Monday, 19 November 2007

The storm, in the calm before the storm

This confusing title wasn't as clever as I thought it would be. But this is our last week before another crew of 12 people show up, and we officially kick into "summer mode". This means longer hours of working, a change in time zone (done purely for pilots' logistics reasons, so all British bases are on the same timezone), and more temporary accommodations to be opened.

And, in this last week, there is a lot of wind (unrelated to previous post). 40-50 knots of it, to be exact. And now I see why the handlines are installed to get between buildings. You can't see a damn thing. I woke up this morning being gently rocked by the wind - along with the rest of the Laws building where we live. That'll happen when you put a building on stilts!

I woke up at 6am, suddenly remembering something I left outside. In fact, a lot of things - a whole box sledge full of expensive GPS equipment. I was convinced that, by this time, this equipment would be blown 20km away, off the ice shelf, and now floating in the Antarctic Sea. But no; it was still securely fastened with a tarpaulin and a clove-hitch knot that Toddy taught me during training. Knots are useful things! Think I'll learn a few more.

Anyway, perfect timing for this storm, as my melt-tank duty finished yesterday. After Saturday's ordeal, yesterday was a breeze. And I now have pictures for Saturday's melt tank ordeal. Here is Jim, exulting in his triumphant clearing of some random level (5 down from the surface, say?) of melt tank tube:

That's the tube on the right, there; Pete is on poking duty at the moment. I don't know why it looks like it's snowing in there. When we finished, Jim gave us the 1p tour of the tunnels. -Not- recommended for the claustrophobic! The tunnels have partially caved in, and other parts are slowly getting crushed. Here is a part that isn't.

Casual access is not allowed - with our melt tank issues, we had a legitimate reason to be there. These tunnels connect all the buildings and allow access to the fuel, stored in a big rubber waterbed here:

Somewhere else is the onion, the bizarrely named final destination of our black water. Our poo, in other words. I chose not to take a picture of the onion, so we'll all have to imagine what it looks like. And, like me, I'm sure you are all picturing a large Spanish onion. At some point in the last 20 years, though, a black water line exploded and poo went flying everywhere. And they couldn't clean it all up. So, the tunnels have a slightly poo-tinged smell to them. But not much of that. Actually, for some reason, between the cold, the look of corrugated steel, and the odd smell, it reminded me of a hallway to a changeroom at a hockey rink.

Once we finished, we had a brief quiet lunch - most of the winterers were off on a penguin trip, which we were denied, thanks to the melt tank. But I'm still just lucky that I got my chance - I probably won't, in following years.

And with any luck, I'll never have to empty a melt tank tube again, either.


Anonymous said...

Good god man! Stay far away from the Onion! Glen

Becky said...

And watch out for those pesky polar bears!

Anonymous said...

Great blog, I hadn't checked in a while, now working my way backwards, have got to Punta so far and can't wait to see how it begins! Glen

Boo said...

Glen - wait till you get to the bit about the polar bears!!

Ryan said...


Glen - you will be featured at the end of the blog, as I have decided that the official end of my trip (and blog) is going to be our White Hart trip at Fyfield. Hooray!

Boo said...

Was that 'Grr' a polar bear 'Grr'?

Glen said...

Does that mean I'll get a mention at the end of the blog too?! Yippeee yahooo! Can you bring us back some snow please! El

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Ryan said...

Yes, that was a polar bear grr;

El, you will not only get a mention but you will be in the last picture of my blog;

And my dear lifelong friend Cresscenet, thank you for your kind words; triggered, no doubt, by the word "Punta". I have a feeling that my readers don't exactly fit your target demographic, though.