Tuesday, 29 May 2007


Yes. A Halloween fancy dress in May! Another one of Mad Liz's ideas, like 'Sing along to the sound of music' and 'Hunt the Easter egg'. Say no more but every one made an effort and it passes the day getting ready and making costumes.

Scott came as the invisible man and Birget as the mask from Scream. I think she took the mask off in this photo!

Myself as Beetle juice feeding Hannibal Lector. It took me ages to make my costume. Amazing what you can do with a can of road line marker and a Lab coat. Don't think they'll miss it in the Bonner Lab. Probably haven't noticed its gone yet!

The Invisible man, Freddy Kruger and Beetle juice!
What a mismatch group.

Cyril made a slight effort and put a headband on over his normal work gear.
Think we had that bacon for Sunday breakfast!

Steve as an uncanny Uncle Fester from The Adams Family

After a quiet drink Beetle juice challenged Freddy Kruger to a pool game using a broom. Can't quite remember the outcome though!!

Caboose Moving

At Vals we have a little hut called the 'Caboose' in the hut there are facilities to make hot drinks and numerous boxes of manfood. If you wish you can also stay the night and the Caboose if you feel the need for some personnel space away from base.
With the strong winds and continuing snowfall the Caboose slowly gets buried and ends up in a big hole. So every couple of weeks it is one of my jobs to relocate it on level ground. I commandeered Jim the boatman and Kenny the Genny mech to get off base for the afternoon and give me a hand.

Firstly we had to break the skis from the ice using a hydraulic jack, then groom a ramp for the Caboose to be pulled up. Then by attaching a think steel wire rope via some heavy duty shackles we pulled the Caboose out of its hole and relocated it.

It came out better than expected and the whole job took us only about two hours from start to finish.

On the way back down to base i spotted a lonely skidoo. The skidoo belonged to Mark Gorin, Steve Boulton, and Dickie Hall who had gone climbing for the day on Reptile Ridge.
I just couldn't help myself!!!!!!!!!!

At least we left them a shovel to dig it out.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Tech services day out

With the ever decreasing sunlight hours we really have to make the effort to get out on the weekend as it is far too easy to just sit around and watch movies. Sunday was a nice day and we even managed to drag Kenny up to Vals as the generators and fuel problems seem to be sorting themselves out.
Left to right: Scott (Joiner), Kenny (Generator mech), Myself (Vehicle technician) and Steve (Plumber). We had a really good afternoon and ended up boarding until it had gone dark.
Some great wipe outs were had by all!!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Winter trippers and power downs!

This week has been particularly poor! The weather has been fairly shocking with constant winds of over 30 Knots. The four people that are out in the field at the moment were due back on Saturday but due to the weather are unable to pack up their campsite and come back to base. They have been laid up inside their tents for over four consecutive days. I have been in this situation at the Sky Blue base during the summer and there is only playing cards and reading to pass the time, and of course sleeping!
Unfortunately during the summer the base had a contaminated fuel delivery which is now causing problems for Kenny our Generator mechanic. Running out of fuel filters fast, we seem to have a power down at least twice week which is unavoidable. Every time the power comes back on everyone has about an hours work each, re-setting breakers, priming water pumps and resetting all the radio and Internet gear. Doesn't really help when two of the people stuck out in the field are the Plumber and Electronics engineer.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Diving in Antrctica 'Without getting wet'

Now that there are only 22 people on base we all try and help others out with jobs if more people are required. As science and diving is one of the most important things which still carries on through the winter it has to be done safety and back up procedures need to be in place. As the diving done here is for a business then it is classed as commercial diving so carries even more legislation. One of those being the need to have the facilities of a Re-compression chamber. In the case of a diver having a rapid uncontrolled ascent they would have to be put into the chamber to be treated for De-compression sickness or 'the bends'. The chamber can also be used for other illnesses including Oxygen toxicity and Helium toxicity.
The chamber here at Rothera is a twin lock chamber, which means there are two parts to the chamber enabling people to pass through the primary pressure lock into the main chamber without having to de-pressurise the whole chamber

As an advanced first aider and diver i had the opportunity to get trained in the use of the chamber and gain a PADI qualification from our base dive officer. Today i had my first dive in the chamber. I was sent down to a depth of 18 metres and whilst at that depth went through a thorough examination by the base doctor who was also in the chamber with me. Unfortunately you can't take any cameras, watches, jewellery or anything magnetic and clothing must be pure cotton as there is a very large risk of fire in the oxygen enriched atmosphere. So no photos of me inside.

This is the depth gauge showing the depth of 18 metres. It is quite a funny sensation as you go down and have to constantly equalise the pressure in your air spaces. Every ones voice gets high pitched at depth and it feels like you need to be talking with a slight Irish accent.
I will get the chance to do quite a few more dives in the chamber during the winter for training purposes.

'Winter Trippin'

So through the winter we all get two winter trips. One at the start of the winter and one nearing the end. Each trip lasts for six days and they are a good chance to get off base, see some more of the island out of the normal travel areas and also gain more practise in rope work, climbing and general life out in the field in temperatures of down to -20 degrees Centigrade.
For my winter trip i opted to go skiing and climbing. We were very lucky with the weather and only had one day of lie up. It was just far to windy and the contrast was too poor to drive the Skidoo's in. As there are crevasses all around you need, good contrast to move from the campsite. Above is Roger my Field General Assistant for the week and myself setting up our Pyramid tent.
The tents are heated by the use of Tilly lanterns. These lamps run off paraffin and are very effective at heating the tent and providing bright enough light to read and cook under.

Roger half way up Trident one of many Mountain peaks which we climbed. When climbing we are always linked together via a harness and rope. We both carry a 'rack' on our harness which has things like slings, pulleys and screw gates on. These are essential bits of equipment needed to pull your climbing partner out of a crevasse if the unfortunate happens.

All the Skidoo's had to be covered with specially made tarpaulins so that the engines didn't get filled in by the blowing snow as this can cause a big problem.

On our penultimate day we climbed up Orca, a peak on the way back to base. This was the massive wind scoop which could be found and the base of the peak. Caused by the naturally Northerly blowing winds scouring the snow and ice from around it. The snow can be very abrasive when combined with the power of the wind. The scoop was at least 30 metres deep.

The very top of Orca required us to climb up a very steep piece of loose rock. But is was all worth it when we got to the top. The descent was a lot more fun. Absailing down about 50 metres of sheer rock with a 400 metre drop below off the edge.

Liz and Rob had a three man Pyramid tent in which we all congregated in, on the evenings for a drop of Whisky, Port, Wine and anything alcoholic which was on offer.

The tents lit up by the Tilly lanterns look so magical when the sun goes down.

A snow flake perfectly formed

At the top of Gwendaline. The first mountain that we climbed. As there are no ski lifts here we have to climb the conventional way to the top. We has ski's with bindings which release at the heel and pivot on the toe. Then we fit skins to the bottom of the ski's. These skins allow you to slide forward in the snow but they then grip so you can essentially slide forward up the mountain without sliding backwards. This is actually a sport called 'Ski Mountaineering'
It took us about four hours to get to the top and then about half an hour to ski down in the most amazing powder. For a minute i thought i was back at a ski resort in Europe!

Drying our sweaty wet socks at the end of the day

Admiring one of the spectacular views. This one off the top of Orca

One of the awesome sunsets over the campsite. This was at about 6pm as the sun disappears behind the peaks of Trident