Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Tick....tock....waiting for relief.

It's official; the HMS Shackleton raised anchor at noon today in Capetown, and is now on its way down here with all of our supplies and new people. And, it's escorting a much larger ship, containing most of Halley VI. There is a pool on when it arrives; I think I have the afternoon of the 16th. Winner gets a T-shirt.

Question is, where will it land? And will I get to see it? These questions are somewhat related.

I'll back up a moment. Let's talk about ice. There are two major types of relevance: shelf ice and sea ice. Shelf ice is what I'm sitting on right now - or what my building is sitting on, to be specific. The Brunt ice shelf is - for all intents and purposes - part of the continent hanging over the ocean. Pieces of it break off, naturally, but it's more or less a permanent fixture, in some shape. Ice shelves can be huge; mine is several hundred square kilometres, and there are much, much larger ones. And they're thick - a kilometre or more. Enough to support any vehicle or structure

Sea ice, on the other hand, is frozen ocean. Often it's no more than a year old. It can be two, three metres thick; it can be flat or jagged; it can break up and flow away with the current in a matter of days. This happened while I was at Rothera - one day, ice as far as the eye can see, next day, all water.

Anyway. When it comes to unloading a ship, the major question is: are we willing to unload onto sea ice? Or, stated differently: How far are we willing to drive to find the perfect place to unload everything straight onto the shelf?

This is the question that is being debated by loads of people. I haven't figured out the dynamics of who has the final say in this decision, but I believe it's whittled down to two people: Martin, who is in charge of the vehicles, and the captain of the Shackleton, whose authoritas can't be challenged by anyone, of course. A sea ice relief is much more complicated. Heavy vehicles can't go on the sea ice. The construction workers will not go on the sea ice (it's not in their contract, apparently). So, if it's on sea ice, I will probably be at the ship, on the sea ice, unloading it. If not, I'll be at the base, packing stuff away (I've got a spot right below my bed for the London Pride).

It looks like we're down to two places - N9, a shelf ice location about 60km away; and Creek 8, which is a location that Toddy and I found about 10km away that requires a sea ice unloading. I think they're leaning towards Creek 8.

I've filched this picture off the blog of Richard, the base doctor, from last year. This is a sea ice relief.

If it is a sea ice relief, I will probably be sleeping on the ship and not too close to e-mail. But I'll let all y'all know if that's the case!

In the meantime, I'll still be blogging about things and stuff around here. Hopefully until the afternoon of the 16th, so I can score that T-shirt!


Tricia said...

"Y'all?" Obviously, you spent far too much time in Eureka Springs, Arkansas!

Boo said...

Tee heee! You wrote "Waiting for Relief". Heheheee!

Ryan said...

Well, the English language -does- need a second-person plural. And you can never spend too much time in Euraka Springs!