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Halley Diary — August 2008

The Sun Returns

Could it be a case of pre-Christmas cheer, or early Christmas gifts, or just pure coincidence?

What on earth am I on about?

Well… it turns out we had cause to celebrate the birthday of three people on base this month...more than quarter of the entire base complement! That means that there was no doubt a bit of “slap and tickle” within the parental bedrooms of would be Antarctic winterers during November or early-December.

Quite close to Christmas if you ask me!

Hello, and welcome to the August entry to the 2008 Halley web-diary. Brought to you again by, (still), the only scientist/metbabe on base.

48-hour Antarctic Film Festival

The first weekend of August kicked off with Halley turning into the scene of a film-set with shouts of “Action” and “cut” bawling out. Wannabe actors strutted their stuff in front of the lens, directors re-shot scenes again and again, and in the midst of all this we all started talking to an inanimate cardboard box.

It was the 1st Annual 48-hour Antarctic Film Festival.

What was previously a competition internally within the US McMurdo base was this year expanded to inviting the rest of the bases in Antarctica.

The rules?

All bases were allotted 48 hours in which to produce short movie (which includes coming up with a plot, writing the script, filming the scenes, downloading scenes onto computer, editing them together and finalising the whole thing). The completed movies had to be uploaded by midnight Sunday.

Simple!

Well, not quite that simple.

To add a little “spice” to the competition, organisers at McMurdo produced a list of specific props, characters, quotes and sound effects that had to be included in the movies in order to qualify.

The list was as follows:

  • The prop — a cardboard box.
  • The character — a FNG or “fingy“ (US terminology for a new guy).
  • The quote — “What do you mean you want a day off for mid-winter?”.
  • And the sound effects — any bodily sound!

After a weekend of early mornings and lots of filming and editing, we were there. Halley had produced its entry to the film festival. We opted to give a cardboard box character by actually making it the FNG, and the story was based around us all finding an annoying box in our way all the time, before finally realising it is the new guy. It soon becomes accepted as part of the team! Aaahhh, bless!

Ags and Hannah film Halley's newest member in an outdoor scene
Ags and Hannah film Halley's newest member in an outdoor scene
The filming of the melt-tank scene
The filming of the melt-tank scene
Hannah (hidden from camera view) gives 'life' to the box by animating it
Hannah (hidden from camera view) gives 'life' to the box by animating it

The following week we reviewed all the film festival entries made by the various bases which got involved.

I would like to say it made quite a difference for a Saturday night for us to sit in the bar/lounge and watch lots of very amateur (and sometimes toe-curlingly cringeworthy) play-acting… however, as it happens we witness it each week through the antics of Joe and Dean and Paddy and myself!!!

All in all, each entry was a lot of fun to watch, and it was very difficult to pick out a favourite. In the end we all handed in our votes to the organisers at McMurdo and it was later announced that the overall winners were the UK’s very own Rothera station. Yay Brits!

The final breakdown of the results were as follows:

Best Film:
Rothera (UK) - FNG
Neumayer (Germany) - Nemisis

Best Actions:
Casey (Australia) - Don't Leave Home

Best Cinematography:
Rothera

Best Screenplay:
Casey

Best Use of Required Elements:
Casey

Medical Emergency Scenario

The Monday following the hard weekend of acting and filming we were thrown into a surprise medical emergency scenario.

The scenario: The Base Commander and the doctor were both incapacitated following an “accident” riding a skidoo. BC Ags was in shock, and Doc Hannah had broken her neck (we didn’t know this initially of course).

But not to worry… help was at hand in the form of the team of trained Advanced First Aiders. Hannah had been giving weekly doc schools all winter teaching willing volunteers the skills and techniques needed in recognising medical problems and knowing how to treat them.

With the medical emergency scenario it was time for us to shine.

Hannah and Ags were “rescued” from the accident site, and transported to the Laws surgery. Hannah was hooked up to various machines and treated for her injuries. All in all, the exercise went very well and Hannah was happy with how we each performed. My respect goes to Joe who successfully managed to insert a cannula into Hannah’s arm and hook her up to a drip. Not an easy thing to do in such “panic” conditions and without guidance from the doc.

Sorry, no pics as everyone was busy concentrating on the scenario to think about taking photos.

Happy Birthday Hannah. Happy Birthday Rich. Happy Birthday Scott.

August was indeed a month inundated with the birthdays of Halley personnel.

Hannah’s birthday was first up. I will avoid provoking her wrath and mentioning on a public website what age she is.

Rich’s birthday soon followed. In a stroke of coincidence, it happened to be Rich’s 34th birthday a few days after Hannah’s.

Extraordinary to think that two separate people living on the same Antarctic research station end up sharing a birthday a few days apart and being the same age!!

Oop...I’ve gone and given it away now!

*coy, bashful look* Sorry Hannah! :o)

And finally Scott celebrated whatever age he now is towards the end of the month. He's managed to keep his age a closely guarded secret.

Dean used his Photoshop prowess and produced a card for each birthday girl/boy for us all to sign. Hannah has taken on the tradition of baking the birthday cake (although she is adamant that it’s not yet a tradition as it’s only been going on for 3 years now). Of course, we couldn’t expect her to make her own so Ags produced one for her instead.

Ags’ cake for Hannah was in the shape of the field medical boxes we use on field trips. It was presented in… a field medical box. Genius!

Hannah's birthday cake and card
Hannah's birthday cake and card
Hannah blows out the candles on her cake
Hannah blows out the candles on her cake

Hannah made Rich a cake in the shape of a camera (in relation to his photography hobby).

Rich with his cake
Rich with his cake
The quality of birthday card Dean makes with the power of Photoshop is adequate at best!
The quality of birthday card Dean makes with the power of Photoshop is adequate at best!

And Hannah also made for Scott’s birthday a scale model of the garage made out of gingerbread.

The ginger-bread garage with an equally mad ginger-bread Scott
The ginger-bread garage with an equally mad ginger-bread Scott
Hannah and Scott
Hannah and Scott

Sun-Up

It was time to finally welcome the sun back after 100 days since the day we last saw it.

According to my predictions, I calculated the sun to briefly pop its disc above the horizon on the 10th August at around 1400GMT.

Tradition is that the youngest member on base hoists a brand new Union Flag above the Laws building, where it will remain until the sundown ceremony next May.

But, oh dear… the 10th was an overcast day and we would never find out if I was correct or not! Oh what a shame! :o)

After the hassle I received for my prediction of sun-down back in May I was inwardly glad it was overcast. (I still stick by my guns that the “sun” everyone could see for a couple of days after the sun-down ceremony was in fact a mirage)!

Sun-up...a miserly overcast day, giving a dull grey shadow over Halley
Sun-up...a miserly overcast day, giving a dull grey shadow over Halley

Maybe I called upon the forces of nature to cover Halley station in a blanket of cloud in order to save my reputation.

I have been metbabe here for just over 10 months now, and it’s quite possible I have become “one with the weather”. You know, just like how a Jedi becomes “at one with the force”, or how Dr. Doolittle becomes “at one with the animals”!!

Anyway, sorcery-like tendencies aside, not to be perturbed by the cloud we carried on with the ceremony anyway.

Joe, after some consternation and a multitude of confusing suggestions from those on the platform, managed to hoist the flag up the flagpole. He said a few dignified and poignant words, we clapped, and then we all trudged back indoors where I continued to whip up an amazing meal of Chicken Chasseur for everyone.

Joe, getting all tied up with his knots, takes to eating the Queen's flag in frustration!
Joe, getting all tied up with his knots, takes to eating the Queen's flag in frustration!
Finally the flag is hoisted...
Finally the flag is hoisted...
...and a proud Joe salutes after saying a few words
...and a proud Joe salutes after saying a few words
Our BBQ having been cancelled due to bad weather, I never managed to escape Sunday cook duty! Grr!
Our BBQ having been cancelled due to bad weather, I never managed to escape Sunday cook duty! Grr!

If there’s on thing I take with me from my experiences in the Antarctic, it’s that I am now more domesticated than what I was before! Cleaning… cooking… you name it, I have it.

The following weekend we had the belated sun-up party. Another BBQ at −30C, to be followed with indoor shenanigans!!

Paddy working his magic with the BBQ
Paddy working his magic with the BBQ
Proof that fire does work in -30C, and is still as fascinating to man as it was at it's first discovery millennia ago!
Proof that fire does work in -30C, and is still as fascinating to man as it was at it's first discovery millennia ago!

The party mood was already with us even before the food was ready. Dean had piped music through onto the outside speaker on the open platform and people were milling around stomping their feet and flailing their arms.

But I think the behaviour was associated with trying to keep warm rather than boogying to the beats from the speaker!!

Party on the Platform
Party on the Platform

After food, we celebrated sun-up by sending off a barrage of out-of-date flares from the platform. The effect of which was beautifully captured by our Comms Manager Dean.

Fireworks, Halley-style
Fireworks, Halley-style

We soon retired indoors to continue with celebrations. Dean provided another Feuerzangenbowle punch (like which he did for mid-winter). Rich taught us the Highland Fling. And I pretended to know how to Latin dance (from the year of lessons I once attended back in 2006).

The Start of the Ozone Monitoring Season

Fun and games aside, Sun-Up also hides a more serious and sinister side.

The returning of the sun also puts into motion a series of events in the high stratosphere that leads to the annual depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica.

The critical period for recording the depletion of ozone above Halley started on 22nd August, and will continue right through the Antarctic Spring and Summer. Ozone levels are expected to drop to 40% of normal at the peak of the depletion.

For more information, check out the public BAS ozone webpage

So, it is time for us to cover up well, don those sunglasses and ensure we have plenty of sunscreen on. Those damn cheeky and nasty UV rays will be coming through the atmosphere thick and fast for the next few months until the ozone layer recovers towards the end of summer.

Outside Work Starts Again

The returning of the sun allowed Dean and myself to take advantage of the daylight check the masts for Dean’s comms systems and my science systems. Some catenaries for the cabling needed raising, but all in all the masts had survived the harsh weather of the dark winter months rather well.

The daylight also gave me the opportunity to repair the errant weather balloon antenna dome. You may recall in the July web-diary that I had somehow stopped receiving data from my daily weather balloons, only to find the antenna dome for the system had disappeared from the roof, literally blown away!

Dean observes the sun skimming the horizon as we prepare to remount the balloon dome
Dean observes the sun skimming the horizon as we prepare to remount the balloon dome

The dome had been sitting in Joe’s workshop for the past few weeks awaiting repair and reattachment to it’s perch on the roof. After patching up the cosmetic damage it suffered to it’s fireglass shell, with the assistance of Dean, we hauled it back up onto the roof and reaffixed it to the pedestal.

Dean tightens nuts to ensure that this time the dome is going nowhere when there's another puff of wind!
Dean tightens nuts to ensure that this time the dome is going nowhere when there's another puff of wind!

Les, Bryan and Joe were busy throughout August jacking the legs of the Laws building to level it out.

Lance took the dozer out to the cabooses at Creek4 and Windy Creek to pull them out of the snow drifts that had accumulated around them during the winter months.

Bryan signifies from the caboose doorway that tea is ready, apprently unaware he is being caboose-napped by Lance in the dozer!
Bryan signifies from the caboose doorway that tea is ready, apprently unaware he is being caboose-napped by Lance in the dozer!
Sno-Cat driver-eye view (aka a Deans-eye view) of the return journey to base. Lance leads ahead in the dozer
Sno-Cat driver-eye view (aka a Deans-eye view) of the return journey to base. Lance leads ahead in the dozer

And finally, teams of people went in a sno-cat and German sledge out to raise the various drum-lines which mark the base perimeter and the routes to the creeks and Halley VI site.

Bryan on the back of the sledge during drum-raising
Bryan on the back of the sledge during drum-raising

A busy month for outdoor work indeed. And nice to stretch our legs and get some fresh air after being cooped up indoors all through the winter! (Well, that’s how it felt anyway).

August ended with a friendly game of favourite 80s gamshow “Blockbusters” played in our very own lounge. Many thanks to Dean for designing and hosting, and thanks to Joe for the impressive (if somewhat over-engineered) contestants buzzers.

Blockbusters... 'can I have a P please Bob' *snigger*
Blockbusters... 'can I have a P please Bob' *snigger*

And thus concludes the activities at Halley Research Station for the month of August 2008.

Dave Stephenson, Met. Eng.

Photos supplied by Dave Stephenson and Dean Evans.