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.

The great Virgin Trains Rip-off ?

Should Richard Branson be such a revered figure of British industry? Well, if you consider being able to formulate a business plan that charges more for catching a train from Carlisle to London than flying from Manchester to New York a shrewd business model, yes, I suppose he should. If however, like me, you consider a £282 (standard) or an incredible £415 (first class) return rail fare for Carlisle to Euston a pure-and-simple rip-off, no! I’d rather see Virgin Trains and Richard Branson branded as the thieves they are.

To put this into perspective, here’s an example £348 flight from Manchester to New York…

OK, I know that’s hardly the same journey – comparing apples with pears and all that – so here’s a journey from Manchester to London, just £93 return! In other words, I could fly to London and come back again three times for the price of one standard fare on Virgin Trains!

And to think Virgin Trains have the audacity to attempt to portray themselves as “green” – a better option than driving. Huh! So how much does driving a car cost? Michelin’s site suggests £32.34 each way, maybe that doesn’t account for wear and tear on tyres etc. – so lets double it: the return journey then is just £129.

I wouldn’t mind quite so much if there was a choice – I can’t even vote against the Virgin Trains West Coast monopoly and take my business elsewhere, there is nowhere else. Herein is the problem, allow a private (for profit) company like Virgin to operate without competition and they charge what they like! Simply, there should either be public-sector (not for profit) public-transport services, or more than one competing private-sector operators, not a monopoly (especially on crucial lines like the West Coast mainline).

As a final thought, what about a Virgin Atlantic rip-off flight to New York? That’s just £1425… 😯 That kind of reinforces my point that it’s Richard Branson and Virgin that are ripping us off, i.e. it isn’t just a rail issue.

Hopefully this summary table helps to make my point without the angry words above:

Euston
Fly BMI Manchester – Heathrow £93 Cheapest
Car Carlisle – Euston £129  
Train Virgin Trains Carlisle – Euston £282 Most expensive
Train Virgin Trains Carlisle – Euston £415 First class
New York
Fly Delta Manchester – New York JFK £348  
Fly Virgin Atlantic Manchester – New York JFK £1425  

Do I recommend using Richard Branson’s Virgin services? No. Perhaps they’d be better renaming their website virgin.con? Of course the choice is yours to use Virgin Trains … oh wait, no they have a monopoly operating trains to London on the West Coast mainline don’t they!

:angry: :angry: :angry:

Windermere Airshow – Sunday, the Red Arrows

The forecast was right – it was raining. So, with a leisurely start to the day, a cooked breakfast, and a bit of festering later, we noticed the skies were clearing and we decided to visit the Windermere Airshow.

After Dave’s blog yesterday, we thought that maybe we could catch a bit of the entertainment now the skies had dried up.

We were there in time to see the Chinook land and then do some stunts. Wow!

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Then we watched the Swift Aerobatic Team which were pretty good. The glider couldn’t be released because the weather wasn’t up for it, but the stunts were still very good.

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Following that, there was just enough time to catch the Silverband Falconry show before the headline attraction – the Red Arrows.

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The Red Arrows were bloody fantastic. Absolutely brilliant, as always.

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Windermere Airshow 2009

It was the first day of the Windermere Airshow, and I’d volunteered to stand and be sociable on the SARDA Lakes stand in the event arena. It was a good opportunity for Mil to meet lots of children and chat about training.

SARDA Lakes stand at the Windermere Airshow
SARDA Lakes stand at the Windermere Airshow

This was interspersed with the odd aeroplane but unfortunately Roge (& Beinn) and Ian (& Vinny) had to leave as there was a call out with Langdale & Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team

I also came across a big bird…but not sure about the ethics of this

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle

A lovely lady called Pauline came and said hello with her pet Guinea Pig (sorry I forgot to take a photograph). We didn’t have any cakes so I couldn’t take a photo for all you cakephiles.

The day finished off with the flypast of the amazing Vulcan bomber.

The AVRO Vulcan G-VLCN (XH558)
The AVRO Vulcan G-VLCN (XH558)

It took nearly an hour to get out of the car park 🙁