Thursday, 18 September 2008

August/September...Birthday's Galore!

Ah August...
The coming of the O-hole!

The sun is back.
And with it it brings sunburn...snowblindness...and the euphoric feeling associated with our thyroid glands returning to full operation again (read T3 Syndrome). The summer approaches and we are happy.

Not only does August see the return of the sun at Halley, but also the start of a series of processes beyond my control which make my role on base a hell of a lot more busier than normal. In other words, the coming of a gigantic hole in the high stratosphere.

The sunlight provides the energy which kick-starts the chemical processes that cause the annual spring-time destruction of the ozone layer above Antarctica. The dark winter months allow the conditions 15km - 20km above the earth to prime themselves to destroy the ozone layer once the sun returns. And I'm here to record the destruction of ozone above Halley, 4 times a day, 7-days per week.

For information about the depletion in ozone above Halley and Antarctica in general, and the processes involved, please visit the BAS webpage.

Thursday 7th & Wednesday 13th & Saturday 23rd August 2008
"For God's sake...anyone else got a birthday in August they want to inform us about?!?!"

There was/is definitely something about the month of November and the parents of would be Antarctic winterers!
Three people on base celebrated their birthday in August. That is more than 25% of the entire complement at Halley.

Is there some kind of bizarre link between a) those who wish to spend months on end confined to a small building
with a handful of other people in the most hostile place on earth, and b) the parents of said people doing "coitus" during the month of November?!

No matter how much of scientific role I have on base, this kind of research is beyond my call of duty! Thank goodness.

First we had Hannah pushing further towards the realm of old age on the 7th.
Closely followed by Rich hot on her heels, in both age and date of birth, on the 13th.
And finally Scott sneaked in on the 23rd.

"Tradition" is for a cake to be made for the birthday boy/girl by the Doc (Hannah). And there is always a theme relating to the persons job or hobby.

Hannah made Rich a cake in the shape of a camera. You probably guessed by now that Rich is a keen photographer from the numerous pictures I "borrow" from him for my blog.

Scott (vehicle mechanic) received a ginger-bread biscuit-cake-thing in the shape of the garage, complete with vehicles.

Saturday 16th August 2008
Sun-Up BBQ

The rubbish weather which hampered us from ever seeing whether my prediction for the sun-up last weekend (Sun 10th) was correct also prevented us from having a celebratory BBQ.

Not to be deterred, we celebrated it anyway...the following week.

And as it was a celebration, and as we had plenty of out of date emergency flares which needed expending, we decided to light the sky with our own "fireworks"...Fire and flares.

And as an added bonus, we also were treated to a total lunar eclipse that very night.
Do visit Dean's (our Comms Manager and resident computer & network spod/geek) blog for awesome pictures of flares being fired off the platform and the lunar eclipse:

Sunday 24th August 2008
Another Birthday!

This time, it was my dad's 60th birthday
Happy Birthday Pop!

Sorry to miss out. As a present I'll buy all your bus fares for the next 20yea...oh, looks like the state beat me to it!!! :o)

Tuesday 26th August 2008
The saga of the balloon radiodome...continued

It had been sitting in Joe's workshop for the past month or two, but it was time to face the ordeal of repairing and remounting the stupid flying radiodome (see last blog entry for details).

I had already ascertained that there was no serious damage to the dome from it's fall. Just some cosmetic damage to the fibreglass shell. The antenna elements inside survived, if a little bent to one direction from the impact.

I wielded some super whiffy glass-fibre filler and proceeded to repair the shell. I eventually succeeded in repairing the dome, and also succeeded in spreading the stench of my efforts (that is the smell of the fibreglass filler and not my body odour!) throughout the building via the internal air system.
At least everyone was happy that evening!

It was then time to remount the dome.
In -30C temperatures, there was not even any point in thinking about soldering connectors onto cables and such for re-establishing the comms to the radiosonde system. That job would have to wait until the summer when it was warmer. However, the first stage had been completed...the dome, with help from Dean, was back on it's pedestal.

Thursday 4th September 2008
A Trip to Windy Creek

Aha, you've been patiently waiting for this
Windy Creek...*snigger*
An unfortunate name for a place, but a pleasure to visit.
Well, it's where our closest neighbours live...

The Penguins.

The first penguin trip of the season was organised by Rich, and so in the morning, myself, Dean and Rich took a Sno-Cat and drove the 15km to the coast.

It is always a pleasure to visit these amazing birds. After a long dark winter, (which was a struggle to ourselves even in the comfort of our warm base, good food, and entertainment), these birds have managed to survive the extreme temperatures and nurture an egg.

They are so naturally inquisitive when visited by us humans. We would approach the colony gently for fear of disturbing the penguins, and they will instead take it upon themselves to break off and actually come to us to have a look.

We didn't approach the colony, the colony approached us (well those on the edge anyway).

I was busy taking some photos of a couple of penguins before me, and I could hear the crunch of penguin claws on ice behind me. First one, then two...then more....getting closer and closer. It was quite unnerving in a way. I turned around to find I was practically encircled by a bunch of penguins all about arms length away, motionless, staring at me.


Visiting the penguin colony probably alone can completely justify my reasons for being here at Halley. Of course, there are many experiences I have had and am yet to have down here which makes this job amazing, but simply visiting the penguins can be enough to make it all worth while.

Although all the chicks by this time had hatched, there were many abondoned eggs lying around, and it was often sad to see the devotion some penguins had to their eggs when it was obvious to us that it was never going to hatch. I watched one penguin, (pictured), keep picking up his egg and transport it whenever the group of penguins we were watching shuffled to a new spot. And there was the occasional frozen carcass of a chick who hadn't made it. Such is the harsh reality of nature.

No bigger than my hand, the occasional dead chick was found. Was a sad sight to see.

Unfortunately, even though we could hear the calls of plenty of chicks, I wasn't lucky enough to see any in good view. All were towards the warm centre of the colony and were hidden under the belly of their parent. Occasionally a beak could be seen protruding from between the feet of the adult penguins.

We were treated to some amazing lighting conditions as the low sun passed behind some alto-stratus clouds, giving a beautiful orange-pink glow as a backdrop to the North.

A damn good trip.

Monday 8th September - Sunday14th September 2008
Bondage in the Simpson?

I spent most of the week getting all hot and sweaty with Rich, lashing up nice and tight with him using twine and us both pulling hard on leather thongs with one another!!
Other activities included cleaning our skids, getting covered in lots of viscous goo and adding metal hooks to our body.

What on earth was going on in the Simpson?

Well, Rich has been using old met-lab in the Simpson to service his sledges.
I took it upon myself to assist him in completely refurbishing one of these sledges. All of the lashings holding the wooden struts together were replaced, the leather thonging attaching the bridges to the sledge skids were replaced, the skids were touched up, dope was used to seal the lashings, and new tow rope was tied around the sledge.

The 14 year old sledge was as good as new once we finished, ready to be stored for use for field parties, science trips and winter trips.

A very satisfying activity away from my usual duties.

The sun is now starting to set at a reasonable time in the evenings now, more familiar to us that sunsets at 1500 and 1600 as we'd been expecting. As the sun sets in the north-west, we get treated to some fantastic lighting.

Take these shots of the Halley VI construction site below,

What? Another birthday?

Yep. Another birthfay to celebrate.
This time it was Base Commander Ags' birthday, so we felt obliged to make an effort with this one. (one wonders if we all secretyl feared a bad rview in our performance report if we did not).

Lucky for us Ags was on nightwatch for the week, so she was out of the way for us to plan things.

We all knew she likes balloons, so we decided it would be fun to completely fill her office with the things...even going through the trouble of inflating one of the huge met balloons I use for the daily met radiosonde.

Ags got a pleasant shock when she opened her office door to be attacked by loads of balloons flooding out. Heh.

We celebrated with a 3 course meal put on by Paddy, a fantastic colourful ice-feature made by Ags herself being the centre-piece of the table (you can just about make out it's semi-melted form in the photo above). We finally partied the rest of the night out in the bar.

Saturday 20th September 2008
Vikings visit Halley

The headline on the daily "newspaper" we have here at Halley read "will there be raping and pillaging through Halley tonight?".

I can't for the life of me think who would put such a heading!!! :o)

Rich had proposed earlier in the week to have a Viking theme night for Saturday. Paddy agreed to put on what Scandanavian-based food stuffs he could think up. Turns out he could think up quite a wide range of Scandinavian-based food stuffs! He did a fantastic job.

To add to the Viking theme several of us decided to make us some Viking costumes from what clobber and props we had in the fancy dress cupboard.

I ended up improvising with a monks habit, a bedsheet, and a safety helmet with some tin-foil.

Top marks goes to Rich with the Viking helmet he made. Mine looked like a prop from a very bad sci-fi B-Movie.

And finally...

The first full Solar halo of post-winter 2008

An exciting moment for a humble metbabe like me.
A full huge solar halo,
produced by diamond dust in the air, dwarfing the Laws building.

Melt-Tank Movie

Dean has kindly uploaded a video onto You-Tube depicting the not-so-glamourous side of life at Halley...digging for the melt-tank in a 40knot blow in the middle of winter.

Have a look-see at:

Now you see why we justify calling ourselves "Antarctic Heroes"! :o)

That's it for now

Hope you enjoyed the entry.
Adios for now.