Tuesday, 30 October 2007
I don't mind saying I'm a bit freaked out here.
I signed on for a night shift at Rothera, which means I'm the only one awake should something go wrong. This could be anything from the sewage system overflowing, to a fire at the docks, to a medical emergency at Sky-Blu, a station 800 km to the south. Thankfully, none of this has happened yet. And, except for the times that I'm sitting in the tower (or patrolling the hangar), it's quite comfortable.
But right now, this radio monitoring is very eerie. There's just enough structure to the static in the radio to be unsettling. It's a bit like Stephen King's The Langoliers.
Another five minutes, and I can go back to the bar, where I have set up camp for the night. But first, I must go to another building and check that our freezers are still working.
Man, I'm tired. About four more hours to go.
Monday, 29 October 2007
In the meantime, I'm planning out my field trips, making maps, and continuing to play with my toys. I'm also helping to install a beacon called Doris. Actually, Doris is the name of the entire satellite system that helps to identify satellite positions precisely - like GPS, but in reverse. It relies upon a worldwide network of beacons, like the one I'm helping to install.
And here are some completely unrelated pictures, which I filched from one of my co-travellers, Neil Ross.
Here we are, boarding the plane at Punta.
Here's a better picture of the ice cave crevasse. You can pretend that's me, if you like.
The band shown below is called "Ass of BAS", and they set up in the sledge store on Saturday night for a party, complete with a bar with "barmaids" in drag. The entire production was quite comical, and I'm sure some of it will end up on Youtube.
And now...I will sit and wait for the plane. And the passenger!
Saturday, 27 October 2007
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Anyway, I'm off to bed now. I'm reading JPod, by Douglas Coupland, and want to power through it and one or two more books before leaving Rothera. I polished off almost a hundred pages in 15 minutes - mainly because 6o of those pages were either the digits of pi, or series of random numbers. Gotta love Doug.
Here is the view from the seat of my airplane (not from the cockpit, sorry):
and here's a couple shots around Rothera (there'll be more, in and around buildings)
I took that last one, so I'm obviously not in it. These are some of the guys that I travelled down with. Simon, the one on the left, will be going to Halley as well; the other three are in my office and will be going deep-field.
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
"Stay on the plane. We've got two Twin Otters that have been circling while they wait for you to land, and another about to take off. We'll come get you when we're ready to walk you across the runway. Oh...uh, welcome to Rothera."
And with that greeting from the Base Commander, here I am at Rothera! The weather window was indeed good, and we flew down here in the BAS Dash 7. Pretty comfy flight, and I got to sit in the jumpseat of the cockpit as we took off from Punta Arenas. It was cloudy most of the way, but cleared up just at the end for a breathtaking view as we landed. I'm sitting here right now in a corner office, with a view straight ahead of a bay with icebergs and mountains. I've got some good pictures - I know I keep saying that, and I will post them soon. Unfortunately, my computer setup doesn't make it convenient at the moment, so just one more day. That's a promise.
This place reeks of Canada. As this is the only British base with an actual runway, all the pilots are based out of here, and the airplane mechanics, and everyone else. And where do you get mechanics and pilots familiar with snowplanes? Calgary. There's bottles of Petro-Canada snowmobile oil around, mukluks from Mark's Work Warehouse...yeah, a lot of familiar stuff around here.
Anyway, now I must run to my climbing training. We may have done it in Derbyshire, but now we have to do it again on ice, wearing full gear. Shouldn't be a problem, but we'll see. And I may or may not be camping tonight off base, depending on the weather.
I'll be here at least a week, by the way. Planes aren't available to take me to Halley yet. And now, I must go get my ropes.
Sunday, 21 October 2007
Saturday, 20 October 2007
Cambridge to London, 2 hours. London to Madrid, 2 hours. Madrid to Santiago, 13 hours. Santiago to Punta, 5 hours. Long times to be cramped in seats. However, I was thankful on the overnight transatlantic leg that there were no serious sources of noise to disturb my futile attempts at sleep.
Unlike the first flight, to Madrid. Now, I've travelled on planes quite a lot, and I've had several bad experiences with seat-kickers, screamers, and the gastrointestinally-challenged, if you catch my drift. However, this particular flight had one of the worst. The kid in the seat behind me would not sit. He would yell, though. And he would pound the back of my seat whenever he wished to emphasize a particular statement. He kicked my seat rhythmically while he was thinking of said statements. And several times he would actually reach through the seats and grab me, just in case I didn't hear his >120 dB oratory. The parents did their best, I suppose, to restrain him, but nothing short of heavy chemical sedation was going to calm this kid down. And another load of kids on the plane thought it would be fun to scream in terror when we took off, or banked the plane. Most of these people were connecting to Tenerife. It's really soured me on Tenerife; don't expect to see me there in the near future. Anyway, the 13 hours of transatlantic crossing were silent bliss in comparison. Whew!
My stuff all made it here, too. Every seam was bursting in my luggage, and I managed to pawn off some of my equipment onto my fellow travellers. However, even with that, I had to carry a lot of junk in my coat, because it couldn't fit in my carry-on bags. My coat had 8 kg of stuff in it, and my carry-on had another 12 kg. My coat was reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix where he had weapons upon weapons concealed within. Except with me, it was books, slippers, travel documents, personal electronics, and even some GPS equipment. I spent 24 hours in constant surveillance of all my pockets, to make sure nothing was left behind.
Anyway, we got in last night and after a 20 minute nap, we had a nice rooftop dinner and hit a local bar for a few drinks. Quiet place, Punta. Pictures are still forthcoming - a few if I don't find a battery charger to buy, and a lot if I do.
And now I wait for further instructions. We will know in the next two hours whether or not we can leave today for the Really Dark Continent. They made an attempt once earlier this week and aborted, so they may be "once-bitten, twice-shy" about it today. So, the next blog will either be from here again, or Rothera station.
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Since my last post - expect posts to be much more regular now, by the way - I have continued packing, packing, packing. Mostly at work. Space is completely limited on my flight in, so I've had to ditch or delay most of my personal luxury items. Delayed, most of them. In particular, I have heroically delayed my x-country skiing gear, my downhill ski boots, my favourite pillow and quilt, and my latest Jack Whyte and Colleen McCullough books. They'll be arriving on a ship in the next few months.
I have kept my Yagi antennas, extensive arrays of GPS devices and radio modems, my fancy new iPod nano, laptop, and camera. So, traditional distractions have been supplanted by technological ones, mainly because I need them for my work (except the nano, a 4-ounce luxury).
Still overweight on luggage, though. I need to carry my own 17 kg kit bag, containing all my winter gear. I may thin that out a bit...there's a lot of extra gear in there that no self-respecting Canadian would need in -20C.
Less than 12 hours from takeoff! Expect the next post to come from a Spanish-speaking country, either Spain or Chile. Hopefully Chile. If I have time to blog something from Madrid, something's gone awry.
Tuesday, 2 October 2007
- Tether myself to my companion while we explore a glacier region with crevasse potential;
- Assuming my companion falls into a crevasse, prevent myself from falling in as well;
- Tie him/her off, and abseil down to check him/her out;
- Provide CPR as necessary;
- Scale back up the rope;
- Set up a block and tackle to pull him/her out; and
- Keep them warm and happy until help comes, if needed.
Much of the training was done in Derbyshire, my new favourite place. Great little villages, nice farms and architecture, and nice hilly bleak landscapes. We set up our tents on a nice horse farm, where the friendly landlord had nice stone outbuildings, an incredibly energetic kleptomaniac border collie, and a thick brogue that was almost incomprehensible. We were within walking distance of a decent pub, too.
Damn, I need a camera, to show you this stuff. I'm buying one in the next few days, along with a new iPod nano (or Touch), and a bunch of other little toys to take with me. I've already got noise-cancelling headphones, which I strongly recommend to all, for the sake of your hearing and comfort. The brand is Audio Technica, and they're $120US. And buy them in the US, if you can. They're not available in Canada, and ludicrously expensive in the UK.
Anyway, I returned from Derbyshire to realize that my flight was one day earlier than I expected. After spending the weekend in Norfolk, I had about 8 hours to pack up my room and officially move out of residence. So, after four years, I have finally departed the University of Cambridge. At least, until next week, when I get temporary accommodations at Wolfson before I head down.
And, now, after some serious car troubles, I am back at my parents' place in Avonton, relaxing for a brief while, before things get busy again.
And I promise pictures in every entry from now on. I'm off to buy a camera.