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.