Sunday, January 08, 2006


A strange name for a week of utter chaos..... Once the ship has arrived and moored up the first priority is to offload all the cargo and fresh food, and load up any recycling waste. To take maximum advantage of the 24hr daylight this involves continuous working, with everyone on 12 hour shifts, and carries on until the job is done. We were all anticipating a much longer relief than usual as the journey from N9 to Halley is about 6 hours in a snocat, so each vehicle would only make one round trip per shift. In the end it was decided to make a half way point where sledges could be left, so there were 2 snocats operating between the ship and the halfway point, and 2 operating the other half of the trip to Halley. A lot of the new drivers were very excited about getting to drive a snocat, but I think the novelty wore off fairly quickly! Luckily I was on day shift all week so didn't have to disrupt my sleep patterns, although it's all a bit irrelevant when it never gets dark. My job was flight following the Twin Otter aircraft so I spent most of my time hidden away in the radio room. Flight following involves maintaining radio contact with the aircraft, giving them weather information, keeping a record of flights, passengers and aircraft fuel capacity, and letting people know when the plane is due in so a party can be ready at the skiway to unload. The plane is very versatile, able to carry people or cargo, and Ian the pilot does an amazing job of cramming as much as possible into it. He is ably assisted by Dave the Air Mech who acts as ground crew, fire tender and maintenance department. Vicky the doctor has also been seconded as skiway crew and has been very busy making furniture out of snow. Soon we'll have our own departure lounge.

Our hardworking doctors at the skiway

The plane was used to ferry people, and cargo that can't be left on the snow to freeze (important stuff like beer, wine and spirits), while all other cargo was carried by sledge with snocats from N9 to the Halley cargo line, where it stays until we find a space for it. As Christmas fell during relief we didn't get much of a chance to celebrate, although our chefs did a fine job of providing a Christmas meal, complete with crackers and silly hats. It was strange in many ways, all this snow but not much else in the way of traditional festivities. Perhaps the strangest thing was being able to enjoy a Christmas meal without the constant fear of certain elder sisters stealing the food from my plate.....

Snocat delivery at the Laws platform

New Year is generally a bigger celebration here as relief is over and we get a chance to relax before work starts in earnest. The chefs did us proud once again and laid on an impressive spread of curries, after which we all retired to the bar for drinks. Not sure if I've described it yet but the base has very good leisure facilities. We've got a bar with pool table and darts board, and a lounge with TV and videos and DVDs. There's also a library and a gym, and of course plenty of space outdoors! The New Years Eve celebrations also featured and impromptu gig by the Halley Samba band. Our first public performance, and it went really well, we paraded down the corridor and into the bar where we played for about 5 minutes. Everyone played well and the audience seemed to enjoy it, hopefully we'll have enough people to keep it going over winter as well.

Samba band entertaining

New Years Day was celebrated with a football match. This was highly entertaining to watch, being played on an uneven and fairly soft snow pitch. There was certainly some interesting techniques being employed, more Queensberry Rules than FA Regulations. The match was followed by a celebratory barbecue in the snow. The burgers tasted marvellous, despite being cold by the time they had got from the BBQ to the table, but I suppose that's just one of the many hazards of being here. All in all a good start to the new year, it's certainly going to be interesting.

Spot The Ball


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