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Halley Diary — August 2012

The weekend of the 4th and 5th of August was spent making a short film for the Antarctic Film Festival. Despite being titled ‘What a Drag’, it was really fun to make and the dressing up box was used to the full. We had a lot to live up to as last year’s Halley film won an award for best acting. We thought we done enough to equal that but, the critics didn’t agree!

The 10th of August saw the return of the sun after an absence of over 100 days, Oliver (the youngest member of the team) did the honours with the Union Flag. The original plan was to have a BBQ to celebrate however it was a bit windy and chilly so we had it indoors.

Olli Bonner raising the flag back at Halley to celebrate sun up. (Photo: Francois Guerraz)
Olli Bonner raising the flag back at Halley to celebrate sun up. (Photo: Francois Guerraz)

The 16th is Ant’s birthday. He and some of the hardier members of the team dug in and spent a night under the stars.

Ice Graves under the a wonderful Antarctic night. (Photo: Sam Burrell)
Ice Graves under the a wonderful Antarctic night. (Photo: Sam Burrell)

The 24th of August had to be the highlight of the month as we got the opportunity to visit the penguin rookery at Windy Bay. We were still experiencing temperatures as low as −50°C at times so, it was by no means certain that we would be able to make the journey. Luckily the weather improved and the temperature crept up to the point where we could try. The vehicle (a Tucker Sno-Cat) had to be dug out and all the snow which had blown in to every nook and cranny had to be carefully removed. The engine then had to be warmed up before it could be started. Once warm the Sno-Cat was loaded with all the climbing gear and we climbed aboard ourselves, laden with cameras, thermos flasks and extra chocolate rations for the two and a half hour drive to Windy Bay.

As we arrived the sight of the penguins all huddled together was quite impressive from the top of the cliffs but, we wanted to get a little closer. That involved a 25 metre abseil down on to the sea ice. You have to be very respectful of the Penguins and keep your distance but, they are very inquisitive and if you’re patient they’ll come to you. The sight, sound and smell was amazing. The chicks were quite small and hidden from view inside their parent’s brood pouch. Occasionally they would stick their heads out and demand to be fed. The chick’s cries were quite distinctive above the background noise. This prompted a little game, listen for the squawk, try and spot the bird that made it, and then take a photograph before it retreated back in to the warmth of its parent’s plumage. They were definitely better at this game than I was. I did manage to get a couple of snaps though. After an all too brief hour or so with the Emperor family it was time to make the ascent back up the ice cliffs. Coming down was fun, going back up was not! Our method of egress involved the use of jumars. A jumar or ascender is a climbing device which will slide up the rope and then lock. By using a pair you can work your way up. This is hard work, especially if you have a fondness for pies and beer as I do. After a bit of a rest part way up, I made it to the top unaided along with (almost) everyone else.

We passed the time on the journey home by comparing the hundreds if not thousands of pictures we’d all taken and reflecting on what had been a truly memorable day.

Emperor Penguins at Windy Bay (Photo: Ian Sisson)
Emperor Penguins at Windy Bay (Photo: Ian Sisson)

Ian Sisson
Halley Communications Manager