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Rothera Diary — July 2008

Moving into New Bransfield

I thought as the wintering chef for this year I would first mention my new kitchen. After a bit of a delay, in February last summer, we at last moved into the New Bransfield

New Bransfield
New Bransfield

No mean feat when we had to produce meals in the old kitchen till the last moment and then transfer everything across to the new… pick up your chair and walk… food stores, dry, frozen and fresh it all had to go!! Initially it was where did do I put this? And Nic, where do you want that? Very soon I got used to the new premises and wondered how I managed before. The kitchen is at least double the size, easy to get lost in and difficult to reach that elusive oven cloth from the other side of the stove with out walking all the way round the room!!

New Bransfield kitchen
New Bransfield kitchen

The storeroom is most conveniently placed next door and I even have both a walk in fridge and freezer to hand. No running over to Fuchs, the GA store when ever I need something out of the freezer.

Up stairs in new Bransfield we have the “lounge”, coffee/film room, library, computer room and general WBC office.

The lounge
The lounge

Mid-winter has passed and the days are getting longer or so they say, but what they didn’t mention was that by this time of year so much snow has fallen that you need to start digging out your pit room windows, to see out of and more importantly, as access as a fire escape. The wind blows wind scoops around the buildings and so the south ends of all the buildings disappear under feet of snow whilst the north remains relatively free.

Admirals building under its wind tail
Admirals building under its wind tail

July sees the welcome return of the sun. Daylight has never gone totally but because we are surrounded by hills we don’t actually see the sun for a month but on Sunday 13th, 6 energetic folk, Dan, Ali, Ian, Brigit. Matt B and Adam all went up stork and reptile and had the satisfaction of being the first this winter to see the sun again at 1410 our time!!

The sun officially returned to base on the 22nd when we had the lowering of the tatty old flag and the raising of the new. 20 members of base went up to the flag pole above base, the Union Jack was lowered to the (last post) and then the new flag was raised to the revival. It is tradition that these to jobs go to the respective oldest and youngest on base so it was hence John who lowered the flag and Matt B who raised the new. We also remembered Kirsty, who died 5 years ago on this day.

The wintering group, minus Rob who was on nights.
The wintering group, minus Rob who was on nights.
Rob
Rob
The raising of the flag and sun up
The raising of the flag and sun up

We ended the day with a party in the sledge store at which this year's Rothera band, The Fuchs fighters, gave their debut performance.

It might seem a quiet month on base but everyone gets busy into the remaining winter jobs and starts to think help — the summer is coming very quickly. The mechanics have being busy servicing all the Ski-doos ready for our next round of winter trips and also for the forth-coming summer field season.

For the first time this winter sea ice is at last forming. So the GA’s first drilled round the north end of the runway in hanger cove to see how the ice has formed and then the training began before we could all set forth.

Initially we went out on the ice in small groups with two GA's showing us what to look for, how to drill the holes and how then to measure the thickness of the ice. It was interesting to see for ourselves the difference in thickness of ice around and to see from the look of the surface how it varied in thickness as to when it had formed. Clear and thin, the new ice; and mottled white with a layer of snow on top, the oldest!!!

Three of us took to the ice one day for the trek out to McKay point; this is situated about 4km NNE of the north point of the runway. This was technically work in that we were testing the thickness of the ice in an untried area. We made it across to the point spotting a seal on the way — or should I say he spotted us — crossed tracks of another seemingly miles from open water; and crossed a lead with a previous trip's ski tracks having moved about 30cm with the movement of the ice. We reached the point but were unable to reach dry land, as there was open water, well a big tide crack with chunks of ice floe bobbing around!!

Travelling on the sea ice
Travelling on the sea ice
Al drilling to check the depth of sea ice
Al drilling to check the depth of sea ice

One Saturday night, 6 intrepid souls, Scott, Tim, The Doc, Graham, John and Matt H decided they would build snow holes or bivvy up at Val's. The snow decided the matter, the wrong sort for snow for snow hole digging so it was bivvying, The weather, which had been great for the last 2 weeks also decided to play it’s part and the wind got up making getting into the bivvi bags an interesting experience but they all braved the night and exchanged wind howling stories the next morning.

Matt H getting ready for bed
Matt H getting ready for bed

As I write the temperatures have risen, the wind has returned and the sea ice has disappeared in places, tomorrow it will be different again.

Love to all my family

Photos: Nicola, Tim, Jim and John.