Sunday, January 22, 2006

Inside and out

Despite the enormous trauma of a slightly wobbly tooth, life has continued normally, or what I imagine passes for normally down here, it's difficult to tell sometimes. I've been out and about visiting the various bits of the base to acquaint myself with all the IT and radio gear we have. I live on the Laws, the main building on base, and the Comms office is there as well. We also have Simpson and Piggott, the two science buildings, a garage, and the Drewry which is only open in the summer as extra accomodation. There are also various cargo containers around which are used as storage. I've been trying to resist the temptation to go everywhere by skidoo and have been walking between the buildings in the vain hope that it will combat the effects of all the excellent food we have on base. On one occasion I needed something from the Comms container, so decided I would walk over pulling a sledge to bring the stuff I needed. I knew it was a bit windy that day but figured it would still be OK. This where the naivety of the newcomer shows up, as not only was it windy, there was a fair bit of snow blowing about, the temperature had dropped quite a bit and the snow on the ground was knee deep. It took me nearly three quarters of an hour to walk what must be all of half a mile and I had to stop at the Drewry on the way for a bacon roll. And this is summer.....

In order to prepare us slightly better for the rigors of winter there are various stages of field training that everyone goes through, the first of which involves camping out on the perimeter of the base for a night. After an indoor session involving Primus Lighting Level One, Tent Erection for Beginners and Camp Cooking Theory 101 four of us headed out into the wilds with nothing more than two tents, two stoves, several boil in the bag meals, more bedding than I've ever seen and a highly trained instructor for protection. For field camping Pyramid tents are the preferred accomodation as they are fairly easy to put up, very stable, and offer excellent protection from the elements. Having got the tents up without too much drama we set about cooking dinner. After getting the primus alight, we filled a pan with snow, and after about half an hour Andy and I were enjoying Lamb Pilau and Chilli Con Carne a la Antarctic. Flushed with success we headed out for a lesson in how to use a field radio, then the five of us whiled away the evening chatting over a few beers, feeling very much the polar explorer. After an excellent nights sleep, blissfully ignorant of Andy's attempts to stop me snoring by throwing snow at me, we packed up the tents and headed back to the Laws as fully qualified Module2 campers, also earning the right to put our names on the list to go out as co-pilot with the Twin Otter aircraft.

Camp kitchen

5 star accommodation

Once we'd got our field training done in 20 knot winds and blowing snow, the weather naturally decided to improve greatly. However, this brings oportunities to try out new things, one of which was cross country skiing. This is my first attempt at any kind of winter sport, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I took up Simon's offer of a beginners lesson. Skiing looks hard enough to me when you've got a slope, but Halley being rather flat we have to resort to self propulsion just to make it harder. Apart from being unable to stand up after practising falling over, I managed fairly well skiing about happily for an hour or so, although afterwards I had a much clearer idea of why man invented the internal combustion engine. At the opposite extreme from skiing, the vehicles department ran a bulldozer driving for novices session. This proved hugely entertaining, going back and forth in a slow rattly bulldozer trying to level out snow dunes, which is actually a lot harder than the guys who do it every day make it look.

Scenic ski lesson

Less scenic D4 bulldozer

When we're not outside being hardy Antarctic heroes there's plenty to keep us occupied indoors as well. There seems to be quite a few musicians down at Halley this season, so a few of us have got together with guitars and keyboard and run through some numbers, and once Mark had found all the component parts of the PA system we had a music night in the bar, which seemed to go down well. The only possible problem is that if any more musical talent emerges from the closet we'll have more people in the band than in the audience. We've also kept ourselves amused with a Pirate party. The surgery stock of eyepatches was duly raided, as was the fancy dress box, and we had a fine evening with some excellent costumes, plenty of pieces of eight, timbers being shivered and people saying"Arrrrr!" a lot.


Anonymous WaterDon said...

Snoring cannot be stopped with mere handfuls of snow. It requires more substantial tools. I recommend the ice-ax.

5:16 pm  

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