A day in the life…

The work at Halley 6 is progressing and we are told that everything is on schedule! Its hard to tell as much of the M & E (mechanical and electrical) happens under the floor or above ceiling height so we just hope none of it leaks when its all tested. As I’m in logistics this year I’ve been flitting from job to job; a typical day has been:

  • Preparing boards for flooring,
  • Helping the electricians pull cables through the undercroft,
  • Painting/filling/sanding/filling/painting,
  • Cleaning and moving site toilets,
  • Unpacking cargo from the latest plane to land.

At least all the varied jobs makes the days fly by and in no time at all it’s Saturday again. Time for a relax and a ski round the Base perimeter. I’ve been using my touring boots that were such a disaster last year to try and hone the fit….. I think (hope) that I’ve got them sorted!!!

Skiing at Halley 6

One more issue to deal with is that we are running short of food. (and more desperate: chocolate!!!) The BAS staff have already raided the emergency store for meat and sugar and as the RRS Shackleton is 2 weeks late after a fire and refit, it is not due until 31st December. At least there’s a lot of porridge!

The Halley season begins

Well, after quite a few hours travelling, I finally arrived at Halley at 9am last Wednesday. Unfortunately, that was only one day after the team who had left 3 weeks earlier to set up the Base and living accommodation, so its been all hands to the pump, working late, just to get the site ready for action. The other team came in via South America, and got held up with bad weather at Patriot Hills, whereas we had the easier route via Cape Town. We had a couple of days there, seeing a few sights, getting our kit and attending safety briefings for the flight on the Russian cargo plane. It was pretty basic… Flags to hide the internal workings of the plane and a portaloo at the back. It was baking hot on the plane, but ½ an hour prior to landing we all had to get our Antarctic clothes on for landing at the Russian Base (Novo). We all melted a little bit more, but there’s always a silver lining, and being fairly dehydrated meant I didn’t need to visit the smallest room on the plane.

We were hoping for a look around at Novo, but as we landed on the ice, our next flight was waiting; a mere 20 minutes and we were off again on a Basla to Halley. Since then its been non-stop trying to catch up the time lost by the other team, but once again, nobody really minds… being down here is what really matters.

A few days sight seeing Cape Town
Boarding the Iluyshin Cargo plane
Inside the plane; note toilet facilities
Landing at Russian Base Novolazarevskaya
From Novo to Halley on a Basla aircraft
Work starts shifting containers of eqipment to the build site

On the downside, communications is worse than last year: a small iridium dish (128 meg) but I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

The Halley Build… continues

A week to go before I head south for the Antarctic summer season, hopefully to finish the project on the Brunt Ice shelf: the Halley VI build. If you followed last year’s series of reports, you will remember that the modules were all complete and towed to their new location, where they were linked together. This season there is a lot of mechanical and electrical work to complete, some painting to follow this work and general finishing work.

The base has been left to face the Antarctic winter, and with no heating installed yet and no sun, it obviously got quite cold;

Halley V1 after the Antarctic winter

I’m going a bit earlier this year to join Brian’s logistics team: lots of digging and moving equipment. The winter team at Halley V have already been to see the penguin colony at windy bay, and as I’m going to arrive earlier this year I’m hoping to get down there to take a few pics.

Emperor penguins at Windy Bay

As the new base is more remote the communications link is not as reliable as last year, but I’ll try to keep you up to date with developments. Stay tuned!!!

Solway AONB

Well, a different kind of work. Since I went back to part-time paid desk work I have been able to return to active volunteer work with the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Volunteers. One of the local areas we work on is a group of ponds which were originally constructed for wildlife conservation/promotion from a car park which was no longer required when a replacement parking area was constructed near the beach.

A view across the Solway from Crosscanonby beach

It has changed quite a lot since I started working there several years ago.

I was distressed to find that the toilet block has been demolished!
This used to be a pond

We have not had a lot of rain in the last week or so and the watercourse were negligible. As it has not been possible to keep the ponds as open water – they tend to silt up and need a lot of maintenance – it has been decided to manage the area as wet woodland in future.

What we actually did this week was to replace some of the timbers forming the wheelchair-friendly footpath round the reserve.

When I wasn't taking pictures I hammered nails into timber

Core blimey!

Today we got our first chance to look around the newly completed core store at work! The store is immense. It holds around 10 000 tonnes of rock and brings together 3,000,000,000 years of earth history into one building.

The older part of the core store holds a collossal 200 km of onshore core, plus around 150 km more as cuttings and a further 15,000 discrete borehole samples! The new extension will be housing the BGS collections currently held elsewhere, and these comprise 12,000 m of offshore core and a further 15,000 seabed samples.

You may wonder why the British Geological Survey would want to hold so much geological material. Well first, geologists really like rock, most of them just can’t get enough of it and secondly, core is really expensive to drill and so our archives provide academics and commercial companies with the chance to view core for almost nothing.

Core!

There are lots and lots of these core aisles …. probably about 10-12 in total in the older parts of the store.

More core!

You can just about see the gaggle of friends at the end of the aisle!

And here are the new empty racks awaiting material. The new stacks are really clever. They’re all motorised so that the geologists can fit even more rock into one room!

Space for much more core!

The motorised stacks in the new building

Oh schist that’s so gneiss, amirite?

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…………

Different Shades of Grey

Well the blue skies have been absent for the last couple of weeks, and we have had complete cloud cover, all day and all night. Of course as it never gets dark its just grey the whole time. The temperatures have dropped to a steady -5 but when we get any sort of breeze, it’s pretty cold.

The poor visibility has wreaked havoc with the running program……… with no contrast it is impossible to see where you’re feet are going and the perimeter track varies from hard, rutted ice to ankle deep soft mush. Not so good, and last Monday I finished 4 laps (20kms) with quite sore ankles. I’ve been running with Deano as he has been thinking of doing the Halley Marathon , a run of 8 ½ laps (26 miles and a bit) for charity. All the events (Quiz, pool comp etc) have been for the 2 charities.

Details can be found at: www.justgiving.com/halleyscomics

On Wednesday I managed another 20kms and today I’ve done 5 laps (25kms), so I might do the marathon myself. It will be a slow time given the condition of the participant, not the course!

Work continues

On the work side of things, the modules are gradually coming together, and the first 2 (the science modules) will be towed to the Halley 6 site in a weeks time. (15kms away). Not too much else to report on the work front except that we nearly lost one of the modules to a fire on the loading bay. This was caused by the smokers having one of their many breaks and not putting the tab out properly. Smoking is now banned anywhere on site and only allowed outside the accommodation………… productivity has gone up!!

Scene of the fire

We have had a visit from a twin otter plane, to collect post, but more importantly to find a NASA weather satellite that crashed about 100km away. They have found it and the yanks are coming on Tuesday to pick up the bits.

A Twin Otter flies over
Twin Otter on the runway

Still on the weather, this morning I did the weather balloon launch. As the build is going on there isn’t too much science happening at the base, there is usually a dozen scientists carrying out all types of tests and experiments, but the weather monitoring and the monitoring of the ozone hole have continued.

Launching the weather balloon
The weather balloon sender unit

The weather balloon is launched full of helium and measures the temperature, humidity and has a GPS to give altitude and position. It gets up to about 24 kms and expands to size of a double decker bus. Today, with the low clouds (2000 ft) it was gone in seconds.