Friday 1 June 2018

Back to Rothera

I didn't actually take any pictures while passing through the Falklands this time. However, on my way North last December I also had a few days in the Falklands, and took this shot of  other BAS people having a look at the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth. In 1936, during a strong gale, she broke from her mooring and drifted down the harbour to Whalebone Cove where she ran aground and still rests today.
Back at Rothera! As mentioned in my last post, I  am spending another winter at Rothera working for the British Antarctic Survey as a field guide.

I arrived here on the Thursday the 10th of May after what had felt like a very long journey. I had left Aviemore eleven days previously. My journey had started with a pleasant train journey down to London where I stayed for a few days. I ended up doing a few last minute jobs which I should have done before I had left Scotland. However, I did manage to find time to do some cultural things like going to the theater. However, it was soon time to do some decent travelling, it is a long way to Antarctica after all. Therefore, the next day I got the train and the bus out to RAF Brize Norton where I caught an overnight flight to the Falkland islands.

I spent a few days in the Falkland islands on my way back North from Rothera last December. At this time I had been near mid summer, and even then it felt like quite a bleak place. This time I was staying on the ship, the RSS Ernest Shackleton. Although we remained in the Falklands for a few days, due to space constraints on the dock, the ship spent a fair of that time a couple of hundred meters off shore. This obviously limited my opportunities to get out and about. However, when the ship was docked I did manage out for one run along to surf beach and a paddle in the sea.
The RSS Ernest Shackleton, the ship I had sailed to Rothera in about to depart from the Rothera wharf for it's journey back to the Northern Hemisphere. 
The Shack heads off. 
After a few days in the Falklands it was time for the ship to sail. The area of the ocean which we were required to cross, the Drake Passage, is a notoriously rough. About half an hour after leaving harbor the boat began to rock noticeably. This got worse  and worse, and I began to feel more and more ill. I am happy to admit that I am no sailor, and I spent the next few days in my cabin being sick. Through the journey I noticed a few different types of motion in the ship; sometimes it left like it would slid down the front of one wave, and then the whole ship would judder as it slammed into the next oncoming wave; at other times it bob from side to side much like a cork, other times it took on a  a slow corkscrewing motion. I am not sure which of these was worse. I don't think I have ever been so relieved to get onto dry land when we landed at Rothera five days after we had left the Falklands.

Due to the threat of ice the ship was keen to get going as soon as possible. After a couple of days of loading and unloading cargo, the ship was off, aiming to make it back to the UK in mid July. The moment the ship leaves is a significant moment in the Antarctic winter. This year there are 26 wintering at Rothera. As we waved the ship in the morning half light we knew that were were unlikely to see any other people until the first planes arrived around the middle of October.
Theresa near the summit of Picts on the second day of out winter trip. 
Ski touring on our winter trip. Mount Mangin and Gwyendalyn in the back ground. 
Exploring crevasses around MacCallum's Pass. 
With the ship departed there was still a lot for me to do. I was out on a winter trip a few days later with the boating officer, Theresa, and had a fair bit of organising to do for that. When all the kit was finally found, organised and packed a day or so later we headed out to the Stokes peaks.  Although daylight is limited at this time of year we had some reasonable weather. We had a good few days with a wee bit of  everything; ski touring, mountaineering, climbing and crevasse exploration.
Sam lowers the flag on quite a grey day at the Flagdown ceremony. 
No sooner than we had got back from our winter trip, than it was time for the flagdown ceremony. This happens every year in mid to late May when the sun no longer climbs high enough in the sky for direct sunlight to hit Rothera. Traditionally the oldest person on base says a few words and then lowers the flag. The youngest person on base will raise it about two months time when the sun reappears.This year it was Sam the carpenter who lowered the flag. Sam is quite musical, and so brought up his guitar and played a tune after lowered in the flag.
The 26 of us who are wintering at Rothera this year.