Category Archives: Midwinter

Snow Clearing and the End of Winter Trips

The last couple of weeks have seen endless low pressure systems hit the Antarctic Peninsular bringing stormy weather and lots of snow.  Winter trips have continued with life as a field assistant meaning alternate weeks on base or out in the field.  This weekend marks the last weekend of winter with the first planes due through Rothera next Saturday.img_0440Adam posing on the ridge between “Max” and “Mouse” in the Stokes peaks.  All the Stokes peaks are named after dogs and are a popular destination for winter trips.  Two days after this Adam and I experienced gusts of wind up to 70 knots (force 12 is described as 64+) which destroyed our toilet tent resulting in some adventurous toilet experiences.img_0238Kate approaching the summit of “Morgan” in the Stokes on her winter trip.  I realised at the end of Kates trip that I will have spent about 12% of my time in Antarctica camped at Trident East.  While not far from base the options for skiing and mountaineering from this camp are amazing.img_8331With planes now due in a week snow clearing has started in earnest with both machines and people power.  Above – Window in the accommodation building surrounded by icicles and buried in snow.
img_8324Snow clearing the runway.  Snow clearing can only happen on good weather days meaning long hours for the Matt the mechanic and the other drivers.img_8323People power on the Hangar doors.  This took ten of us a day of digging and chipping before we could get them open.  Turns out they’re snowed in again now!img_8314Hector watching as Matt clears in front of the Hangar with the JCB 436.img_8378 The last of the winter trips was myself and Al last week.  Above – Al looking up at the next pitch of one of the routes we did on the second day of our trip.  Al and I headed to the other side of the island (back to the Myth campsite) with the hope of climbing one of the bigger peaks.img_0953Al on the summit of Mt Liotard just after 11am.  Mt Liotard was named for a french observer who surveyed the peak in 1909 and is visible from Base across Ryder Bay.  The tenth photo down in this blog post  We heard of a brief weather window on our second night in the tent so left camp early to get up and down before the high winds came in.  You can see the edge of the weather front coming in from the right of the shot.  img_1037Al skiing back to the Ski-doos with the summit (on the right) already in the clouds.  We were pretty lucky with conditions with great snow from col (directly above Al’s head) all the way back down.  Probably about 4km and 1000m of descent on perfect powder!img_1050The other reality of winter trips – Al with a cup of tea and snow melting on the stove.  About 25-30% of the time on a winter trip you are stuck in the tent as the weather is so bad.  The first day of lie-up is usually nice and relaxing and a great chance to do lots of reading.  Books, games and lots of cups of tea are the order of the day.img_8416More normal winter weather.  Al and I spent the last day of our winter trip determined to get out climbing finding some very Scottish conditions.  I’m not even sure if this photo is of me or Al as we were both wearing the same BAS issue clothing.img_8498Even after six months stuck with each other its amazing the efforts people still go to.  Bradders (Polar Bear), Emily (Zebra), Tom (Lion) and Jesus (Girrafe) dressing up for one last saturday night before we get invaded.

Also posted in ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Rothera Winter Team, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

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.

Also posted in Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Midwinter Antarctica, Uncategorized