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


Anonymous Judi Anderson Seal said...

Hello, Dave. Here in New York City, we are in the middle of a heat wave. Temperatures in the high 90's (Fahrenheit) are anticipated, with heat indices up to 110. I hate the heat. And our air conditioning seems hardly adequate to counter the heat and humidity. So I turned to the internet and have spent hours googling and finding webcams of Antarctica and, now, blogs. And, I must say, I feel cooler.

I've been periodically checking webcams located at Mawson (never any light), Davis (only the dimmest of light sometimes), Casey (a few hours of moderate light), Macquarie Island (which gets the most light of all), Neumayer (fairly light), James Clark Ross ship (looking rather balmy), Scott Base (which hasn't had a new image since late June -- has The Thing got them?) and Halley (which at the moment is showing a sliver of warm light along the horizon -- what are the artificial lights in the distance?).

I am finding it all very interesting -- the continent, the people who go there, the environment, the history, the research. I have bookmarked your blog and will try to keep up with it. Please tell Vicki that I am also a quilter (and knitter and cross-stitcher) and admire her gift to you very much. I'd love to know where she shops for fabrics in Antarctica!

Well, inspired by your blog, I'm off to organize a mid-summer naked run, although in New York City it will probably raise nary an eyebrow. Thanks for cooling me off.

2:58 pm  
Blogger Dave Down South said...

Hi Judi,

Glad you're finding a way to beat the heat, not so much of a problem down here. We're getting a bit more light down here now, the ones you can see on the webcam are the main building that we live in, the webcam is in one of the science buildings. I passed your comments on to Vicki, who's now started work on the Halley blanket, the idea being that we all knit a square each. I'm not sure my skills will be up to it though. Hope you enjoy your run, try not to get arrested.....

12:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY!

3:12 am  
Anonymous Hwfa said...

Hi Dave - I see you're still having to dig up the dumps - after one of our Diesel Mechanics discoved an (almost) drained 45 Gallon drum of petrol digging with a pickaxe (good impression of a flying chicken as he was blown out of the hole wearing a Duvet) - we found the answer which even cut out the digging - but it seems to have been forgotten!
Best wishes

2:00 pm  

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