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Jan 01 - New Year & Arrival at Halley

Date: Tuesday 1st January 20087

Position @ 0600 Local (GMT): 75° 27.9 South, 026° 47.2 East. At Halley Creek IV.
Next destination: Cape Town.
ETA: To Be Advised..
Distance to go: 3176nm.
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season. : 12285 nmiles.
Current weather: Overcast and cold
Sea State: 5
Wind : North Easterly, 25 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 980 mb
Air temperature: -1.8°C
Sea temperature. -2.0°C

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Up to date position information is available courtesy of ‘sailwx/info’ taken from our Metrological Observations..

ARRIVAL HALLEY - NEW YEAR

Greetings once again from the deep south. We have been at Halley for over a week now and the offloading has been progressing well.

A belated Christmas greeting and a Happy New Year to you all.

When you last heard from us we were battling through heavy seas that had accompanied us shortly after leaving Cape Town. So it was with glad hearts that we approached the ice front looming through the mists. The respite from the incessant rolling and pitching was most welcome and we gladly accepted the icy Antarctic embrace.


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At first the ice was rather loose and we made easy progress through the small broken floes. Captain Marshall keeping a daily eye on all the Satellite ice information coming from various sources around the globe plus our own Dartcom system, receiving real time images a few times a day.

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The pictures were not too encouraging as the ice looked particularly heavy and consolidated. Our progress soon became slower and two engines were engaged. The conning tower above the bridge was soon in use, to give a better view of the ice and hopefully open water in between, up ahead.

The purple areas indicate thicker more consolidated ice.
The purple areas indicate thicker more consolidated ice.

News of other vessels in the area was not encouraging. The Polarstern had managed to get close to Neumayer Base but the fast ice was very extensive and precluded an early discharge of cargo. The Germans are also starting a new base build this year. The Naja Arktika accompanying her with the materials and equipment for this project. The South African vessel the S.A. Agulhas was also not able to make any progress for about three days as she was confronted by heavy pack-ice.  


 With about 180 nm to go we also encountered some heavy pack and had to reverse several times to try and find a better route through. This operation requires a lot patience as it can be quite frustrating. As we tried to smash our way through the heavier floes the whole ship shook violently absorbing the shock of it all. Very soon there were some rather nervous looking first timers asking leading questions about what the Captain thought he was doing. After a little re-assurance they eventually grew accustomed to it.

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The weather being clear enough for flying a request was sent to Halley for a flight recce by one of the Twin Otters at the base. Soon we were being buzzed by the Aircraft which was a very welcome sight. They flew several large circles around our position to try and see what route would be best to follow towards Halley. It appeared as we had hit a choke point beyond which things would get a lot easier. So we continued on bashing our way through. Eventually we managed to find a way and the floes opened up and the pressure eased. Of course at this point the visibility reduced to just about zero as thick mists rolled in. So once again we were stopped. Fortunately the mists cleared quite soon allowing us to push on.

 


 

  

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We finally made it to Halley on the afternoon of the 20th December. As we came alongside we were buzzed by another Twin Otter welcoming us to the big fridge. There was lots of chatter on the radios as we prepared to tie the ship up to the bay-ice. The Captain attempted to calve a bit of the fast-ice off. However it was very thick and solid and we did not make much impression.

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The lads were soon deployed to do the tying up. This involves a fair amount of snow digging and then drilling of a hole into the solid ice, with a Jiffy drill. into which a wooden pole is driven to which the ropes are tied.

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After all the meetings and safety briefings were over the cargo work commenced. Everybody went onto 12 hour shifts and the work got underway 24/7 as they say. The tracked vehicles with sleds behind making their way down from the ice-shelf via a snow ramp. The weather held for the next few days and as the offloading continued unabated.

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 We were monitoring the progress of the Amderma as she approached on a daily basis over the radio. When she neared the choke point that had held us up she steadily slowed until she could no longer make way. She remained more or less in the same position for approximately 48 hours before finding a way through.

 

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 On Thursday the 27th on a dark and gloomy afternoon the big ship finally appeared through the mists and placed her bow gently against the fast-ice. The Shackleton's "mooring gang" were soon underway by ski-doo and sled to make her fast. This took quite a long time as the Amderma is much bigger than the Shackleton and more ropes were required.

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Our cargo work was pretty much complete by then and so the focus of the operation went onto the offloading of the Amdemra. This operation has been ongoing ever since and will take us well into the New Year before it is complete.

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We have had rather mixed weather conditions since being here. Some glorious sunny days but mostly gloomy and misty with blowing or falling snow.

 


 

 A few of the ships personnel were lucky enough to get a ride up to Halley base about 12km inland from the loading point. We were dropped off at the main "Laws" building and shown around by Richard (Doctor) and Tamsin (Met) of the outgoing team. The base is quite crowded at the moment, with all the handover staff plus Morrison's construction team.

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Outside could be seen the beginnings of the new base. The first few space frame structures stood neatly in line next to what seemed like hundreds of wooden crates of all shapes and sizes. A giant modelling kit ready for assembly. We hope someone remembered to bring the Manual and the glue.

Halley VI beginnings
Halley VI beginnings


The last day of 2007 dawned bright and sunny and completely clear a beautiful day. Work continues unabated.

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At midnight all on board gathered on the bridge to toast the New Year and to witness the traditional ringing of the ships bell by the oldest and youngest persons onboard. Chris Littlehales our bosun and Thom Barrett the Deck Cadet doing the honours. We also sounded the ships horn which woke up a group of sleeping Adelie penguins who all stood up to see what the fuss was about.

We hope the New Year is good to you all and bid you all adieu

and leave you with a wee ode to the traveller within ......

When travelling abroad in the continental style
It's my belief one must attempt to be discreet
And subsequently bear in mind your transient position
Allows you a perspective that's unique

Though you'll find your itinerary's a blessing and a curse
Your wanderlust won't let you settle down
And you'll wonder how you ever fathomed that you'd be content
To stay within the city limits of a small midwestern town

Planes and trains and boats and buses
Characteristically evoke a a common attitude of blue
Unless of course you have suitcase and a ticket and a passport
And the cargo that they're carrying is you.........


Forthcoming Events: Completion of Amderma discharge. Returning Pax embark. Departure for Cape Town
Antarctic Diary No.10 should be out Mid January.

Goodbye Everybody
Patrick O'Hara
Radio Officer.