Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Follow the bouncing ball

Gettin' on to two weeks here at Halley. The first week was mainly really crap weather, as the previous entry's video has shown. One interesting difference this season, though; the crazy winds don't rock the base like they used to. Our base, as pictures show, is built on "stilts", to keep us about 20 ft above the ever-accumulating snow.
However, we stopped jacking it up two years ago, in anticipation of eventual demolition when we build the new base. As a result, we're now about half the height we were above the snow in the picture. So a bit less swaying.

But yes, the wind has since abated a bit and I've been going like gangbusters digging out my equipment. Site update:

Raised and reprogrammed: B0, C0, D10, E0, R1
Remaining: A10, A00, R2, R3

Whole lotta digging. Site C0, in particular, was 2m deep under ice. We had to abandon shovels in favour of ice axes. Felt like we were mining, more than digging.

But still, things have progressed quickly, to the extent that I don't think I'll need to keep the running tally - I've knocked off more than half in a week! But soon the Twin Otter will be arriving, and it'll be time to concentrate on my flights again. Including a visit to a certain Aluminium/aluminum/alumium pole who has his own Facebook page.

But getting back to the title of the blog. As Kirk and I were preparing to hit site E00, some work was happening on the Simpson, the science building in which I work. Given a massive onslaught to the main living quarters at Halley, stuff like the gym has been shunted off to our building. Among the gym equipment coming across, there was a large plastic inflated ball - the kind you do situps and press-ups on - amongst the cargo on a sledge. But the ball fell off the sledge on the way to the building.

Generally, no big deal. But it just so happened that there was a brisk 20 km/h that day, and we live on a nice flat expanse of nothing. So off the ball goes. And as I was the only person nearby with a snowmobile at hand, I was the only one in a position to go get it.

This was not as easy as it sounds. First, the ball had about a 0.5km headstart on me before I got my act together and took off. It then bounced under the Laws building, past the garage and the Drewry, and was headed towards the Halley VI construction site. I attempted an intercept about 20ft from the site, but the ball banged into my skidoo almost contemptously and immediately went behind it into a large wind scoop formed by one of the Halley VI modules. This is a depression in the snow in the leeward side of a building - and these particular wind scoops are at least 8 feet tall.

Thinking the ball was trapped, I leisurely got off my skidoo and ambled around the building to trap my quarry. Only to see it merrily bouncing away, regaining at least 200m of distance from me. I don't know how it got out of the scoop, but I could swear it was laughing at me as I swore and scrambled back to my skidoo to resume the chase.

By the time caught up to it again, we had long since left the Halley base perimeter. This time, I sped past it considerably, got off my skidoo, and waited for it to approach. I could almost hear the "high noon showdown" music from an old western, as my own tumbleweed nemesis came ambling towards me. I pounced, subdued the fugitive, and brought him back to the Simpson amidst general applause:

And then I went inside for tea and medals. The plastic ball remains trapped in the room next door, never again to make a mad break for Antarctic freedom. If I hadn't caught it, who knows where it would be by now?

No comments: