Friday, 19 October 2007

Co-pilot to Fossil Bluff

Today i got one of the first co-pilot flights of the season with a trip out to Fossil Bluff to drop off the 'open up' crew and just make sure that the skidoos started before i left as they had been standing under a tarp for 7 months. Everything went smoothly and apart from one tarp being ripped open and a machine being full of frozen snow! When we landed it was -18 Celsius but with not a breath of wind we soon acclimatised. My self above with our Twin Otter for the day 'Ice cold Katy'.

The trip down to Fossil Bluff is spectacular and some of the best sights are seen on this 2Hr flight. The mountains are really beautiful and in them the sediment layers can be seen so clearly. Fossil Bluff is aptly named as there are thousands of fossils within a stones throw in any direction.

One the way down Rob, or meteorologist spotted a 'corona' sort of like a circular rainbow which was projected onto the ice below us. At one and totally coincidental point, the shadow of our plane appeared right in the center. Unfortunately the picture doesn't do the sighting justice, it was truly spectacular!

Fossil Bluff from the cockpit window. This base will now act as a refueling depot until the end of the summer season in February. The base is made up of 3 or 4 painted huts, with the main hut having a Rayburn, 4 comfortable bunks and lots of food. It is really cozy inside and is a bit of a holiday camp giving ample opportunity for plenty of baking which later gets sent down to Sky Blue. Sky Blue is an even deeper field base which will get opened up next week.
This flight really reminded me what an amazing continent i am on and how lucky i am to be here!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Dash 7 having just landed for the first time this season!

On Monday morning the Dash 7 returned to Rothera. Altogether about ten people got off the plane. Some here for the summer and some here for the next 18 months. My replacement in the workshop was on the flight so already i have started my hand over period. It is great to see new faces and more importantly taste the fresh fruit and veg!! I can't describe how good it tasted and how it felt biting into a green crunchy, juicy apple after over 7 months!!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Twin Otter Fly by

DC3 taking off

Borek Planes

On Saturday our first planes of the summer arrived. These planes belonged to a Canadian company called Ken Borek and were the first planes on the Antarctic continent this season.
The two planes were a DC3 and a Twin Otter

This is the DC3 it is the company's flagship plane. Built in the 1950's it is in great shape. Two years ago its original radial piston engines were changed for turbo prop engines which cost in the region of 2 million pounds!! Fully loaded the plane weighs in at around 15 ton and has a massive wing span of about 95 feet. Needless to say pushing it into our 100 foot wide hanger was a little nerve racking!

The pilots and air mechanics were the first people that we had seen for over 6 months and they greeted us with boxes of fresh food and vegetables. Ummm!
They all left on Saturday and this is the view of the DC3 from below as they did a fly-by.

There was a small amount of work to be done to the Twin Otter. It landed on our gravel runway on wheels, there it was changed to wheeled skis. It then flew up to our snow covered ski way and was then converted to full skis. This is done as where the plane works for the summer season there is a blue ice runway. This conversion reduces the weight of the plane and allows it to carry more weight which is very important when working deep field.

This meant that myself and Matthew, my work college had to transport fuel and the Twin Otters skis 4Km over the snow to the ski way. It was a beautiful day and really reminded me how special this experience is!

Our two Snowcats with the Twin Otter. Not a sight seen everyday. 360 degrees of snow, ice and mountains and me stood in the middle.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Return of the Dash 7

In exactly one week from now the Dash 7 and two Twin Otter planes are due back here at Rothera. They have been away for about 6 months and will be very welcome back for the upcoming field season. On there return they will hopefully bring in mail and fresh fruit and veg after we have been living on mainly tinned and prepacked frozen foods for the last 6 months.
When the planes return there will be plenty of chances to get off base to Skyblue and Fossil Bluff bases and maybe further into the field to do some depo work.


About three weeks ago myself and Matthew, my fellow vehicle engineer got the go ahead from Head office in Cambridge to start the snow clearing around base and in particular the runway and apron area around the hanger to allow the planes to land when they return on the 15th of October. We were both now about fed up with the consistent poor weather and being stuck in the garage working on skidoo's hence were delighted to get outdoors.
We have been working long hours over the last three weeks and unfortunately woken some mornings to find that a blow in the night and heavy snowfall has put us back where we started, however over the last week the weather has improved considerably and the runway is now clear for the planes which are due back next Sunday!!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Seal Pups

Last weekend we had a beautiful day and the opportunity arose for a trip out on the boats.
Two boats with eight of us headed out to the Islands and ended up at Ancourage Island. There we hoped to see some Weddell seal pups and sure enough on one of the beaches we found six proud mothers with their pups. Unfortunately i do not have a fancy SLR camera and the light was very poor but still managed to get some good photos of these very cute little seal pups.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Mark and Andy do Carvajal !!

A couple of weeks ago , myself and Mark Gorin headed out for what was to be my second and final winter trip of the year. For this trip i had only one expectation and that was to visit Carvajal base at the Southern most tip of the island. With the inconsistent weather that we had been having we decided to set off a day early in order to guarantee traveling the 80Km in a single day and also getting through the notorious McCallams Pass which you need good weather and contrast to do.

When traveling by skidoo across the Glacier you always have to be linked together. You also have to carry loads of unnecessary gear aswell and this is all packed onto two sledges which we towed behind each skidoo.

We had beautiful weather and saw some amazing scenery like this freshly fallen avalanche.

Everything was going good and we were making excellent time. We stopped for a bit of lunch and a drink about half way into our journey. Sitting pretty! Until !!

Disaster stuck as Mark's skidoo snapped a fan belt and ceased up. We admitted defeat and presumed that we would never make it to Carvajal and this was now a week in a tent! However as we had just finished putting up the tent i tried the engine and it had cooled down and un-ceased. We're in!! I fixed the fan belt, we took down the tent and we were on our way, again.

However we didn't get too far before something else happened. After a glance over my shoulder to check the sledge i happened to notice that we we in fact towing something else behind the sledge. Thats odd, i thought and quite sharply applied the brakes and signaled to Mark the field hand signal for, 'Shit, we've lost a tent'. If your wondering how this signal looks it involved me putting my head in my hands! Anyway we had indeed lost our poo tent but still had our main Pyramid tent so we decided that we may as well carry on to Carvajal and no doubt we would pick it up on the way back in a day or two as we expected good weather and our tracks were marked by GPS coordinates.

We finally made it to Carvajal without loosing another item. This is me on top of an old Twin Otter plane which crashed at the base years ago.

There were lots of old fuel barrels lying around which we quite un sightly.

I managed to get on of the bases old Alpine two Skidoos running so thought it would be good to give it a run up the hill to the plane.

Carvajal was the first base in which BAS built on Adelaide Island. It now belongs to the Chileans.
The buildings are very cold inside and are pretty rotten. The Chileans don't actively run the base but do visit once every couple of years just to keep their claim to land in the Antarctic.

Anyway we soon got board of the base and decided to make a move home and maybe do some climbing on the way back. However this didn't happen as Mark's skidoo suffered a massive heart attack and i had to perform open heart surgery. Well basically we were now confined to a pyramid tent until someone else brought us a new engine!! At this point we hadn't found our poo tent either and we suffered winds of up to 50 knots. I won't go into detail, but number 1's & 2's had to be taken outside in blowing snow and temperatures of down to - 15 !!

We now had 3-4 days lie up ahead of us as bad weather had closed in. The i-pods battery's were running low fast so the solar panel came out! Just hang it up and it charges the battery's! Sounds so easy doesn't it! However yet another thing we had broken and we attempted to fix it. A broken wire was found and bodged back together. Were in business and the tunes were once again flowing!

Finally a beautiful day so we packed up and just had to wait for another group of winter trippers to turn up with our new engine. So we waited...........and waited....................and waited.................
We just couldn't understand where an earth they had got to and then we heard on the HF radio that they had slept in and were running late!!! My face, NOT impressed!!!

This was me looking for my sense of humor!

Eventually the new engine turned up at 3pm. I fitted it in record time, we loaded the sledges, got on our skidoos and i said to mark 'drive it like you've stole it'.
We put the pedal to the metal and we managed to get home safely before it got dark for some hot dinner and an even hotter shower. With all the things that went wrong it was the most enjoyable trip I've been on so far and myself and Mark had a lot of fun and laughter.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Winter trip Number 2!

Watch this space!
I'm off on my second and last winter trip tomorrow for a week, before we have to start thinking about clearing the runway of snow for the return of the planes in October.
Myself and Mark Goring (GA) are going to attempt a visit to Caverhal which is a base which belongs to the Chileans. It is unmanned through the winter so it should be nice and peaceful. I'm looking forward to having a look and exploring this old base as i have heard so much about it from others who visited back in April.

Darts and Casino night

Last Friday we had our first winter darts match. We played best of three games against King George Island and lost 2 games to one. Pretty disappointing as there are only 4 people wintering at that base. However they have no pool table so guessing they have been practicing there technique.

last night Dickie organized a cocktails and casino evening. It was a black tie event and we have a roulette table and blackjack table. Unfortunately the evening didn't go on too late as most people were very tired after we have a brilliant day, weather wise and spent the whole day snowboarding.

Jim as our croupier

Friday, 24 August 2007

A visit from Royalty

Today we were visited by a very welcome animal. An Emperor penguin appeared on the runway. Usually an Emperor penguin or two are seen on the base each winter but they only usually come when there is sea ice so this was quite unusual as we have no sea ice and it was quite windy today. This seemed like a juvenile as it was not yet fully grown and the closest Emperor penguin colony to us is a juvenile colony.

Thursday, 23 August 2007


Today i went out on one of the Avon boats to help our marine assistant, Allison with a CTD. (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) experiment.
This involved driving out to a site marked with a GPS co-ordinate. Once there we dropped the CTD machine over the edge and then reeled in out to a depth of 400 meters. Then reeled it back up. As the machine descends in automatically collects water samples at different depths which Allison then does tests on for things like Salinity and organisms living at different depths.

Shortly after dropping the CTD a massive Leopard seal surfaced about 5 meters away from the boat. Needless to say our hearts were beating pretty fast as we struggled to get our cameras out. Leopard seals are the Antarctic's No. 1 predator and are highly dangerous animals to be around. It is also quite rare to see these animals as they are quite uncommon. The seal had a good look at us then swam of. We were very honored be have such a close encounter. On the way back to the Wharf we spotted another seal on an iceberg and assumed it was a pregnant Weddell seal but upon closer inspection (4 meters) the beast woke up and low and behold it was a smaller Leopard seal! We got pretty close to this seal for some good pictures, but as soon as it slipped into the water we thought we'd call it a day as they are far more comfortable in their own environment.

Sunday Chef

Every Sunday our fabulous chef Cyril has a day off so we all take in turn to do a 'Sunday Cook'
Last Sunday was my turn so i treated the base to my culinary delights. Yum!
A full fry up for brunch and then a traditional roast Turkey with all the trimmings for the evening meal. I even made little sausages wrapped in bacon. Followed by rice pudding for desert.
Needless to say no one complained and i think it reminded everyone of a home cooked Sunday roast, which is one thing i miss more than anything being down here.

Cyril does an amazing job cooking for 22 of us every day with no complaints. He must find it hard coming up with ideas and having to improvise with ingredients as we have no fresh food, salads and have to use powder milk.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Typical winter weather

Well it certainly is winter here at the moment. We thought we had finally got decent sea ice last month and after spending a day measuring the thickness it was decided that we needed an extra week before we could travel safety on it. With that along came a weeks worth of 30 knot plus Northerly winds which blew it all away overnight along with the divers wooden boards which covered the dive holes. Bugger!!!
This week has however brought strong Southerly winds which are extremely cold. The temperature has plummeted to a chilling -25 and the sea ice has been blown back in. But for how long???

On a personal note it was my Dads birthday this week, so happy birthday to you. Miss you loads.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Moving the Caboose is a monthly thing during the winter to prevent it from being buried by the snowfall and drifting snow.

End of July already!!!

Well we see the end of July already and the next rounds of winter trips. Due to bad weather, they have been mainly restricted to base apart from the odd day trip.

Last Sunday Drew our field GA and myself went for a quick scramble up a route on Reptile ridge. It was great to eventually see the sun again after being without it for nearly three months.

Yes it really was that steep and i think we both had a bit of 'Disco' knee at one point!

I try and help the dive team out as much as i can with diving through the ice. This week i was chainsaw man cutting two new dive holes in South cove with a ridiculously large saw and more PPE than you could move in!! The ice was about 30cm thick!

We are now completely surrounded by the sea ice which is great. It looks like there is land for as far as the eye can see. When the ice gets to 20cm thick all over we will be able to take skidoos out on it and visit some of the islands usually only available by boat in the summer months.

Over the last two days we have had a really large dump of snow which is very welcome. We haven't been able to ski or board for what seems ages because of the hard snow and lack of powder, so when we get these conditions we make the most of it.

Sunday, 8 July 2007


This weekend saw the Live Earth concert, organised by former Vice President Al Gore.
He organised this gig in order to bring awareness to global warming. Our resident band performed for the gig live from our base here in Antarctica. The band members are Ali Massey, Rob Webster, Tristan Thorne, Roger Stilwell and Matt Balmer.

Swimming Penguins

Ice diving Vidio

Ice Diving

There are now two ice holes which have been cut in Hanger cove with the use of a chainsaw. These holes will enable the divers to carry on with there work over the winter. On Saturday i lent a hand in which was the first ice hole dive carried out down here this year.

Kelvin and Birgit just about to take the plunge to collect Brittle Stars for an experiment.

Jim on Com's and Allison reeling out the line which both divers are attached to.