antarctic report 7 – Baffin boots and polished copper pipes

b2 living accomodation module

b2 living accomodation module

This is the seventh in our series of reports from David Goulden working for The British Antarctic Survey. In this report Dave gives us an idea of the clothing required to work in the antarctic.

We have been hampered by strong winds and drifting snow more days than not in the last 2 weeks.
The wind does not have to be that strong but once it starts to pick up the snow you lose visibility and wind tails start to form. Because of this we have be working on base maintenance which has not been that interesting!

On the social front we celebrated Burns Night this weekend with haggis, poetry and highland games. A selection of Rabbie Burns poems were recited. One about a mouse, one concerning his girlfriend Anna, one concerning toothache and one about crofting. The four readers very bravely added their own unique style to each poem to the extent that Rabbie Burns was thought to be a pirate….

The highland games consisted of caber tossing, welly boot wanging, shackle throwing and the ubiquitous Tug of War! Victor Ludorium was, predictably, one of the RSA Morrisons team with the BAS guys competing but rarely challenging. The temperature dropped down to minus 11 during the evening and the sun came out and it was a beautiful night.

The following Sunday we headed to the coast for a spot of ice climbing. More of that in a later correspondence. During the last week we had to complete our Antarctic employment pool form which registers our interest in future work for BAS and our clothing feedback form. The clothing issued by BAS is constantly reviewed. The clothing consists of the following:

  • Baffin shin height boots with a rubber lower section similar to a Wellington boot with lace up leather uppers. We are issued 2 sets of insulated foil liners that keep your feet warm.You remove these each day so that they can dry and air.
  • Leather insulated rigger gloves which are surprisingly warm.They have a soft fleece lining and are pretty resistant to cold and water. The handy thing about these is that you can take them off and on very quickly for when bare fingers are required for a task.
  • Inner cotton gloves – standard inners for use in the above when cold.
  • Knee length socks, 2 pairs – thick wool mix sock – very warm especially when pulled up!
  • Thermal leggings and vest – pretty much the same as the stuff you can buy in the UK.
  • Mole skin trousers (various sizes but 1 pair only).These are incredibly warm and are made of a tight knit wool/cotton blend.The problem is getting a pair the right size.I recall wearing these during D of E hiking expeditions at school and could probably pick up a pair form Chas E Smith.
  • Combat cargo padded knee work trousers – the padded knees come in handy against snow and cold metal surfaces.
  • Mid layer zipped neck thermal – every day wear and very comfortable – alpine low aleutian brand.
  • Fleece jacket – second hand hand me down soft core shell jackets with, if you are unlucky a number of rips and tears from previous users.
  • Insulated overalls – every day wear that go on top of mid layers and trousers.They are padded and insulated and very hard wearing.They are bright orange or orange and blue with luminous stripes which stand out very well in this white environment.
  • Belt – webbing strap
  • Buck lock Knife – standard BAS issue. Not that robust but designed for all God fearing folk.
  • Necky – I have not owned a neckie before and always thought them a little “princess like” however they are invaluable here and are used as scarves / neck warmers,ear warmers or as a thin hat.
  • Beanie – Sealskin if you are lucky. Good brand!
  • Sunglasses – Joubo french UV resistance glasses with eye shades and groaky to ensure they stay on. Very good kit if a little large. Good lenses and great eye protection.
  • Uninsulated overalls – these are used for indoor tasks and come in black for working on machines and engines to hide the grease.
  • Sunscreen / aftersun and moisturisers – free dispenser stations as you leave the building – obligatory especially in this arid environment.
  • Laundry – once a week on an allotted day.

Common gear worn around the BAS buildings after work tends to be shorts, base layer and flip flops/crocs. The buildings are kept at approx 20 degrees and so is fairly warm. No overalls or boots are allowed in the dining room or lounge. The Bar opens at 1930 hrs for your allotted 2 cans and our meal times start from 0630 for breakfast, smoko at 1030,lunch at 1300hrs and afternoon smoko at 1630. Our days end at 1830 hrs apart from Saturdays where we have afternoon scrub out. We are allocated a job form 1530 to 1630 hrs which could be scrubbing out the ovens and hobs or cleaning the boot room or Toilets etc. The tasks are varied each week and help ensure the base is kept clean.
The copper pipework in the WC and showers is polished to a brilliant shine each week and looks very smart. I think this is a tradition perhaps left over from the Navy .

In the next few days we hope to have a visit around the construction site. They are now 4 weeks before the first Construction team leaves – the target is to clad the remaining 4 modules before the winter season.

– David Goulden, Halley Research Station, Antarctica

12/01 Antarctic Report 6 – deadmen timbers and russian catering
30/12 Antarctic Report 5 – prime movers, melt tank and cricket
22/12 Antarctic Report 4 – quiet week at 75 degrees south
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

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