Mar 03 - Standing by at Halley
Date: Monday 3rd March 2008
Position @ 0600 Local (GMT): 75° 28.1 South, 026° 40.5 West. Creek 4 Halley
Next destination: Cape Town
ETD: 9th of March.
Distance to go: 3141nm
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season: 18567 nmiles.
Current weather: Overcast and cold
Sea State: Frozen
Wind: 15 kts Easterly
Barometric pressure: 975 mb
Air temperature: -20.5°C
Sea temperature: -2.5°C
Up to date position information is available courtesy of ‘sailwx/info’ taken from our Metrological Observations.
Standing by at Halley
Salutations to all.
Well here we are on the cusp of the end of the season, our departure from Antarctica beckons. It has been quite long season for us all and we are definitely looking forward to slipping our ropes and heading north once more.
A few of us were lucky enough to get a trip to Halley on Sat 17th Feb to attend their annual Folk Evening. This is an evening of music and performance and a huge amount of fun. The various acts were really good and the music too, provided by the resident band "Toocan Rool and the tick sheets" The name is parody on the Two can a day beer rule instituted base wide for the duration of the season. Not very popular but probably necessary in the long run. A great time was had all.
On the Sunday afterwards there was a collective attempt to walk/ski the distance to pole around the base perimeter to raise money for the RNLI. We had to achieve about 350 laps. Eventually about 210 were completed. Maybe next time time they should do the walk before the party. Anyway it was enjoyed by all and was for a good cause.
We were shown around the construction site which was extremely interesting. The modules all being in varying stages of completion. Only one module will have it's outer claddingl complete by the time we leave. The other modules have been tented over for the winter.
Everyone at Halley had been remarking on how good the weather has been and how little time had been lost due to bad weather. So it was with no big surprise that a huge storm blew through about 10 days ago. We had winds gusting to up 80 knots (145km/h) at times and the ship was covered in blowing snow. We were forced to move to a more sheltered area and sat with the bow into the fast ice at Precious bay, with the wind and driven snow coming straight at us. Visibility was at times only a couple of metres. The fast-ice eventually gave way and started breaking up and so we moved off steaming up and down off the ice-shelf trying to attain whatever lee we could. It was quite amazing to see how big the waves got in such a small patch of open sea. We could only imagine how big the swells would get if exposed to these winds in open sea.
Eventually after about five days it started subsiding and we made our way back to Creek 4 to see what if anything remained of our mooring point and fast-ice. As we rounded the corner it was clear to see that there had been substantial calving away of ice but that some still remained. This was a great relief to all as it would make the final back-loading much easier if we could still use Creek 4.
The Captain also took the vessel up to N9 to see what conditions were like there. This is an alternate site that is used when conditions at the the creeks are not suitable. The low shelf looked good and the marker drums from last season were still there. After that we steamed back to the creeks area and found a place for the vessel to lie until the base personnel were ready to assist with tying up and cargo work.
The time was used by the vessel to launch some of the boats for a test ride. This included our starboard lifeboat, Tula, the FRC(fast rescue craft) and the inflatable. The weather conditions after the storm were absolutely sublime. Gloriously sunny and calm an amazing contrast to the storm before. While testing the FRC we were lucky to see some Emperor penguins close to the edge of the ice and were able to get really close to them. We also found a Weddell seal sunning himself behind a block of ice nearby.
At this point the Captain noticed that one of the bergs that had been attached to the shelf had broken off and was underway. It seems the storm had stirred the Berg from it's slumber and it was in need of a little Weddell Sea walkabout. There was some concern at first as it seemed to be heading towards our loading point but in the end it missed and caused no damage. The berg hung around for a few days until an offshore wind came up and pushed it off.
The next day we moved back to Creek 4 and two GA's from the base came down to survey the remains of the fast-ice. They declared it sound and the next day a team came down from the base and assisted with the mooring of the vessel. Over the next two days cargo was worked and by Friday 29th all the cargo had been loaded on board.
We took the opportunity to have Ernest Shackleton crew picture taken on the snow. Quite amazing to get us all to co operate but methinks the freezing temperature was a great motivator to get us all back inside.
So now we wait for the final passengers to join before we depart. The main criteria for our departure is the departure of the final flight out of Halley for the season. This is due on or about the 5th/6th March depending on weather conditions. This flight will go to Novo where they will all board a big Russian Ilyushin for Cape Town.
On Saturday the 1st March our Doctor Melanie D' Souza organised a Karaoke evening for us all. There was a small amount of trepidation about this but it turned very well and mostly landed up being a general singalong. We even had a celebrity visit from Amy Winehouse (aka Julia Forde -asst cook) during the course of the night. So after an evening of slaughtering everyone's favourite hits we retired for a rather quiet Sunday.
So that has been our saga since you last heard from us. We will post a last farewell for the season just prior to arriving in Cape Town.
Forthcoming Events: Departure from Halley and Arrival Cape Town
Antarctic Diary No.13 should be out around the 19th March
Contributors this issue: Photo's by Pat O'Hara, Andy Walder