Friday, 28 March 2008

The final week !

We have just had conformation of the arrival of the 'James Clarke Ross'
The ship will be arriving here at Rothera on the 3rd of April and will be sailing on the 6th. This is when we will all wave to the new winterer's and wish them a great winter. I should be back in the Uk on the 14th of April and that will be the end of my 18 month adventure down here in the Antarctic.
The time spent here will always be very special to me, with excellent experiences and memories which i will always be able to share with the great friends that i was privileged to spend my winter with.

Dash 7 leaves signifying the end of the fiald season

An unexpected visitor to the base a few weeks ago was this small Yacht the 'Seal' with a crew of 7 they had sailed quite a long way in a small vessel and no ice breaking capabilities. Very brave. The crew came onto land for a quick look around but did not stay for the night as rough seas meant they had to find some sheltered waters for the evening.

So the Dash 7 finally left on around the 8th of March and took the management staff home for the British spring. Since they left we have had a snow covered runway!

On the afternoon that the Dash 7 left we had a surprise visit from the LM Gould an American science cruise vessel. It was great to sea this ship again and the crew all came aboard for a base tour and have a look around our newly completed main building, 'New Bransfield House'

As we head into winter the weather too heads into winter mode. However we still have a few good days each week to head up into the hills and lay down some fresh ski tracks.

Ohh the memories, only 12 months ago it was me who was heading out on one of those winter trips. Strange to think how the time has flown by and now it is this years wintering crew who head out for a week in a Pyramid tent soaking up the views from the other side of the Island.

There are still plenty of Fur seals around the base as playful as ever. For some reason we haven't had the amount of Elephant seals around base as we did last year however the presence of so many whales has made up for it.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Another Steve King fly by. He is new to BAS this year but has flown Twin Otters in the Arctic and Antarctic for over 20 years. I was lucky enough to get my final flight with Steve which was great fun!

Fossil Bluff closes down for the Winter

Well after 15 months here i finally got to go to Fossil Bluff! This is a summer base and is used as a refueling depot through the summer months. BAS used to winter here and the last time it was wintered in was in the early 60's. It is a fabulous hut named Bluebell Cottage and has lots of history inside.

I was there to start the winterisation and remove some of the older skidoos for the winter.
I eventually got 3 nights there and got an excellent final flight back with one of our new pilots who has got over 20 years experience flying Twin Otters down here in the Antarctic.
That is pyramid in the background to the right hand side.

I was there with Tim the new wintering electrician. Here he is winterising the gas fired 'rocket bog' Unfortunately the ponds water level rose around 3 feet this summer hence the toilet will have to be relocated next season if it can be chipped out from the solid ice which will have formed around it at through the winter.

One evening we climbed to the top of Pyramid one of the local peaks behind the cottage. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the top just in time for our evening sched which we did over the iridium sat phone.

Fossil Bluff is aptly named as there are fossils all around the local area. This is a fossil of a cuttle fish and there are lots more os shells, snail things and ferns. It makes you wonder what the Antarctic was like millions of years ago and what animals lived there.

The Cottage is well equipped with a Rayburn and electric powered by a generator. We even had some fresh eggs so a fry up for breakfast was a must.

I even had the chance to have a go at baking bread. This was the first attempt which i was quite happy with.

I also baked an Apple pie which turned out a little overdone but tasted just right. If you read this mum, don't get any ideas!!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Borek planes return. But not quite in one piece

Recognize this??? Well back in October this Bassler/DC-3 came through Rothera on the way to the South Pole for the American science pro gramme. Unfortunately it crashed in the field during the summer season and had to be rebuilt out on the ice.

The plane belongs to Ken Borek air and is the flagship plane for the company.

It really is amazing to see what work can be done in the field and the air mechanics have done a fabulous job to get this plane back in the air. I saw some pictures of the plane after the crash and the entire under carriage had ripped off and all of the propellers were bent.

A entire tail section has been replaced with one from a scrapped plane.

Its a wonder that the plane can fly with so much damage. The whole underside has dents and plates covering holes. Both engines have been replaced and the undercarriage. I'm sure it flys a bit to one side with the wing tip missing on one side!!!

Now thats what you call using your initiative !!!

Custom paint job!!

Well all they have to do now is fly that small leg of the journey up to Canada !!!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Sky Blu

A few weeks the Lawrence M Gould came to Rothera. The ship come in every year for a party and fortunately this year i got back from Sky Blu just in time. This ship coming in is one of the highlights of the season as the band usually gets together and we have a good Saturday night of drinking and dancing! The ships crew are mainly scientists carrying out CTD's and work on Krill in Antarctic waters. Mostly everyone on the ship is American and they seem to know how to enjoy themselves. The ship is dry whilst at sea so the first beers went down rather quickly!!

Back to Sky Blu again !! This time for only a week....or was that two Andy Barker......
Anyway i had a great time yet again and there have been many improvements at the base this year. With the input of the new machine the runway can now be cleared with little effort, new weather havens for comfortable sleeping arrangements and the building of a new under ground garage for winter storage of machines and equipment the base is completely different to 12 months ago.
Whilst there i was involved in the uplifts of the remaining field parties from the other side of the Elsworth mountains. We were blessed with good weather and worked no stop for about 50 hrs to get all the guys out. You can see above the huge amount of carg that was up lifted.

You can never tire of watching the Dash 7 on the Blue ice.

Once the cargo was back at Sky Blu the Dash 7 could load it on and take it back to Rothera.

Our new CAT machine for clearing the runway and general base snow maintenance. We have lots of attachments for the machine including a snowblower, snow blade, runway brush, bucket and pallet forks for loading barrels onto the planes easily.

Introduction of two new weather havens has provided the base with a heated garage for machine maintenance and comfortable sleeping quarters.

My bed for the stay. The one on the to the heater !!
The temperature is starting to drop quite considerably now at the base. Whilst i was there it was a steady -15 but did get down to -25.

The new under ground garage build this season for storage or machinery over the winter period in a safe place away from the 100 knot winds on the surface.

Twin Otter refueling during the field part uplifts. Is it night or is it morning....No one knows????

My red taxi coming into land.

I did get a couple more flights over the Elsworths which are out of this world but this one was taken on the way back to Rothera of massive chunks of ice breaking out from the King George sound.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Minke Whale

last week i went out on the boat with Ali Massey our marine assistant and one of the summer flight followers, Owen to carry out a CTD. With camera charged up we hoped to catch a glimpse of a Whale or two.

This is what krill looks like. These are a Whales main source of food and this year we have an unusal about of Krill in the waters around Rothera.

This is the Krill swimming just next to our boat. From the air you can see massive shoals.

So as we were sat there a Minke Whale was spotted in the distance. It headed towards us for a closer look but we got a little more than we bargained for. After spotting some air bubbles coming straight for the boat 10 m away we got the cameras ready!! The Minke Whale surfaced about 5 m from our little inflatable boat. This huge animal got a good look at us with it's big round eyes and we too got a close up view of it. The Whale then proceeded to circle the boat and appeared to be very curios until it swam off into the distance. Minke Whales can be found down here quite frequently this season and are probably the most common Whale in the Antarctic.
I did manage to film the whole experience but as yet i can't download the file but will endeavor to get it onto this site as soon as i can!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Dash 7 leaving Sky Blu after yet another fuel drop

This year saw lots of new improvements to Sky Blu. The main improvement was the purchase of a new machine to keep the blue ice runway clear of snow. Myself and Alan were involved in this project which involved lots of modifications in order to get the machine into the Dash 7. This is us putting the cab back together.

Loading the machine at Rothera

Unloading at Sky Blu

On the way back in the back of the Dash 7. I think this is about 3am... A long day !

The boating slipway was put back into the wharf again this summer. After some major repairs where the icebergs had given it a beating it went in with little effort.

All in place ready for the boats to be launched.

Dash 7 on the blu ice

Our new machine unloading its cab from a Twin Otter

Spectacular! Its always worth just standing and watching the Dash 7 land at Sky Blu. It looks so out of place 400 miles south of Rothera.

One of the first Elephant seals this year sunning itself on the runway.

A cute little Weddell seal

A whole bunch of Crab eater seals on a burg just off the runway

Chinstrap penguins have been a popular visitor this summer around the point.

Myself and our building services manager, Dave digging a trench and installing ducting for the services to New Bransfield house which is due to be completed this summer.