Tuesday, 11 September 2007

BAS Catering 2, Ryan 1

Well, I'm in mid-conference now. This week, I'm just cycling out to Girton College, the only Cambridge college more remote than mine (and by a considerable margin, too). Up until now, it's been mostly information sessions. Here are some highlights I've learned.
  • Christmas and New Years, I will be working harder than anyone has ever worked at Halley. By the way they talk, harder than any person has worked in history. The unloading of the new Halley VI station will be a 24-hour activity performed in 12 hour shifts for the last two weeks of December, give or take. Comparisons to the building of a space station have been bandied about, as far as the scope of the operation. Ironically, it's called "relief" work, as a small portion of the cargo is also relief supplies for Halley V.
  • Part of the crew going south are two artists, funded each year to capture Antarctica in prose and film. Should be interesting. They won't be at Halley, though, where there is no space and no pretty animals within spitting distance.
  • The BAS photography expert has indicated that going south without at least a 5 megapixel camera is damn near a criminal offence.
  • Kiting is a popular sport. I will require equipment before I go down (note to self).
  • As well as stopping at Rothera, I will be stopping at quite a few fuel depots in Antarctica before I get to my station, and dropping people off at random points. The Antarctica milk run!

In two days, the intensive first aid course begins, where we learn how to do a bit more than usual. Not sure what that means, yet. Then on Sunday, we go to Derbyshire to practise our camping and mountaineering. I'm quite happy about that, as hitherto I have posed as an "outdoorsy" person, but I am undoubtedly a rookie at most outdoor activities. These courses, and the next five months, should address this gap admirably, I reckon.

But back to my blog title. I always knew that I would be waging a war upon the catering division of BAS. Their intent is to ply us with food, and encourage us to build a moderate fat store to keep us warm as we engage in our outdoor relief work. However, as some of you may know, I take some pride in my existing ability to function in a cold environment without no steenking fat store, thank you very much. I do not wish to consume more than my requisite 2500 calories a day. Thus, the lines are drawn for battle.

BAS' forces in this conflict are impressive, though. Today, I met the professional chefs coming down to cook our food, who arrived fresh out of haute cuisine restaurants in London. Some of the dishes have been described. I will need to muster all of my reserves of self-control to resist them.

And little did I know that the attacks started so early. The conference itself is quite well-catered. Roasts every night, our choice of several fine desserts, and much more. If I'm eating Girton College's daily fare, that students also get, I am not impressed. No college food can be this good. I have already succumbed to stuffing myself with multiple desserts and unnecessary portions in two instances. Recognizing this, I then evaded the third meal and went home to have chicken noodle soup.

So, the first few battles have not gone in my favour. But I have a surge effort plan that should make everything ok. I hope.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Pack, pack, pack...

Well, it's packing season for me. The reason the BAS (that's "British Antarctic Survey") employed me in early August was to prepare for the ship leaving in about a week. This ship will have all my bulky stuff - solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, poles, iceproof boxes, antennas, etc. I've had a few weeks to make sure nothing's missing, and order the missing items in time. Most of it's ready, but there are bits and pieces still missing...and once I'm down there, I can't get replacements.

Of course, I can carry things with me down there...but every piece of equipment I bring with me on the plane, displaces another personal item such as books, soap, skiis, etc...so I'd rather get it all now.

After that, I have to start thinking about packing up my life, as Wolfson finally gives me the heave-ho in about three weeks. I get 40kg to take back to Canadia on British Airways (I'm taking a rest from the low-cost transatlantics such as Zoom and Flyglobespan) and the rest will either go into storage, into my office, or stored at someone's house. After two almost-uninterrupted years in Plommer House, I've managed to accrue quite a bit, but I've become quite skilled at ruthlessly throwing out the non-essentials.

After next week, the training begins. This should be fun, and I'll try to post some pictures, if I get a camera.

Until then...