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Halley Diary — October 2010

So here we are the final month of our winter. I will finish it how I started, by writing the diary.

It has been a great winter with so many good memories that it would be an injustice to name only a few. It is starting to dawn that our own little community will soon be flooded by an influx of people and the amount of work will increase. Some are looking forward to this but others as only to be expected are a little bit more uneasy.

October is generally a pretty unsettled month in weather terms and this year has been no exception. With just under half the days being so bad that outside work could not be achieved. This was highly frustrating for us as we had a list of jobs to try and complete before the first input of new people. It was even more frustrating for Tim, our vehicle operator. He has the unenviable task of snow management. Every time he dozed or groomed the snow it all blow back plus some. Tim did come up with an experimental idea of how to manage the snow but for some reason it didn’t work!!

Inventive snow management (Photo: Mike Ramage)
Inventive snow management (Photo: Mike Ramage)

This year we have had nearly  two metres of snow accumulation, very high for Halley. This has meant we are constantly battling to keep things on the surface.

Even with that hanging over our heads the morale on station was high. Winter trips were still ongoing with Sledge India and Sledge Juliet. Sledge India (Matt Hooper and Ian Sisson) had an eventful trip out. After spending two dingle days out at the Hinge Zone (this is where the ice shelf meets the continent proper) the weather turned. They had to lie up for 9 days in a pyramid tent in wind speeds of up to 50 knots. We tried to keep their spirits up in our daily radio communications and they eventually got back, needing showers and a change of clothes! This delayed Sledge Juliet (Ant Dubber and Tim Gee) but they eventually got out and again the weather wasn’t playing nice. They had to make do with day trips to local tourist sites! They got down to Windy Bay to see the Emperor Penguin colony about 20km away from station. They also got trips to the Rumples and Hinge Zone.

Emperor with chick (Photo: Tim Gee)
Emperor with chick (Photo: Tim Gee)
Emperor with chick (Photo: Tim Gee)
Emperor with chick (Photo: Tim Gee)

Ed McGough our winter field assistant also celebrated his birthday, notably late due to the fact he was also stuck with Sledge India. Mike the Doc in usual Halley fashion made a cake for the occasion. As Ed’s birthday was the last of our winter it was another reminder that it was coming to an end but that didn’t dampen the celebrations.

It wasn’t all jollies and fun, we had serious schedules to meet. Jack was busy de-wintering the huge vehicle fleet that play an important role in Halley’s development. The weather didn’t help with this either. The Garage doors cannot be opened in wind speeds in excess of 15knots or vehicles that have been de-iced will fill up with snow again!

Tim was busy pulling our winter containers/cabooses and sledge line forward and back up onto the snow surface. We also had to relay the Skiway ready for the first of the incoming flights. This involved putting in a 1km drum line in a perfectly straight line with spaces of 60m. Then flag a runway apron. All this had to be GPS’ed and sent to the various air groups that use Halley during the summer. Once this was done Halley International Airport was open for passengers.

Creek 3 caboose after winter hibernation (Photo: Ant Dubber)
Creek 3 caboose after winter hibernation (Photo: Ant Dubber)

Tech services were busy warming generators to start our two summer buildings, the Drewry and Piggott. Each building needs to be cleared of snow and warmed with heaters for a few days, then their generators are ready to be fired. The Piggott is used for the main construction office for Halley VI and the Drewry is an accommodation building. Once the heating and genny’s are ready the electrics and plumbing can be started. Each building needs to be drained completely before winter so that pipes don’t bust from frozen water.

Snow just gets everywhere! Drewry Kitchen post winter (Photo: Ant Dubber)
Snow just gets everywhere! Drewry Kitchen post winter (Photo: Ant Dubber)

The science continues afoot with Rich now getting increasingly busy with the Dobson and other weather observations. He also has to supply weather reports to any incoming aircraft. The daily balloon launches got earlier as we change to GMT -3 in prep for the summer. This means Rich has to release the balloon around 0730 as compared to 1030 during winter.

The evening sky is amazing around this time of year as the sun gets low in the sky. These are the sights that stay with you long after the sun has risen permanently for the summer, until the next lucky people begin their journey into an Antarctic winter and the sun heads away.

Glorious Evening Sky (Photo: Ant Dubber)
Glorious Evening Sky (Photo: Ant Dubber)

As October came to a close the weather again went bad and it would be a while before we saw anyone!! When would they arrive? No worries as it gave us time for another and final BBQ, the only way to close out the winter.


Pat Power

Winter Base Commander