This is the fourth in our series of reports from David Goulden working for The British Antarctic Survey.
A quiet week here at 75 degrees south. We managed to complete the mapping of the base this week and have been engaged in odd jobs around the base. The weather has been mild but we have had poor contrast throughout most of the week which makes working harder and slower as we can literally not see the ground in front of us or make out the horizon or sky.
Last week we moved into an annexe near the Drury Building. Life in the annexe has been more basic but ok. The bunks are larger and wider but the space outside the bunk is minimal to the extent that you have to take turns in the morning getting up and dressing. They heat up and cool down quickly due to the electric heaters – the same type we get in site accommodation. The unit has a lobby door to keep the heat in but we are plagued more by the ill fitting blinds that let the mid night sun stream in. I have modified my bunk to give me somewhere to put books and an alarm clock and it is not a bad spot to read or listen to music.
On Friday we built the outside toilet to out little annexe and cored a waste pit with an ice coring machine – this has large corkscrew auger bits approx 300mm diameter with what is effectively an outboard engine on the top of it. It’s a two man job keeping the unit under control once it is put to the ice!
One of the team here is building a gigantic ice sofa for a competition for the British Heart Foundation. It will be used for the summer photo this year and we spent Saturday afternoon carving the sofas arms and legs.
The supply ship Igarka is due in on the 26th December and so we had our Christmas dinner on Saturday. We were given the afternoon off and put up decorations and removed all the furniture from the lounge for a band to set up.
Lunch was at 1600 hrs and comprised a full spread with all the trimmings – we had crackers and glasses of wine and then headed out to the sofa for the photos. The whole base was ferried out in skidoos, sledges and box trailers with the skidoos speeding back and forth to collect and gather every one of the team much like the “little ships” of Dunkirk.
We were treated to hot mulled wine and then formed an orderly queue to climb the steps up to the sofa. I was tasked with pressing the self timer button on the camera and then sprinting the distance to the sofa and getting hauled up by Justin and Adrian within the 10 secs allowed.
We then headed back to the lounge where the bar opened and the night began. We were allowed an extra can that night. Five cans in total but a couple of us borrowed a skidoo to pop back to our annexe for some Hungarian moonshine called Perdinka It must have been 80% proof and I think capable of removing tooth enamel. We also picked up a couple more beers we had hoarded during the previous weeks.
The band played 10 or 12 numbers through out the evening. It is amazing to see people in different circumstances and with talents you know nothing about. One of the young scientists only picked up the bass guitar earlier in the week!
We then had a carol service and went thorough some old popular carols. We fed on cold meats and buffet style food throughout the evening and I believe I stumbled home at about 0100 hrs looking forward to a lie in the next day.
Sunday was spent doing chores and reading before heading out to the 4km marker (3 barrels stacked on top of each other outside the boundary). The rest of the base settled down to the afternoon movie – The Great Escape!
We will have another week, I think, kicking our heels but the Relief schedule has gone up and I will be based on the edge of the sea ice helping load and sling the sledges with cargo. I have been told that this is a good job as you are in the thick of the action and get to stay on the ship. On the Relief for the RRS Ernest Shackleton I will be a sea ice driver’s mate which entails riding a skidoo behind the Challenger drivers with a safety line and gear to assist if the ice breaks up and the machine falls through.
The management spent much of the time week this flying over the coast working out where we would be berthing the ships and identifying a safe landing spot for us to work from. I believe we will be using Creek 3 and preparations has commenced in grooming the cargo road and putting in a ramp down to the edge of the ice for vehicle access. The field team will use ground penetrating radar to check for crevasses before we get down. I am sure more will be revealed at the Situation Report tonight.
– David Goulden, Halley Research Station, Ant-bloody-tarctica
15/12 Antarctic report 3 – Mech boys, adventuring and the flow
08/12 Antarctic report 2 – Penguins, balloons, stuffing and apple sauce
06/12 Antarctic report 1 – Nunatacs, Blue Ice and 4 beers on Saturday night