Halley Diary — March 2004
Bath Time By Stéphane Bauguitte
March was punctuated by three week-long pre-winter field trips, with Sledge Bravo, Sledge Charlie and Sledge Delta boldly going where Sledge Alpha had gone before, i.e. the World renowned Hinge Zone (see Craig�s previous Feb diary). Each party is called after a �sledge�, as in the olden days of Great British polar exploration, when Nansen sledges were pulled by dog teams fed on penguins (now politically and environmentally incorrect).
Nowadays, and since the removal of dog teams from BAS research stations in 1994, the same Nansen-designed sledges are still used but pulled by linked skidoos. The fourteen personnel remaining on station kept in touch with the away party thanks to the daily morning and evening HF radio schedules. We also transmitted them the updated weather forecast and important station gossip.
Sledge Delta decided they liked it so much that they stayed an extra week! Allegedly, the continuous 30 knot Autumn blizzard that blew while they were away was not a strong contributor to their decision; neither did it affect their morale and determination to have a good time, though admittedly the going got tough: they ran out of teabags rather soon. In a similar show of keen polar exploration enthusiasm, Sledge Bravo had their fair share of �adventures�. A succession of unforeseen skidoo driving mishaps by skilled motorbike rider Tommo (and presumably poor snow contrast?) yielded in him and Kev, having to share the coziness of their emergency pup tent (probably designed by someone who's never been in a tent with two full sized men before!), instead of sharing the relative comfort of the roomier, standard-issue, pyramid tent because it was torn and needed major repairs.
Besides, the joy of discovering unforeseen interest in pyramid tent windproof material double-stitching, our base General Assistant, Ed, also recently took on the new exciting hobby of structural repairs and relashing of Nansen sledge ash runners. We�re sure this newly acquired skill will benefit Ed greatly once he�ll look for a new job back in the UK. It�ll look good on his CV.
Sledge Bravo (Ness, Tommo, Ed and Kev) having a cuppa at a roadside caf� en route to the Hinge Zone. Photo by an anonymous passer-by.
Kevin O�Donnell, Sledge Bravo and Halley Research Station Catering Manager, displaying skills and confidence on a Scottish winter grade IV ice climb. Note the bold solo ascent without crampons (forgotten in the overcrowded pup tent). Photo by Allan Thomas. Click here to see the disappointing truth.
Sledge Charlie (Simon, Mark and Craig), aka Sledge YMCA, at the Hinge Zone. Photo by Ed, just before tripping over his crampons and ripping through his fourth pair of windproof salopettes.
Sledge Delta (Ed, Mike, Graham and Rhian): Day One after pitching pyramid tents upon arrival at the Hinge Zone municipal campsite. Photo by Graham Gillie (station Igloo erector).
Sledge Delta: Day Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven� Eleven and Twelve. Photo by Graham Gillie.
On the 17th, we duly celebrated St Patrick�s Day, with our Irish descent (?) chef, Kev, cooking us a fantastic dinner and Guinness flowing to the tune of gallic music. March also saw the launch of Vanessa�s Thursday evening step aerobics classes, which she diligently runs for the benefit of the station members� fitness and fine physique tuning. Unfortunately this is greatly jeopardized by Kev�s hearty cooking. The fact that the classes are run in the dinning room makes it difficult for attendees to concentrate, in full view of the chilled food counter, but Vanessa�s relentless aerobics reduces cholesterol, so she claims.
With night skies getting darker, the thirteen new station winterers were granted their first (green) Aurora Australis on few occasions. We all volunteered to be woken up in the middle of the night to witness this truly amazing spectacle!
We have also been busy building a large igloo during the weekends, making the most of the rapidly fading evening daylight. Under the strict but efficient supervision of our station carpenter extraordinaire, Graham, the would-be polar building contractors managed to put together the blocks of this snow/ice jigsaw. We tested new techniques to join gravity defying snow blocks held in impossible angles, and threatening to collapse at any time onto the team members desperately cementing the blocks inside the Igloo! Graham, Simon and Frank notably, would have made a good living, had they worked for the Egyptian, Roman or Inca rulers. The Igloo now extends our vast choice of station social venues, offering an alternative to the Halley Hard Ice caf� and Tommo�s illustrious Wednesday Workshop on Laws, Club Nido in the Garage, and Rob�s �subterranean� grotto (see June 2003 diary). A few people even spent a night in the Igloo, keeping warm with Tilley lamps.
Russ, Graham, Rhian and Frank enjoying a relaxing time inside the Igloo. Photo by Jeff Cohen.
The 2004 Wintering team in front of the Igloo.
Igloo door bouncers: Vanessa O�Brien and Rhian Salmon
Igloo gatecrasher and lunatic party candidate: Craig Nicholls
Top Row: Edwyn Dodd, Allan �Tommo� Thomas, Simon Coggins, Gareth Wale, Mark Maltby, Graeme Barton, Graham Gillie, Jeff Cohen (Sledge driver)
Bottom Row: Kevin O�Donnell, Nigel Colgan, Frank Swinton, Russ Locke, St�phane Bauguitte, Mike Rooney, Stuart Colley
On the work front, our plumber Nigel, aka Jack-Sparrow-Colgan, has been seriously busy winterizing the Drewry summer accommodation block, to a point when we wondered if he had taken permanent residency in the Drewry and abandoned his Laws quarters! However, after much work preparing the building for the winter, Nigel finally completed the job, and to our much-awaited pleasure, allowed the grand opening of the Drewry Thermal Baths Establishment. Every year, station members all enjoy their one and only bath of the year, in the melt tank used for the Drewry water supply. Once filled with snow, and with the thermostat cranked up, we all �plunged� in and enjoyed a hot tub. At one stage, I think we managed to squeeze twelve bodies in. As you can see on the pictures below, this is quite a feat given the size of the tank, and it felt more like a tin of sardines than err� well, a snow melting tank full to the brim with merry winterers. We all followed the great Scandinavian sauna/hot tub tradition and ran out of the tank (in swimming trunks) to roll in the snow at �20 degree C and 20 knots winds!
The Melt Tank Party in full swing with Graham, Tommo, Rhian, Simon, Ed, Kev, Frank, Craig, Ness and Nigel, enjoying their one & only 2004 bath. You dirty lot! Photo by Frank Swinton.
That�s it from all of us. All the best to friends and family back home.