Tag Archives: Field Assistant

What are we doing here?

So why are there seven of us on a tiny island for the Antarctic Summer?  First and foremost we are here so the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) has a presence in the South Orkney Islands.  This is arguable (and I should probably be careful what I write here) but with an Argentinian base on the nearby Coronation island the FCO needs to keep the current BAS bases running every year which in turn helps with the British say in the Antarctic Treaty.  Science probably comes equal to that and on Signy science means penguins.  The colonies studied on Signy have the longest data sets of any in Antarctica and they continued to be monitored every year.  Along with the penguins there is also a vast amount of other bird life, seals and mosses and lichens.  Understanding what is happening to the various species in Antarctica over time gives an insight into what is happening in the larger environment.

So seeing as lots of people have asked for pictures of penguins, here it is, lots of photos of the wildlife at Signy.

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Flying the flag at Signy Research Station, Coronation island behind.  If you’d like to have a virtual wonder around Signy Research Station click – here

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At signy we have three types of penguins – Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo.931A9196So can you spot the difference?  While this looks like one massive colony there are actually distinct boundaries between groups of birds.  Sometimes this is birds of different types (this is Adelies and Chinstraps) and sometimes just different groups of the same bird.

People love penguins – I think this is because we find some of their actions endearing and somewhat humanlike – they mate for life, they return to the same colony they were born in to have their chicks and the male and females take turns on the nest and going off to feed.  They also have very little fear of humans and look funny when they walk!

931A9638Tim (the Zoological Field Assistant) has two main study colonies – one of Adelies and one of Chinstraps.  In these colonies he has 100 nesting pairs that he checks every two days.  He checks each nest for number of eggs and/or chicks.  When the chicks are born they will get weighed and their diet sampled as well.  Above – Iain (facilities engineer) recording the numbers as Tim shouts them out.

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Recording at the Adelie colony.

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Adelie penguin posing for the camera.  Its hard not to imbue animals with human traits.  If Adelies were humans they would probably be the village idiot, constantly wondering around, falling over, stealing stones from each others nests and looking quite lost.931A9232The ecstatic display.  At times is hard to imagine penguins showing emotion but this does seem to be a display of pure love and affection – perhaps another reason everyone loves penguins so much.  It usually starts with a slight bow to each other , sometimes twice, there heads almost touching and then they bob and weave there heads either side of each other dipping down as low as there middles.  They then look at each other with there heads close together before looking away as if to check that no-ones noticed.  A pair of penguins might stop and do this every few minutes if they are both at the nest at the same time.

931A9644 Chinstraps on the nest.  The chinstraps are slightly smaller than the Adelies and don’t seem to do quite so much aimless wondering around.931A9199Chinstraps standing around in their pairs.  This has changed now with one of the pair permanently on the nest.

931A9260Gentoo penguins.  The Gentoos are a tiny bit bigger than the Adelies and a lot more skittish.  They also nest further away at the North point of the island.  While the two main study colonies on the Gourlay peninsular get counted every two days the other colonies get counted every couple of weeks.

931A9648Is that meant to be one chick or one egg?  Iain checks his numbers with Tim after another counting session.  

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We also record all seals that we see and in February all of the staff on base will be involved with the annual seal census counting every seal on the island over a few days.  Above – it can sometimes be hard to work out what type of seal it actually is (these are Weddell Seals)

931A9310Leopard Seal.  These are the absolute killing machines of the Southern Ocean and actually responsible for the last fatality at BAS in 2005.  This one was hauled out just below some Adelie colonies having a rest.
931A9360No doubt what type of seal it is when you see a Leopard seal close up.

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Elephant seals – the one everyone loves to hate.  These are enormous animals and they love getting around the BAS bases, keeping you up at night burping and farting.  The bull elephant seals are enormous and can grow to weigh about four tons.  These adolescent elephant seals have found a nice wallow amongst the crosses of some Norwegian Whalers a short walk from Base.  While ridiculous and disgusting on land they are amazing animals with the ability to dive to around 4 km in depth while shutting down their brains, operating on a sort of “auto pilot”.

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Elephant seal pup and its mother.  Pretty much the cutest of all baby seals its hard to imagine it growing into a full size one!

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Fur seal trying to scare me off.  Fur seals are really the only thing we have to watch out for on land.  They look and behave a bit like an angry Doberman and if they do manage to bite you the wound would be pretty dirty.  Sleeping, they look just like rocks and then leap into action either making a big fuss or making for the sea.

931A9247Southern Giant petrel – There are also lots of other bird species on the island other than penguins.

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Cape Petrels in the water at North Point.

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Iain looking down on the Gourlay peninsular on a rare blue sky day.

If seven people seems a lot just to count some penguins here is brief run down of our jobs.  While everyone has set responsibilities its very normal to help each other depending on work schedules etc.

Matt – Station Leader.  Deals with the running of the base, Comms and the bigger picture

Iain – Facilities Engineer.  Keeps us in Electricity and Water

Jim and Tom – Carpenters/Builders.  This year fixing the base and and the huts.

Tim and Mike/ Fabrizio – Zoological field assistants.  Mike and Fabrizio change over this weekend after a visit from the HMS protector.  They have both ongoing science and sometimes other data collection for other papers and PHD students.

Me – Field Assistant/ Field Guide.  Basically anything to do with being out “in the field” from training to helping with data collection to keeping the huts restocked with food and fuel.

Other blog posts coming soon – Life on base (with better photos of the team) as well as more about the Base and the huts and of course some more penguin photos (the first chicks just hatched in the last couple of days).

 

Posted in Adelie Penguin, alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Gentoo, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

The Ernest Shackleton and Signy Arrival

We were on board the Ernest Shackleton for two days before setting off South with Signy Research Station as the first stop. Ive spent a fair amount of time at sea before including yachts on the Wild Coast of South Africa and various tall ships in the South China sea and the North Atlantic and I’ve rarely been seasick. This was all about to change.

Onboard the ship passengers are still referred to as FIDs though there is no longer a “King Fid” declared as there was in the old days of BAS staff going south (Spikes book “In the shadow of Ben Nevis” has a great description of how it was for BAS Staff going south in the 1960’s). Initially I had been a bit put out by us being the first stop as it would have been a good excuse to see the other BAS island bases “Bird Island” and “King Edward Point” on South Georgia. Within a few hours at sea I had changed my mind.  By the first meal I was feeling pretty rough and heard one of the crew comment “It can’t be rough yet – the FIDs are still showing up for food” – sure enough the only thing I managed to show up to after this point was a few very quick meals and the various safety briefings.  The hardest thing about this journey is really that there isn’t much to do even if you are feeling well.  There is some basic exercise  equipment in the hold, a tv lounge, a smoking room and a general lounge or as I did you can just lie in your cabin and stare out of the porthole.

Arriving in the South Orkneys I was relieved to see only open water and no sea ice. With sea ice present it would have been up to me and the Station Leader to organise the relief of the ship over the ice – testing thicknesses etc. In a fragile sea sick state this could have been quite the test. In fact all we had to do was wait for the crew of the Ernest Shackleton to get there tenders ready, struggle into our dry suits and head to the base.

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Jim and I’s cabin on the ship.  These are sometimes shared by four people.  Luckily for me I had the top bunk so could easily see out of the porthole

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One of the less rough moments when I managed to go to the bridge.  The Shack is known for her corkscrewing motion and the fact that she rolls 30degrees.  (That horizon is meant to be straight!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A really exciting briefing. (Biosecurity I think)931A9125

My favourite view.  I was able to lie in my bunk and watch a film on my laptop as long as I alternated between the porthole and the screen every couple of minutes.

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Lifeboat drills on the first morning at Sea.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the last season that BAS plan on using the Ernest Shackleton.  With the new ship currently being built the Shack will end her service next spring and the James Clark Ross the following year.  This calendar on one of the decks shows the progression from two to three ships and down to just the “Sir David Attenborough” and finally it sinking in 2021 (bottom right).  931A9129

Looking a bit pasty but very ready to get off the ship.  After three days at sea I was ready to leave my cabin!

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First view of the South Orkneys931A9145

Jim and a big pile of cargo ready to go ashore.

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The Ernest Shackleton out in the bay as another blizzard rolls in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving not been lived in for eight months the first job was removing the shutters off the window and getting the base habitable (to be sure that we wouldn’t have to back to the ship that night!)

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Various ships crew and staff from other bases came ashore to help dig out the base and unload cargo.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most important cargo was the last off.  I’m holding a case of Glenmorangie and was happy to see Dalwhinnie 15yr old and some Talisker 57deg North come off as well.  Hopefully it lasts us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fresh food that came ashore will be all we get until the next time the ship comes in mid January.  Every piece of fresh food has to be inspected for any wee beasties that might have hitched a ride.  Above – Tim and Mike (Scientists) inspect the cauliflower and remove a few tiny caterpillars.

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Taking the Skidoo around to the other side of the island.  The Shack was only with us for a few days so it was important to make the most use of their tenders while we could.  It felt pretty strange to be putting a skidoo onto a boat and taking it to somewhere I’d never been.

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One penguin, two penguins, three penguins….. Tim doing his first of many penguin counts.  Tim, Mike and I made a quick visit to the main penguin colonies on the Gourlay peninsular on the second day.  This will be Tims main focus for the 5 months and part of my job is to help him.  (Dont worry – lots of penguin shots to come!)

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Its definitely spring here.  The South Orkneys are at 60deg South so gets roughly the same daylight hours as Orkney in the North of Scotland (59deg North).  It is a little colder here month by month however due to not having the gulf stream.

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Signy Island.  Home for seven of us for the next four months.  The base is on the peninsular in the middle of the East coast (tiny black dots)  You can view a pdf version of this map here.

Next blog – life on base and why we’re here.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Ernest Shackleton, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

The Depot That Wasn’t There – Part 1

Summers as a field assistant at Rothera are all about being flexible to changes.  When working on base its possible to wake up in the morning and be told you are flying somewhere for the day, or a couple of days or even a couple of weeks.  With that in mind it should not be a surprise how different my summer ended up looking from the one planned.  Myself and Jo left Rothera at the start of December thinking we were going to the Kohler mountains for her Geology work.  We estimated that we were going to be out there roughly 50 days not knowing that we would be back at Rothera in a week.  We left rothera and headed to Sky Blu – a common place to get stuck as you wait for the weather to improve further south and a plane to become available.  As most of our stuff was in a depot at Mt Murphy we only need one plane and managed to get through Sky Blu having only spent 4 days there.  We flew on to the Depot at Mt Murphy picking up another field assistant (Al) on the way as he also needed stuff from the Depot at Murphy.  On flying in I was sat in the co-pilots seat and it was obvious something was not quite right.  We passed overhead in the plane a couple of times with myself and the pilot (Vicky) both looking for any sign of the flags and kit that was left there 10 months ago.  We landed and Al and I wandered out to the GPS point of where the depot had been.  As the depot was on a glacier we were not expecting it to be in exactly the same place but we did expect to see something of the 3m bamboo flags that mark it.
Antarctica.001931A0539Life at Sky Blu is a lot more comfortable than last year complete with couchs and a decent kitchen.
931A0583Twin Otter landing on the ice at Sky Blu to take us further into the continent.

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Steve with his first cup of tea of the day.  We stopped to swap Steve for Al at one of the depots.  Steve decided to share a tent with me to experience my sleepwalking – little did he know that he would have to put up with a month of it later in the season!
931A0704So we started digging.  We hoped to pick up the top of one of the 3m bamboo flags – probably as close to a needle in a haystack as you can get.  We dug multiple pits to about 1.5m before deciding on a spot of highest probability and digging a trench across the direction of flow of the Glacier.  Al, Jo and Vicky in the trench late in the evening.
931A0679Unsuccessful!  After a day of digging and searching we were told to return to Rothera.  Al, Jo and Vicky walking back to the plane at about 10pm.931A0707Vicky leading Al and I in some yoga before bed.  I think Al (far left) might be inventing his own yoga poses.931A0718The next morning we packed up and headed for Rothera.  Above – Jo contemplating 10hours in a small aircraft.931A0729Flying back to Rothera.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera Research Station, Skidoos, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , |

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.

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

The Myth and Carvajal

I was going to wait another week before doing a blog post but realised it was the end of the month.  August has flown past – I don’t remember it starting and only noticed it was here when my payslip arrived the other day.  We have had lots of sun over the last few weeks with settled weather and winter trips running every week.  I am really realising the value of the winter trips this time round – having four people head off on adventures every week gives us something to talk about other than who hasn’t done the washing up and makes for a much more lively community as people are coming and going.  My first two trips of this round have both been to the same place, the Myth.  The Myth campsite is on the other side of Adelaide Island from Rothera and is at the base of some really impressive mountains (the Myth is a smaller subsidiary peak of “The Legend”).  Camping on the far side of the island feels incredibly remote and even getting there is a bit of an adventure with a lot of time on the skidoos through some crevassed terrain. IMG_8203Self Portrait on the way to the Myth.  Ben and I stopped to savour the first sun we had seen for a couple of months.  It was still -25degC and we discovered our sandwiches had frozen solid.IMG_8202Trying to defrost my sandwich on the skidoo exhaust.  The sandwich stayed frozen but I did have the lovely smell of toast coming out of the engine for the next couple of kilometres.IMG_6882First night at the Myth campsite with the milky way overhead.  Bradders and Octavian were out on a trip as well so it was great to camp as a party of four.IMG_6912On our second day the four of us decided to drive to Carvajal Base.  It was probably -30degC this day and we had to keep stopping as I kept loosing feeling in my throttle hand.  The skidoos are not too bad to drive most days if you wear enough clothing as they have boot warmers and heated hand grips but I think -25 is probably the limit!IMG_7163-HDROriginally a British base and called Adelaide Station it was abandoned in 1977 when Rothera was established and given to the Chilean’s in 1984 who renamed it Carvajal
IMG_7180The base is in a stunning location though pretty run down and its amazing to wander around an Antarctic ghost town.  IMG_8222Above the base is an abandoned plane which is great for random photos.  Bradders and Ben trying to fly the plane.
IMG_8232Another game of scrabble.  Ben and Octavian where both very keen to visit Carvajal so were thankfully not too put out when we got stuck in the tents for three days after we had visited.  “Lie up” days can be great fun with a bit of food and some games.  IMG_7198Emily and I visited Carvajal two weeks later in much warmer temperatures (-15)IMG_7118Emily had asked to build and igloo on her trip so when we woke up in a cloud on the second day it seemed an ideal opportunity.  Emily looking worried about having to build the roof over her own head.IMG_7516Tent and Igloo at night.  We managed to get the roof to stay on the igloo on our second attempt.  The peak above the igloo is “The legend” with the Myth the triangular subsidiary peak to the left.IMG_7545Bradders and Matt had waited a couple of days but came and found us at the Myth campsite.  We did offer for them to stay in the igloo but they declined.  The four of us enjoying the sun.IMG_7553Emily and I also had a day exploring some other areas.  We managed to climb to a coll between two mountains (Mt Mangin and Mt Barre) to get some views back towards Rothera.  Above – Amazing spindrift coming off the Mt Mangin ridge.
IMG_7564The view back towards Rothera in the bottom right of the photo.  As you can tell this was pretty late in the day by the time we got up to the coll (lots of false summits) but it meant for an amazing drive back in the sunset.IMG_7575Emily pleased to have finally made it.
IMG_7578The end is in sight.  My skidoo and sledge in McCallums pass.  Getting through the pass with a good amount of visibility is crucial so its always a relief to get there and find it looking like this.  The photo doesnt show some of the danger in the pass – the severely crevassed shambles glacier is heading down to the sea on the left and the pass goes up to the right of the mountain the skidoo is heading for (and through some more crevassing).IMG_8205Cant wait to get rid of the beard.  I am now trying to hang on until I’ve had it for a full year but it is pretty frustrating when your beard freezes to your moustache and you cant open your mouth!

The high pressure has broken at Rothera with a fairly stormy weekend but I’m currently waiting to see what the weather does tomorrow for my next winter trip – this time with the dive officer Kate.

Posted in British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Long Exposure, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Myth campsite, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Rothera Winter Team, Uncategorized Also tagged , , |

The Other Side of Winter

Its easy to keep taking photos of the stunning scenery here, the icebergs, glaciers and snow-clad mountains but for this month I have tried to focus on life on base and to try and answer some of the questions that have come my way.  With no sensible way of getting anyone away from the base we are all “stuck” here until the first plane comes in October.  A few people have asked why BAS need people to overwinter in Antarctica.  There is some marine science done from Rothera over the winter either diving from boats or through holes in the ice.  Obviously if you need some people to be on the base the list quickly grows – if theres diving there should probably be a doctor and boatman, these people will need basic amenities like water, electricity, housing etc, these people will then need to be cooked for and so on.  The list quickly grows.  Another reason is so that Britain continues to have a say in the Antarctic treaty.  With these things in mind there are 21 of us based at Rothera over winter, Station Leader, Chef, Doctor, Communications Manager, four Field Assistants, Dive Officer, Three Marine Scientists (I am sure I will get some abuse for not actually knowing there job titles!), Boatman, Two Plumbers, Chippy, Sparky, Mechanic, Generator Mechanic, Electronics Engineer and Meteorologist.  Most people work 9-5 Monday to Friday with everyone taking turns to do a day of “gash” (cleaning) and to cover for the Chefs day off.  While we work core hours if something needs done then people just get on with it and its pretty normal to have a few people helping on big jobs (like digging out doorways).
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The Flag lowering ceremony.  As the most senior person on base (his tenth winter in Antarctica!) Dave lowered the British flag last week to mark the last time the base will see direct sunlight for a few weeks.  Our days are getting shorter by 7-8minutes every day making the lack of daylight really noticeable from one weekend to the next.  The flag will be raised again by the youngest person on base in about two months time.IMG_2723

Its not all pretty sunsets.  Ben walking to work (9am) last week as the base was slammed by rain, sleet, snow, winds up to 50knots and temperatures up to +9degrees C.  Even walking between buildings can be pretty hazardous.IMG_2593

Digging out one of my sledges.  All the field assistants have at least two sledges of kit for their winter trips stored about 4km from base with easy access to the mountains.  While Antarctica is the driest continent, we do live in one of the places that gets the most precipitation and digging out your sledges can be a fairly common activity.  IMG_2728

School.  As there are a variety of skill sets throughout the staff people occasionally run sessions so that you can learn about their trade.  We had a “Doc School” the other day with Doc Tom (right) showing us how to use the X-ray machine.  In Toms case its important to run these sessions in case of a major incident so that people are able to assist him (or fix him!).  I have no idea why Calum, Ben and Adam look so serious!IMG_2726

The real men of Antarctica.  Nelly the Generator Mech (left) and Maybell the Mechanic (right) using the D4 to move some fuel around.  With the ice we have all around the base just now even this machine was sliding around.IMG_2608

With the long nights we have to find ways to amuse ourselves.  Friday after work drinks in the Genny shed for a change of scene.IMG_2677

Tom (Doctor) and Rob (Plumber) in serious discussion at one of many fancy dress evenings.  (this was a masquerade ball)
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Table Tennis – probably the most popular Antarctic sport.  I would guess that there a few of us currently playing a minimum of about 7hrs of table tennis a week complete with a leader board and a handicap system.IMG_2566

Sea Ice.  The sea ice of lack of sea ice is a daily conversation on base.  This affects whether the boats can go out or whether people will be travelling on the ice to cut holes and dive from the ice itself.  Both the boating or the sea ice could involve any number of people from base.IMG_2599Sea ice party on the ice in the early afternoon.IMG_2600The tag out board.  One of the things I struggle with most down here is the lack of freedom to go where and when you want.  The tag out board is used to show your movement around various places both on the base and off it.  The white tags are everyones names (mainly tagged into their rooms) and you move your tag to where you are about to go while also recording it in a book with the time you expect to be back.  The four tags in the bottom right are “in the field”- basically out on a winter trip.  You can also see a VHF in the bottom right.  We all carry VHF at all times.IMG_2604Lewis (Chef) helping out Matt (Mechanic) in the kitchen even on his day off.
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More digging.  You should just be able to make out Nelly digging out the Hangar doors.  In the winter the Hangar is used for most of the big machinery.  Theres always something needed dug out.IMG_2537

There are no simple jobs.  Almost everything you do seems to involve digging stuff, moving stuff, finding and starting a skidoo and usually asking for help on the VHF.  Hector (Chippy) loading old plasterboard into the skip in the hangar.
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The good news is most of those boxes are cheese.  The bad news is we had to move them all from the freezer to count them and then put them back again.  Lewis (chef), Malcy (Station Leader) and Al (Field Assistant) in the middle of the count.
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Some people do work at random times.  John (Meteorologist) has to send weather balloons up three mornings a week as well as doing Met Observations at three hourly intvervals.  John releasing a weather balloon after I had messed up the first one by dropping recording instrument (the little white box).IMG_1853

Marine Science happens all year round and the marine team usually needs crew to come out on the boats with them.  Saz (left) and Emily (right) being helped by Octavian (Electronics Engineer).  Helping on the boats is a great break from normal routine but can be incredibly cold with no direct sunlight.IMG_1848Permanent sunset from the boatIMG_1872The Winter Team.  Back row from Left – Dave, Al, Calum, Emily, Saz, Octavian, Rob, Nelly, Lewis, Bradders, Maybell, Hector, Tom.  Front row from Left – Malcy, Ben, Chris, John, Kate, Adam, Me and Jesus.

 

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Rothera Winter Team, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

Winter

Antarctica doesn’t really have an Autumn perhaps because there’s no trees.  Or maybe its just a British Antarctic Survey thing where you go straight from the Summer season to the winter one just to simplify things.  With twenty one of us left on base and the last ship gone a few weeks ago we are very much into our winter at Rothera.  This means shorter working hours (theres now only 1.5hours between meals instead of 2) rapidly decreasing daylight and of course winter trips.  All staff who winter get two weeks off base away on a winter trip.  These trips are a combination of a chance to get a break from life on base (and for others to get a break from you!), learn new skills and get the “real” Antarctic experience.  With four field assistant at Rothera two of us head out roughly every two weeks with another person in tow somewhere on Adelaide island.IMG_0609

 Octavian on the summit of Trident peak on the first day our winter trip.  Options for winter trips include Mountaineering, Climbing, Skiing and Snowboarding, Crevasse exploring, Skidoo sightseeing trips and drinking tea (or whisky) in the tent.IMG_0686

Enjoying a cup of tea in his hammock.  Rothera is almost visible over the left edge of the Hammock.  You don’t have to get far away from base to feel pretty remote.  IMG_0695

Skidoos leaving camp.  Skidooing outside of the Rothera flagline involves being linked up just in case one goes into a crevasse.  You can just make out the rope coming from the back skidoo.  The sledge between the skidoos carries the emergency gear and pretty much goes everywhere with you.  Basically enough food, fuel and kit to spend three weeks fixing your skidoos.

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Stunning views North after some easy mountaineering in the Stokes peaks.

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As there is always two trips out at the same time its great to camp together and go visit the other tent in the evening.  Or in this case follow in the other parties footsteps all day and not have to break trail.  Octavian and Ben looking happy with their day in the Stokes.

IMG_0709My second trip was with Saz.  Despite being stuck in the tent for a couple of days we got quite a bit of climbing and mountaineering done.  Saz below “Spiritual Harmony” on Trident peak (the curving gully on the left)

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Milky way over the tent at night.  There some amazing photography opportunities if you and your camera can face the cold.  This took me a while to get right as it was pretty cold and I had had a couple of glasses of Port. IMG_0743The tents are really comfortable especially with both the stove and tilley lamp going.  Saz making Chocolate fondu as dessert after a cheese fondue for our main course.  Saz and I had decided when we wrote the proposal for her trip that photography and food were going to be a priority, we ended up with a huge amount of cheese and chocolate, pizza, pancakes, full brunch with homemade tattie scones and a fair bit of booze

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Skidoos under the edge of N26 Nunatak.  Saz and I headed here to snowboard in the big bowl in the middle of the photo.  Our skidoos had struggled to get this far so at least we knew there was lots of deep powder to fall into.IMG_0767

Feeling pretty happy to have survived one of my few snowboard runs in the last few years

IMG_0782Crevasse exploring is always pretty popular.  Stunning and beautiful for the winter tripper and a bit stressful for the Field Assistant.  Saz abseiling into the second chamber of a crevasse we found.  I was standing on a very hollow sounding floor at this point so we didn’t stay long.

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Drying clothes inside the tent at the end of the day.  All that stuff hanging in the roof is hopefully going to be dry by the morning!  You can also make out the speaker (small red thing in the centre) for the music, the jar of Marmite (standard BAS issue) and a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yr old.

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Winterers can also choose to go “Man-Hauling” – basically skiing and pulling pulks rather than using ski-doos.  I went to pick up Al and Lewis from a manhauling trip last week and took my big lens to get some shots of them steaming to the end.

IMG_0960When not on winter trips theres still plenty of fun to be had near to Rothera.  The Ski-in, Ski-out accommodation helps.  Al loading a skidoo for another quick mission outside the accommodation building.

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Scoping out another ski line

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The sea ice was also forming last week so we did a couple of training sessions on how to assess it for safe travel.  Dave showing the dive team what to do on the first day that the sea ice was thick enough.  Personally I think the idea of travelling any distance on sea ice is pretty crazy but it is a necessity for the dive team who still have sciencey stuff to do throughout the winter (and who have to dive under the ice!)

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Skiing out on the sea ice surrounded by icebergs.  The ice has to be 20cm thick to travel on.  The bindings on the skis are just bendy plastic that strap onto insulated work boots.

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John testing the waters. You might be able to spot how we cut the hole in the ice.

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Theres been some clear nights in the last couple of weeks so its been great to be outside with a camera.  The full moon has been spoiling it somewhat though I spent a great evening with John, Tom and Adam at the cross taking surreal photos.  Above – John (meteorologist), Tom (Doctor) and Myself admiring the view.
IMG_2489The weather doesnt always play ball!  Above – Hector topping out of a mixed route in the spindrift having experienced hotaches for the first time on a day when we thought there would be no wind.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Long Exposure, skiing, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , |

Work and Play

I’ve taken a vast amount of photos in the last few weeks since getting out of the field and haven’t really had the time to sort them into any semblance of order.  Hannah and a few others have commented on seeing photos of the “behind the scenes” stuff as well the pretty landscapes so I’ve been trying to get a bit better at taking these.  There is a couple of shots in here from earlier in the season as well.IMG_7317Serious science under the wing of a twin otter.  We are constantly surrounded by beautiful things but sometimes the pictures dont tell the full story.  This was in mid December with Mark and Hugh – this was taken just after midnight as I waited for Hugh to fit some ground penetrating radar into the hole Mark and I had just dug.  Always beautiful places but there is a lot of waiting around.
IMG_9428 The glamorous life of a field assistant.  Bradley trying to find some beefburgers in one of the many freezers.  In the end we unpacked about a third of the this freezer and still failed to find them.IMG_0485The HMS Protector in Ryder bay.  We have had a couple of ships in the last week, the protector and the final call of the Ernest Shackleton.
IMG_9445A very British BBQ.  We provided an a couple of days skiing for the crew of the Protector and then had a joint BBQ down at the wharf.  Not a massively glamorous location but the containers did make a good wind break.
IMG_8818 Octavian and Saz dismantling the sea ice camera.  Single day science stuff happens at very short notice whenever the weather plays ball – luckily most people need a field assistant to help get them to the site.  This camera was meant to take a photo a day for a year – unfortunately it was taking a photo a minute and only lasted a couple of weeks!IMG_8796 The glamorous life of a field assistant part 2.  Al sewing pockets in his tent.  You can just make out the climbing wall behind the tent – we definitely have the best office on base.IMG_8795 Three field assistants and the Comms manager, Danny hauling new batteries up to the radio repeater.  Each pulk had two batteries in each weighing 50kilos.  The guys looked pretty tired when they got back from dinner.IMG_8781 Rob walking out from an afternoons skiing in Stork Bowl – ski trips out of the flag line cross the boundary of work and play.IMG_8772 Al having a hard day at work.IMG_8104 Another science day trip.  Otty picking up “Algae samples” – judging by the huge elephant seal next to it I have no doubt what it was she was really collecting.  This was a pretty easy day for me as I was only there in case we got left out overnight.IMG_8089If I wasnt a Field Assistant I’d want to be a boatman – Adam coming to pick us up from some Algae sampling at Mackay point.IMG_9410We decided to head over to this extremely blue berg when out on the boat one day to check it out – unbelievable colours under a dark sky.
IMG_8466Otty also needed some samples from the nearby peaks.  Emma joined us (even though she is a marine biologist) and we decided to do a traverse of the three Stork peaks.  There were obviously no penguins or seals up there so it wasnt a surprise to me that there was also no “Algae”IMG_8455Otty and Emma enjoying the view from North Stork.IMG_7961More Science – I headed out with Ali (and two pilots, Al and Andy) so that she could fix the an automatic weather station.  Once I’d got us all across the non existant bergschrund I got to watch Ali do lots of things I didnt really understand.IMG_7966Andy and I amusing ourselves while we wait for Ali to finish (the swords are old geological markers)IMG_8121Another day another sciency thing.  Sam about to start working on a station that measures glacial rebound (how quickly the ground is coming back up after the ice has been removed) at Cape Marsh.IMG_8124Sam and Pippa checking out the extremely small Chilean hut at Cape Marsh.IMG_2349A happy elephant seal.

The last ship left this morning leaving only 21 people on base for the next six months.  Snow and strong winds made a fitting first day of winter.  Now its on to winter recreational trips for all the wintering staff.

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Sky Blu

Still getting through the backlog of photos so heres another post with some shots of Sky Blu where I was based for a couple of weeks in November last year and a few days off and on in the last couple of months.  Sky Blu is a blue ice runway and field camp roughly 600km south of Rothera which is permanently staffed by at least three staff for the summer season.  When I first flew into Sky blu after my week at Fossil Bluff (http://www.mountainstotheseaphotography.com/2015/12/fossil-bluff/) I could not believe how cold it was.  As Sky blu is at 4500ft above sea level it gets pretty cold and gets some incredibly high winds.  On the day I arrived it was -25degC and about +25deg inside the hut!  The runway at Sky Blu is essential to BAS operating deeper into the Antarctic Continent as the runway is made of blue ice allowing the larger airplane (Dash 7) to land on wheels allowing more cargo and fuel to be flown in.  The camp is staffed by two “mechs” and a field assistant with the mechs keeping the various machines working and clearing snow and the field assistant covers met observations, communications and various day to day chores around the camp.IMG_6266The pilots accommodation at the far end of camp.  All of the huts and tents are very spread out due to high winds.
IMG_6273The living melon hut and the various other tents strung out in a line.IMG_6263Inside the pilots melon hut
IMG_6330Inside the living melon hut.  Blair (far left) Brian (middle in orange) and Stu (far right) spent most of their summer at Sky blue going back to Rothera for a break about every three weeks.IMG_6332The comms desk and food storage.  IMG_6335Sky blue from one of the nearby peaks.  The two dots on the right are the melon huts and the other dots in line are (in order) the toilet tent, weatherhaven (sleeping) and the Garage.  The smaller dots are stores of various things.IMG_6309 There are a couple of peaks around Sky Blu which are great for a quick outing.  Brian, Blair and Bruno on “Mende”IMG_6340 Blair strolling up “Lanzerotte”IMG_6360 High winds outside the living Melon HutIMG_6426 There is also lots of ice.  While there were a few of us waiting around we managed a pretty good game of curling using large food tins and various brushes.  Cheese, Al and Sam discussing the rules.IMG_6448 Cheese in actionIMG_6552 Stu in giving a tin of beans some speed.IMG_6620 Facilities at Sky Blu are pretty limited.  After we had been there a couple of weeks Stu rigged up a shower.  I think this is Sam showering but I didnt want to zoom in.IMG_6655 Inside the sleeping tent.IMG_6658The sleeping tent.IMG_6657One of the coolest things I learnt while at Sky blue is that when its cold your washing freezes and then becomes dry without every becoming wet again.  This was a complete revelation to me (called sublimation) but probably not to most people who paid attention in school.IMG_6668Probably my favourite thing at Sky Blu was the ice crystals in the underground garages.  IMG_6678Midnight on Doppler Nunatak.

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R is for Rothera?

I usually try for one blog post a month with around twelve photos.  Although I have managed this so far I can feel the photos building up and theres nothing worse than just hiding them away on a harddrive.  I also realised that I had not yet posted anything about Rothera where I am ultimately based for a year and half.  As a field assistant Rothera is the home we return to from the field complete with amazing food, internet access, phones, a bar etc etc.  It is also where all the equipment gets shipped into the field from but for most field assistants the R is really for Recreation.  While there is a decent area for people to ski and snowboard in (within a flagged area) all the staff at Rothera need a field assistant with them if they want to go outside this area.  Though this does mean that there is a slight tinge of work to your days off it does also mean you get to all the best places.  Included in this post is a few photos from the last four months when I have been briefly back at Rothera.IMG_5822Icebergs against the shore at the point.  This was taken on one of my first evenings on base in October.IMG_5837Cross at sunset at the Southern end of Base.  Mat Etheridge and Al Docherty trying not to shiver in the wind.
IMG_5838New Bransfield House (looking Northish)  New Bransfield holds the Dining room, Library, Bar, TV rooms and computer room.IMG_5899Admirals building at the start of season.  My window is the second alongIMG_5900Standard en suite room in Admirals.IMG_8046Rothera from the North.  The big building on the left is New Bransfield, the Yellow tower is the Comms tower and the building to the right is Admirals.IMG_5914Twin Otter being loaded with a skidoo (its a tight fit!) Rothera has the furthest south hard runway of any of the Antarctic bases so is also a busy airport.  IMG_2290Malcy leading the top pitch of “Blue Sky White Berg” (HVS) with the edge of the runway just visible at the bottom of the photo.  There are over 100 rock, ice and mixed routes within a quick skidoo of base.IMG_2325Me leading the top pitch of “Final Countdown” (E1)
IMG_6032The edge of Stork Bowl.  There is two ski slopes within the base flag line and then numerous other skiing oppurtunities on the surrounding peaks.  Stork Bowl is as much of a powder trap as there seems to be nearby.
IMG_6042 First line in Stork Bowl.IMG_6104 Thought I better include a picture of someone snowboarding (Tom Griffin)IMG_6119 Fran cruising.IMG_6139 Sam getting low on his telemark turnsIMG_7919 More climbing.  Al Docherty pulling through the steep section of “Release the Bats”(VS (though potentially a bit of a sandbag))IMG_7973In the show crevasse.  The show crevasse is used for training and recreation.  A quick lower or abseil into a crazy world of ice chandeliers.  Usually as a mountaineer you avoid going anywhere near crevasses but I have to admit it is pretty amazing to wander around the bottom of one for a while.
IMG_7978 The climb back out of the show crevasse.IMG_8008Rothera also has plenty of wildlife.  Elephant on the beach at Mackay point to the North of Rothera.  During the summer these are everywhere at Rothera burping and farting constantly and trying to sleep on the runway.IMG_8037 Sleepy Adelie.  Seeing as there have been complaints that I havent put any penguin pictures up yet I thought I better get one in.  Being in the Field all summer means that I have missed most of the penguins being around but I’m sure this wont be the last penguin you see on the blog!IMG_8131We very occasionally get tourist ships visit.  Today we had the “Fram” and they were kind enough to let us use their hottub!

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