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Halley Diary — April 2008

"1, 2, 3, 4, er...d'oh, damn it, I lost count! 1, 2, 3, 4..."

By the end of April, the residents of Halley 2008 had experienced “winter” life for just over one and a half months. Well, we say it’s the winter season, but temperatures throughout March and April had been considerably higher than this time last year. Dean, the only person mad enough to stay on this year for a 2nd winter, (yes, note how I state “mad” enough and not “man” enough!), was adamant that this time last year they were experiencing temperatures in the -30s and -40s. We put it down to him just bigging himself up to make himself out to be some kind of hardened Antarctic Hero whose in whose presence we were not worthy!

Okay, I have got to give him his dues. As station metbabe (meteorologist) and self-proclaimed “Winter 2008 Chief Scientist*”, I have to admit that last April was indeed much colder than this April.

*Chief Scientist...for 2008 I am the only person with a scientific role on station, so I think I am in my right to call myself the chief scientist! Well, I don’t see anyone else competing for the title!

Just to appease Dean, I compiled the following chart to show a comparison of this year and last year and stuck it on the met info board.

April 2008 - overall not as cold as April 2007
April 2008 - overall not as cold as April 2007

*stage whisper* sshh, don’t tell anyone, but I am in fact actually an engineer posing as a scientist!

So, how was April on the whole?

April 1st came and went, and April Fools pranks were quite thin on the ground. In fact they were non-existent.

The occasional curse of annoyance could be heard from the sparky’s workshop as Joe would find yet another drawer of small electrical components upside down in the rack. Upon opening it, it would spill its entire contents over the workbench (a departing gift from his predecessor). But yet, this had been going on since January so couldn’t be considered a true April Fools joke. Joe just hadn’t yet learnt to check the drawers before opening them. He’s obviously far too busy and overworked to do so!!!

For the first week of April I was on melt-tank duty. The melt tank is how we generate our water supply here at Halley. For about half an hour each day a team digs snow into an underground tank which melts the snow down for use as our water supply. I was glad that this week of melt-tank duty was a week of good weather. It just seems that each time I end up being on melt-tank duty, it's always during a big blow.
With me being the station metbabe, people are inclined to think that I actually appreciate being out there in the thick of such meteorological conditions. I’m personally inclined to think not!

On melt tank duty...digging for water
On melt tank duty...digging for water


Lance sometimes helps with his big yellow shovel
Lance sometimes helps with his big yellow shovel

The last of the winter trips were slotted in during the first week of April before the days got too short. Rich and Scott enjoyed a few days out and about climbing and abseiling and the like.

Scott climbes down into an ice-cave
Scott climbes down into an ice-cave


...and admires some big chunks of ice
...and admires some big chunks of ice

As part of their trip Rich and Scott spent a couple of nights at the coast staying in the caboose at Creek 4. If one uses one’s imagination, one can almost imagine it akin to holidaying in one of those chalets at the seaside.
Ah, the seaside...the kind of place where there is sun and warmth and fresh food and a normal day/night cycle and beautiful bodies on show!

Not to knock what we do have available here, a caboose is in actual fact a welcome escape from base life, and once the stove is fired up and soup is on the boil, a caboose can be quite a cosy getaway in its own way.

Scott reads, warm and dry from the harsh Antarctic environs outside
Scott reads, warm and dry from the harsh Antarctic environs outside


Literally a wooden box on a big sledge in the middle of nowhere, the inside of a caboose is quaint but cosy...perfect for two single men on a short break together.
Literally a wooden box on a big sledge in the middle of nowhere, the inside of a caboose is quaint but cosy...perfect for two single men on a short break together.

The weekend of the 5th April, Scott and Rich were back in time for a traditional British fish ‘n’ chips take-away dinner. Paddy turned the servery into a chip-shop counter and served our fish 'n' chips in mock printed newspaper.
The level of detail of Paddy’s takeaway was quite impressive, even down to the annoying tomato-ketchup-smudged-all-over-the-bottle often experienced in many a chip shop.

Paddy's Plaice...geddit
Paddy's Plaice...geddit

The wind picked up during the following week, producing slight drifting snow. When the sun is up and there are no clouds, it's always fascinating to stand looking out of the window and watch the snow snake across the Brunt Ice Shelf, flow under the building and out the other side again.

Drifting snow...
Drifting snow...


...and in the setting sun
...and in the setting sun


The container line
The container line


Scott inspecting the fleet of winterised vehicles
Scott inspecting the fleet of winterised vehicles

The late evening of the 9th April gave us the first truly visible aurora display. By no means anything close to what we should be expecting to see later in the winter, but to most of us it was our first taster.
And it was beautiful.
Those who were still up rushed outside with their cameras to take snaps. Me, I was more inclined to watch the show and take only but a few photos. But to exercise my ego (which I need to do quite often...it’s like a drug) I had to take a photo of myself watching the show.

Me watching the aurora
Me watching the aurora


Rich was proactive enough to take a distant shot of the Laws under the aurora
Rich was proactive enough to take a distant shot of the Laws under the aurora

Another week had passed, and another Saturday was upon us.
The theme for this week?
James Bond Casino Royale.

A big effort was made by everyone to participate in this one. The dining table was laid out in an opulent fashion ready for the Russian influenced 3-course meal. Pairs of playing cards laminated in plastic served as coasters and bartering chips from a poker set were strewn across the table for added Bond-esque effect.

Soon, the guests started arriving. Q (Dean) and Pussy Galore (Ags) were the first to turn up. We also had Solitaire (Hannah) and Odd-Job (Paddy). Joe came as Commando Bond (thankfully not commando as in “not wearing any underwear”, but commando as in “let’s put on some make-up and play wargames, boys”!).
A suave and sophisticated Mexican card-shark turned up (me), and there was also a couple of evil henchmen (quite fittingly Tech Services Les and Bryan).
Then suddenly the number of females on station leapt by 50% with the arrival of some random Bond-girl...Lance in drag! Scott, it seemed, took quite a fancy to this one!

Casino Royale...Halley style
Casino Royale...Halley style


The Bond Girls...Ags, Lance and Hannah
The Bond Girls...Ags, Lance and Hannah


The look that could make a thousand men cower and a thousand women swoon
The look that could make a thousand men cower and a thousand women swoon

During the following week, the usual routines carried on. We were all operating together like a well oiled machine.

I would be looking after the science systems and conducting met measurements.

Bryan would service his generators to keep the place powered.

Bryan topping up a genny
Bryan topping up a genny


The genny room
The genny room

Scott would continue to winterise the summer vehicle fleet.

Scott in the garage
Scott in the garage

Les would keep the place heated and watered. The monthly survey of the platform legs was conducted by him and Bryan.

Les - pictured - and Bryan survey their legs
Les - pictured - and Bryan survey their legs

Rich continued to sort through the oodles of field equipment under his responsibility.

Rich inspects the pyramid tent pitched on the base perimeter
Rich inspects the pyramid tent pitched on the base perimeter

Joe maintained the electrical and fire systems.

Zzzapp
Zzzapp

Dean would be doing his computer and commsy type support thing.

Yes Dean, you keep that sat dome maintained...it's our only link to the outside world
Yes Dean, you keep that sat dome maintained...it's our only link to the outside world

Paddy kept us all fat.

Daily fresh bread
Daily fresh bread

Hannah would be waiting for one of us to give her a medical emergency, (a splinter in the finger was all I could manage for her!).

And Ags would be trying to tell us all to do things we didn’t want to do! Her merely mentioning the word “scrubout” would send shivers of fear through us all.

Although we all have individual roles on base, there was one common activity which brought us together like brethren... all through April, the sound of numbers being counted consecutively could be heard coming from all nooks and crannies of the base. It was like listening to some bizarre religious chanting. What was going on?

Well...with April came the dreaded “Month Of The Indent”. Everyone had to count the stock relating to their department, and there was a lot of stock to count. A lot.

The final weekend of the month gave us another excuse to have a theme night. This one...a children’s party.

On going to bed on Friday night, all of us found on our doors a balloon with a paper invitation attached to it. “You are invited to the dining room at 1930 on Saturday 26th".

When the time came, we were greeted to the sight of the dining room set out in the style of a children’s party, complete with buffet, cheesy music and party bags for each of us.

Childrens party buffet
Childrens party buffet

The most happening party at 76degrees south
The most happening party at 76degrees south

And just like a children’s party, people mainly skulked around the outer edges of the room timidly looking at the floor and eating their food. They clearly needed someone to kick things off...enter Hannah and myself!

I don't even know what this dance is, but I like it
I don't even know what this dance is, but I like it

Unfortunately, a lot of people were just themed out by the end of April, and so the night died a gradual quiet death. Board games were played in the lounge instead.

And thus concludes the stories of life at Halley, April 2008.

I hope you enjoyed the read.

Love to all my family and friends. I will be back and as sane as ever!

Dave Stephenson – Meteorologist/Electronic Technician

Photos courtesy of Richard Burt, Dean Evans and David Stephenson.