Sunday, 25 February 2007

Crevasses and Whales

I finally got a chance to go on a trip into a local crevasse on Thursday evening. A couple of GAs kindly volunteered to take Emma, Julian and myself into the crevasse at the top of the ramp (a 2min skidoo ride from base). It was very very cool, very cave like with icicles resembling stalactites. Despite the dull weather outside it was still pretty light inside and very blue.

On Friday afternoon, sat in the Bonner (lab where I work) we got a message over the radio (we all use VHF radios on base to communicate as well as 'stentophones' (or "bing-bongs") which are located on the walls at convenient places inside the main buildings, you can call a specific stentophone or do a general 'bing-bong' to give a message out to everyone. It's only relatively recently that the base has had phones in offices) that there were Orca (Killer Whales) in Ryder Bay. So we ran down to the wharf and were lucky enough to spot 6 beautiful whales swimming by some 300m off the wharf. Managed to get a cool photo of a mother and her calf. Saturday we saw 3 humpback whales, didn't have my camera with me, but was brilliant to see.

Stork Bowl

On Tuesday evening a few of us went up to Stork Bowl to go boarding and skiing. We had a GA with us (experienced mountaineer / climber type people who aim to prevent us falling down crevasses etc) and had to hike up, being roped together for the 1st time up in case we came across any hidden crevasses. It took about 15min to walk up then 1 min to get down. But it was well worth it for making fresh tracks in the fresh snow-sweet :o)

We managed 4 runs, all excellent and I performed my special 'headside 180' manoeuvre only once. The edge of the bowl formed a natural 1/4 pipe, which was pretty cool. There were spectacular views out over Ryder Bay and as we headed back the sun was setting turning all the mountains pink. Can't think of a better way to spend a Tuesday night and am certainly looking forward to some lovely winter powder days up there.

Winterer's flight around Adelaide Island

Last week I got to go on the 'winterer's local area familiarisation flight'. Intended to show us around Adelaide Island so we can get an idea of where we might like to go on our winter trips. Over winter we'll get two opportunities to hop on a skidoo with a FGA (Field General Assistant) and head out across Adelaide Island camping / climbing /hiking / snowboarding / skiing for 7 days. It was a good opportunity to get an aerial view of base too.

The small base with the red buildings is Carvajal, an old British base given over to the Chileans and later abandoned. They were intending to come back to it so it has been left fully equipped and until last year there was still gas for the gas stove! This can be reached in 6hrs by skidoo from Rothera if the weather is good or 6 days if the weather is bad (meaning slow travel and days spent laid up in the tents).

Wednesday, 7 February 2007


As the nights are finally starting to get darker we've had some amazing sunsets....

...and one evening I witnessed the impressive phenomena of a Lenticular (or 'spaceship') cloud which appeared over Ryder Bay.

'Holiday' at the Bluff

I've just got back from a week's holiday at 'Bluebell Cottage' Fossil Bluff, a small hut built in 1961 on Alexander Island, some 200 miles South of Rothera ( During the summer months there are always 2 people stationed at the Bluff to give meteorological observations for the aircraft and to assist with aircraft re-fuelling for planes heading further South to Sky Blu and people out in the field. It was a brilliant flight down, despite the poor weather, as it was my 1st time in the air in Antarctica. I got to sit in the 'co-pilot' seat and was even allowed to fly for a while!

The hut hasn't changed too much since the 60's, the bunks are original and it has an old fashioned Rayburn stove (not the original Aga but much like it) which is used for heating / cooking. It's backed by huge scree slopes littered with fossils and has stunning views out over the permanent sea ice of George VI sound to the mountains of the peninsular.
The Rayburn was very good for baking bread, bearded gingerbread men and scones, which went down well at the Twin Otter Service Station. Apart from baking and re-fuelling planes time was spent walking (I nearly managed to get to the top of the 'path' through the scree behind the hut but had to give up near the top as it was a case of 1 step up and 3 steps sliding back!), trying to get the boat set up for transport between skiway and hut (which was a bit unsuccessful as the glacial melt pool is 1/2 frozen 1/2 solid at the moment, so we ended up taking the long route around the edge), and when the weather turned bad - reading, loosing a number of games of Scrabble and winning a glorious game of Monopoly!

We even had the 'luxury' of a toilet, named the Rocket Pocket as you have to fire it up weekly to burn the waste, not too pleasant but arguably has the best view from a loo!

Had a lovely time away but it's good to be back (if only for a shower). It's a strange time on base as people are starting to leave, the nights are starting to get dark(ish) and end of Summer is near.