Sunday, 19 December 2010

Good old pre-relief Halley

Right. Enough with them there foreigners. South Africans, Russians, etc...let's get back to jolly old British soil. By which I mean a floating ice shelf claimed by the UK amidst dispute.

Ah, but it's good to be back! Here's the good old Laws building.

Photo courtesy of Andy Dixon, as my camera is rubbish. It is now officially at the surface level of the snow around it (although it dips in the immediate vicinity). By next year, it may be below the surface, which may make for some pretty dull views from the windows. Once again, I've been lucky enough to score a bedroom on the Laws, which means I don't need to put on boots to get to the bar (which, sadly, I am not frequenting much this year due to my schedule).

Food is starting to run low, though. Ship is a bit late. Here is our drinks fridge:

Those of you who know your refreshments may identify that nothing is left but tonic water and lime bitters. No Coke. No Fanta. That's right - the only two beverages we have left are quinine-based. And we have no gin.

My Simpson buliding, however, remains the same:

(credit: Andy Dixon) The Simpson doesn't bury too much. Andy has taken some great pictures around the station, although he and his Photoshop friend "Shuggy" may have taken a bit of artistic license with the view out the Simpson office window:

Either that, or I'm just not looking out the window at the right times. Usually it's pretty empty out that direction.

Work for me has been same old, same old. Go visit a GPS station that looks like this:

Do a bit of this:

...and leave it looking like this.

and then go back to Halley with nothing but GPS records and a bit of lower back pain to remind me of the trip, until next year. (When someone else will do it!)

I'm a bit pictured out, so I'll save the penguin pics for another post. I'll throw in two, though. I managed to get down to Windy Bay - and once again, my nearby GPS station meant that I got to go before anyone else - and now, the sea ice has broken out yet again and there may not be any more penguin trips this season, so I got lucky. Because I cheaped out and got a £20 camera from a pawn shop, my pictures aren't so hot:

Whereas Chris, pictured above taking a similar picture of me, has a kickass camera: I may end up showing his pictures instead, with his permission.

Relief is about to begin, but I'm base-side for once, not ship-side. I have mixed feelings on this - it's easier at base, but not quite as exciting. And I miss the Shack, which will not be my mode of departure from Halley, it seems. Nope, from now on it my Antarctic work will be in conjunction with this little guy here:

Photo courtesy of Andy Dixon. Man, I wished I spent a few more quid on my camera.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

SANAE and points beyond

Hello all!

Right, where was I? Ah, yes, just landing in SANAE. This is how it went down.

The plane had landed, and we were just getting up and stretching when the back door opened and we were welcomed.

Those who read my blog from the start may recall my first Rothera greeting: "Stay on the plane....and welcome to Rothera." At SANAE, it was a Rasputin-esque guy who threw our back door open and yelled "Looks like these guys need some beer!".

Sure enough, he had a cooler full of Castle beer, and gave us one each as we clambered down from the plane.

Now, so I don't slander the South African SANAE team, I should mention that it was the weekend - they were winterers off duty. But man, these guys knew how to party. And, for the record, our visit wasn't the big party. That was the night before we arrived, when the first wave of BAS people came through. This party was so epic that any mention of it, or pictures thereof, are strictly forbidden.

SANAE, to my view, is the concept of the "man-cave" taken to extreme levels. You ever heard that expression? Some men in the suburbs use it to describe their unfinished basement which has hockey equipment, some token piece of machinery, and a widescreen HD TV. Well, suburban men, your feeble attempts at man-caving have been shown up by SANAE. Here it is on the outside:

And let us enter. Here's the bar. Which, of course, was our first stop.

The general room beside the bar contains a swimming pool and a pool table. I am not permitted to post a picture of this room. Except for this:

I thought this was their wine storage - but no, that's a different room.

Want to kick back and watch some TV? Here's the TV room:

...not, of course, to be confused with the movie room:

There are several more man-rooms - I haven't even hit the industrial gym or the garage - but that should illustrate the point.

Dinner was a further man-cave affair. Being South African, it was a six course meal, each consisting of nothing but meat. No exaggeration. There were six dishes of meat to choose from, and some token potato or something to tip the hat to a balanced diet.

And for a backyard, SANAE has a cliff. Apparently there was a recent death there, where someone drove off it in low contrast and blowing snow. Hard to believe from this picture, but only if you haven't experienced zero-contrast.

Anyway, the bedrooms are kind of bland compared to everything else, but spacious. As I have begun a teetotal diet for this season, I stayed in this room most of the night avoiding temptation (I decided that teetotalling at SANAE meant only two beers and a glass of wine.)

The night passed uneventfully for me, therefore. We were hoping for a second night at SANAE, but the weather cleared just enough for us to get out. Our plane had snowed in, though, so we had to stand around and wait for them to dig it out.

And then that was that - we got on the plane, got to Halley, and here we are. I have a room on the main Laws platform, where the real teetotalling began, as mentioned. Going to bed at 8pm and getting up at 5am has remained effective.

Next post: Rumples, penguins, and modules. Hurrah!