Monday, 24 December 2007

Allow me to wish you a...

Merry Avtur! I mean, Merry Christmas. I hope all is well with you, wherever you may be celebrating the midwinter Saturnalia and/or all of the religious holidays that mysteriously occur around the same time. (And apologies for the lateness of my wishes for you who celebrated Ramadan...I hope you didn't put on too much undesired weight.)

But let's talk about avtur, which has dominated my life today and yesterday. Avtur is jet fuel, kerosene. It comes in large black barrels. It fuels generators and vehicles around here. It stinks when you spill it on your windbreaker, as I know too well. And my holidays has been dominated by the unloading and reloading of avtur barrels from the Shackleton.

Once all of the other cargo was unloaded - including a couple pallets of beer and wine, which I had the privilege of transporting - it's come down to the several thousand black barrels that need to be moved. So, I get up in the morning, have breakfast, move a couple hundred barrels of avtur, have second breakfast, couple hundred more, lunch....

...and at 7:30pm, I grease my Snow cat (sounds like a euphemism, but it's not), wash off avtur, and have dinner. I wash it off because I've spilt it on myself, not when transporting it, but when refueling our Snow cat with it.

But we also have bulk avtur which can be transported by 5 tonne tanks. If timed carefully, we can be the Snow Cat team that uses the bulk container to refuel. And then, we sit back like fat cats, lording it over the other two Snow Cat teams. They must manhandle barrels around, while we sit back and effortlessly watch our sledge fill with avtur, while we discuss world politics or the weather.

When avtur is your whole life, distinctions like this become very, very important.

And a word on sledges. These vehicles that we use to drag things like fuel around, are the mother of all sledges. I've mentioned the Nansen sledge, a cute little dogsledge-inspired vehicle for the basic survival supplies. These things that transport our fuel are anything but cute. They're called "German sledges", made by a company named Lehmann, and they are awe-inspiring. Capable of moving probably 10 metric tonnes, they extend out their skiis when you pull them, and contract them back up when you push on them (i.e. reverse your towing vehicle). Not really sure what the purpose of this flexibility is, but it looks really cool.

Anyway. Tomorrow, on Christmas day, the -big- ship comes in, containing the Halley VI base. This ship is expensive to lease, and doesn't belong to the British Antarctic Survey (unlike the Shack). So, when it arrives, we all switch over to it for unloading. Which may be a bit of a shock to me, as I will not be unloading avtur. How will I cope? Avtur is all I know about now. What purpose shall I have if I am not involved in its transport?

By the way, I do really miss my regular Christmas, and seeing many of you who read this blog. It's hard to think about Christmas at the moment, which is probably why I'm currently obsessing about avtur. Someone in the ship's galley stuck on some carols, and it really didn't feel good, as it made me think of Stratford and St. Marys, where they blast the stuff out on the streets when it's snowing - a very pretty picture.

I think I wasn't the only Christmas music critic in the galley, for a torrent of profanity was directed at the unfortunate deejay/chef who selected it. Who, to her credit, was able to reciprocate the profanity in spades. I wished I had a pen and paper at the time to record the never know when such expressions may come in handy.

And now, off to bed, with visions of avtur barrels dancing in my head.


Coralee said...

Merry Christmas, Ryan. I've been enjoying your blog.

Becky said...

Merry Avtur, oh wise one. May your snowcat always be well-greased.

Miss you!


Your Family said...

We missed you..... the only plus was that there was a bit more room in the fondue pot!
Stratford did not seem to blare the music this year.........the streets were very quiet on Christmas morning...... we did not have the penguins, but the local ducks had to "stand in".

Luv from your family