Friday, 29 December 2006

Well Christmas came and went this week. It was a strange day for me as i have never spent a Christmas away from home. However at 9am in the morning i was up the mountains snowboarding so it can't be all that bad. In the evening our fabulous chefs had cooked traditional Christmas dinner and we even had little pigs in blankets. Boxing day brought a full day of snow and Stephen's birthday. Using our imagination Adam and myself managed to make a card and a really resourceful present to give to Steve. Lucky we know exactly what he likes!
There a quite a lot of seals about at the moment. Mostly Weddell seals but this is a female Elephant seal which we spotted on our walk around Rothera point.
Adele Penguins are very common around the base and we often get then waddling into our workshop.
After our day of at Christmas it was back to work and one of my many tasks this week was to fit a set of snow chains to he newest member of machinery to the fleet, a JCB loading shovel. This machine will do lots of lifting of pallets and containers throughout the summer and then in the winter it will have one of the 5 Ton snow blowers attached to it for clearing the runway in preparation for the arrival of the Twin Otters and the Dash at the beginning of there next summer season.

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Christmas Eve and no better place to spend it than up in the mountains snowboarding. Think that is my idea of heaven. Despite the fact that there is snow all around here it doesn't feel a bit like Christmas. We now have lots of Christmas decorations in the dining hall and our fabulous chefs Alan, Riet and Cyril baked loads of mince pies and a massive two tier Christmas cake today. I'm looking forward to Christmas dinner tomorrow. Little sausages wrapped in bacon! umm! That's Jim by the way, the winter boatman on one of the base skidoos that are purely for recreation use.
One of the skidoos towing two people up the ski slope, Vals. Unfortunately we don't have the luxury of chair lifts. However it is a lot more fun getting towed by a ski doo!
As this is my first Christmas away from home i do miss the atmosphere and wish all my friends and family a very merry Christmas, especially my mum, dad, nan and grandad, James, Kelly, Kiani and Finian.

Friday, 22 December 2006

The JCR has now left the base and the mad rush to complete relief has ended so it was time to get on with my module 3 training with will enable me to be able to co-pilot the twin otters and get away from the base and down to Sky Blue and Fossil Bluff in order to repair and maintain the machines at those bases. The training included erecting and camping out in a pyramid tent and cooking food from man food boxes using Primus stoves and Tilly lamps. With exceptional forward thinking we picked a particularly good camp site up at Vals, our local ski resort, so most of the evening was spent on the boards.
The pyramid tents are excellent. After erecting them you empty your personal bag. In your p bag you have a self inflating mattress, thick sheep skin rug and a very well insulated goose down sleeping bag. It really is very comfortable and i slept like a log all night.
After waking this morning. We cooked breakfast, took down the tents and then it was on with the next part. We have to learn all about ice travel and falling down crevasses. As you can see i had to carry a fair amount of gear including ice axes, climbing rope and all the jingly jangly things that i needed to rescue myself or my partner if one of us was to fall down a crevasse.
Scott (Of the Falklands) and myself practicing our descending and ascending on an ice cliff.
You may notice some genuine Antarctic beardage going on in some photos as razor blades are a bit of a commodity down here!
As we are now into the summer season here at Rothera a lot of the snow is melting around the base exposing the bare rock. All around the sea large lumps of ice are continuously breaking free and end up as icebergs floating in the ocean. You can just about make out the ripples in the water after a lump broke off earlier today whilst i was up on the mountains.
We also saw the return of the Dash 7 again today. I never tire watching the planes take off and land. There are usually at least three or four flights a day at the moment and we will continue to be very busy with the aircraft throughout the summer as so much time was lost earlier in the season with aircraft problems.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Apologies for the long period since i last updated. All computers had to be checked before connecting to any networks also relief and induction training has taken preference this week.
On the way into Rothera we had a very smooth journey but did wake up on the Friday morning to the sound of banging against the ship. When i went outside to see what it was i was confronted with this fantastic view of sea ice which we were battling through. Luckily the JCR is an ice breaking ship and can bash through ice over a foot deep.
As you can see from the photo the ship had to take some diverse maneuvers away from some of the large icebergs which were in our path. It was fascinating to sea the penguins, seals and sea lions sleeping on the icebergs as we slowly sailed by.
Friday morning at about 11am we finally docked and Rothera Wharf. It was such a relief to have actually be there and i had to just take a minute and have a good look at my new home for the next 18 months.There was a nice welcoming party up on one of the hills and it was really good to see some old faces which i hadn't seen for a few months.
After my initial induction i was put straight to work operating machinery unloading the cargo from the ships holds. It's all hands on deck whilst the ship in at the wharf helping unload the ship as quick as possible so it can get on with its science schedule.
This week saw the Dash 7 return to Rothera. There are two types of aircraft which BAS operate, those being the Twin Otters and the larger Dash 7. Unfortunately there as been countless problems with the aircraft this season as many science projects have had to be either shortened or cancelled.
This is an aerial view of Rothera. The main base is all on the right hand side, with the fuel store and aircraft hanger on the left. My work area, the vehicle workshop is quite close to my accommodation and also the dinning room which is handy. I was glad to finally get to work and make myself at home in my new place of work. No rest for the wicked however, yesterday and today i have been hard at it replacing worn bearings on a large tracked vehicle.
I finally found my snowboard today and thankfully it is all still in on piece, so three guesses what I'll be doing tomorrow evening.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Our last meal on the JCR. From left to right, Myself, Adam, Stephen and Scott. At precisely 25 minutes past six! We always seemed to be the first ones in for meals. You'd wonder why, when there are so many things to do on the ship! As you can see we are all a bit 'red faced'. Caught up in the excitement of the day we all forgot to put the sun cream on!
Umm sweet. The fabulous 4 stewards on the JCR. A real friendly bunch of chaps who will be missed dearly when we all get to base. Mainly because we'll have to make our own breakfast!
I saw this iceberg really close up from one of the ribbed boats on the trip back from Vernadsky. It feels so surreal to be here and be close enough to touch these frozen lumps of ice.
Later we stopped at a former UK base, Faraday. It is now owned by the Ukraine and is called Vernadsky. I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the base via one of the ships ribbed boats. This was an amazing experience and felt very privileged indeed. Whilst there i got the chance to sample the bases Vodka and even got the time for a quick game of pool.
A Crab eater seal sleeping on an iceberg as we slowly sailed by. There was also a presence of Humpbacked whales nearby.
I awoke today to the feeling of Adam tickling my feet through the curtains of my bed. He was like a kid at Christmas. It was 5am and he said to put some clothes on and get outside. When i did this is just one of the many Breathtaking views which i saw.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

This morning i woke to the sight of yet more white covered land in the distance, surrounded by glimmering icebergs. We stopped mid-morning and a cove just off King George island where two of our ribbed boats were launched and sent into a Chinese base, Great Wall to collect a field assistant and a scientist who had been in the field for the last three weeks camping. They were both very happy to see us but happier to see the sight of a good square meal. Un be knowing to me when i took this photo there are actually two penguins just behind the crane jumping out of the water.
This evening we all celebrated the birthday of one of the artists who is going down to Rothera for the summer, with cocktails on the monkey island. Anne who is 21 at heart has taken lots of inspiration from her journey on the JCR I'm sure this will be the most memorable of all her birthdays.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Well. Whales yesterday and the first siting of icebergs today. I am being spoilt. At about 10am i sited my first iceberg in the distance and also the tip of the Antarctic peninsular. Funny enough that was white as well.
Everybody's mood on the JCR seems to be lifted now as we get closer and closer to Rothera. As the JCR is a science ship and the British Antarctic Survey's flagship we are doing lots of science work on the way down to Rothera which put us slightly behind schedule.
The weather deteriorated as the day went on and as i look out of the window as i type it is now snowing.
Before leaving the Falkland Islands i changed ship from the Ernest Shackleton onto the James Clarke Ross, Bas's Flagship. The JCR is slightly longer than the Shack and things on-board and done a little different. We all have to attend dinner wearing a shirt and tie which is one minor difference.
Yesterday i went for my daily walk out onto the deck and to my surprise there was a pod of Fin whales around the ship. It was the first time I'd seen whales and it was breathtaking. The pod included around 15 whales and they circled the ship for at least an hour. Other sighting were made through the rest of the day which included Minke whales and Cuvier's Beaked whales. Yesterday was also the day that we passed over the Antarctic Convergence zone. The temperature is definitely getting colder and colder everyday.
Some other great sights around the Falklands were those of the many ship wreaks. This ship is called the The Lady Elizabeth. The story is that she was deemed not sea worthy by the harbour master after receiving damage out at sea. The ship was moored in the harbour and on one rough night broke her moorings and ended up stuck on the sand bank where she remains to this day. Rumour has it that she was sea worthy all along but happened to be carrying a shipment of hardwood and this cargo seemed valuable to the local residents.
The next stop off was the Falkland islands. We were blessed with fabulous weather for the whole week and i took full advantage of being able to get off the ship for a while. I did lots of walking and saw most of penguin species on the island. Above are King Penguins. I also saw Gentoo and Magellanic penguins. As i looked out into the harbour there were always seals and Commerson dolphins to be seen. The penguins were great and if you sat long enough on the sand they would come right over to you, and just watch you for a while.
On the way across the Atlantic we were forever on the look out for dolphins and eventually we saw what we were waiting for. As we crossed the equator the weather was fabulous and i took the opportunity to enjoy the heat while it lasted. The crossing the line ceremony was a real good day of fun however one crew member did manage to break his ankle. (Oops)
We stopped off in the port of Monte Video in Uruguay for about a week. Whilst there myself and two other lads got the opportunity to leave the ship for a couple of days so we headed up the coast to Punta De Este. A beautiful resort where we spent a few days sunbathing, drinking beer, sightseeing and admiring the sunsets in the evening.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Over a period of a month on the Shackleton you certainly get to see some amazing sights. Just like this breathtaking sunrise which was seen as we sailed past the port of Vigo, Spain. There were just as many awesome sunsets too. But i am yet to see the illusive green flash which can occur at the precise moment that the sun disappears below the horizon.
This is the Ernest Shackleton, Originally named the MV Polar Queen, the British Antarctic Survey purchased it in 1999. I joined the Shackleton on the 30 October 06 at the beginning of my adventure to the Antarctic peninsular. I will be there for a period of at least 18 months and up to a period of two and a half years. I will be working as a Vehicle Engineer on the base servicing and repairing an array of unusual machines designed specifically for working in some of the most inhospitable climates.