Monday 1 December 2014

Flying in Antarctica

Refuelling at Sky Blu!
So apart from having to help out with cleaning on base, another thing everyone can get involved with is the flying! BAS operates two types of planes. The DASH 7 which mainly flies between Rothera and Punta Arenas (Chile) or Stanley (Falkland Islands) to get everyone from and to base during the summer. It also supplies Sky Blu (one of the refuelling stations further south of Rothera) with fuel drums. It can land at Sky Blu because it has a blue ice landing strip. The twin otters are the other type of planes operated by BAS which are fitted with skies once they get her and can land in the field. They are flown by a single pilot. However, they always take a co-pilot with them which is someone from base!
Keeping the plane on track!
In the beginning of the week it was finally my turn. It is a little tricky for us sometimes to go for co-pilots as it means no diving for 48 hours beforehand. On Saturday we set off to bring scientists into the field. They were on their way to the Ronne ice shelf on a big drilling project. In order to get there we had to make 2 refuelling stops; one at Fossil Bluff which is closer (about 1.5 hours away) and Sky Blu (another 1.5 hours way). From Sky Blu we flew to the Ronne and dropped the scientists off at "Drilling Site 1". The project involves some travelling and drilling at various sites. Apart from the South Pole this site is the furthest south that BAS is flying to this year (S 80° 20.00, W 054° 46.40). On the way back we stopped at Sky Blu again and stayed there over night. The next day we waited until late afternoon to return to Rothera, but the weather at Fossil Bluff was not good enough to stop there. In the end it was decided that we would go straight back without refuelling at Fossil Bluff which is a 3 hour flight and possible. However, as it is more expensive to get fuel to Sky Blu than to Fossil Bluff this is generally avoided.
Blue ice runway at Sky Blu!
View from the plane!
On Monday we did a fuel run to Fossil Bluff which meant that we delivered some drums. On Tuesday we took off again to get a field assistant and his scientist (a geologist) into the field. We flew to Fossil Bluff and refuelled. Than we had to wait for the weather to improve. As it did not but looked very good for the next day we stayed at Fossil Bluff over night and took off the next morning. The weather was absolutely amazing at the site. When a plane has to land where there no one is on the ground the pilot does a couple of low fly by's first to assess the area (crevasses will be dangerous for landing). Next the pilot trails skis - meaning that they land but do not stop and take off again straight away in order to make sure that no crevasses open up which were bridged. Than we finally land. Once the guys were all set up, we left and flew back to Rothera via Fossil Bluff. 
At Sky Blu.
Caboose out on the Ronne.
Field party out on the Ronne.
Team on the Ronne with pisten bully from the Germans (AWI).

Input of the Geology project.

Leaving the two behind!
Home, sweet home.

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).
Canap├ęs 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.