Monday, 15 October 2007

Here Comes Summer

The 1st BAS Twin Otter
Well that's it - Winter is officially over. The first of the BAS Twin Otters and the Dash 7 arrived today bringing BAS personnel and this means the start of the Antarctic Summer season.

The Dash 7

Winter seems to have flown by, I can't decide if I'm ready for summer or not. It's great to have a new input of people but having spent the last 6 months with just the 22 of us I have a feeling it's going to take some getting used to...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Stork Bowl

We're very lucky having a local 'ski-slope' (Vals) which we can use for snowboarding & skiing. When the weather and snow is particularly good one of the GAs will usually arrange a trip to Stork Bowl. Situated on Stork Ridge it lies just outside the 'Technical Travel Area' (the area in which we are allowed to travel without a GA). Unlike Vals it is unsuitable for skidoo travel so access to the top of the run is by foot.The 1st Dash (plane) is due to arrive tomorrow bringing BAS personnel and signifiying the start of summer. So we thought a trip up Stork Bowl would be a good way to end the winter, since I had also volunteered for Sunday cook we got up at 6am and headed up the hill.
Because of the risk of crevasses we have to be roped up for the first ascent (after this we're safe enough if we stick to our original tracks). It takes about 10 minutes to walk up and 1 minute to board down but it's certainly worth it, especially as I got to put the 1st lines in through the fresh powder :)

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Anatomy of a Dog on Stork Ridge

Today we had was what has seemed like a rare phenomenon over winter - a good weather day co-inciding with a day off. For the latter part of winter it has felt like we've only had good weather on school days. Rog very kindly offered me the chance to get out to play on the mountains. We did a route called 'Anatomy of a dog' which is a snow / ice climb up a gulley on Stork Ridge (the snow-filled gulley can be seen just to the left of centre in the photo above) . The snow was in a lovely condition and we were able to climb up without pitching it (i.e. we were roped together but didn't have to put in any protection and belay eachother up as it was pretty easy going).

Once on top of the ridge we were treated to spectaular views of Orca (another mountain) and the Sheldon Glacier. We continued to walk along the whole length of Stork Ridge descending into Stork Bowl.

Looking East along Stork Ridge

Looking West along Stork Ridge

Shadows - still a novelty after 2 months without them

Reptile Ridge and one of the Borek planes on the Ski-Way
Orca & crevasses on the Sheldon Glacier

With it being such a lovely day we decided to stop by Badger (not sure how these mountains get thir names) and do a quick route on this too.

On top of Badger

Jim had the brilliant idea of serving gin and tonics in the caboose at Vals before dinner so we asked him to bring our snowboards up too. The end of the day was rounded off with a few runs at Vals and G&Ts in the sun followed by another amazing dinner from Cyril including loads of freshies kindly brought in by the Borek team - all in all a pretty prefect day in the Antarctic.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Visitors from the Real World

Today we welcomed visitors to Rothera - the first 'outsiders' since the ship departed 6 months ago. The distant sound of the engines was very surreal and it was a strange feeling seeing the planes appear over Rothera. Two Borek Twin Otter planes landed on the freshly-cleared runway. The Boreks arrived from Canada and are on their way south to Patriot Hills (a private base in Antarctica owned by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions who provide Antarctic expedition support and tours), they stop off at Rothera to swap their wheels for skis (as the skis are much lighter and from here on they only land on snow).

The pilots and crew very kindly brought with them LOADS of fresh fruit and veg - pinapples, mangos, oranges, apples, bananas, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, onions all sorts of luxuries which we had been without over winter. We all went a little mad piling our plates with salad and fruit and exclaiming how good it tasted. Dinner was followed by a very sociable evening in the bar sampling vodka and 'clamato' juice (some strange concoction of clam and tomato juice which is apparently very popular in Canada)..... I can't say I'd recommend it.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Snow Clearing

With the threat of people, ships and planes drawing ever nearer this week has seen the start of preparations for summer with clearing of winter snow from roadways, pathways and the runway. This is a huge task for the mechs but they seem quite happy playing with their big toys....

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Rocktober Fest

The end of winter was in sight - so with the Borek Twin Otters due to arrive the following week and after 4 days of base scrub-out (tidying the base for summer) it was a perfect time to have a party, the last one with just the 22 of us. Infact we intended to celebrate all weekend as it was also Birgit's birthday (for which she had planned an Oktoberfest feast) and time for the now traditional Winter Film Festival.

Saturday night saw a party in the sledge store, with some people dresssing in typical FID clothing for the occasion (FID - Falkland Island Dependencies Survey was the original name British Antarctic Survey, thus people working for FIDS called themselves Fids). The band played under the new name "Ass of BAS" and with 9 of us on stage at one point there were nearly more band members than people in the audience.
Tris with Matt (or should that be Matilda?) who has obviously been here too long

The Oktoberfest and Film Festival evening was planned for the Sunday night, both food and films were outstanding. The films included a horror film from the Bonner Lab, various photos to music, films of extreme skiing & boarding, winter trips, an underwater film from Tris filmed with the ROV he BUILT over winter and Rothera version of 'Stomp' (the group that make music from random household items) - all very impressive. Films were watced between courses of a Bovarian meal prepared by Cyril and Birgit.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Shag Rock

Dickie, Drew and I took a boat over to Shag Rock today so that Dickie could count the blue-eyed shags that nest there. Shag Rock is a small island situated to the West of Lagoon Island and it is absolutely covered in shags, 100s of them. Drew and I spent an hour or so taking photos and observing the antics of the shags (some flying in with seaweed for nesting material others simply stealing it from the nest next door) whilst Dickie had the unenviable task of counting them all. Despite the awful smell of birds on a seafood diet it was pretty spectacular experience.