Friday, 11 July 2014

Crazy Golf

What other craziness do we get up to during the winter? Seeing as we cannot just go to the next bowling alley, options are slightly more limited in the evenings and during bad weather day. So it was time again to hold the annual crazy gold championships! Last year, the committee decided that it was a good idea to do 18 holes with 18 people. However, the time needed for this was not taken into account and an epic journey of around about 8 hours consumed quite a bit of time … and nerves. Hence, this year it was decided to settle for 8 holes “sigh of relief”. So, people buddied up and created crazy golf holes together which the rest of base as well as themselves had to conquer. On top of this we had to make our own golf clubs - unfortunately, the corner shop down here does not stock them … Some of us planned their obstacle course well in time and prepared it early enough. Others did leave it to last minute and were nearly thrown by the all consuming digging activity that emerged during lunchtime on the very same Friday: during a refuelling attempt (our buildings get powered by the generators but the heating requires weekly refills of fuel) of the Bonner the deep snow had trapped the vehicle and it took all of us around 2 hours to dig out - saved all of us from a session in the gym which we were definitely planning on (not). However, everyone still managed to prepare the crazy golf holes in time and it was possible to pursue the game. Good evening with good fun!
Hole 1: Boatshed. From one boat to another, down the black tubing and into the hole!

Hole 2: The Bonner Lab. Through a Nisking, some pipes, through the suctions sample, across a half pipe into the hole which was a bucket filled with water - couldn't have the Bonner hole without water! Luckily, Chris proved that it could be done in 3 hits - others were not quite as lucky.

Hole 3: Fuchs. Starting in the sowing loft, into a little tin box which than drops. Across a water hazard, into the hole.

Hole 4: Fuchs again. Some managed to get the ball straight through the poo bucket lid into the funnel at the end, others needed more hits.

Hole 5: Old Bransfield. The doctor got involved! Through a cast, with the ramp over a water hazard, through a very thin pipe and than through the wind mill (which had turning blades).

 Hole 6: The garage. We are again starting in a loft, getting the ball down through a pipe, from the left to the right side, through the bottom of the desk which was slightly more difficult as a rotating doll was kind of distracting, into the hole.

Hole 7: The Generator Shed. Through a pipe again from an elevated platform, around the corner, up a ramp, through the tyre, and into the hole!

Last but not least. Hole 8: The Kitchen. With tins, cornflakes and some baking. Through the start, around the jam, avoiding the water or Nido obstacles, into the slightly elevated hole!

Just to show the array of clubs used: something that looks more like a hammer, compared to a carefully crafted club. The devil's trident used by other members of the team has not been displayed ;)

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Helping making truffles - yummy!
(Photo: Petra Mildova)
And finally the week had arrived we were all looking forward to - Midwinter!
Midwinter is about the only proper holiday we have got down here and even around Christmas we often work and it all feels a little bit rushed. So, midwinter itself is like Christmas for us and we get about a week off. Nightwatch is divided up with someone else on every night and the cleaning and washing dishes during the day gets done by everyone. But what else do we do?
Girls all pretty walking over
to the main building.
(Photo: Andy Slack)
We were off work between the 18th and 25th of June and had no problem to fill our time. On Thursday night, we had a band night where the band showed off what they had practiced so far. Other than that, lots of people were still busy finishing their midwinter presents for Saturday. Everyone picks a name out of the hat in the beginning of winter and makes a present for the person (a bit like secret santa).
Canapés in the bar
just before presents!
Saturday was the big day - we got together at 11am for bacon roles and than had until 2pm to get ready for the afternoon/evening. Everyone put on their best clothes and brought their homemade presents along. We than handed them out to each other and unwrapped. Again, everyone had put quite a lot of effort in and none was left disappointed. Presents varied from wine bottle holders, clocks, drinking glasses, models of sledges, drawings, cake stands, chairs to hammocks. We than proceeded to our massive 8-course meal which was interrupted by the midwinter broadcast on BBC Radio. This is the only time that BBC broadcasts 
Everyone in the tower
waiting for the broadcast.
in a way that we can pick it up and the half hour show is for all British stations with celebrity guests we requested and messages from our relatives and friends at home. This is quite a special day for us down here and certainly also a little bit emotional. However, it might be the darkest day but it is not the halfway mark yet!

Dinner party!
The following Wednesday, our field assistants organised the midwinter olympics for us. Unfortunately, the weather was not good enough which meant that outside activities were not an option and we were confined to the Hangar. Turns out, there is enough to organise in the Hangar! It started off with a dry-tooling course (bits of wood engineered together and the participant has to climb up as quickly as possible using ice axes). Next we had to manoeuvre a massive tyre along an assault course (I would like to point out that the Bonner was probably at a slight disadvantage as the team consisted nearly entirely of girls). Last but not least we had to do the famous box-stacking with man-food boxes (the boxes used for storing stuff on sledges and travelling.
The awesome present I got given :)
The present I made - A set of glasses out of wine bottles

Boys playing with the presents ...

Pretty people and pretty presents :) (Both group pictures taken by Chris Walton)

The awesome dinner:

And the midwinter olympics:

Moving heavy tyre ...

Box stacking. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Ocean Sampling Day – this time around, we were early!

Rothera is a British Antarctic Survey research station, located on Adelaide Island on the Antarctic Peninsula at 67° South (
This year we managed to get out on the 17th of June. As the weather forecast is very unreliable and another weather window was not in sight, we decided to take the opportunity and get the samples early. When we left base in our RIB it was still snowing and it took us quite a while to push through the pancake ice but we finally got to Site 1*. The fast ice edge was just where we wanted to sample which was good as it was slightly too windy and we would have drifted quite a lot. However, we found a little bay and were able to throw an anchor onto the ice to stop us from drifting. During the 2 ½ hours we were out there, the weather cleared up and it turned into a quite beautiful day. Despite the sun not rising currently, it got quite light and the wind calmed down.

(Here is the link to a little video we have put together:

Like last year we filtered 2l for each of the 4 replicates through Sterivex filters. They were put into the -80°C freezer for preservation until the ship picks them up in March 2015.

For us in Antarctica, the 21st of June is a very special day being the winter solstice. It marks the day with the least daylight. At Rothera this means that we still get a couple of hours of daylight (without seeing the sun), but others spend their days in complete darkness. As Christmas is not quite as big as a deal down here as it is at home, midwinter is celebrated much more. At the beginning of winter we all pick names out of a hat (like
The whole team with the presents 
(Photo: Chris Walton)
secret santa) and had to make a present for the person we drew. Lots of amazing things were made like hammocks, clocks, cake stands, models of sledges, a real size sledge, a Banjo case and more. We got together in the morning at around 11am (just when it started getting light) for breakfast. We met up again at 2pm all dressed up nicely, ate canapés and exchanged presents. At 4pm we started the epic journey of an 8-course dinner. We had an interval at 7.30 just before the main course for our mid-winter broadcast. This is the only time of the year the BBC World Services transmits in a way that we can pick it up. They put together a 30min show for all British bases with the songs of our choices, maybe a celebrity we asked for and most importantly messages from our loved ones at home – quite special and emotional.

Sabrina Heiser, Rothera Marine Assistant

Crew: Mairi Fenton (Marine Assistant for the Dutch collaboration), Petra Mildeova (Meteorologist)

More about the Ocean Sampling Day:

*At Rothera we have 3 Sites we commonly visit for CTDs. Site 1 is 500m deep and allows us a full CTD profile. Site 2 is closer to base and only 200m deep but less likely to be covered by ice in the winter. Site 3 is just off the wharf and only about 100m deep. This side is only visited if the ice is too thick to get any further.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Hotel Iceshelf

On the way. The wind is blowing.
Day after day after day of bad weather can get pretty boring. And despite all the exciting indoor activities Rothera has to offer (see Blog from April on Winter Tripping), some of us were itching to get out (well, some, not everyone). Somehow, on a Friday Night, after 1 or 2 Ciders I got convinced to come out on Saturday and dig a snow hole to sleep in - in my mind it sounded totally crazy and had buried disaster written all over it, but as the evening went on, it did sound better and better. When we got up on Saturday I was convinced that no one would be adventurous enough to leave station in +30knots wind. Oh boy, was I wrong … I am sure my disagreement with the whole operation was visible on my face as I was reminded that no one forced me to go - right, I knew that, but surely it would be fun once I had left the warmth and safety of station. And since I never had a chance to leave base on my winter trip I felt like I had to go and do something.
Digging the 3 doors.
As a group of 5 crazy people we left base just in time to miss lunch - food is overrated anyway … 3 crazy fools decided to skin to the location (approximately 2 hours and than another 2-3 hours of digging), one of who was even man-hauling (pulling on skis) his kit. Malcy and myself took advantage of the modern invention called a skidoo. Once we got to the caboose (about halfway between us and our destination), we stopped and reconsidered   - man it was windy and snowy, soon enough we would be cold and miserable. We nearly abandoned the plan but decided to have a look anyway. And sure enough, where we wanted to dig the snow hole it was fairly sheltered. So we went and picked up the group of adventurers, had a cup of tea in the caboose (we don’t want to lose our Britishness) and drove to Stork Bowl where we would dig our hole.
On the ledge after having
a toilet break.
It took us roughly 2 hours. We started off digging 3 doorways, connected those once we were in far enough and than dug a shelf for us to lie on. Funnily enough, the guys had far more headspace on their side, than the 3 girls had on theirs - no gentlemen here - everyone is digging their own grave ;) However, we somehow missed out the bathroom, so the ledge in front of the doors had to function as one. This turned out to be a rather interesting mission in the dark, with snow blowing and not too much space for the feet. I was half expecting to slip and slide down the slope with my pants down - but luckily nothing like that happened.
View from the main door.
We had a great evening with man-food, card games, some wine and port and marshmallows. It was far warmer than expected. We were all tucked into our sleeping bags by 11pm and slept until 9.30am Sunday morning. The main door (2 of which we blocked up the day before with snow blocks and one of which was blocked up with a sledge) was not too badly snowed. We made it back to base just in time for brunch - hungry and a still a little tired but happy. It was a great weekend and definitely one of the best experiences I have had here (despite my initial lack of motivation :D)!

(click on the pictures to enlarge; more pictures by Kenrick Turner:

Leaving the caboose after a warming tea.

Arrived at Stork Bowl. View from the top.
Blocked up door - nothing should get in (not monsters or so ...)
Happy diggers. Fed and watered, ready for a nice evening.
Tilly lamp lighting up the cave but not really warming it - wouldn't want the roof to melt! With the middle door in the background.

Panorama picture of Hotel Iceshelf (Picture: Kenrick Turner - our doctor)

Spoons or not just good for eating but also for creating hooks in snow walls for mugs and jackets!

Playing cards :) (Picture: Gail Ashton - Marine Biologist)
Bel cooking marshmallows - yummie (Picture: Gail Ashton)
Door all blocked up and prepared for a nights sleep - the trick is to find the balance between not getting too much snow in but also having enough ventilation.

All tucked into bed! Sleepy time. (Picture: Belinda Vause - Marine Biologist)

Gail desperate for the toilet in the morning. Luckily we were not snowed in too badly.
On the way back to base - brunch is calling. (Photo: Gail Ashton)