Friday, 23 March 2007

Shackleton Departs

The Ernest Shackleton departed Rothera on 22nd March with the last of the 2006 winterers and summer visitors on board. It was an emotional time saying goodbye to everyone after such a brilliant summer. The final ship (the JCR) is due in April bringing a few supplies and collecting 30 builders who have been working on the new Bransfield building all summer. Once she leaves we 22 winterers will be left to fend for ourselves for about 6 months until the planes arrive at the start of the summer season.

The departing winterers stuck religiously to the age-old tradition of playing pranks on the new wintering team. The previous night many had returned from the ship to locked rooms (none of the rooms have keys but can be locked from inside, this had been done then the windows closed from the outside meaning use of ski-poles to unlock the windows!). After the ship had left we discovered all the spoons and 3 pool balls had been hidden. The 500m of CTD rope had been wound around the corridor of the Bonner Lab and inside mine, Birgits and Dicke's offices, tying in the kettle, mugs, chairs and all manner of objects along the way. Roger's favourite mug wound its way into the aquarium and the web-streamed radio had been tuned into a foreign station with the password changed. Still, we got our own back with hidden speaking alarm clocks and strategically placed ball bearings which would roll with the ship and no doubt be highly annoying!

Monday, 12 March 2007


Living and working in such an isolated area of the world requires us to be very self-reliant. There are no emergency services down here and in the event of a fire or medical emergency we may all be called upon to assist. All winterers recieve breathing apparatus training, entering a burning building would be a last resort but knowing how to use the BA gear would allow us to search for missing people in a smoke filled room. Birgit and I had the 1st stage of our BA training which was promptly put to use during a Major Incident Plan scenario the following week. The MIP involves the whole base and this year the scenario was a fire in one of the old buildings with seriously injured people trapped inside. The makeup and the acting was very convincing and we even had fake smoke. Everyone has a part to play be it controlling radio communications, using vehicles as ambulances, re-arranging the gym into a make-shift treatment area, working out methods of evacuation (flights etc) or making the much needed cups of tea.

A few of us also recieved some refresher training in the use of chainsaws this week. When the sea ice forms we'll need to use the chainsaw to cut holes for diving and CTDing. The chainsaw we use is an absolute beast with a 6 foot bar!! Next week 'Doc School' begins and shall continue though winter. Ali our doc shall, over the course of the next few months, be teaching us all manner of advanced first aid including plastering, bandaging, stretchering, inserting venflons (tubes into veins for introducing fluids / medication) and stitching. All good fun but hopefully skills which will not be required.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Reptile Ridge

This afternoon Mark (one of the GAs) kindly offered to take me up onto Reptile Ridge for an afternoon of walking / scrambling / basic climbing. For this we had to be roped together and carry all manner of 'jingly janglies' (that's a technical term -obviously!-for the clever bits of mountaineering metalwork), including ice axes and crampons.

The first task was to hike up the slope at Vals and cross the small bergschund at the top (posh word for a crevasse near the head of a mountain glacier where the peak emerges from the glacier, so I'm lead to believe anyway), it was only a small one and we were soon up and onto the Ridge, which offers lovely views out over Ryder Bay. We hiked along the Ridge for the next 4 hours. A brilliant way to spend a Saturday afternoon :o)

Bye Bye Daisy

By late February all field parties had returned to base and the two satellite 'bases' Fossil Bluff and Sky Blu had been shut down for winter. The 8th March saw the last plane leave Rothera this season, the Dash 7 (Daisy) left in style performing a impressive fly by, sadly we stood on the wrong side of the Bonner Lab to get the full effect!

Monday, 5 March 2007

Rothera Party Season

The end of February brought the now traditional Folk Night, which provided everyone with the opportunity to get up and showcase their talents in the sledge store. There were some outstanding acts including 'Blind Date' (GA style), poems, comedy sketches, musical interludes and a masterful rendition of twinkle twinkle little star performed by blowing over bottles filled with water. Cyril (Chef) and Kelvin (Dive Officer) proved to be excellent compares. My contribution was helping to organise the evening and playing my sax with the band, the last appearance of 'Ratchet Death' (actually Rat S**t Death but that's a whole different story), the next appearance will be from 'Nunatak' (which is a the name for the exposed summit of a ridge, mountain, or peak not covered with ice or snow within an ice field or glacier and not a bunch of angry nuns). Our potential performance for Live Earth in July has forced us to change the name.

Early March was a time for lots of people to leave thus providing an excellent excuse for a party. Starting off in the Hangar with a game or two of volleyball followed by a stunning BBQ (where the food had to be eaten rather quickly and the salad was frozen!). The rest of the evening was spent in the boat shed which had been dramatically transformed for a dance party. A sterling effort topped by someone opening the doors around midnight to reveal the sunset over Jenny Island.

The next morning we said our farewells to, among others, Sue Ann (who'd been doing some of her PhD research at Rothera over summer) and Adam (Summer mechanic). It's been a brilliant start to my 2 and a 1/2 years and really sad to see good friends leave.