Tag Archives: Twin Otter

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.

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.

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.

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!)

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 , , , , , |

Fossil Bluff

After my last post I recieved a few emails from friends asking for more information, more writing and to know what it is I am up to.  I will try and fill in the gaps a wee bit though I do like the thought of people having to do a little homework and look things up!

I am currently working as a Field Assistant for the British Antarctic Survey.  BAS conduct enviromental science  in Antarctica and also hold a presence on the continent to get a say in the Antarctic treaty.  The field assistant job was described by my manager (the Field Operation Manager) as facilitating the science in the field.  While this is true for all jobs with BAS the field assisstants are the ones on the ground making sure that the scientists (beakers in BAS terminology) stay safe, everything from glacier travel to cups of tea.  The job is varied with loading and unloading vehicles, skidoo driving, camp managing and cooking, taking people skiing and climbing for their recreation, endless digging and the slightly randon co piloting of planes.

I am on an 18 month contract with BAS and will be based at Rothera until early 2017.  The two summers will be filled with field work and the winter with recreational trips for the wintering staff who all get a couple of weeks holiday skiing, climbing etc.

I am briefly back at Rothera after a few weeks on various projects and will try and get up a couple of blog posts up before I head out again.

First up I was sent off to Fossil Bluff which is a very small BAS base operated by just two staff during the summer months.  It has a reputation as a bit of a holiday spot as the only real work is giving weather observations (Met Obs) every hour and refueling planes that come in on their way further south.  Fossil Bluff is about 300 km from Rothera on Alexander Island looking out on the George VI Sound.  The hut was built in 1960 and was actually wintered in by 3 men in the winter of 1960/1961.  The place oozes history and the book about the first winter, “The Silent Sound” is a great insight into the “old days” where the men would throw their rubbish out the door and let the wind blow it away, had an underground snow toilet and a generator that stopped working 2 weeks after they had been abandoned (in true antarctic style they also ran out of food and fuel for their stove).


Flying into Fossil Bluff. The hut is in the bottom right of the photo with a thin white line leading to the hut (its a path in the scree).


Busy night at the bluff. My first night there we had three planes stop with us as the weather was too bad to fly back to Rothera.  This is the main room of Fossil bluff with the reflex stove in the middle and a sink etc around the corner.  The only other room is food store.


Matt eager to unload a few barrels of aviation fuel. Almost any job you do with Aviation fuel it ends up on you and it really does stink.


Unfortunately the beer wasnt full!


Looking across the sound.  The small green hut is the generator shed.  The thing at the bottom right of the photo is the Emergency Caboose (currently on its side after the winter)


Cab hill and the mountains behind. The Cab is from an old “tractor” – I should be driving a newer version of these soon


View out of the door


Emily and I relaxing on the balcony inbetween some plane refueling. I ended up at Fossil Bluff for a week, 2 days of which I was working with Dave who was then replaced by Emily


Emily doing the only work of the hour. Radioing in with a Met OB


One of the Twin Otters coming in to the skiway


Emily skiing off to Belemite valley on a no fly day.


My last night at the bluff. Talisker and a homemade lasagne.  You can see the sleeping bunks at the back.  There just one main room and a food store but its pretty homely.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica Also tagged , , , |