Friday, July 28, 2006

Is it a bird, is it a plane......

Sometimes it's good to remind yourself that you're special. With that in mind, we decided to have a Superheroes evening were everyone came as their favourite superhero or villain. As usual there was a great turnout of costumes, ranging from well known characters to the more esoteric, and the completely made up. As I was on gash duty that day my costume was a bit last minute, and some of the more interactive elements didn't get included unfortunately. I won't give away too much about my outfit, suffice to say it's tricky eating a posh dinner at the table when your udder keeps getting in the way......

The Halley Superheroes. Protecting the Antarctic from evil.

On the Monday after that Liz and Vicki decided to make our lives a misery by recovering the pool table. Normally this would be a good thing, and it was well in need of doing, but we'd only just got used to the old cloth. To say it had some eccentricities would be an understatement, but it was always hugely entertaining trying to judge the strength of shot needed to get up the 1 in 3 slope to the bottom corner pocket, and the feeling of satisfaction as you watched your opponents ball settle into a large divot on the table was rarely surpassed. Now of course we are all having to relearn our game and it's not easy. Well that's my excuse for my recent appalling form and I'm sticking to it.

Next month will hopefully see us going out to Windy Creek to visit the local penguin colony. As a prelude to that we have been brushing up on our rope skills, so we've all had a session with Simon using a z-pulley system to rescue each other from the treacherous crevasses that lurk in the lounge, and then another one abseiling off the Simpson platform and jumaring back up again. Having had to be lowered down by Simon twice due to rope entanglements I finally managed a proper descent, and he assured me that the total cock up on the first two attempts wasn't entirely my fault. Good to know........ Simon also gave us a talk on the perils of sea-ice as this is what we'll be walking on when we go down to see our black and white friends. I don't think I'll have a career with a mountain rescue team anytime soon but hopefully I''ll remember enough to keep myself and whoever I'm attached to out of trouble.

Alex hanging around under the Simpson building

Last Thursday was Mark's birthday so we've had a good excuse for some celebrations. Vicki made him an excellent cake in the shape of a guitar, complete with strings. (After much mucking about with strawberry shoelaces it was decided that piping the strings on with icing was by far the simplest method.) Then on the Saturday Mark invited us all to a very exclusive night club in his workshop, which was decked out complete with lights, sound system, multimedia wall displays, and even a microphone for karaoke moments!

The weather has been fairly consistently cold lately, which is not a problem as we're all well wrapped up, and it also opens up new possibilities, such as frozen hair sculptures. Most of us don't really have enough but Kirsty and Vicki ventured out onto the platform, and after dangling wet hair upside down for a while created some impressively wild hairstyles, with Kirsty managing the best impression of someone being electrocuted.

Vicki goes for the windswept look

Kirsty after seeing her bar bill

On the work front, there's been more catenary and balun raising on various masts and aerials, preparation of field radios for the upcoming trips, and some anti-virus niggles to sort out. A few of us have also been in the garage giving Anto a hand servicing a snocat, so hopefully it won't break down on the way to Windy.

"Looks like your left hand throggle mulch flange is a bit worn"

A bit bigger than the one on the Scim

Hopefully my next update will include some shots of the local wildlife. In the meantime a couple of pictures of the Laws looking dramatic against the night sky.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Snow, sledges and stitches

After the midwinter week of excess it was almost a relief to get back to the routine of working life again. Almost. The last bit of the midwinter week was the photo competition, which was won by Nic with an excellent photo of two skiers heading into the sun, but there were several other good pictures in there as well. After that I decided to ease into the week by having a tidy up of the office, not that you'd tell by looking at it now. I also reacquainted myself with the gym to try and work off all the excellent food and drink, and I was on melt tank duty for a week which always seems to burn off the calories, although I usually use that as an excuse to eat more. I think I've spotted a flaw in my plan.

Photo competition entries

The compact Halley gym, Chris in action

We've had a couple more impressive blows recently, with winds up around 50 knots, so once again handlines have been the only way to get between buildings as visibility is about zero. One of these blows resulted in one of the HF aerials becoming detached from the cable back to the Comms Office so I've been out trying to fix that. As well as high winds we've had much more snow accumulation than normal this year so things are getting buried much more quickly, including masts. All the masts are held upright by stays, like big metal guy ropes, and these have adjustable turnbuckles in them so we can reduce the tension on the stay as it builds up due to getting buried. This also means we need to raise the turnbuckles every now and then, so Jules and I have been out doing that on the Comms masts. This involves clamping a ratchet device called a chain hoist onto the stay to maintain the tension while we take out the turnbuckle, add a new section of steel rope, then put the turnbuckle back higher up. Next job will be raising the catenaries, which are bits of steel rope suspended between posts that keep all the cables off the ground.

The problem - an almost buried turnbuckle

Attaching the chain hoist

Turnbuckle removed, extra length of stay ready to go on

Reattaching the turnbuckle

The finished article, and a cold looking Jules

On the leisure side we've decided we're all going to be rock stars and have started a band. Our first couple of rehearsals have gone pretty well, and we've rattled off a handful of numbers. It was a bit of a squeeze as there are a lot of multi talented people down here so there were 9 of us in the gym. So far lead vocals have been shared by Simon and Andy, guitars by Andy, Mark, John and Vicki, backing vocals by Vicki and Fran, who's also played violin, percussion by me and Simon, Alex is on keyboards and Nic on bass. All we need now is a couple of venues to play and an audience.

We've also been honing our knotting and lashing skills again. Wooden Nansen sledges are still the preferred method of hauling loads over long distances down here, usually towed behind a skidoo. These are essentially made up of lots of bits of wood held together by string and bits of leather, but seem incredibly sturdy all the same. Simon had all the requisite parts to make a new one from the ground up so we've had a communal sledge building session over a couple of days. It's a very rare limited edition signature model as we've all put our names on it. Luckily we didn't have to sign on the bits we did as there may be future recriminations if it falls apart in the middle of a trip.

How the sledge starts out

Joints held together with string

Nearing completion

Ready for action

Doc school has been getting ever more practical lately, after looking at burns and how to treat them, we gave each other numb fingers in order to practise our anaesthetising techniques, and this week we've been stitching wounds. We didn't have to injure ourselves in the name of science however, as we we were able to try our hand at stitching on pigskin. Probably just as well given the hash I made of most of it....

In true Blue Peter style, this is what you'll need

Injecting the anaesthetic. The patient was very calm throughout.....

Functional rather than pretty stitches

Bob making it look easy