precipitation snowmelt, look after the science data loggers, maintain the science equipment, manage the data, write reports, conduct ozone layer measurements, record weather statistics, and live the daily annoyance of being referred to as a scientist by my fellow winterers!

As the season progresses, the amount of daylight experienced each day gets shorter and shorter as the earth's orbit round the sun gradually points the southern tip of the planet away from the sun effect of the tilt of the earth's axis.

The 1st of May (according to my predictions) was to see the sun
dip below the horizon for the last sunset of the winter (known as "sundown"). The Halley tradition is to celebrate sundown by having the oldest member on base lower the union flag which flies proudly above the Laws building.

The flag is raffled off during the mid-winter celebrations in June. A new flag is not raised until Sun-up when the sun peaks it's disk above the horizon again in August. This ceremony is performed by the youngest member on base.

So, at 1317hrs (again according to my calculations) ex-army tank driver Lance lowered the flag after making a fantastic speech.

We will not see the sun again until mid-August.
We all definitely now feel that winter at Halley is in full swing.

The celevrations continued with a BBQ outside.

Later in the evening we were treated to the most spectacular aurora display to date. It covered almost 1/2 the celestial dome.

The Antarctic Monkey joined me to witness the show.

...and so do I.
(well, it's got to be done)

And that's it for another month or so.
It's getting more and more difficult to talk about every day base life as activities are very sporadic and low key now that it is winter. So please bare with me if I now talk about mundane things like playing computer games rather than exciting things like flying aeroplanes.

Note: If anybody wishes copy any of the photos above and use them for their own purposes please get in touch and let me know, or at the very least acknowledge me in their use. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

David, as per usual, marvellous and the Aurora pictures are amazing.
You do look awfully camp dressed as a bond baddie!!
Camp David?

Mum xxx

Anonymous said...

Dave, Have been following your 'progress', excellent stuff .. keep up the good work ... Tom from AWE

Anonymous said...

And another thing .. can we see the station on Googel Earth ? If so, where to find it ? How ? Cheers again, Tom

Anonymous said...

Aurora photos......WOW! Soooo jealous, but very happy to see them :-)


e-bone x said...

nice one monkey....i only bought a WII to play that game and you've ruined the end for me! for revenge i am now going through all the pages in your books i'm storing with a black marker, with the exception of the final page! elvis says hello too uh huh

Anonymous said...

bare with you Dave?

Dave Stephenson said...

Bare with me? Yes, only the lucky ones! ;o)

Dave Stephenson said...

To find Halley on Google Earth, enter the following coordinates:

-75.5766308 -26.53749722

You can just about make out the 3 main buildings and the tracks to the coast where cargo is transported to/from the ship in the summer.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Dave and the photo's are just fantastic.


PS Good to see you back Ian Bone!

Anonymous said...

Hi David
We Have been following you progress, it looks like you are having a fantasic time, thought you were there to work ?. Wow the photos are brilliant.
Take care
Love from
Debbie & Ivan

Into the Freezer said...

Hi David
Found your blog on the Google search engine. Fantastic. Love your stuff. Wish I was there too. Hows the building site? Is it still there? Can anything still be seen? Hope to catch up with you some time, and looking forward to your next entry. Is anyone else there writing blogs? Could you forward the links?
Phil Wells (Halley VI Yr 1 Site Architect - Remember I filmed you working the Dobson)

Anonymous said...

happy christmas you monkey turd,sorry i didnt leave a voice message thing but nevermind.licks later.andrew