74º 51’ South 71º 32’ West
The sun circles the sky, never dropping to the horizon, but never rising that high either. It does not get dark, in fact being a few weeks away from mid-summer here, there is not even a gloaming. Time flows at a different rate here. Without the anchor of the diurnal cycle, the days merge together, time stretches and compresses depending on weather and work.
The landscape is equally alien; a few islands of rock stick out of an ocean of ice that continues in all directions for hundreds of miles. Very occasionally a snow petrel gracefully glides by; otherwise the human inhabitants of Sky Blu are the only living things until you reach close to the coast. Other than our insignificant feeling camp, there is nothing but ice, rock and sky. This is the Antarctic continent.
|A pyramid tent at Sky Blu with the midnight sun in the background
I am just back from Sky Blu, a fuel depot and blue ice runaway at the Southern end of the Antarctic peninsular, about 450 miles (or a roughly 4 hour flight) to the South of Rothera. Sky Blu lies just to the South of a Nunatak call Lanzeroti which rises about 1000ft out of the ice. The predominate wind is from the North, blowing for long distances across the smooth ice cap, before being forced over, and accelerating down, the Southern side of Lanerzoti. This strong katabatic wind remove any fresh snow from the areas to the South of this peak, creating an area of flat blue ice. This has been flagged to create a 1km blue ice runway.
|A pyramid tent and communications melon hut with Mendez, one of the local nunataks in the background.
|A twin otter parked on the blue ice runway. A lot of the work at Sky Blu is associate with dealing with the aircraft.
|A caravanning trip Antrartic style. The two Pisten Bullies and loads which make up the I-Beam traverse about to set off.
For myself most days start around 6.30am, with a runway inspection. Weather observation are made and transmitted back to Rothera at 6.55am, and repeated every hour until we are stood down which can easily be until 9pm, or later. Between weather reports; I help to depot any fresh fuel, refuel any twin otters, organise cargo to be moved, request food and supplies from Rothera, and generally look after the camp. During some quiter periods, I have managed to get out for a couple of recreational mountaineering trips up some of the surrounding nunataks.
|The inside of the Communications hut. This hub of sky blu, and can get quite busy at times.
The weather has a significant affect on the pace of life at
Sky Blu. Due to combination or bad weather here and at Rothera, there have been some pretty quite period where only a couple of planes have passed through during the week. During these periods a lot of reading and tea drinking
goes on. The winds howls down from the North, blowing snow gets forces
under door and into tents, and the sun, just visible through the blowing snow,
still circles the sky.
|On the summit of Mendez nunatak during a brief recreational trip out.