I began my last update by explaining that I had time to write it due to being stuck inside because of 30-knot winds and huge snow drifts. Well, a few weeks down the line and it is time for another update only today it is blowing 50 knots outside and you cant see more than 2 meters in front of you! A pattern seems to be appearing and the only time you get to sit down and write is when you can’t do anything else due to the weather.
Today is 19 Feb and generally the ship will always leave here around about the 14 Feb before the sea starts to refreeze. Yet we still have another 2 weeks here before its time to leave, the latest the ship has ever left from Halley. Lets hope we don’t get stuck in the ice because these winter storms we are being lashed with don’t seem that appealing.
Anyway, it’s only been about 10/11 weeks since we arrived to commence the first build season of Halley 6. So much has happened over this period it is hard to keep up with it all yet I will endeavour to try my best
to fill you in on all the gossip.
Firstly to the work programme, the boring part.
Walking back from the build site everyday I still look around at what we have achieved and it is a truly amazing sight. 7 modules, all in a line, fully erected with 6 covered in their winter tents and one on the end of the line waiting for the last 2 cladding panels to be fitted.
The general build programme consisted with first removing all of the temporary skis with the permanent, hydraulic jacking legs. Then the floor panels were laid and locked in position. After this the pre-made room pods were placed on the deck, then the superstructure steel work was built around this. Once the superstructure was complete the framework was covered in what looked like giant nappies, which in fact turned out to be protective blankets for the tent. Then the tent went on, which was an absolute mission in itself and took all day and around 30 men to complete it.
The final Module, B1, is currently being clad with giant Glass Reinforced Plastic panels which are turning out to be an absolute nightmare to get exactly right.
However, the final product is quite impressive and it looks amazing. All the while as the hardy Steelie team graft outside in any weather, the softer Mechanical and Electrical teams are busy fitting out the internals in the heat and warmth of the tents. (Not bitter or twisted at all)
So, that’s the boring work side of things out of the way and so onto the fun things, which is why most of us actually love coming down here so much. The Jollies.
I have been known to be a bit of a Jollymeister as I like to call it, yet none of us here expected to actually get any this season due to the job at hand. Thanks in a large part to the season going so well, (which, ironically was due to great weather which is helping me to write this as well now because its so bad) BAS (The client, British Antarctic Survey) organised a few weekend trips away to the various fun spots they have around base.
The first of these was a trip to the Emperor Penguin Colony based 14 KM away at a place called Windy Creek.
Due to getting here at
the latter stage of the Emps season, the previous 7-8000 who called the ice sheet home had dwindled to around 7-800. The remaining birds who were here were either a couple of years old and waiting for the moulting to finish or were young first year chicks who had been abandoned by their parents and were being left to die quite a horrific death of starvation and freezing.
Talking of which, I have just ventured outside for the first time today to get lunch and OH MY GORD!! Its full on out there I can tell ya. I feel for these little fluffy fellas that’s for sure. How they actually manage to survive a full Antarctic winter with no food is beyond me. Hardy little devils.
Anyway, the trip was amazing even though it was a little sad. We were lucky enough to catch a mother feeding her little chick so there was still hope for a few of these yet.
The next trip was down to Creek 4 for a bit of Ice Climbing and exploring up to the waters edge of the sea ice. We were lucky enough to have some of the most amazing weather
"Check out my Happy Feet, mm,oo,bunum!"
we had had all season. No wind at all, gloriously sunny and amazing mirages all around.
We began the day with a 45-minute drive in a Sno-Cat to the edge of the ice cliffs where 3 abseils were set up to get us to the base of the cliffs. Once down it was nearly game over for me straight away as I walked towards the rest of the group straight over the top of a huge tide crack which opened up into a massive drop down to the freezing water below. The rest of the day was spent climbing the ice cliffs until you couldn’t physically swing an ice axe any more. To top the day off we took a walk to the edge of the sea ice to see if we could spot any wildlife, i.e. whales/orcas/penguins but I think they too must have been having the day off in the glorious sunshine.
The next big event in-between all the hard slog of getting up every morning was this last weekend gone. It wasn’t a trip away or anything but just a chance to finally let your hair down, have a few beers and have a good old
sing song on Folk Night!!!
Folk Night ladies and gentleman is the chance for everyone who has the balls to get up on stage and showcase his or her personnel talents. Or lack off.
There was a full line up this year with several different people getting up to sing with Monty Python Always look on the bright side and Grease Lightning causing a stir along with the House Band, Toucan Rules, which is a great little play on the amount of alcohol we are allowed come the evenings. There was a great bloopers video made by the BAS Cameraman along with a funny midget playing the violin. My choice of song was quite frankly an inspiration. A beautiful rendition of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, which some of you may know is the anthem of the English Rugby Union team who were recently whooped in the World Cup Final by our fellow workers here, the South Africans. Now, feed anyone with enough alcohol and your guaranteed a good night. Include in that a bunch of drunken South Africans, Welsh, Scottish and of course English men singing the England Rugby anthem and watching the female 60 year old boss doing
Mums stayed around for this little fella
the actions made for a remarkable evening. The actions are rather rude as well but I can teach them to anyone for a price, normally 2 beers at least.
The next event was actually an endurance task where we were collecting money for the R.N.L.I. The lifeboat dudes. Some crazy soul chose to do this on the Sunday after the Folk night and it involved a sponsored race to the pole.
This was actually a 24 hour sponsored race around the perimeter of the base, which is 6 km, to see just how far we could get towards reaching the pole. So, with a sore head I managed to drag myself out of bed and complete 3 laps of the perimeter. Twice running then once pulling a sled around with supplies for the other participants. The only rule was that you weren’t allowed to use motorised transport so it was either walking, running, skiing or for the more adventurous you could kite around on your skis.
It was a great achievement by all and by the end of the day well over 200 laps had been completed, which unfortunately still left us about 100 short but its all for
Patiently waiting for mum to feed them. Unfortunately most of these wont make it.
charitee mate! I believe something in the region of £3000 has been collected so far and still counting.
That pretty much sums up where we are now. 2 cladding panels remain to go on, a few more things to build like a jacking tower and the towing equipment needed for pulling these beasts. As soon as this storm passes, which I must add is with us for a few days at least, we will be back out there finishing off and beginning to pack away.
I will be sailing out on the RRS Shackleton around the 5 March heading for Cape Town via some massive Ice Flows and then onto the next adventure. 2 weeks safari in the Okavango Delta and Northern Namibia before heading into Egypt and the Red Sea for some relaxation in the sun before returning home.
Once again I look forward to hearing from you all whenever you get time to write.
Big hugs wherever and whenever that may be!
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