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.