Friday, April 21, 2006

Dressing up (again) & Drum Raising

Well surprise, surprise we've been dressing up again. This time with a sci-fi theme. This was the main reason/excuse for cutting my hair in the first place. The mohawk was just an inbetween stage (I was going through).

Me as Ripley. Photo by Kirsty.

I went as Ripley from the Aliens saga. Brilliant films; yes the first two were the best, the third has promise and then looses it half-way through, and the fourth is dominated by the annoying purity of Winoda Ryder's character (but then that's the point). Aliens versus Predator... now that's where it's at. That film has it all- if you've not seen it, do. Bring popcorn - get ready for pure entertainment (and it's set in the Antarctic!!!).

John (I mean Spok) and Jean-Luc Piccard. Photo by Anto.

Kirsty and I provided a very simple general sci-fi knowledge quiz. Unfortunately two of the other sci-fi fans were busy enjoying windy and cold weather out in the field. So people did well to get 6 out of 35 points. Captain Piccard won with 11/35?

Nicola put on another beautiful spread of food so all in all another great night - and not too many attacks from suspicious looking Aliens.


We have three small cabooses (3 to 4 bunks) near the base. Cabooses are small huts on sledges and a great way to get away from base and have a good night out. One is at wonky, 1km away from base which people can stay at all year round, no matter what the weather. One is at Windy Bay, on the coast and handy for the local Emperor Penguin colony. The other was at Creek 2, which is where the ship has been mooring at recently- except the caboose was moved to the half-way point at N9 for 1st relief and has been sitting on the container line ever since. The creeks are a great place to get onto the sea-ice and boast a number of possibilities for leisure activities (most of which involve ropes, ice axes and abseil devices). So a group of us moved the caboose back to Creek 2 ready for short holidays for anybody with a free weekend.

Between Windy Caboose, and Creek 2 Caboose are lines of drums to mark the route (12km and 18km away from base). Because of the ever accumulating snow we need to pull these drums up and put them back on the new snow level. We thought we'd do it on the way. And while we were out, we might as well stay the night. So on Friday afternoon Nic, Alex, Anto and I set out for Creek 2 with the caboose. It didn't take long to get to Creek 2. We dropped off the caboose, took a few photos of the sea-ice (visibility and contrast weren't very good) and set off drum raising.

Nicola, Me, Alex and Anto outside Windy Caboose ready for another day of Antarctic Heroism (photo by Anto).

I'm sure people have described this before. It's simple, yet I tend to get a lot of satisfaction out of it. You drop a loop of strop over the drum with one end attached to a sledge and wait for the snocat to pull the drum out of the ground. Then you replace the drum on a fresh, flat bit of snow and dig it in a bit so it doesn't blow away too easily. I think it took us 3 hours to do the C2 line. We stopped off at base to replenish our stock of new drums (they're all empty petrol drums), and headed to Windy. It was getting dark by then, so we settled in to the caboose for the night with some nice hot tea, vegetarian man-food for dinner and bridge, wine, guitar and singing for afters.

Nic driving K23. We took it in turns to do all the different jobs.
The driver can see how the drum raisers are doing by keeping the window open and looking through the wing mirror.
Photo supplied by Anto.

Me celebrating a successful lasso attempt.
Alex jumping off the sledge equipped with every Halleyites favourite companion. A Shovel.
Photo supplied by Anto.

Our intentions were to stay for only one night. Fortunately a gale whipped up over night and we were caboose bound for an extra day. The caboose is great- but it has no toilet facility except for a good old Antarctic 'red' flag. A pee flag. Normally I'd be at ease with this situation. But it was blowing, 45knots or so (all the wind sensors at base broke, so we don't know how windy it got). In any case, I had a lot of difficulty standing up, let alone using the facilities. All I can think about it how much worse it would have been without the aid of a pee-funnel.

So, here we are at one of the most remote bases on the most remote continent on Earth, for a weekend to an even more remote small caboose- and we sit and play Bridge. I love this place.

Anto serenading us with Irish lullabies. Photo supplied by himself.

Alex after coming in from the 45+knot gale outside.


On my days off I normally relish my lie in (I like sleeping). But I know we're not going to have sunlight for long- so I'm normally on the scrounge for something to do outside (when the wind isn't right for kiting). It's never difficult to find. Drum raising is great, but I've been working as an apprentice mechanic in the garage too. I've learnt how to give the Tundras a basic service (the smallest in our fleet of skidoos) and have more recently been helping to service one of the three bulldozers (a D5 Cat). This involves great fun messing about underneath the dozer and then getting covered in oil. I am quickly developing a passion for large plant.... I like driving them too.

Me under the D5. Photo supplied by Anto.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mowhawks and Sunsets

Well I suppose the first bit of news since the last post is my hair- or at least the lack of it. I'd had an idea a long time ago that it would be interesting to see what it'd be like with a shaved head... and since I won't be out 'in public' or going to any job interviews any time soon I thought this was the time. I also adheard to public pressure and got myself a mowhawk- since it seems the thing to do. There's four of us on base with them now (Jules, Dave, Me and Alex).
Dave, Me, Alex and Julius sporting our trendy haircuts.

The sun has been setting quite regularly now. It may seem like a strange sentence, but the winter is obviously drawing in, quite quickly. The sunsets are getting longer and longer and outdoor activities after dinner are a distant memory. If the perfect kite-flying weather isn't on my day off (or lunchtime)- too bad. Speaking of which- it was perfect the other day and my gnarley jumps are getting bigger and bigger. So much fun!! I've also finally managed a full cross-country ski around the perimeter (8km in under 2 hours - with moments to look at the view of course). Not too bad. And I can only improve.
The Simpson Platform.

It's quite dark at night now, I've got my clear goggles, headtorch and bear paws (very warm gloves) out from summer storage . Last night I even had to hold onto the handline as a guide to get to work and back. Something that I haven't had to do in a long time (gale force winds wipping up the snow and darkness made actual visibility as far as my headtorch would glare).

Dr. Julie.

Us girlies (5 of 16) had a slumber party the other night. Well, it was a bit of a mixed affair. A few of 'the guys' set up a disco in one of the workshops while us 'girls' spent our time painting nails, putting on face masks and doing our makeup. I don't know what it is about men dressing up as girls in Antarctica- but it happens... quite a lot.

Every month (or there about) each of the Antarctic stations sends HQ a webdiary to put on the public internet site. We take it in turns to write them and try to include all of the base's activities. Before the internet was available to us, this was a very good way for our families and friends to see up to date pictures- but I suppose now, everyone's doing their own blogs.
In any case I read the ones from the other bases- and I'd like to point you to Rothera's February Diary, since it's very well written and might help explain Antarctic life a little better.
There's also a link on the right of this page to Halley's webdiaries.