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.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Patriot hills and Sky Blu

Right then !!!
Apologies for such a gap in up dating my blog site.
Ever since the planes returned i have been exceptionally busy but will try and fill you in on what has happened in the last couple of months.
Shortly after Sky Blu was opened up it was my turn to be the base mechanical services guy. However before spending three weeks at Sky Blu i got the opportunity as an ex winterer to co-pilot out to Patriot Hills to input one of the science projects working at Lake Elsworth. This was a very special flight and much sort after. Patriot Hills is an American run camp which leads expeditions up Mt Vincent which is the highest peak in the Antarctic continent. Lots of very rich Americans visit this base to complete a climb of at the 'Seven Summits'

We spent 3 days at Patriot Hills and ate and slept very well.
They have 2 runways there. One is a perfectly groomed ski way for the Twin Otters and the other is a 3.5Km Blue ice runway for the massive Elusion aircraft to land on. The Elusion is a Russian cargo aircraft which is bigger than a Hercules and can input over 120 barrels of fuel compared to our Dash 7 which can carry 18 drums of fuel!!

View of Patriot hills runway from the air. Similar to Sky Blu the base was chosen as the Blue ice is formed by the force of the wind rushing around the mountain. This creates a massive area of scoured snow and leaves just the bare ice.

To get there we had to fly over the top of the Elsworth mountains. This is the summit of Mt Vincent. We flew over here at 18,000 feet in an unpressurized cabin. This was a very strange feeling as people can suffer from altitude sickness but luckily both Nico (My pilot) and myself suffered no side effects and we got some great views.

Flying down one of many ice flows in the Elsworth mountains. Spectacular!!

Another stunning view as we passed over the other side of Mt Vincent.

With the massive Elusion which flies into Patriot Hills they have the ability to fly large snow grooming and snow clearing equipment into the base to clear their never ending runway.
This is a snow groomer and also comes in very handy in making a perfectly groomed ski slope up on the side of the mountains for the guests.

Another huge snow blower and lorry unit. This looks like it should be on a road in Scotland in the winter. Its hard to believe that a machine like this can be flown into the deep Antarctic field.

Another unusual tracked vehicle used for crane work and transporting barrels of fuel around site.

Eventually we made it back to Sky Blu where i was to spend the next few weeks. Re-fueling aircraft, servicing vehicles and supporting the field parties which skidoo issues deeper in the field. In the right of the picture you can see the remains of the Igloo which was built last year. It was amazing to see that there were some remains at all considering the exciting winds which blow at Sky Blu in the winter season.

The Blu ice runway was quite well cleared at the beginning of the season and didn't require too much clearing for the Dash 7 to start doing rotations in order to supply the base with fuel for next seasons field projects.

Working on one of the older skidoos. I had to make do and replace a broken seat hinge. I didn't have the correct parts so made do with a hinge off an old manfood box.

Whilst at Sky Blu i had to go on yet another co-pilot flight as one of the field parties had a broken suspension on a skidoo. Myself and Nico headed out into the field and this was us just checking the oil levels on the engines. It just happened that Liz had my camera with her and by coincidence took about 10 photos of us sitting on the engines !!

One the way back we took a team out from Rabid Depot. The team had been there for a few days digging up barrels and raising the depot ready for next years project. The snow accumulation was about 1 and a half meters so there was a lot of digging and they all slept like babies on the 2 hour journey back to Sky Blu.