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Rothera Diary - May 2014

May has been a busy month at Rothera, with the weather starting to get a bit more wintery and Antarctic – less rain(!) and more snow and darkness. We are down to about 4 hours of murky twilight here now, and had our “Goodbye to the sun” flag-down ceremony on the 28th of May. Normally it’s the oldest base member who lowers the flag, but due to the oldest this year having done it on numerous occasions, he generously offered it to a name out of a hat – Andy Slack, the electrician was the lucky volunteer:

Andy reading short speech before the lowering of the flag on Rothera point (Photo: Petra Mildeova)
Andy reading short speech before the lowering of the flag on Rothera point (Photo: Petra Mildeova)

It will be raised again sometime in July when the sun returns above the northern horizon.

Group pic after the lowering of the flag (Photo: Petra Mildeova) - L-R Back row: Rich Scott, Calum Watt, Matt Ashley, Malcolm Airey, Kenrick Turner, Mairi Fenton, Scott Webster, Gail Ashton, Sabrina Heiser, Eddie Watson, Belinda Vause, Dave Routledge, Dan Pollard, Chris Evans, Petra Mildeova. L-R Front Row: Dave Hunt, Phil Stevens, Andy Slack
Group pic after the lowering of the flag (Photo: Petra Mildeova) - L-R Back row: Rich Scott, Calum Watt, Matt Ashley, Malcolm Airey, Kenrick Turner, Mairi Fenton, Scott Webster, Gail Ashton, Sabrina Heiser, Eddie Watson, Belinda Vause, Dave Routledge, Dan Pollard, Chris Evans, Petra Mildeova. L-R Front Row: Dave Hunt, Phil Stevens, Andy Slack

The start of May saw the last couple of winter trips go out for their break from base, finishing off 7 weeks of trips in the first “round”, before midwinter. The trips are an ideal way for wintering staff to learn more about travelling and living in the field in Antarctica, and to try new sports such as mountaineering, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, or general sightseeing on Adelaide island. As well as giving base members a well needed break from the potential monotony of base life in the winter, it also means that come the summer these winterers are useful to the summer field science program, either manning aircraft fuel depots, or going along on field inputs as pilot’s assistants.

Dan Pollard (diving officer) climbing on a winter trip (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
Dan Pollard (diving officer) climbing on a winter trip (Photo: Malcolm Airey)
A group walking down to Carvajal base, an old Chilean base at the SW tip of Adelaide island. (Photo: Dan Pollard)
A group walking down to Carvajal base, an old Chilean base at the SW tip of Adelaide island. (Photo: Dan Pollard)

After the end of winter trips, recreational activities were more confined to areas near base – people had the chance to practice digging a snow hole and spend a night in it on one particularly snowy Saturday night:

Civil Engineering: Constructing the doorway to the snowcave. (Photo: Sabrina Heiser)
Civil Engineering: Constructing the doorway to the snowcave. (Photo: Sabrina Heiser)

As the evenings get darker, another entertainment feature is the winter Slideshow series – once a week we have a talk prepared by someone on anything and everything – from interesting DIY projects people have done, to travelling trips in far flung destinations, to various working or volunteering activities – last week’s was from Kenrick the doctor, about a charity he’d been involved with to implement a computerised medical records system in Kenya. This weeks was from Eddie the Generator Mechanic, about a road trip across the states – different in their own ways but very entertaining, and nice to see some pictures of green places!

The marine science continues at a furious pace whenever the weather is calm and fine, with lots of water sampling and diving happening in the settled weather at the start of the month. Quite often volunteers are “recruited” to go and help winch up water samples from Ryder bay – this part of their work doesn’t seem like too much of a chore when the weathers like this!

Malcolm Airey
Field Assistant