Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Daytime activities

Things have been relatively quiet the last few weeks, which is a poor excuse for not having written anything for ages but it's the best I could come up with. My week of nights went pretty well. It's a bit strange getting up and having a normal dinner for breakfast but I coped with the hardship well enough! I managed to remember how to make bread, and even branched out into croissants, doughuts and selkirk bannock, most of which turned out OK. By the time I came off nights again we were on to normal length days, and now the eternal dark of winter seems like a distant memory. Already the sun is up before I am (not a difficult task I'll grant you) and we have daylight into the early evening. The Met team are predicting 24hr daylight will be back with us around the beginning of November.

As a result many more outdoor pursuits are now back on the agenda. One new hobby which seems to have attracted a few people is running. Some fool, I can't remember who, suggested we do a Halley Half Marathon. Outside. In the snow. In temperatures around -20. I think the initial misplaced enthusiasm has now died down a bit and we may be aiming for a 10k run. I won't use the word race as most of us will be concentrating on finishing at all, never mind where we are in relation to everyone else. Handily 10k is roughly the distance from Creek 2 back to Halley so we have a ready made course. In preparation the base is now treated to the sight of a handful of people slogging round the perimeter when the weather permits. Luckily (?) for us Liz our chippie is an accomplished triathlete and is relishing the opportunity to train us all in the joys of distance running. It certainly feels very strange going outdoors in just thermals and jogging gear rather than boots, overalls and huge jackets but, and I never thought I'd say this, it's actually quite enjoyable in a perverse kind of way, and you get to feel all smug and self righteous, until your leg muscles start screaming and you decide to have double helpings of dinner to make up for it. All this running, and the occasional ski for variety, doesn't seem to have made much difference at our fortnightly weigh-in though, in fact we're currently at our collective heaviest since the start of winter.

In a bid to counteract all that healthy exercise we decided to have a pub crawl. We've all been going to the same bar for about 9 months now so a change was called for and we had a tour of the CASLab, Simpson platform, the newly erected Weather Haven, and Piggott before ending back at the Laws for chips. The only difficulty was the weather haven as it's not heated so drinks started freezing in the glass and dancing was required in order to keep warm. The weather haven is actually a garage for Halley's very own zepellin. The Met team have a Blimp which is used to take instruments up into the air to measure ozone levels. So far they've made about 3 flights which have all been pretty successful.

The coldest pub in the world?

The Met team launch the blimp

The increased light means more outdoor work as well. Fuelling is one of our biggest concerns down here. Our power comes from generators, which obviously need fuel to run, and if they were to stop things would very quickly become uncomfortable. Our fuel is stored in large bulk tanks, or in drums, stored at various points around base. From there it is transferred to the flubbers, which are down in the tunnels. These look like giant water balloons and act as the fuel tanks for the generators. The transfer of fuel from storage to the flubbers needs fairly good weather as it could be a hazardous process, so when the opportunity presented itself Bob asked me to give him a hand. This involved hooking a dozer up to a sledge with a transit tank, driving out to the bulk tanks to transfer fuel to the transit tank, then over to the tunnel entrance to pump it down to the flubbers. We did two trips and transferred about 10,000 litres which should keep us going for a while.

I've also managed to get off base for a while helping Simon with some GPS work. As the ice shelf we live on is constantly moving we place GPS units at one or two spots to monitor the speed and direction of ice flow. Simon and I spent a day out setting up a couple of units which was a good chance to get out and see some new scenery. We also have strain loggers which are placed over cracks in the ice to determine if they are closing up or getting wider.

GPS transmitter, with a weather station behind

The base is a little quieter now as winter trips have started. This is our chance for a holiday when Simon takes us out in groups of 4 for 10 days to go camping up at the Rumples, or spend more time out on the sea ice exploring the cliffs and crevasses. The first group left last week, unfortunately the weather hasn't been very kind to them so far but hopefully they'll get to do some exploring over the next couple of days.