Fossil Bluff

After my last post I recieved a few emails from friends asking for more information, more writing and to know what it is I am up to.  I will try and fill in the gaps a wee bit though I do like the thought of people having to do a little homework and look things up!

I am currently working as a Field Assistant for the British Antarctic Survey.  BAS conduct enviromental science  in Antarctica and also hold a presence on the continent to get a say in the Antarctic treaty.  The field assistant job was described by my manager (the Field Operation Manager) as facilitating the science in the field.  While this is true for all jobs with BAS the field assisstants are the ones on the ground making sure that the scientists (beakers in BAS terminology) stay safe, everything from glacier travel to cups of tea.  The job is varied with loading and unloading vehicles, skidoo driving, camp managing and cooking, taking people skiing and climbing for their recreation, endless digging and the slightly randon co piloting of planes.

I am on an 18 month contract with BAS and will be based at Rothera until early 2017.  The two summers will be filled with field work and the winter with recreational trips for the wintering staff who all get a couple of weeks holiday skiing, climbing etc.

I am briefly back at Rothera after a few weeks on various projects and will try and get up a couple of blog posts up before I head out again.

First up I was sent off to Fossil Bluff which is a very small BAS base operated by just two staff during the summer months.  It has a reputation as a bit of a holiday spot as the only real work is giving weather observations (Met Obs) every hour and refueling planes that come in on their way further south.  Fossil Bluff is about 300 km from Rothera on Alexander Island looking out on the George VI Sound.  The hut was built in 1960 and was actually wintered in by 3 men in the winter of 1960/1961.  The place oozes history and the book about the first winter, “The Silent Sound” is a great insight into the “old days” where the men would throw their rubbish out the door and let the wind blow it away, had an underground snow toilet and a generator that stopped working 2 weeks after they had been abandoned (in true antarctic style they also ran out of food and fuel for their stove).


Flying into Fossil Bluff. The hut is in the bottom right of the photo with a thin white line leading to the hut (its a path in the scree).


Busy night at the bluff. My first night there we had three planes stop with us as the weather was too bad to fly back to Rothera.  This is the main room of Fossil bluff with the reflex stove in the middle and a sink etc around the corner.  The only other room is food store.


Matt eager to unload a few barrels of aviation fuel. Almost any job you do with Aviation fuel it ends up on you and it really does stink.


Unfortunately the beer wasnt full!


Looking across the sound.  The small green hut is the generator shed.  The thing at the bottom right of the photo is the Emergency Caboose (currently on its side after the winter)


Cab hill and the mountains behind. The Cab is from an old “tractor” – I should be driving a newer version of these soon


View out of the door


Emily and I relaxing on the balcony inbetween some plane refueling. I ended up at Fossil Bluff for a week, 2 days of which I was working with Dave who was then replaced by Emily


Emily doing the only work of the hour. Radioing in with a Met OB


One of the Twin Otters coming in to the skiway


Emily skiing off to Belemite valley on a no fly day.


My last night at the bluff. Talisker and a homemade lasagne.  You can see the sleeping bunks at the back.  There just one main room and a food store but its pretty homely.

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