Thursday 25 May 2017

Winter trips

The Camp at Trident on my first winter trip. On the left is my pyramid tent, the skidoos and sledge off to the left and toilet tent to the right. The  pyramid tent to the right belongs to Zac and Tom who were also camping there that week. 
There are five field guides at Rothera this winter, and part of our duties are to take the other seventeen others who are based here out on winter trips. These seventeen each get two winter trips, one pre mid winter, and one post mid winter. A winter trip usually involves one field guide and one other heading off on skidoo and camping on the ice  for four or five days. When out people tend to go skiing or mountaineering, or exploring crevasses.

Mucky the Plumber who I took out on my first trip near the top of one of the local mountains Biff .
These trips allow people to get out base, explore the local area, and have a bit of a break from their work. It is also very good training for us field guides as the equipment and techniques used are very similar to those used during the summer when looking after scientist when out in the deep field (and doing science is Antarctica is what BAS is all about). 
Full moon rising over the camp. This picture was taken on my third trip when we were the only team there. On that particular trip the the only clear weather we got was at night.
I had three pre-midwinter trips. In all three cases I ended up camping at a place called Trident East. On the first trip the weather was pretty good, but was a bit more mixed on the second trip, and very Scottish on the 3rd trip. However, I did managed to get some good mountaineering done, and had a good explore of the Stokes peaks. Having got comfortable with the the whole set up I am keen to get further afield on my second set of winter trips which start towards the end of July. 

The camp at night with the pyramids glowing softly from the Tilly lamps which are used for heat and light. 

Some easy mountaineering on another of the local peaks; N2. The black dots in the background are the skidoos and sledge
On the first trip, the other two teams camping at Trident East popped round to out tent for whiskey fueled evening discussion. When they left they stole our cheese!

The Trident East campsite.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

The Start of Winter

The winters watch the Shak as she departs. 
In a practical sense the 10th of April marked the start of winter at Rothera this year. This was not due to significant change in the weather, or in daylight hours. It was due to the departure of the ship, the Ernest Shackleton. The Shack, as it is colloquially know, is one of the two ships operated by BAS. It had been at Rothera for a few days, unloading food and equipment, and loading cargo to be taken back to the U.K. It would also take with it about two thirds of the population of Rothera.
The departure of the ship is a significant moment in the Rothera calendar. On the morning of the 10th everybody gathered at the,wharf, and said their goodbyes. Those who were leaving slowly filed onto the ship, and those of us who were staying stood and watched. As the ship slowly eased away from the wharf and accelerated away. We stood and watched until the ship was lost from sight among the distant bergs. The moment of calm that followed. In one step the  number of people on base dropped from 65, to the 22 of us who are wintering here. It will now be October before we see any new people. For me at least it was quite a profound moment.
Bradders waves the ship off with a flare.
After a few jobs tidying up the wharf, we retired to the nearby  Bonner lab for a drink of champagne (champagne that was suppose to be to celebrate the Halley move, but events there meant it was not required there) and a chat about some of the events of the upcoming winter. There are going to be some interesting things going on this winter, including something that will be a first for British people in Antarctica. I will write about these events as they happen. 

Since the ship left the atmosphere on the station has changed significantly. Work hours have reduced, and everything seems a lot more calmer and more relaxed. There has also been a lot more time to be able to get out for recreation, as well as the opportunity to get out boating and getting some training from the doctor. However, more about that in future posts. 
Group Photo 1. I was in charge of taking a group photo. However, on this attempt, much to everybody's amusement I did not quite make it back to the group in time.

Group Photo 2, I made it this time.