Thursday, 5 January 2012

2012

2012 

Happy New Year 

Me riding around the parimeter of the new base on a Ski-doo
The New Modules in the background.


Another Year gone and another Christmas on the Ice over in the blink of an eye.

Time goes so quickly here on Antarctica, with no night to measure the days by and everyone so involved in what they are doing we are already more than half way through the season with a lot of the guys leaving in just 6 weeks.

Relief also came and went. The Shackleton arrived at Christmas with much needed supplies although not nearly enough, we are still having to ration and stretch certain food items as they will be needed to see the wintering team through not only the winter, but also the next summer season up to December 2012. When the Shack once again will bring in the supplies.

Ant The Chef pulling a sledge of food from the reefer
In the background. We have to do this daily what ever the weather.
Here it is snowing.

I did not see much of the relief this season as most of It was done from Halley V which is only 12 km from the coast.
It was all very similar to last season, the mechanics container was sited at the creek along with the fuel containers for refuelling. The mechanics were on hand to make sure all vehicles were maintained and a safe environment was kept.

The Snow cats pulled sledges of cargo from the ship on and off the sea Ice, while the Challengers and the John Deer's pulled them to and from Halley V.

Here a John Deer Tractor arrives at Halley VI
with Cargo ready to be unloaded by the Mantis Crane.

Being at Halley VI, which is now 28 km away and a 2 hour journey by Sno-cat,
 we only saw a few vehicles pulling sledges containing clothing and our reefers of food that had been sorted at Halley V and sent on to us at Halley VI.
It was still a great thing to see from the kitchen window, as the Challengers and John Deer's pulled the sledges into position on the cargo line and waited while the Mantis Crane lifted the containers and positioned them on the Ice.

Containers of Fuel were transported to base and all the waste taken to the ship ready to be  transported to the falklands to be disposed of.
The whole Relief went very smoothly and was completed in 5 days.

The timing of it all was pretty good. As the Shackleton Arrived earlier than expected just before the 25th Dec. The Captain chose to run the ship onto the sea Ice to beach it and give everyone the chance to enjoy Christmas day. 
So with relief not starting until Boxing day everyone had a good Christmas.

 At Halley VI on Christmas eve we finished dinner and everyone gathered in the logs tent for mulled wine, mince pies and carol singing. Conducted by Jen the Doctor, accompanied by Mark the Electrician and Sam the Meteorologist on their guitars. The whole evening was a total success and a good time was had by all.

O Come All Ye Faithful

Mark and Sam on Guitar and Nigel in Santa Hat accompanying

The next day myself and Ant cooked a light brunch at midday followed at 4.00pm by a full Christmas Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and xmas pud . This meant that we Chefs could finish early and enjoy what was left of the day, we even managed to sit with all the guys and enjoy the meal with a glass of wine a lot of joviality and cracker pulling. That evening was quite a relaxed one and most went to bed at a reasonable time, knowing that relief was starting in the morning.

Every one enjoying their christmas meal.
As myself and Ant came in to the dining area to eat
we were greeted by cheering and applause.

Christmas Dinner for the Chefs


Simon Gill in the Festive Spirit.


With relief only lasting 5 days it meant that we could all enjoy New Years eve, this we did to the best of our ability with a few of the guys really letting their hair down, 
(I do have it on record!)


A world famous band, with Matt on guitar, Nigel lead singer,
Chris on the table tennis bat, James on air drums 
and Jordan serving drinks

I was Invited into JT's room for a drink
and he had built a fire place with hearth.
The fire was virtual flames on a laptop.
Ingenious 



We saw the New Year in with a lot of singing, dancing…(Ish)  air guitar playing, running out onto the Ice and one or two taking a sauna in one that  Garith and Carl the carpenters built.

Garith putting the door on to the Sauna

Happy New Year Guys....


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Emperor Penguins at Windy Creek

With very little or no Internet It has been very difficult to post anything for a while but here i have managed to upload a few pics of the Emperor Penguin Colony at Windy Creek taken before Christmas. Enjoy.

 Our Taxi awaits to take us to Windy Creek
It took us nearly 2 hours to get to Windy Creek this time, as the base is now 30 kilometers away and the Sno-cats are not the fastest of vehicles.


Myself, Miami and Les standing on the Ice cliffs
overlooking the Colony

It was a good day, most of the penguins were on the Ice shelf with small groups out at sea fishing to feed their young.


The Colony of Emperor Penguins at Windy Creek
They have their chicks with them this year.
There are approx 8,000 in this colony


The Chicks are nearly as big as the adult Emperors

This is Sana and Kirk the 2 GA's that guided us on the trip to the
 Penguin Colony Sana is the wintering 
GA while Kirk is the Summer GA and BAS Camera man.

Standing on the Ice Cliffs looking down

Morrison's Works Foreman Ian Prickett
Kite Snow Boards back from Windy Creek to Halley VI
closely followed by us in the Sno-cat.
He was much faster than us. Here Ian has arrived at base 
and is waiting for his kite to drop.





Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Still Waiting

Wednesday 21st December and I have a day off
The weather is scattered Stratocumulus clouds, with light easterly winds. 
The Temperature is -2.7 degrees C which is warm for where we are.

 Conditions are good for flying and yet we are still waiting for the plane from Rothera to come in with much needed supplies. It was supposed to have arrived yesterday with 200kg of meat, which will see us through until the ship arrives so we continue to produce food with very little, hopefully it will be in tomorrow (Thursday 22nd Dec).

While Paul and Rory are on the roof, we ask them
If they can see the plane

Ant Wondering what to do for lunch.

Andy Mac the Mechanic looks out into the vast expanse of white
Still no sign of a plane

Desperate for food Karl (project Manager) and Ben 
(Winter Base Commander) resort to raiding the fridge.

Ian Tris and Gary discussing the day in the dining tent

Andy the winter meteorologist arrives from Hally V
with a few supplies.

 With lunch over and dinner already prepared, myself
and Ant armed with our cameras go to see how the workers 
are getting on. The picture shows under the modules where 
the snow is has to be cleared, as wind tails form 

The modules in position with machines under the link bridge 
clearing the snow

Me sat on a Skidoo outside the red module

Ant walking from the modules back to the Drewry.
 
With Christmas just around the corner everyone is looking forward to the time off.
However! Christmas Day this year falls on a Sunday, which means the guys lose out on a day off. Sunday is the one day off they have anyway. 


This does not affect the Chefs as we still have to work, the workforce though, do get to finish early on Saturday and have a good meal to look forward to as all the food stuff and Ingredients for the Christmas dinner was put aside earlier in the year.
So plane or no plane Christmas Day is covered.


 Apart from the Drama of having no food all else seems calm. 
The Morrison Construction guys are busy with their own trades and making good progress.


 The nuts and bolts all seem to be going in the right holes, the cables and wires are being pulled and connected to the right terminals, share array and towers are being checked for correct alignment and tightness, generators are being maintained and monitored and all seems to be on track and progressing nicely.


 Which is good news for the 14 strong wintering team as it looks like they will be in the new modules by the end of the summer season and not as was expected back at Halley V for the winter.


 And so, after a busy days work we retire to our pit room
and to bed. I have the bottom bunk

Ant in the top bunk with a cup of tea, leaning against the head board
that Carl the chippy made him in the shape of a chefs hat.
Carl also made him a shelf for his laptop so he can watch his films 
In comfort.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Back In the Thick of It...

Having been at Halley now for 3 weeks, It has not taken long to get back into base life and doesn't seem 6 weeks since I left the UK.


With the Drewry building now situated at the new site and the Annex built to the side of it the accommodation block is fully operational and all rooms occupied with It's full compliment of summer staff.
We now have 60+ people on site that need feeding and to cater for this number there has had to be a logistics tent erected on the back of what was the Drewry dining room. This tent is now the new dining area and a walkway has been put in linking the two rooms.
 The old dining area has become an office for the base commanders, the computer room and lounge area for the workers.


Nothing has really changed from last season, I am back in my old room but this time sharing with Ant, he Is the wintering chef this year and will be the first to stay and work in the new modules. This will be his 3rd winter and 5th summer here on Antarctica and I have to say, "It's a real pleasure working with this guy" he is a good chef, but completely bonkers. 

Ant standing outside the Drewry, with snow mounds
 pushed against the melt tank ready to be shoveled in 
to provide us with fresh water.
The Annex is against the side of the building providing 
extra rooms.


 There has been a lot of activity here at Halley VI, the construction guys are working flat out on the Modules to catch up on lost time, the vehical operators are busy with snow management keeping areas groomed and clearing snow build up from around buildings, the comms are up to their necks in getting the communication systems up and running and the Chefs are not only busy keeping everyone fed but have the added pressure of trying to create menus with no Ingredients.


We are running really low on food now, the Ship is not due in until end of December and we are already using food from what should be the emergency containers.
The last few meals produced have been using, what we call Munch! This is manfood that comes in packets, you just have to add water and is what all explorers take on expedition as an emergency keep you alive rations.


It is getting very tight, but we are still managing to come up with a variety of inventive
and creative cuisine. Nobody has complained yet, they still get 5 meals a day, although it is not always meat.


We have a plane coming in within the next week with supplies from Rothera to help us out and the ship will not be far behind. So no need to panic yet!


The system we are using for communications is the Iridium system, which is very slow and uses different satellites which keep dropping in and out of signal. Because of this facebook has been blocked to prevent the system getting clogged. Therefore to post this blog is quite a chore and takes an age to upload any pictures.


In order to keep you updated I will write my posts and upload pictures when I can.
I have a day off tomorrow (Wednesday) and i am going to take a walk over to the garage, where Martin Bell the Deputy Project Manager is going to give me Skidoo training, so i will be able to drive myself to Halley V the old base camp 16 clicks away.
Something to look forward to. I will also try and upload a few pictures of my trip last Sunday, to the Emperor Penguin colony at Windy creek, which was awesome with over 4,000 Penguins and their Chicks. 


I'm off to bed now as it is 12.00 midnight and everyone else is tucked up fast asleep, which is an Ideal time to use the computer.
So until my next post, stay cool!


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Film Footage

http://kirkoftheantarctic.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/the-journey-to-halley/

I have added this link for you to follow. It will take you to Kirk Watson's Blog.

Kirk has been comissioned by BAS to film the building of Halley 6 here on the Brunt Ice Shelf.

This short film is of our journey to Halley via Union Glacier, just to give you an Idea of what we went through. You will also see a short film of the Solar Eclipse which happened last Friday at 5.00am plus a few other films of Halley..

It is a good insight into my working environment...

Enjoy..

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Union Glacier

Mountains at Union Glacier
Union Glacier is a camp set up by ANI which is a company that does Antarctic Expeditions for Intrepid explorers and mountaineers, as well as a welcome base for people just passing through on their way to their own camp. 

The British Polar team where the first to leave the camp as they had to get to the Ross Ice shelf near McMurdo (the American base camp)
They where being dropped to start their journey to the South pole. It was all exciting  stuff as this year is the 100th anniversary of Amundsen ( the Norwegian explorer who made it to the pole in 1911)  So the team was being dropped off at the Bay of Whales. They were splitting into two teams, one team was taking Scotts route and the other team was taking Amundsen route. There was also a Norwegian team that where doing the journey in the same gear that Amundsen had used, which was Reindeer skin, straw and wooly jumpers. All teams where walking with sledges and skis as they did 100 years ago.

So as I write this post it is Tuesday the 8th of November and we are still on Union Glacier and have been here now for 10 days. This is due to the weather being too bad for the planes to take off or Land. Although we did watch a Bassler Pilot land on the blue Ice runway in a white out, this was using his instruments as you could not see anything but white. Visibility was zero….Balls of Steel !!




The Bassler landing in difficult conditions

So for 10 days we have done nothing but eat, sleep, watch films on our laptops, walk round the parameter, play cards, backgammon and chess to amuse ourselves. It has been cold and while we have had toilets (of sorts) there have been no showers or washing facilities as we are living in tents like Antarctic hero's.
So every morning I take my Nalgene bottle filled with water to clean my teeth,  strip down to my undies and have a snow body wash….Brrrrrr!!!
It's the only wash we get. I have also not shaved in as many days so my Antarctic beard is coming along nicely..

Our Weather Haven tent that we all started off
sleeping in

 One of our regular walks around the parimeter
This was with Karl (Project Manager), Ant (Wintering Chef)
and Carl (Summer Carpenter)


A shot of me with the Union Glacier Christmas Tree

How long we will be here for, no one knows? 
The same weather system that is preventing us from leaving is also affecting Halley, Rothera, Nuemeyer and the other bases…We are all stuck at various camps 500 to 600 miles apart. We have to take each day as it comes, the pilots check the weather and update daily. We could be here for some time.

We have been told that Bas should be phoning round our families and friends to inform them of our situation. We can do no more than wait. 
Being in our clam tents and weather-havens certainly gives me an insight into what it must have been like for Scott, Shackleton and those early explorers.. Those guys were certainly made of tough stuff…Real Antarctic Hero's.




Ant outside his clam tent, the temperature
is approx minus 20 




Wednesday the 9th November 2011
… The word today is that the weather is getting worse especially at Halley , where the wintering team are forced to stay inside and not to venture out as the winds are dangerously high. According to the communication guys here at Union Glacier, a plane took off from Nuemeyer the German camp with the Mechanics from our team on board, trying to get them into Halley. They were forced to turn back as nothing can land at Halley. So back to square one.
Apparently there is a possibility of a window on Friday, but it is only a small chance  as the weather is bad again for another few days….


Still nothing for me to do but admire the Scenery.
Weather still not good for flying and the snow 
is creeping up the sides of the weather Haven

The main problem we are up against is time, as there are now 3 Bas teams all trying to get into Halley base camp.
First team, the Mechanics and base commander who are stuck at Neumeyer. They should have gone in first to de-winterise the vehicles and the summer accommodation block. They are also the team to start up the generators on the new modules to get the new build warmed up and ready for the construction guys to come in and start working.
 Second team are the service crew, myself included. We are stuck at Union Glacier, with the management for Morrisons (the Construction company) and BAS service crew. We should be in immediately behind the first team and settle quickly into rooms and work places that have already been prepared for us. Then we can start to implement the systems and routines needed for the construction guys to start immediate work.
The Third team are the Morrisons construction workers who at the moment are still in Cape town. They are due to fly into Halley on the 15th November which is now only 6 days away…


Me standing against the Union Glacier sign post.

If they get in before us, nothing will be ready for them and they will not be able to start work….That is when we will be behind with the project. So everyone is praying now that we will be in within the next 6 days… It has to be before the 3rd team leave Cape Town..
Everyone is getting bored now, we all want to be working….. 




 The Mountains at Union Glacier, with high winds
blowing the snow off the peaks
Another shot with the sun hitting the Ice on the Mountain.

Sunday 13th November 2011.
weather has been pretty bad in the last few days and we are still at Union Glacier.
Temperatures have dropped at times to - 30 and the winds have been gusting at  around 35 / 40 knots. it would be fair to say that most of us are bored now, there are only so many games you can play and I myself will be glad to have a shave and a shower, even a 2 minute one. 
Good news came after dinner, when Karl Tuplin informed us of good weather at Halley and Union Glacier and that the Bassler will be taking 12 of us onto Halley in the Morning along with some cargo, so an early night was had by most.

Monday 14th November 2011
The Bassler left this morning at 9.00am with the twelve guys that are to set up the Drewery summer accommodation block. I will be on the second flight which will now be in the morning  as it is a 4 and a half hour flight to Halley and the pilots have to get  twelve hours rest in between flights. Hopefully the weather will stay fine and our plane will return. Although looking outside, the snow is falling and the wind is starting to blow. One more night in a tent on the Antarctic Continent….

 Kirk the Cameraman filming as we prepare to leave for Halley


 With all our kit on board, it just remains for us
to climb on and take our seats.


With last minute checks it is not long before we are airbourne
and winging our way across the Ice.


Myself and Ant at the back of the Bassler with a four hour
journey ahead of us

The view from our window of large cracks in the sea Ice. 


At last we are on our way to the Brunt Ice shelf, much to the relief of the winterers
that have been at Halley since we left last season.
As we fly at an altitude of 13,000 feet, the air is thin and at times it is difficult to breath, but it is not long before we land at Halley and are met by Ben Mapston the wintering base commander and Jenny the wintering Doctor.


We are taken by Sno Cat and Sledge to the Drewry building where we will be living this season. After sorting our rooms out and having had a welcome meal we all retire to bed, tired from our adventure.. Tomorrow is another day, when we will be starting work and getting back to cooking on the Ice.  

Thursday, 24 November 2011

In Transit

I have not added any posts for the last few weeks as we have been in transit. The problem has not been with the transport, but the weather.

Saturday 23rd October
I Started my journey south at 11.00am Saturday morning, the first step was to meet the rest of the group at Heathrow airport. I met up with most of them during check in it was good to see familiar faces, most of the group where the same guys as last season with a couple of first timers.  The flight was to leave Heathrow at 4.30pm, but was delayed by an hour.

We eventually left for Madrid, the flight itself went quite quickly with 3 and a half  hours in the air, but there was a 5 hour wait at the other end for our connecting flight to Santiago in south America. As we couldn't leave the airport we got a bite to eat and waited for our call.


A few of the lads sleeping in the departure lounge


The next flight was to be a 15 hour jaunt which was not very comfortable as i was stuck next to someone that slept almost the whole journey. Once in Santiago we had another 5 hour wait before we boarded our plane to Punta Arenas, this flight was another 3 and a half hours.



Flying over the Andies on our flight 
to Punta Arenas


We were all glad to be on the ground and heading for the Hotel, it had been a long trip down and we were all pretty tired
having been travelling for approx. 40 hours.

Our Hotel was very comfortable having a room each and a place to shower relax and spread out a bit. it was a bonus to be in Latin America, although there was not much to do in Punta Arenas itself apart from restaurants bars and cafe's, but it was exciting to be in that part of the world, and we did get to have a good look round, but again the majority of our time was spent hanging around waiting for the powers that be to tell us when we would be heading for the Ice. We had a briefing mid week at ALE (Antarctic Logistics Expeditions) telling us how we were getting to Antarctica, what to expect and what to do once there.


Karl Tuplin the project Manager checking cargo
at ALE Logistics




The Kit bags were all there except mine,
that one had been packed in a seperate container
which i could not access until i get to Halley.
So I was issued with new gear.


Nigel and Steve in the lobby of the Hotel
waiting to go

We had been in Punta Arenas for 6 days when we got the word to go, we grabbed our kit bags and personal belongings and boarded the coach that had been provided to take us to the airport.

We were flown this year again by the Russian Yllusion plane, but this time to Union Glacier.
this was a 4 hour flight in a tight military style operation and carrying cargo as well as a team of british army guys who are competing in a race to the South pole. They are competing against the Norwegian team and will be doing it on skis.



On board the Yllusion aircraft with Nigel
in front of me looking at the Russian crew member 
as we prepare for take off


 A shot of myself as we prepare to land on the Ice
We were all tired by now.


Flying over Antarctica as we made our final approach
to Union Glacier. 

The flight was noisy and the landing was awesome these Russian pilots really do know how to land on Ice. We landed on a blue Ice runway between magnificent mountains and crevices. Once safely on the ground we donned our Antarctic gear and stepped off the plane into a temperature of between - 20 to - 30 with winds gusting 35 knots, making a subjective temperature of  - 45 which is the coldest i've experienced since being on the Ice. It was cold and windy but absolutely amazing.


 The Yllusion on the ice, with a track vehical 
and a six wheeled truck to take us to the camp.

Karl Tuplin and our camera man Kirk
standing on the runway.

The Scenery was breathtaking and after a couple of photographs we were taken to a holding container before being transported to the base camp, which was not yet ready for guests as the guys here were still preparing it and putting up tents. This was because they only got in a day before we arrived.
We were given a welcome briefing which included a few camp rules before dinner.
After dinner which was a meaty broth and much needed, we were shown to our tents and given our beds which we had to construct. The tent we were in had no heating as it had to be fixed and plumbed in and the sleeping bags that we were issued with, on the label said, "comfortable to - 6 degrees".  Well, It went down to nearly - 30 in the night and I was bloody freezing!!
 I could not get enough layers on me, I was nearly in my full Polar gear including hat….But , It's what you come to Antarctica for! I loved it…(Almost)..