[ I N D E X ]

March


Written by Annette Faux and Elaine Cowie (meteorologists)

The Met Angels It's now been 2 months since we were flown in by Twin Otter from the Ernest Shackleton and so far everything is going well. It seems that this season is one for the BAS history books though. It is the first time that the ship didn't make it to the base at all and the relief was entirely reliant on the planes. It's also the first time that there there have been four women wintering and an all female met team on the Simpson platform. As such we've been given the nickname the "Met Angels", something we're taking as a compliment but we're not totally sure! Since it's a tradition to have a photo of the wintering met team, we decided to get in early and strike a pose appropriate to the name in -15°C!.

Despite being tough Antarctic heroes, we decided we should be more appropriately dressed for our field trips which took place not too long after. For the first time winterers, the field trips to the creeks were a combination of our field training, which was learning how to cope with the whole Antarctic camping experience and having a little fun which meant crevasse rescue, skiing and abseiling. Also included were the joys of eating frozen chocolate at -25°C, beef munch and dooloo's, which consist of two skidoos, a cunningly shaped plank of wood, a hole in the ground and a large piece of tarpaulin, all arranged to make a really plush bathroom. Elaine was off first on her fieldtrip, had amazing weather and a great time although being a vegetarian, was spared the joys of munch. Annette was on the second trip and although had wonderful weather for the first 4 days, it rapidly deteriorated and they ended up being confined to the tent for 2 days. It also meant that their arrival back at the base was a day late which meant they missed out on all the fun of the cocktail party that was held in honour of Cathy's birthday.

Our camp The view from a cave at Creek 5 Cathy with her cocktail
Stuart taking a stroll View from cave at Hinge zone

There's been a lot of base work left over from the short summer so whilst the weather has been good we've been out raising drums lines and replacing the stays on the masts so that they don't get buried by the snow during the winter. Replacing the stays is good fun but now that it's starting to get below -30 on a regular basis you have to make sure you've wrapped up well so you don't end up with cold fingers and toes. We thought it was tricky enough doing mast work in the UK, but it's a whole new problem when you're trying not to get your big thick gloves caught in the grips! Andy and Sharpy (genie mech and electrician) were the stars of the drum raising, managing to get most of the drum lines done themselves and there's soon to be a nice clean caboose out towards creek 5 so people can get off the base and have a quiet weekend away near the coast.

We've now noticed that the days are getting shorter and the dark nights getting longer. It's quite a new experience walking over to the Simpson to do the midnight met ob now as you try not to trip over the snow drifts in the darkness. If you hear laughter in the darkness it probably means one of us has just landed face first in the snow! If you do manage to walk over in the dark on a clear night without succumbing to the desire to use a torch and you let your eyes adjust, you're rewarded with the most spectacular view of the stars and MilkyWay stretching across the sky from horizon to horizon. Back at home it was very rare to see a shooting star or satellite because of all the light from the surrounding towns but here if it's clear it's guarenteed that you'll see them. We were also lucky enough to see the Aurora Australis on the 22nd, the first time that either of us had seen the southern lights twisting through the sky. It was also the same night as the "T" party, the idea being that you dressed up as something beginning with T so we had the Two Little Boys, the Tattooed lady, the Tourist and the Teacher to name but a few. The tattooed lady was our well respected base doctor and one of the two little boys was one of our field GA's, both sensible and responsible people, honest!

The first sunset of the season The 'T' party The 'T' party

Apart from all the base work, we've both settled into our roles on the Simpson as part of the met team well. We're getting to grips with all the different experiments that are looked after on the platform like the microbarographs which measure the wind speed and direction. This is used in conjuction with the sodar, or beeping bucket, to look for waves in the lower atmosphere and has constant daily checks performed on it. The most fun of the daily tasks is the balloon launch, especially in strong winds like those we had recently. The average wind speed was up to 45 knots with gusts up to 55 which made launching the balloon something of a art. It also meant that an all stations warning had to go out just incase anyone was walking around outside and got caught by the balloon or sonde as it got swept across the base by the winds! It's amazing how quickly the weather here changes. On the 28th it was -4 degrees C and blowing 40 knots whilst the following day saw -20 and only a breath of a breeze. Mind you, the poor weather has given some of us a chance to practice for the darts competition that is going to be held over the radio against the South African base SANAE. Of course, there will be strict adherence to the rules and absolutely no cheating will occur given that all the scores are going to have to be taken on faith.

Next month will see the sundown ceremony and a barbeque in the garage which we are all looking forward to so fingers crossed for an accurate prediction of the sundown date from Annette.

Elaine and Annette

love and hugs to all back home, from Annette xx

Best Wishes back home, Give Brucie a big bosie for me, Take Care Elaine xx