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Halley Diary — September 2008

September is the ninth month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar and one of four Gregorian months with 30 days. In Latin, septem means “seven” and septimus means “seventh”; September was in fact the seventh month of the Roman calendar until 153 BC, when there was a calendar reform. September begins on the same day of the week as December every year, because there are 91 days separating September and December, which is a multiple of seven (the amount of days in the week).

The flower for September is Aster and we don’t see many of them down here and I thought it would be nice to see some colour.

The Aster Flower
The Aster Flower

As I sit here I wonder what on earth it was like with no sun, those winter days of the past. It’s barely a memory, the days of darkness, seemingly never to change but here we are with the ole Halley views we forgot coming into sharp focus again. The sun tries to warm our faces but yet the air is still cold. It’s almost a true southern hemisphere spring feeling. Jokes echo around the melt tank as more than the usual team come out to soak up some rays and marvel at the sun that seems orange and paints the clouds with amazing reds and purples. I could go on but I’m thinking most folk would like to know what we have been doing in this wonderful month (I am biassed of course, as you will see later).

Melt tank
Melt tank
Sunrise showing Laws, Bart and Simpson
Sunrise showing Laws, Bart and Simpson

Trips to visit the Emperor Penguin colony at Windy Bay started this month. We have been dying to find out how they have fared this winter and at what stage they were. We travelled by SnoCat to Windy Bay which not only is comfortable but keeps us warm, especially for the journey back after feeling a little frozen from watching the birds for an hour or so.

When the SnoCat engine was off a faint hmm was heard, the penguins of course and what a strange sound it was after not hearing any wildlife for so long. We roped up and off to see these creatures we went. Words cannot describe the sight and the feeling of walking near these animals. They are instantly curious as to what we are and will come up to investigate and you find yourself wanting to talk to them. There is no perfect spot to sit as all around are penguins and even without a fancy zoom lens on your camera you can get a fabulous photo. Fingers clicking on shutters, eyes bright with delight and smiles stretching across everyone’s faces we try to capture the sights. Thankfully my fingers felt a little cold so I had to take my face away from behind the camera and just observe for a while whilst warming my hands. It’s easy to forget to just absorb the surroundings. So it was with some regret our time was up and we had to make the journey home and look forward to another trip later in the season.

Emperor Penguin chick
Emperor Penguin chick

Food is a constantly discussed subject at Halley, every meal seeming to provoke some memories of those days with salads. A few sacks of potatoes and onions is what we have and jolly lucky we are to have made them last so long. Providing something different on the Saturday nights is a challenge for Paddy, our chef. However one weekend Rich and Hannah took on the Saturday challenge and created a Chinese feast. Cooking from Friday they threw together an amazing selection of dishes. Hand made dumplings and even fortune cookies!

With the days becoming longer and with so much light it seemed a good idea to get out and about to do some of the outside jobs we aren’t able to do in the dark winter months. Drum raising and caboose moving! Everyone’s favourites! We have cabooses (movable refuge huts) at two locations for us to visit. Creek 4, where we carried out our relief from the ships last summer and also at Windy Creek where the emperor penguin colony is. These cabooses stay out over the winter and we find they become surrounded by snow. A line of empty drums marks the routes to these locations and they have to be dug out and put back on the surface periodically. As they are black they provide good markers when the weather is poor, visibility is low and the contrast is non-existent so it’s important to keep them visible.

Creek 4 was to be the first destination. A bulldozer, a Sno-cat with a sledge full of empties, some willing volunteers and we set of on the drive to the coast. I’ll just say, following behind the dozer was reminiscent of a Sunday drive. Lance did a fantastic job of dozing a ramp, pulling the caboose out and then filling up the hole. No-one would ever have known it was buried. That done we followed the dozer back to base putting the drums back in place. All in all a very good day.

Winching out the Caboose at Creek 4
Winching out the Caboose at Creek 4
Joe demonstrating how to be a drum
Joe demonstrating how to be a drum

At this time of the year we begin our post-midwinter trip season. Everybody gets the opportunity to spend time off base exploring many famous tourist spots bringing home a huge selection of photos to spend the new few months trying to edit.

The number 13, believed to be unlucky by some is lucky for me. It’s my birthday and I was given a fantastic treat. Years as a Met Babe have developed an addiction to balloons. Knowing this, some of the folk on base spent a considerable amount of time blowing up tons of balloons and filling my office. If you can imagine being a child and jumping into one of those pits filled with coloured plastic balls – well it felt the same to me! The best surprise ever! Being a Saturday night I was treated to a fabulous feast from our chef and I think most of us struggled to move after.

My office filled with balloons
My office filled with balloons

The weather in our favour again and some bodies free to do outside work, a team was sent to Windy creek to move our caboose and then raise the drums on the return journey.

Moving the Windy caboose - Bryan just popped in for tea!
Moving the Windy caboose - Bryan just popped in for tea!

Dress up nights still feature in our winter and we took a Northern Hemisphere angle on things and stepped back in time. A Viking night was to be had complete with food and real live Vikings. The challenge was on to make the best horns for your helmet and everyone put on a good show. It always surprises me just how inventive people can be with the basics we have on base. Jokers outfit one day, Viking robe the next!

Marauding Vikings
Marauding Vikings

September ended with Sledge India taking time going out and about. Rich took Dean and Paddy exploring at Creek 5 and discovered a great crevasse that showed promise for further investigation. Venturing to the Rumples next Rich took them for a day excursion around the Rumples area, starting with a classic Kodak abseil. Adventuring around the sea ice and finding small crevasses they had a good day out.

Sledge India  at the Rumples
Sledge India at the Rumples

All in all September has been a good month. We are glad to see the sun return and are looking forward to long days and more opportunities to get out and about.

Agnieszka

The Laws platform
The Laws platform