The Journey North

Our last day on the ice shelf had us packing up all the kit and getting to the ship. Of course, it would be a real error by the Captain to get caught by the ever thickening sea-ice. As we left a group of whales accompanied us along the ice shelf,

Leaving the Brunt Ice Shelf

As it happened, a wide channel had opened up and we made the good time of 7 days to the Falklands. As ever on a ship, we were accompanied by Albatrosses and had some great sea views

An albatross soars along with the ship
Sunrise just south of the Falklands

We docked in at Mare Harbour, on the other other side of the East Island from Port Stanley, as this was close to the airport. There is still a huge military presence on the Islands, and a lot of the beaches and hills are out of bounds still due to mines (after 30 years!!) We were lucky with the weather though and there was still loads to see:

Arriving at Mare Harbour, The Falklands
Gentoo penguins on the beach
A Gentoo Penguin

Port Stanley, although small, has a long history of naval battles and a great museum, easily enough to spend a whole day looking around (worth a visit if you are passing)

The harbour front from the jetty
The famous whalebone arch and Cathedral

The Final Week

With just 2 hours before I travel the 15kms to the coast to get on the ship, a last blog from the Brunt Ice Shelf. This week has seen the final modules pulled to the Halley 6 site and joined to the rest…

A busy site as the last Halley module is positioned
Halley 6 Complete

There is still a lot of work to be done in the modules, but for this season the work is over. Some of the work is behind schedule (mechanical and electrical) but at least the decoration is ahead of
where we expected to be…

Sun setting on the season

The base seems really a large undertaking when you are working around it every day, but when it is seen in its position on the ice shelf, it is really only a speck in the vastness of white…

Halley 6 on the Brunt Ice Shelf

The Halley Marathon

At -10 °C and with a slight breeze taking the temperature down to -16 and with an icy, slippery surface, running anywhere would seem a little foolhardy. But last Sunday 24 of us at Halley base set off in the Halley Marathon: 8 ½ laps of the base perimeter to make up the required distance. The course had been groomed, and although this made
it firm underfoot, it was quite icy, in fact most of the runners wore the rubber foot spikes seen last winter around the Lakes.

Start of the marathon

I had done some training with Dean although this had been interrupted by bad weather in the weeks preceding the race, and we had aimed to run a constant pace of 35 minute laps to bring us home in just under 5 hours. In the end, 3 of us: me, Dean and Ian Prickett ran together, and we went off too fast, the first 3 5km laps were done in 27 mins each, resulting in bad cramp for Dean on lap 6 and 7, but we stuck together and came in joint 2nd in 4 ½ hours. Everybody finished the race, with 2 even skiing it; and as the main point was to raise money for 2 charities (see we were all pretty chuffed to have raised £4000.

25kms in to the Halley Marathon
On the way to an equal 2nd placing!

No rest though, and with aching legs I was off for a supposed two night stop at the Halley 6 site. I only took a toothbrush, and as the stay turned into a week I was ready for a shower when I got back. Halley 6 only has 3 bedroom containers and a hole in the ground for a toilet, but nobody seemed to mind, as the place is quiet and away from the hubbub of the main base (15km away).

Halley 6 dining room
Halley 6 living quarters
Nearly complete, the Halley 6 build
A low evening sun

With most of the modules now at Halley 6 all the rest of the workforce are travelling to the site in a container on a sled being pulled by a tractor. It takes an hour and is pretty cold, as we are resident at Halley 6 (only 12 beds) we call them “the illegals”, looking for work.

Transport to Halley 6

We have 4 natural inhabitants sheltering at the site; some Adelie penguins have come inland to moult. When they are ready, and before the sea ice traps them on the continent, they will head north to the warmer latitudes.

A bit like us……

A young Adelie Penguin moulting

Winter approaches

As the summer season draws to a close, with only 15 days before we board the Shackleton to sail back to the Falklands, it’s all systems go to get the build as far on as possible and all the modules in place at Halley 6. There is still a lot of electrical and heating work to be done, but at last the mechanical guys have got the generators up and running; although these came new, and were just plopped into the plant rooms before they had walls on, they have been stripped, flushed and had all electronic parts tested and/or replaced before they could be started. Not just turning a key. They have been sat for 3 years though waiting for this moment, so its no wonder they needed some tlc first. Of course, they fired up first time! There are 2 energy modules: both have 2 generators and they sit roughly in the middle of what will be a long line ……….. They are split by a steel bridge, so that any catastrophe or fire doesn’t destroy the whole base, and the half that is left can still function. It’s a far cry from the upturned boats that Shackleton’s men had to cope with, or even the Summer accommodation of the Drewery building and annexe that we are using today (containers with bedrooms in).

The Drewery Annexe and skidoo park

As the summer ends we are also getting closer to our first sunset for a couple of months. Here is the view at midnight a couple of days ago:

Getting closer to night...

We have also had a group of 3 visitors to the base over the last couple of days. Much smaller and cuter than the Americans from a week or so ago. A trio of Adelie penguins waddled through one evening. These are smaller than Emperor penguins and took the time to hang around to pose for the camera.

Saying Hello!
Adelie Penguin

Not much running has taken place this week as the marathon attempt is on Sunday, and we are all saving our legs. Also the weather has be very windy and unseasonably warm, giving soft, heavy snow on the perimeter. Lets hope its colder on Sunday, but not too cold. It is for charity, so if you feel inclined check out:

I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes……………

Moving Postcard from Antarctica

Yeah! 😛 We got a postcard from Antarctica today! Just like Anna’s card it’s got a funky Halley Bay stamp on the back, but our card was even slower making it’s way from the far far south all the way to it’s final destination in the far far [English] north. I’d guess Ian knows his own postcode better? Our card had none. Whatever, it’s a cool (no pun intended) memento of Ian’s awesome adventure.

Antarctic Postcard

Also – the moving bit – Ian has sent me a massive email attachment to upload… After a bit of resampling to get the filesize down from the enormous 10MB to just about 2MB, making it a fair bit easier, if a little less high quality, for everyone to see.

As Ian reported earlier, the move of the new Halley base has begun. Quite incredible really, the idea of a whole scientific research station being dragged piece by piece across the ice. Especially when one considers that they’ll do this again and again every year as the ice carries it towards the sea. 😮

It looks like a scene from Star Wars; the ice planet Hoth with the Halley base playing the part of an AT AT Walker


The Move Begins

With now only 17 days before the first flight out of Halley and 4 weeks to the end of season and the ship leaving, some of the modules have been moved to the new Halley site 15kms away. By the time we all leave they will all be at Halley 6 and linked together.

Build at Halley V

The mechanics of moving an 80 ton building on skis is interesting to watch; although there is little friction once on the move, actually getting them moving is fairly tricky as they have sunk a little in the snow with the effect of the sun, and had a lot of wind blown snow around them. A ramp has to be made and then the module is pulled ( and pushed) until it is out and on the prepared track to it’s destination. The buildings themselves have 100mm movement from one corner to the other, so lets hope the decoration can take all the twists and bumps. It will be interesting to see the centre module (about 150 tons) eventually move in a couple of weeks.

Module heads for Halley VI
Science Module

In the meantime the Americans came to retrieve their weather equipment, and the training for the marathon has continued, despite the lowering temperatures (-16 last Monday when I did 15kms).

US Plane

Here’s hoping for a sunny day on the 13th with no wind…………