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Published: March 8th 2008
Finally the time has come for me to write the final instalment of this seasons work here on the Brunt Ice Shelf at Halley Research Station.
I left you previously with the update written while we were waiting out the storm which ended up keeping us cooped up inside for just over 4 days.
Day 1 was great, a chance to chill out and relax, catch up on emails, watch a film and generally do nothing for once.
Day 2, similar scenario, braving the weather each meal break walking down the rope line so as not to get lost. Visibility was at about 1 meter hence the rope line plus you had to walk in pairs and radio through to the comms room to tell them you were coming and once you had arrived.
The reason for all of this is that if you were to trip over a wind tail or something, and then get up disorientated, you can very easily walk off in completely the wrong direction never to be seen alive again. Made dinners quite exciting for once!
By day 3 everyone was getting very bored of the whole weather thing and by day 4 we
all wanted to kill each other anyway! The word from the weather forecasters was that the storm was in till at least Sunday, which was still another 3 days away so everyone went to bed without setting the alarms waiting for another boring day cooped up.
I was woken the next morning with the site of a bulldozer near enough level with my bedroom window, clearing the snow away from the external annex accommodation blocks. These containers were facing with their doors away from the main direction of the wind, the downfall of this was that any blown snow would accumulate over the doors and bury them inside! This would never normally be a problem in a small blow because diggers and shovels easily manage the snow. However, in a 4 day 30 knot+ blow it soon becomes a problem. So, about 20 people never had access to their rooms or sleeping gear or personnel equipment for the duration, which in turn left a lot of miserable old gets camping out on the lounge floor, in the garage and generally any space they could get a bit of peace and quiet.
Luckily for me I could just
watch out of my upstairs window at the ever-growing snow tails, which were the height of the containers, and about 5 times the length.
Anyway, the fifth day dawned and the visibility had come back, however the wind was still blowing about 20/25 knots but it was good enough to get onto site and see what the damage was. Everyone was absolutely amazed at what we actually arrived to.
Amazingly, the tents covering the 6 modules were in very good condition with no rips to be seen, but the wind tails produced by these were monstrous. From the flat expanse of ice shelf we were on at one point we now had our very own mountain range for snowboarding!!
Unfortunately this wasn’t allowed so with shovel in hand we all began the big dig out. Our Steelies container was buried in 2 meters of snow along with the lifting gear container. The steel towing frames for the modules were nowhere to be seen along with a few random pallets of gear left out alongside them so the guys set out using avalanche probes trying to locate them.
The Logistics Tent was by far the most amazing. Firstly because it was
still standing, secondly because everything which was hidden inside had a covering of snow about 3 inches thick. This was due to the small gaps where the tent roof meets the walls and spindrift snow gets absolutely everywhere. An amazing site none the less, which gave it all a slight Santa’s Grotto feeling.
I think the management had a slight wake up call from this storm however and soon everyone was given his or her orders to start wrapping the site away. Everyone apart from us that is.
The cladding/steelie team still had 2 panels left to install to make the Module weather tight. Which meant emptying the working platform of all the snow, which had accumulated over the past few days, and lifting the panels into place and securing them down. With Pull Lifts and Pulleys and Chain Blocks set up in all directions we soon had each panel in place and so began the big clean up of our season.
All in all the season was a success. There are a few problems with the Cladding Panels themselves but these are easily fixed by the company which produced them so everything is on track. Hopefully
we can come back next season, finish the Cladding off and hand over a World Leading Antarctic Research Station to all the Beakers from BAS.
On a sadder note, just as we were leaving there was news from our nearest neighbours along the coast form the German Base, Nuemayer. Unfortunately a helicopter carrying 5 personnel crashed, killing 2 and seriously injuring 3 others. Due to this very unfortunate incident we had a few days not knowing if the DC-3 aircraft on station would have to leave to aid in the rescue of these personnel or if it would be able to stay and fly the troops out as originally planned. In the end the guys all flew a few days earlier than planned so the connecting flight to Cape Town could be brought forward to get the dead and injured people to hospital.
Not the best end to a season for a few people and im sure it wasn’t a very nice way for our guys to have to fly home either, but our thoughts are with the families of the dead and injured as we slowly make our way out on board the RRS Shackleton, bound for
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