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Halley Diary — January 2012

January often starts with a hangover and usually marks the end of the busy festive season. At Halley, folk were half-way through relief, back-loading waste onto the Ernest Shackleton and busily organising the long lines of cargo. I moved up to the base on New Year’s Eve in time for a celebratory drink with the select few still living at Halley 5, whilst Resusci Annie was dancing the night away with the boys at the Halley 6 build site…

Far from being a quiet month of winding down, January on base is when the year’s supply of food arrives, post is delivered, and long awaited parts and pieces for science projects, build and base are finally unpacked. With the base split between 2 sites and on-going construction, this year there were 3 lines of cargo and a huge 56km trip from ship to Z5 to Z6 and back. Much credit is due to the drivers, ship’s crew and ground staff for completing relief in record time and without mishap, with a special mention to the iStar team who’s Piston Bullies came to the rescue of more than one struggling Sno-cat.

The start of relief - a Sno-cat on the sea ice about to tow a sledge up the ramp (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
The start of relief - a Sno-cat on the sea ice about to tow a sledge up the ramp (Photo: Cariad Findlater)

We waved off the ship on the 3rd of January and everyone set about the important business of claiming their goodies from the cargo lines and making the most of the summer season. I was in the fortunate position of living amongst the relative calm and routine of Halley 5 whilst visiting the masses at the 6 build site for clinics, three times a week. For those who are familiar with my rants about driving to work around south Wales for the past 5 years — commuting is considerably less of a chore when done in glorious sunshine on a skidoo!

This also allowed me my first glimpse of the new base — the long anticipated Halley 6 and, fingers crossed, our winter home. Externally it’s like an artist’s impression of a futuristic space ship crossed with a child’s drawing of a mythical creature, all done out in primary colours and placed on a gleaming white background. Internally… internally it was very much what it was — a building site. Comments such as ‘the staircase is going to be a really stunning feature’ or ‘this will be a great place to chill out’ when pointing to some scaffolding poles or an empty room without ceiling, doors or floor abounded. January it turns out is also a month for optimism and envisaging a better future. ‘You’ll be in for winter’ sounded like a hopeful resolution rather than a statement…

View of 6 from the Twin Otter (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
View of 6 from the Twin Otter (Photo: Cariad Findlater)

However, in spite of a number of setbacks, an incredibly tight schedule and constant pressure to get the build finished for the winter the MFL team never failed to be cheerful, hardworking and fun. Thanks to them all for their excellent banter, constant enthusiasm and for keeping accidents and injuries to a minimum.

With the completion of the new base in sight, this year it was also time to install or reinstate the science projects including: setting up the CasLab (Clean Air Sector, not in my honour apparently), the Share array — reincarnated as the Superdarn Radar, a new project sampling atmospheric organic aerosols (nicknamed OrGi) was launched, and the prestigious Miss Daphne Dobson finally made her swap to Halley 6 to continue monitoring the ozone above. Cue much excited (and unintelligible) talk of catenaries, cabooses and such like amongst the beakers…

However, all work and no play makes Cariad a fibber so here’s a run-down of the January jollies:

Jon 'the Legend' Shanklin cutting some lines behind a skidoo, his beloved Simpson in the background (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
Jon 'the Legend' Shanklin cutting some lines behind a skidoo, his beloved Simpson in the background (Photo: Cariad Findlater)

The Twin Otter was over courtesy of Ian Potten, Steve King and a few ‘emergency engineers’ which afforded several of the old winterers and me a flight out to field depots and camps which needed resupply or rising. Our most important mission — delivering sausages to a camp at Bluefields!

Touchdown fuel depot - before we raised the barrels the only clue as to its whereabouts was the drum on a stick - not easily seen from the air in the vast expanse of nothin
Touchdown fuel depot - before we raised the barrels the only clue as to its whereabouts was the drum on a stick - not easily seen from the air in the vast expanse of nothin

The ‘decision to winter’ date had been set as Friday the 13th of January but because of delays (or perhaps its evil portent) this was deferred to the 28th. Instead the incoming winterers were reunited at Halley 5 for a BBQ and general hoe-down in biting wind and blowing snow. The first time our wintering team were all together. I will admit a hasty retreat was beat shortly after this picture was taken.

Halley 5 BBQ with makeshift windbreak, providing really no shelter whatsoever (Photo: Chris Walton)
Halley 5 BBQ with makeshift windbreak, providing really no shelter whatsoever (Photo: Chris Walton)

The welcome was then returned to the Halley 5 residents who were invited to visit 6 for a BBQ (in considerably better conditions) the following weekend with the South African contingent closely supervising the correct construction of the ‘Brai’ and the rest of the MFL team consuming their own bodyweight in protein.

The next Saturday happened to be incoming Base Commander Pat Power’s birthday which was celebrated in the sanctity (should that be sanity?) of 5 with my first attempt at Antarctic cake baking and decorating (possibly the most important role the Base Doc has…) with maybe just a little help from Chef Chris (thanks Chris!).

A few of Paddy's favourite things? (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
A few of Paddy's favourite things? (Photo: Cariad Findlater)

Burns night celebrations were delayed until the 28th and included Highland games, Haggis, Neaps and Tatties complete with ‘Address’ by Chef Cyril all followed by a 70’s disco. And finally, Ian Dunn announced the news we had been waiting for: We’re moving house — we’re wintering in 6!!!!

Highland games (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
Highland games (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
Welly toss (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
Welly toss (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
Kirk of the Antarctic vs The Boss... these are smiles not grimaces, honest (Photo: Cariad Findlater)
Kirk of the Antarctic vs The Boss... these are smiles not grimaces, honest (Photo: Cariad Findlater)

Happy New Year to all at home, love to my family and Happy Birthday to Jess and Jamie!

Cas Doc