Sunday 3 January 2016

Relaxing at Rothera

Rothera with the point behind.

I have been back to Rothera for about two weeks which have included Christmas and Hogmanay. After my extended stay at Sky Blu, I am still very much appreciating the simple things that life in Rothera affords such as showers, warm building and not having to worry about weather obs every hour. However, being back at Rothera does not mean I have not been busy. The big job what occurred recently was relief. A couple of days after Christmas the ship The James Clark Ross (JCR) arrived. The JCR is one of two BAS ships, and it brought with it almost all the food and equipment that Rothera will require over the next year. With a minimum of about twenty, and a maximum of over one hundred people on base, the residents of Rothera will consume a lot of food over the next year. This all had to be unloaded and put into storage. There was also all the new field and recreation kit. It was the job of myself and the other field assistant on base to check, sort and store all this. On top of this I have been doing some training with the recent arrivals on base, organising equipment to be sent out in the field, proving some recreational opportunities for the ship's crew as well as my own recreation. Below I find a list of some of the more interesting things I have been up to in both as part of work and in my own time.

Heading up to get some nice turn in in Stork Bowl.
Skiing. There is some good skiing around Rothera and earlier in the season, there was some really nice snow about. Recently the snow quality has decreased due to a bit of freezing and thawing (it is raining outside at the moment), but even so it is still nice to get the skis on and go for a skin up a hill for some exercise.

Nice views from round the point.

Round the point. Rothera sits near the end of a small peninsular. On a pleasant day it makes for a lovely walk or, early in the season, a ski, round the point. Although probably only a kilometre in total, you can’t see base from the majority of the route, and it feels very peaceful and calm. On a nice day it is a great place to go to read, watch the abundant wildlife and ever changing sea ice or just generally chill out.

Doing some work out on the Larsen C ice shelf.
Co-piloting.  Sometimes extra people are required for day flights in the local area. Just before the ship arrived I got a trip to the Larsen C ice shelf. Over the past couple of decades the Larsen A and the Larsen B ice shelves have disintegrated due to the rapid warming of the Antarctic peninsular. The much larger Larsen C ice shelf remains. There are some concerns it may collapse in the near future, and so it is being monitored closely. I was part of a team to head over and service a couple of automatic weather stations. However, the Larsen is a notoriously cloudy place, and safely landing a plane on an ice shelf requires good contrast. The trip was cancelled times due to the weather, but in the end we did make it, although we were only able to reach one of the weather stations.

The band in the boat shed for Hogmanay.
Christmas and Hogmanay. Christmas was a very relaxed affair with the a bit of skiing and the chefs doing a great job preparing a Christmas dinner. Hogmanay was a bit more lively, with the boat shed being transformed into a music venue. With various musical people on base, there were a couple of bands playing. With the ships crew being around, it made for a good night.

Science. One of the main objectives of BAS is to facilitate the science which goes on in Antarctica. This means there is a lot of scientists passing through Rothera. I enjoy talking with the scientist about their work, and sometimes get to help out with various bits and bobs. One day I had the job of driving a vehicle up to pick up a pair of scientist doing some seismic training. I arrived in time to watch them detonate some charges which was satisfying. From time to time there are general interest lectures on base which, if I am around, I enjoy attending (although I have missed the majority of these by being in the field). 
Show Crevasse. Near base there is the show crevasse, although ice cave might be a better word for it. It probably was originally a crevasse, with meltwater draining in and freezing has created a spectacular ice cave.  Access is by abseil, and there is a nice loop which can be done. It makes for a good little adventure, particularly for people who do not have a climbing background. In the 1st of January we guided about various groups of sailors from the JCR round the crevasse. 
Suffering at the end of the Rothera 10km
 Rothera 10km. Traditionally on New Year’s Day there is a 10km race at Rothera. This year it was postponed for a day due to strong winds and heavy rain on the 1st. On the 2nd it was not much better. However, about 15 people turned out to take part. The route was five and a half laps of the runway. Although not the most interesting course terrain wise, the views were good, and it did have the extra interest of Elephant seals (who like to lie on the runway) which had to be avoided, and a group of penguins which sat about two metres off the course watching the proceedings. In the end I completed the run in 48 minutes and 9 seconds, which I felt was okay for someone who has, until recently, been sitting out at Sky Blu doing very little exercise.