Sunday, 16 January 2011

Just a quick one

Hello all,

Sorry for the radio silence. Unfortunately, it must continue, as I am probably off in the morning to Sky-Blu.

I'm sitting at Rothera writing this. The plane came into Halley pretty much on schedule. It then went out to investigate a mysterious American package - actually, it was just a weather balloon, but we pretended it was something sinister - and then took me over to Rothera.

Fairly uneventful trip, right up to the end. Then, at Rothera, we had a 20 knot gusting crosswind. I had the ever-entertaining Steve King as my pilot, and he gave me last minute instructions as we landed: "If I shout 'ailerons', swing the steering wheel as hard as you can to the right. That will minimize our chances of flipping over." I stood ready; he shouted; I swung. And we landed as neat as could be. He turned to me and said "Were you scared?" And I replied: "No...should I have been?"

He just chuckled. So I don't know if we cheated death or just did another boring routine landing. In the arsenal of Steve's flight stories, though, this one definitely wasn't worth remembering, even if it was high risk. (I don't think it was.)

So it's just like last year - I'll go down to Sky-Blu and wait for a weather window to do pretty much the same thing I did last year. The same thing I do every year, no matter where I go - raise GPS stations. What I was apparently put on this planet to do.

I was planning on providing a map and explaining where I'm going in the next month; but alas, I must get to bed before going (hopefully) first thing in the morning.

So I shall do so when I get back. A bientot!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Ryan Anderson: PRIME MOVER.

[cut to scene: Ryan is sleeping soundly in his bed at 6:12AM on Christmas morning. The door opens slightly and Ben Mapston sticks his head in the room.]

Ben: Ryan.

Ryan [waking up abruptly]: What?

Ben: Ship's in. All Sea Ice people and Prime Movers are to be ready to go to the coast at 7am.

Ryan: Oh.

[Exit Ben. Ryan stares at the ceiling for a few minutes before climbing down his bunk quietly and beginning his morning routine.]

And that, folks, was my Christmas morning. Yes, after waffling around in sea ice for more than a week in a roundabout course to Halley (the last bit is the ship leaving today)...

... suddenly the Shack ended up on our doorstep on Dec 25. Thus, once again, all activities cease and we begin our alter ego roles for relief.

Ah, but I was expecting something a bit different for myself! After multiple reliefs of me being on sea ice - the guy who picks up stuff from the ship and hauls it up to the shelf ice one sledge at a time - this time I was a prime mover. That is, I was the guy who shuttled back and forth between the base and the coast, hauling multiple sledges of cargo at once. Of course, for this task I needed something with a few more gonads. Allow me to introduce you to Challenger 2.

I spent 6 days, 12 hours a day, sitting in this machine, driving back and forth from the coast ("Creek 3") to Halley V, and sometimes to the Halley VI site. 14km each way, between Halley V and both other sites. There are two of us on day shift, and two of us on nights.

Here's the approach to Creek 3:

...and the view of the ship at Creek 3:

Back and forth, all day long. No stops for lunch or smoko (coffee break) - as our manager Ben put it, we were to eat "on the hoof". Driving the Challenger would have been relatively enjoyable - suitably armed with audiobooks as I was - except for one thing:

Hauling several tonnes of fuel across snow doesn't take long to dig in some serious ruts. And Challengers like to bounce. The result is a corduroy road that has you hitting your head on the ceiling, steering wheel, or anything within reach as you travel along. I thought I was just a greenhorn that couldn't handle it, so I didn't say much - but no, even the veterans complained about back problems and abrasions from sliding around the seat so much. I have a photo in my collection of Tim's chafing as a result of constant seat-sliding - but they're barely appropriate for a PG-13 blog.

Occasionally, we were accompanied with a groomer - a John Deere dragging a large weight to smooth out the ruts. On the day shift, this was driven by Kirk - the author of the many videos I may have shown some of you. Grooming was helpful, but you couldn't drive on groomed snow until it had time to set and freeze. Given that most of relief was spent around zero degrees C, this took a long time.

Back and forth, back and forth. Hitch, unhitch. James Goby - my nocturnal alter ego, driving Challenger 2 on the night shift - took this pictures listed in this blog post. Here's one of a sledge:

...and here are two spectators that wandered along our route from the coast to the base, at a more sedate pace:

And then that was it! End of relief. I made my last trip on the morning of Dec 30. Now, I wait for my flight to Rothera. New Year's here was quiet - I didn't stay up for it, as we were working the next day. Our party was the following night - last night, as I write this. Today is our first proper day off in two weeks. I've spent it catching up on stuff that I've neglected for awhile. Like blog entries.