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Halley Diary — August 2006

August has whizzed by with the return of the sun and the trips to see the Emperor penguins.

During the first week of August I was very fortunate to combine my 40th birthday with a trip on the sea ice to visit the Emperor penguin colony, a unique birthday. The weather was very kind to us during the first few weeks of the month, in order to be allowed to travel on the sea ice certain requirements must be met. The wind has to be below 10 knots and the temperature no less than -30 and obviously the state of the sea ice must be very sound. Everyone got down to see the Emperors a few times, one trip was aborted at the last minute due to poor visibility and another cut short because of the wind increasing, but all in all we have been incredibly lucky so far.

Considering the male Emperors have been out on the ice for many months the colony was in amazingly good health, the females were just starting to make their way back to the colony to relieve the males of their duties, at which point they can go off and get some well deserved food. The chicks were just starting to hatch on our last visits.

All being well we should see more of them before the chicks head off to sea in a couple of months.

Transport to sea ice
Transport to the sea ice
Getting down to the sea ice
Getting down to the sea ice
Emperors
40th with the Emperors
Emperors
Emperor close up
Emperors
Emperor and Chick

Much to my surprise the 40th celebrations continued the following weekend. I became suspicious when various people started arriving at the bar in fancy dress, it took a little while to realise the theme which of course was Bob (Robert) night, and so Vicki turned up as Bob from Black Adder, followed by the Bob sleigh Team, and a very convincing Robert Plant which was actually Dave our comms manager, other personalities were Bobby Ewing , Bobby Moore, a couple of Bob Marleys, a Bob a job chap who made a few quid on the night, Bob the builder was playing pool for a while, Our very special field guide came with a black eye, missing tooth, ripped shirt, pockets turned inside out, and confused most of us for a moment, and had in fact been Robed! He is far too clever for his own good. And last but not least there was some fella who everyone kept asking, could I have a P please Bob. The line for the following morning was I will have some Ibuprofen please Doctor.

Black Adder Bob
Black Adder's Bob telling one of the Bob sleigh team off for speeding (or possibly drinking too much)
All the Bobs
All the Bobs
Bobby Ewing
Bobby Ewing
Bobby Moore
Bobby Moore (Brian, our Scottish Plumber, jumped at the chance to wear England kit)
Robert Plant
Robert Plant

Kirsty's birthday was soon to follow. Vicki the Doc has been kept busy baking cakes. I hope she is as good at fixing people as she is at making cakes.

Kirsty's Birthday
Kirsty's Birthday
Bob's Cake
Bob's Cake
Schrodinger's Cat Cake
Schrodinger's Cat Cake

The sun finally showed its face on the 11th, it had been around the day before but due to bad weather we had to wait another day. It was a great feeling to have it back, the dark months had affected everyone in some way or another, sleeping patterns change, motivation can be hard to muster, hearing how sunny and hot it is back home is not always welcome, but we all made it and now have a few tales to tell of the experience.

The sun returns
The sun returns after 105 days below the horizon
Kirsty hoists the flag
Kirsty hoists the flag at the sun up ceremony

Now at the end of the month it is hard to imagine we were ever without it. Already the sun up is at 09:30 and does not set till around 6 pm. In a couple of months we will be back into the 24hr daylight.

With the return of the light many outside jobs have been underway, The Met departments baby Zeppelin ballon, THE BLIMP that will be sent up 500 metres above the station to gain ozone data was moved into position and set up. Clear still days are needed to enable a launch.

Blimp parked up
Blimp parked up
Weather haven
Weather haven

The test sledge for the Halley VI project was moved with a Herculean effort from the hand picked team under the command of vehicle mechanic Anto. Two dozers and a lot of blood, sweat and tears were needed to move the weighty sledge.

Halley VI test sledge
Halley VI test sledge

Myself and the field guide Simon have spent a number of days transferring 50,000 litres of fuel from the main storage tanks down into the under ice fuel bladders. These then supply the generators on the Piggott and Laws platforms. It's a very long slow process but once completed it will not need to be done again for a good few months.

A fuel spill scenario was carried out last week this just happened to coincide with Alex's birthday so it was only fair that he should try out the station's safety equipment.

Alex wearing fuel spill PPE
Alex wearing fuel spill PPE
Alex cuts his cake
Alex cuts his cake

Everyone else has been busying themselves with various tasks, and the realisation that in about 3 months a few new faces will arrive with the first flight, and before too long the station will be in full swing and back up to full capacity. Now is the time for us to enjoy the relative peace and quiet. The next round of winter trips start next month with 4 people being off station for up to 10 days at a time. And the daily event of shoveling snow continues.

Anto hard at work
Anto hard at work
Digging melt tank
Digging melt tank
Transfering fuel
Transfering fuel

Well that's it for this month.

The Gen-mech. Bob Pratt.
Thanks for photos from Anto, Alex, Julius, John and Frances.