By Jon Seddon (Electronic Engineer)

At the end of November the BAS Twin Otter aircraft flew in with our first visitors since February. Since then things have been very hectic with field parties heading out to their summer project areas, the summer work program beginning, the arrival of the RRS Ernest Shackleton and relief. For most of the year there were only 16 of us on base and now there's over 60; it's been great seeing old friends and all the new faces though! The Simpson Platform with its leg removed for repairs

Welding an offset on to one of the Simpson Platform's leg To help with the backlog of work from last season, when the Shackleton couldn't get to Halley because of unusual amounts of ice in the Weddell Sea, two flights to Halley carried a team of steel erectors. They've made a good start and have jacked the Piggott and Simpson platforms and have offset one of the legs on the Simpson.

Throughout the winter Shaggy the chef has been running cooking lessons. We had the final lesson this month. Cat Gillies had brought with her a selection of spices that we'd run out of. Shaggy showed us how to make Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Dopiaza, Beef Rogan Josh and Bhajee (a mixed vegetable curry). The previous week we'd been shown how to make several curry pastes and sauces, which we used in the curries. The smells coming from the pots were amazing. We're all looking forward to using the skills that Shaggy's taught us when we get home. Lyndsey, Jon and Cathy cooking curry

Phil Anderson camping at Clamp 2 The Doppler Sodar at Clamp 2

Phil Anderson and Annette Faux spent ten days at the Clamp 2 site, on the Antarctic Plateau, 30 nautical miles south of Halley. Phil is interested in the katabatic winds that flow off the plateau. Clamp 2 contains an Automatic Weather Station (AWS) and a Doppler Sodar. The AWS records the wind speed, wind direction, humidity and the temperature every hour. It's visited once a year to download the data and service it. The doppler sodar fires pulses of high energy sound. These are reflected by layers of different density air above the sodar and the time taken by the reflections are measured and the thickness of the katabatic wind layer calculated. It can also use the doppler shift of the pulse to calculate the speed that the air layer is moving at.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton at Creek 2 For many of us the biggest event this month was the arrival of the RRS Ernest Shackleton. The ice in the Weddell Sea began to break up later than usual this year. This led to concerns that she may have difficulty getting to Halley again. However, from mid-December satellite pictures showed the ice rapidly breaking up and although she had to travel further east than usual, on Christmas Eve she reached the Brunt Ice Shelf. In the evening we drove down to Creek 2 and spent the evening on board her. It was amazing seeing all our old friends plus the new people that we'll be living and working with for the summer or even year. I've not been in a room with more than 16 people for a year and so the crowded bar on the Shackleton was slightly over-whelming at first, but I soon got used to it and it was an awesome evening.

On Christmas Day the ship and base started working 12-hour shifts to get the cargo from the ship to the base. I was working days on the dump line at Halley. There were five of us in the team. We were responsible for unloading the sledges of cargo as they arrived on base. Other people were driving sno-cats on the ice shelf and sea-ice, looking after the sno-cats, cooking, helping to move cargo around at the ship and arranging cargo and looking after the Twin Otters to fly a science project to Berkner Island. The day shift worked from eight in the morning until eight in the evening, and another set of people worked through the night from eight in the evening until eight in the morning. It was quite strange getting up and going to work while the night-shift were getting ready to eat their Christmas Dinner. A Sno-cat double heading sledges of empty barrels to the ship

Relief took just over seven days of 24 hour shifts plus a few extra days at the end to complete. Cargo that's not damaged by freezing is placed in a long line on the snow and the distance of each item along the line is recorded in case it's covered by snow during a blow. The line this year was 460 metres long. Also brought in were eight containers, 2200 barrels of avtur and bulk fuel to fill the new bulk fuel tanks. Two years of waste were taken out including 2000 empty avtur barrels for re-use.

One of the major science projects operating out of Halley this year is the Berkner Island Ice Core Drilling Project. Berkner Island is an ice covered island between the Ronne and Filchner ice shelves. The project will be taking place over several years. This year they're going to be drilling a 100 metre deep hole and keeping the core from the centre of it for later analysis in Cambridge. The concentrations of various atmospheric gases in the core will be measured throughout its length to give a history of the Earth's atmosphere as snow accumulated on Berkner Island.

This year a BAS scientist, Field GA and two French scientists flew from Rothera to the camp site on Berkner Island at 79°32' south 45°41' west. Two other BAS scientists - Trevor McCormack and Genevieve Littot - arrived at Halley on the Shackleton along with much of the equipment that they will be using. During relief, along with Cathy Moore, Mickey Hazell and Dougie Laws, they organized this equipment in to loads suitable for flights in Twin Otters. Two Twin Otters have now made 14 flights to Berkner from Halley with this kit.

The field camp at Berkner Island Dougie Laws loading a skidoo into a Twin Otter

Me doing the monthly checks on the AIS radar

Hellooooo to everyone back in the UK and elsewhere! 'fraid that I'm staying out here for a little bit longer now, but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone in 2004!