Tag Archives: Rothera Research Station

Digging Season

I’m back at Rothera.  It slowly occurred to me over the summer at home that working in Antarctica didnt have to be a one off and an email from the Field Operations Manager as I boarded a plane to Tanzania offering me a couple of months work was too big a temptation.  It feels great to be back at Rothera helping train new staff, eat amazing meals, go skiing after work and of course do lots and lots of digging.

This season I am doing a variety of work for BAS both from Rothera where I was for my 18 month contract and also at Halley on the Brunt Ice shelf.  The first part of my season is focused on Instruments.  This is based from Rothera with trips between a day and week to service, relocate or replace instruments that record Glacial Re-bound, Ice shelf movement or the weather.  As a Field Guide my job is to help the pilot spot crevassing and a good landing spot, help access the site (deciding to rope up or not, to use skis or not or just to wander on over) and then help with any digging.  If the trip is overnight the Field Guide also sets up camp and sorts food and water out while the Pilots/scientists/engineers are doing their work.

First up a few photos from some training etc around Rothera.
931A5763

This summer there is a large focus on training at Rothera.  I have learnt things this summer that I should have known two years ago when I first started.  One of the main things has been sharing knowledge with the pilots who we spend a lot of time with.  Above – a group of field guides staring at a plane at the ski-way above Rothera.  This was aborted due to high winds in the end but the end of a training exercise in how to lay out Ski-ways in the field and on safe loading of Aircraft.931A5766

The high winds were quite obvious above the Stork hills.931A5788

New Field Guide, Tom Lawfield practicing crevasse rescue with the added complication of unconscious people (the green bag behind him) and pulks.  All done from the safety of the sewing loft!931A5799

Blair carefully digging up a seismometer a few kilometers from base.  Science gear weighs a lot and even being able to drive Ski-doos to within about a kilometer of this site it probably took us the best part of two hours for Blair, Ben and I to get everything onto the pulks and tow it back up the glacier.
931A5819

Elephant seal cleverly blocking the two doors I use most on base – Accomodation on the left and “Fuchs” the field guide office and store on the right.
931A5857

More training.  Fuchs being used by some of the fire team to practice blind searchs.

Instrument work.Antarctic Novjpg.001

Where I’ve been in the last week.  The good thing about instrument work is getting to lots of places.  The bad thing is spending lots of time in the aircraft.931A5874

First up I did a day with Ben (Electronics Engineer) and Ian (Pilot) to the Welch Hills and Traverse Mountains a short flight south of Rothera.  These sites were in a spectacular location a short flight down the peninsular931A5924

Old depot – new science.  While at the second site we were also meant to remove an old depot.  We had originally thought that the depot was American but on opening the manfood box we realised it was British.  (The marmite is the giveaway!)  This food was pre- use by date but some of it was manufactured in 1970.  The chocolate still tastes great but we werent brave enough to try anything else.931A5926

Ian towing another sledge of junk back to his plane.931A5929

Next up I flew up to the Larsen C ice shelf with two glaciologists.  Above – even for one night in the field with 4 people theres a lot of kit!931A5937

Science on the Larsen C.  The larsen C has become well known in recent years after the collapse of the Larsen B iceshelf in 2002.  Recently the largest Iceberg ever recorded (the A68) broke off the Larsen C.  BAS personnel now have to have a plane with them at all times while working on this Iceshelf.931A5940

A68 Iceberg edge.  One of our tasks was to photograph the A68 Berg which is reported to be the same size as Wales or London depending who you ask (A bit like saying “as deep as the grand canyon” it doesnt really mean anything other than its really big).931A5970

Flying along the edge of the Berg.931A5991

Hammer plate Seismic’s on the Larsen C, Emma manning the computer and Jim hammering the plate.  There are Geo phones every 10m for 200m which measure the shock of the hammer down the line.  I’m assured that this is world class science.

931A5981The tent all set up for the night.  I have been trialing a new tent made by “Arctic Oven” which is massive but not as heavy as the traditional pyramid tents.  With Jim and Emma on the Larsen they were so busy with hammering etc they actually only came into the tent for a nap at 7am!  I estimated that Jim had done over 500 hits with the sledge hammer and walked over 10km through the night.  (I did help out till midnight and then made then tea at 3am and checked on them at 5!)
931A6009-HDR

Coming in to land at Union Glacier.  Straight after being on the Larsen C for two days I flew further onto the continent via Fossil Bluff, Sky Blu and Union Glacier (The field camp of the commercial operator A.L.E).  Myself, Alex (Electronics Engineer), Dave and Mark (both Pilots) flew out to the Foundation ice stream to pick up some instruments that will be redeployed later this season.931A6027

I dont have many photos of the Foundation Ice stream as the weather was chasing us.  Above – Dave getting a quick nap after some digging before another flight.

My next big chunk of work will be at Halley on the Brunt ice shelf a base that has been in the news a lot this year.  Should be interesting!

Posted in A 68 Berg, A68 Larsen C, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide Antarctica, Larsen C Ice Shelf, 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).
IMG_1864

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)
IMG_2605

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.
IMG_2557

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.
IMG_2535

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.
IMG_1052

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 , , , , |