Sunday, 18 February 2007

The odd Fur seals are starting to arrive around Rothera point. These seals have long whiskers and are very grumpy. Lessons have been learnt in the past as they will chase you and a bite can be very nasty and infectious.
Two RAF mast erectors have been here for the past few weeks installing a new mast up on Rothera point.
North cove is very susceptible to icebergs blowing into it. With low spring tides at the moment Adam and myself we able to get out onto them.
The fleet of snow blowers at Rothera is quite impressive at the moment! Three JCB wheeled diggers fitted with V8 CAT and Mercedes engines and one tractor fitted with a snow blower on the front linkage.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Two weeks at Sky Blue

As part of my work down here servicing and maintaining the machinery it was necessary for me to go out to Sky Blue for a period and repair some of the machines there. Sky Blue is a deep field operations base which provides support for field parties and refueling of the Twin Otters as they pass through. The base is located about 4 hours flying time further South on a Blue ice Glacier which is over 400Ft thick. The Blue ice is amazing when you first see it and is so smooth it is possible to ice state on it.
The runway is 900 meters long which is the same length as the runway at Rothera, hence the Dash 7 can land with ease dropping off drums of fuel at every opportunity through the summer season. It is very common for the weather to change and deteriorate rapidly for this reason i was delayed in leaving for about another week.

My home for three nights at Sky Blue. The Igloo was made by Anne and Chris two artists that came down with BAS. I'm pretty sure that the trip gave them lots of inspiration!
Me in the igloo. Note i didn't take my hat off!
The amazing view of the roof in side the Igloo which i saw in the morning of the three nights i spent in it. Looks very pretty and at -20 you just want to stare at in all day from the comfort of your warm Goose Down sleeping bag.
Three of many Pyramid tents which i stayed in. These tents sleep two people and are really well suited to the conditions. There are made in Glamorgan, Wales, so at least they can test them at the right temperature through the winter months.
Sky Blue acts as a fuel station for the Twin Otters as they deploy and retrieve field parties which work from the base. I was lucky enough to get a co-pilot flight out to the Elsworth mountains which are the highest peaks in the Antarctic. The temperature when we landed was -20. Breathtaking views of the peaks and the permanent sea ice. It is amazing to see crevasses and the sediment layers in the mountains as they erode. In my two weeks away i managed to clock up an impressive 7 co-pilot flights. Its pretty amazing to be able to fly a Turbo prop plane for hours on end and then land on a runway marked out by flags made of snow and ice.
We were unlucky one evening to have about three centimetres of snowfall. This meant clearing the runway with the two small snow blowers as the Dash 7 is unable to land if there is any snow on the runway. However the Twin Otters can still land if they put skies down.
The view into Sky Blue runway. You can just make out the runway. It has a slight covering of snow on it. If you get 25-30 knot winds the runway will completely clear and becomes the most amazing blue colour.
The Dash 7 landing at Sky Blue. However many times you see this plane land and take off it is still brilliant to watch.
Another one of Chris the artists creations. A vortex or Whirlpool made on the runway. The blue underneath is the ice of the glacier.
A welcome site after so much time in the field. Rothera runway and the sight of some good food, running water and most importantly a hot long shower.
Back on base and back to work. Lots of people are slowly disappearing back to the UK so the work load for us mechs is starting to tail off. This was just a bit of stress relief scrapping one of the very old base Skidoo's.
And what better way to do it that drive over it with a 15 ton CAT Bulldozer. We're just a bunch of kids in the workshop really!