A bit late on Decembers blog! I’ve had a really varied season so far with the biggest difference getting to spend time at BAS’s other Antarctic Research Station – Halley VI. Halley has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years as some previously dormant cracks started opening up in the Brunt Ice Shelf inland from the station. Last year a huge team of Engineers, Drivers and support staff moved the main modules to the other side of the crack (known as the Chasm) only to discover there was another crack (Halloween Crack) even further “inland”. Work continues at Halley this season with a lot of monitoring of the various cracks, readying the base to survive the Antarctic winter without staff and and attempt to fully automate all the long term science that happens.
From a Rothera perspective Halley is the place that all the fuss is made about while the science and field work happens from Rothera. From a Halley perspective Rothera is not the real Antarctic. The main difference for me is that you get bacon rolls for smoko at Halley
At the start of December I spent a lot of time flying around the Ellsworth Mountains with Ian (Pilot) and Ben (Engineer) sorting out more science sites. The views of the mountains were amazing as was getting to stay in the “hotel” at Union Glacier.
Mt Vinson – the highest peak on the continent (4892m) Ben working at one of the sites south of the Ellsworths. The first few sites were al uphill from the plane and involved lugging batteries to and from them. A couple of these sites were at about 8000ft. With the lower air pressure in Antarctica they feel more like 12000ft so its pretty knackering dragging car batteries behind you. Tough place for a lunch stop.Enormous crevasses on the approach to the Union Glacier skiway. Ben walking back to our tent on the guest side of the Union camp. It was great to check out the setup here and catch up with some friends. Flying again – As field guides we spend a lot time in the aircraft. Fellow field guide Julie knitting away on the long flight from Rothera to Halley.Straddling the Chasm. At the start of this season the decision was made not to winter at Halley due to the risk of the Brunt Ice Shelf calving. My first day at Halley I headed out with Jan (Glaciologist) to go and see how the Chasm was progressing. After we had finished the radar work we went out to a site that Jan is monitoring to check it out. The tip of this crack is cutting across the Brunt ice shelf at around 100m a week. Halley VI. The original Halley Base was started in 1956 with the most recent incarnation being commisioned in 2006. The original four bases were snowed in and the staff lived in them underground. Both Halley V and VI were designed to raised to deal with the snow accumulation. I’ve often wondered why you dont see many pictures of Halley from the air. I think part of the reason is that its not a particularly exciting view but also that a lot of attention is focused on the space age modules. The view from above shows the vast amount of infrastructure needed to keep the base running. Above – Halley modules in the centre with the various vehicle lines, container lines, accommodation and garage modules. The lines at the top of the photo are enormous windscoops leading to the “hinge zone” where the Brunt ice shelf meets the continent. Classic Halley view. Christmas day – Doug climbing in Halloween crack. Mark (FG), Doug (Air Mech) and Olly (Pilot) snuck off on Christmas for a quick climb in Halloween crack. Having to ski-doo there, set up the ropes, abseil in etc meant there was only time for a couple of climbs each but a great way to spend Christmas! Some things are the same on Christmas day the world over – lots of washing up!. (Though I’m not sure Marks Hawain shirt and flip flops are standard) Straight after Christmas it was back out into the field for me. I joined Neil at Bluefields depot and then moved to a Depot in the Shackleton Range.Filling in the days with igloo building. Rob (who switched with Neil) came to join me while I did constant Weather observations for the aircraft. 10 days of staring at clouds, drinking tea and reading.
Back to Rothera in the next couple of days and then back into the field for a couple of weeks before heading home.