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Halley Diary — February 2009

Greetings from everyone at Halley base. February was a month where the summer season was in full swing and there were the usual preparations and maintenance programmes being carried out down here to get the base set and ready for the winter ahead.

It’s always the golden opportunity to bring in all the components that have broken down or out of stock that people have found from the previous year and tackle anything that needs attention and there are always lots of hands in the summer to carry out these repairs.

We had a complement of about 50 personnel in February plus the odd stray penguin around base and the ship was due in on the 20th February so we were all aware that we had about three weeks left out of our initial seven to finish our summer programmes.

Halley summer team
Halley summer team

February is a time in the Halley season when there are mixed feelings as the base has three general categories of staff: the ex winterers who are going back to the real world; the new winterers that are taking control of the station for the new winter to come; and then the summer staff, which is a mixture of new hands and many familiar faces from previous seasons.

The work load consisted of checking and adjusting the building platforms that need to be jacked to straighten them, straightening the radio masts, demolition work in one of the tunnel systems that we are shutting down, finishing the fuel depots, and removing all waste. There was some setup work at the Halley 6 site. We also carried out familiarization of the base for the incoming winterers. These being emergency procedures including an emergency scenario and field craft skills, such as pitching tents and crevasse rescue and also a search and rescue team outing.

Dave Armstrong carrying repairs in the tunnels
Dave Armstrong carrying repairs in the tunnels

The weather in February was good on the whole and this is always good for the work shifts because if we have heavy winds or bad visibility we have to cancel our operations outside which can knock out a few days here and there. But to my memory now we only had to limit ourselves on a couple of occasions when we had bad visibility. As the next photo will show we were starting to have some some cracking sun sets and great colour hues around us towards the end of the month.

HF radio masts and satellite dish caught in front of the purple sky
HF radio masts and satellite dish caught in front of the purple sky

The Field assistants were busy training us on basic field safety and we all enjoyed some abseiling on to the sea ice which is always good fun, and a chance to see the last of the penguin colony at a nearby creek. Most of the Emperor Penguins had already fledged but there were still a few youngsters that were waiting to moult.

Niv and Colin checking gear and anchors for a descent
Niv and Colin checking gear and anchors for a descent
Niv and Colin checking gear and anchors for a descent
Niv and Colin checking gear and anchors for a descent

Nick our vehicle mechanic was also busy training people how to operate safely and without breaking anything the various vehicles that range from the ski-doos and snow cats up to the larger specialized equipment.

Vehicle training - photo by Dr Susanna Gaynor
Vehicle training - photo by Dr Susanna Gaynor

I was lucky enough to help out Ryan, Richard and Niv one day constructing one of a series of GPS transmitters. I was very impressed by the way they handled its construction without any ado or fuss, and we had it up in no time. They basically record the movement of the ice shelf by GPS and this lets the scientists monitor the way the shelf ice expands and eventually snaps. All this information is really useful over the years as a picture can be built up and predictions made. Obviously in this day and age the concerns over ice shelves and all the knock on effects that go with them are very much of interest to us all.

Field GPS transmitter recording and sending position to measure movements
Field GPS transmitter recording and sending position to measure movements
Farewells to the Ship and its jolly crew the night before it set sail - photo  by Dr Susanna Gaynor
Farewells to the Ship and its jolly crew the night before it set sail - photo by Dr Susanna Gaynor

Well I hope you all enjoyed reading this month’s diary and we wish everyone we know well back in the UK and those scattered around the other bases. The photo above shows some of our base team having a farewell night in the mess onboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton before she was due to set sail the next day.

On a lucky trip to the sea ice with Niv, a few of the Halley team came across a pod of Orca that were coming close to the sea ice, presumably searching for food. Garith Johnson our summer carpenter was lucky enough to snap a couple of shots.

Killer whale - photo by Garith Johnson
Killer whale - photo by Garith Johnson
Rob Dunn, Mechanical service technician, Halley
Rob Dunn, Mechanical service technician, Halley

Regards, Rob Dunn, Mechanical service technician, Halley