Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sea Ice, Divers and the Raising of the Flag

July has been a month of change at Rothera.  The start of the month saw us getting back to work after the excitement of the Medivac followed by the midwinters week as well as our first decent high pressure system of the winter with clear skies, no wind and rapidly forming sea ice.  I have spent a few days in the last month helping the dive team so thought I would focus this months blog on photos of them (mainly because I think they’re insane).  Diving happens year round at Rothera either from boats or from holes in the sea ice.  With the good weather at the start of the month the sea ice was quickly strong enough to hold a Skidoo and a couple of holes were cut in “Hangar Cove”.

IMG_6015-HDRSea Ice as far as the eye can see.  This is actually the view North from just below the main building on base.  Our permanent sunrise /sunset over the icebergs.   Hangar Cove is on the far left of the picture. IMG_6025 The dive hole in Hangar Cove getting cleared of any ice build up.  The ice was 50cm thick and the hole is cut with a chainsaw with the blocks then pulled out with ice screws.IMG_6038 I’ve never been sold on diving as a recreational activity and I’m definitely not sold on doing it underneath 50cm of ice.  With any diving at Rothera someone is sent out half an hour early as “Seal Watch”.  If any Leopard seals are spotted the dive is called off.  Leopard seals have been known to attack divers and even boats – now imagine getting in that hole!IMG_6058Kate (Dive Officer) getting ready to go in.  The dive team have various ongoing science projects which involve collecting and monitoring different species.
IMG_6067 Saz looking extremely happy!IMG_6075Kate and Saz (Marine Assistant) getting kitted up by Malcy (Base Commander) and Ben (Marine Scientist).IMG_6121Adam (Boating Officer) and Ben monitoring the divers with Rothera in the background.  There is also a second hole over to the left (not seen in the photo) for emergencies.  
IMG_6115
Saz finishing the dive.  I have been assured that its actually quite warm when you’re swimming around.  Waiting for the divers on the surface is usually freezing!IMG_6139 While the sea ice was good the four field assistants headed out to test it so that others could go out on it.  Dave giving the tide crack a good hit with a bog chisel while Al looks on.  The tide cracks are usually the weakest part – in this one you could see the water moving in the crack but the ice on the other side of it was over 20cm thick.

IMG_6159
Mt Liotard and Ryder bay.  With the permanent sunset and and amazing colours of the ice we had a spectacular ski on the sea ice drilling holes every 100m to test how thick it was and managed to ski all the way round the peninsular that Rothera sits on.
IMG_6184Skiing on the sea ice with Jenny island in the distance.
IMG_6192 Getting close to the icebergs on the sea ice is amazing though you cant get too close in case one rolls.IMG_6203 IMG_6215 IMG_6218
IMG_6800 The sea ice disappeared pretty quick after a stormy couple of days so it was back to the boats for the divers.  Above – Adam looks on as Kate gets Ben ready for a dive.  Helping out on the boats is great to get a glimpse into other peoples work day.IMG_6818 Ben and Saz coming up after a successful dive.  The grey stick poking out of the water on the left is the seal prod in case one gets to close.IMG_6829 I think he’s smiling.IMG_6848-HDR On the 23rd someone finally saw the sun on base and we raised the flag to mark the end of the dark period.  Traditionally the  youngest raises the flag and gets to say a few words.  This year Bradders had the honour and read us a great poem while we sipped gin and tonics with glacial ice.IMG_8189Bradders raising the flag as Jesus and Hector look on.

The days get longer really quickly down here with about 9 minutes of extra light a day.  We currently have enough light to ski after work and the winter trips have started again so if the weather plays ball August will hopefully mean more skiing and climbing and less time on base.

Posted in Uncategorized

Midwinter

Blog post is a little bit late for June for various reasons but here goes.

I was trying to sum up what Midwinter is all about but found this on the BAS website “On Tuesday June 21st, scientists and support staff based at research stations in Antarctica will celebrate Midwinter’s Day, the shortest day of the Austral Winter. In a tradition that goes back to the early days of exploration on the continent, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) staff will sit down to a festive meal and exchange gifts.

They will also listen to the BBC World Service’s annual Midwinter’s Day broadcast. This year’s programme is presented by Cerys Matthews of BBC Radio 6 Music and will include personal greetings to everyone working at BAS’ research stations. BAS has four stations which it operates over the winter months; Bird Island, Kind Edward Point, Rothera and Halley VI. There are a total of 46 staff wintering at those stations.”

Our midwinter celebrations ended up being moved back a week in order for us to get our runway ready for a Medivac from another station.  It is pretty amazing how collaborative the various nations are in Antarctica and it was interesting to talk to the teams flying in.  The final flight to the south pole was during midwinter itself, which had never been done before.

IMG_3159

The last sun I saw.  A couple of weeks before the Midwinter festivities and the Medivac Saz and I nipped out to climb a route on “Middle Stork” and managed to get to the summit in time for a couple of minutes of sunlight.  All we get at Rothera right now is a couple of hours of dusky permanent sunset/riseIMG_4147Ready for the Medivac.  I am sure the pilots were reassured to hear that Rothera has a fire department.  Al and I dressed for success next to the fire truck.IMG_4170Saz signalling one of the Twin Otters in with Base in the background.  Note her homemade signaling devices (maglights with plastic wrapped around them!)IMG_4274The final plane took off quite late at night in some fairly wild conditions.  Above – its pretty rare for us to see Twin Otters taking off at night but this was actually early afternoon I think.IMG_4289Rothera lit up at night.  After the last plane had left Al, Tom and I went up the hill behind base to get some pictures of base lit up.  The runway and the Hangar are not usually lighted up in the winter.
IMG_4738Checking out all the Midwinter gifts.  At the start of winter we all pulled names out of a hat for someone to make a gift for.  The various workshops around base got pretty busy (as did anyone with any crafty skills to share) in the last few weeks but culminated in some amazing gifts.  Hours of midwinter day were taken up examining all the various gifts and asking how various things had been designed or made.IMG_4809Lewis working hard in the kitchen.  It cant be denied that Lewis was the real hero of midwinter at Rothera.  He’d been planning his menu since he first heard about the job and spent a lot of time in the build up prepping things for the day.  IMG_4766The Eleven course midwinters meal.  We had to start at 4pm just to fit all the courses in.IMG_4802Another tough day in AntarcticaIMG_4837Adam making some tough decisions at the cheeseboard. IMG_4836

Group photo in the Comms Tower as we listened to the midwinter broadcast, complete with Cerys Matthews singing Happy Birthday to a couple of the guys on base.

I was on “nights” just before Midwinter and had some time to edit some of the timelapse I’ve shot over the last couple of months.

Posted in Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Midwinter, Midwinter Antarctica, Uncategorized