Our work with the British Antarctic Survey
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Ben Rowe

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2017/02/11 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 11th February – arriving home


Following the short stay in Rothera I travelled home via Chile to Heathrow and was met by Luci.  Being part of the Halley relocation project has been a huge honour and an incredible experience. Antarctica is an extraordinary environment, so clean and beautiful. Now I am back in the UK, one of the biggest differences

2017/01/29 By Ben Rowe

Sunday 29th January – first experience of Rothera research station


I was up at 7am and sorted myself breakfast, which will need to last me through to brunch at midday. I use the morning to send some emails and download photos from my camera as back-up onto my laptop. After brunch we went on walk with others who came from Halley around the point, which

2017/01/28 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 28th January – farewell Halley, hello Rothera


I woke up early to my room-mates’ VHF radio at 0600. I had breakfast, swapped email and mobile details with a few of the team. I saw the team off on the Snowcats, whilst I spoke to the BAS Station Leader about getting over to site VI for my flight.  The final ride across to

2017/01/27 By Ben Rowe

Friday 27th January – deconstructing the temporary camps


Today I got up a little later than usual and finished off the report, which covered the final inspection of the modules post re-location but also other miscellaneous areas of work that had been raised in passing on the project. At today’s situation report at 11am we were advised that the ship would arrive later

2017/01/26 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th January – getting ready to depart Halley


There’s a cold breeze today and no major structural work on-going apart from communications caboose. I carried out a visual inspection of the Trelleborg inside and out, looked at the bridge pinned connections and wrote up the last section of the inspection report. Thursday 26th January Another cold morning with a breeze again – It’s

2017/01/24 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday 24th January – good internal levelling across the module threshholds


Mechanical and electrical teams progressed well and most of the system have been tested and re-drained for over-wintering. Now work is more the minor aspects to improve the ease of work in re-commissioning for summer 2017/18. The E1 to B2 modules were levelled today using changes in leg extensions, and this has led to a

2017/01/23 By Ben Rowe

Sunday 22nd and Monday 23rd January – missing fresh milk, fruit and salad


Got up 9.30am and all was quiet. Sat downstairs and downloaded some of the photos for my records – they have captured some amazing images. The chefs do such a great job here with the ingredients available that it can be difficult to decline their high carb meals. The things I miss are proper milk

2017/01/21 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 21st January


We carried on with the E2 module leg levelling today. This module still has the slippery blocks underneath the ski from a week or so ago, and the sun has warmed the black colour and sunk them down into the snow surface. The slushy surface snow from yesterday afternoon is now hard and icy. So when the

2017/01/20 By Ben Rowe

Friday 20th January – adjusting the modules


Today we progressed with raising the three Southern modules H2, H1 and E2. I explained on site that we had in preparation set level markers that indicated the keel line of the skis. This would enable the ski to be rotated as per the methodology, snow pushed in by dozers, the ski rotated back into

2017/01/19 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th January – level survey of module legs, soffits and skis

DSCN2713 all modules at VIa

Up at 10am for line and levelling the B2 module. We will need to do the full level survey tomorrow. At the situation report today I was advised that my flight out will be on the 1st February subject to weather.  Last out will be at the start of March. Thursday 19th January I was

2017/01/17 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday 17th January – final module moved to VIa


We got the B1 module line and levelled. We then travelled back to site VI to move the final B2 module. We took the normal rigging team and to celebrate moving the last module they joined myself and Oli inside for the re-location journey.  Spirits were high so we popped on comedy wigs from the

2017/01/16 By Ben Rowe

Sunday 15th January and Monday 16th January – module B1 moved to VIa, stopping within 25mm of C module


I got up 10am and had brunch at 12. I spent the afternoon doing ‘What’s in my bag’ article for Ramboll’s internal magazine and took some photos for it. Monday 16th January The wind driven snow ran on until this morning so now a windy but pleasant day. The team were stood down until after

2017/01/14 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 14th January – module c in place


I spent the day de-rigging to get the lifting frame in position to lift each leg, insert the slippery pads, and then re-rigged ready for alignment. We undertook the sideways movement using the dozer shovel and when just about there, pulled forward on winches to close and line up the Trelleborg. We then moved the

2017/01/13 By Ben Rowe

Friday 13th January – Big red (module A) aligned, ready to bring over module C


Module A was aligned to the Trelleborg at the South end. This was mainly done simply because the alignment from arrival was good and the snow beneath the crane pads slightly angled to allow the module to drift westwards as the module was winched onto E1. The winching needed some preload from a dozer behind leg 1. The

2017/01/12 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th January – Big red (module A) moves over to site VIa


This morning I undertook the final alignment and levelling of module E1 so that we could bring module A, the living space module also called ‘Big Red’ in tonight to the best alignment. I sledged across to site VI together with vehicles necessary for the towing. We did the final preparations and checking before moving

2017/01/10 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday 10th January – levelling and alignment


Today I started thinking about the bridge re-installation. In preparation we shifted module E1 sideways into alignment. Having observed some of the issues on the previous module I made suggestions on changes in the board layout. The chief engineer has loads of experience working in Antarctica and adapts the work method to suit the conditions and what is

2017/01/09 By Ben Rowe

Monday 9th January – reconnecting E2 and H1 and phoning home


Today having aligned module E2 we pulled it onto H1, and reconnected the Trelleborg. Tonight I spoke to my youngest son, Daniel, as tomorrow he leaves to go traveling, starting in Thailand then onto Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and then maybe New Zealand and Australia.  It’s not something I ever thought about at 18, as

2017/01/08 By Ben Rowe

Sunday 8th January – how I became known as ‘calc’


I finally got my name onto the list for the Sunday trip and went to Creek 3. There were 11 of us doing the trip. After grabbing some water and a sandwich for lunch I jumped into a sledge with transit bag for the journey to site VI.  When we got there I went to

2017/01/07 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 7th January – surveying for accurate alignment


Today I used the dumpy level for its intended function role and levelled H2 and H1 soffits so the Trelleborg could be re-connected. I also set up a new surveying position that would allow me to sight through H2 and extending the sight line for the all the future module positions. I marked this with a new

2017/01/06 By Ben Rowe

Friday 6th January – first day working at site VIa


After getting up at 10am I joined smoko at 10:30 for breakfast. Today will be my first day’s work at site VIa. I was told that the H2 module was within one degree accuracy from the setting out established in summer 2016, and that we should use it as the basis for the other module alignment. 

2017/01/05 By Ben Rowe

Thursday 5th January – an exhausting night move


With the BAS managers at site VIa I worked with the steelworkers to rig modules A and E1. I split the team so that some were measuring, adjusting and selecting steelwork members allowing the others to work from position to position simply erecting the  steelwork. This worked really well and as consequence we got everything done in a

2017/01/04 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 4th January – tricky separation of E2 module


Today was a big day as we separated the E2 module with the bridge attached. During the preparation the fixed pins had been removed so that as E2 was pulled away the bridge would stay where it is, and could be slid out of the E1 letterbox and lowered onto the temporary support frames. To enable

2017/01/02 By Ben Rowe

Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd January – the move routine


The routine of moving the modules is becoming slicker, and I’m managing my input to suit the night moves. Tuesday 3rd January Today we got the B2 and B1 modules rigged up and winched away from each other and the C module.

2017/01/01 By Ben Rowe

Sunday January 1st 2017 – moving H1


Today I checked the H1 bolted connections on the towing frame and noted all was good apart from a poorly fitting rear steering tie. We came up with a solution to overcome this and then I checked the sub-floor. I checked that all the locking pins were still out and noted that legs 3 &4

2016/12/31 By Ben Rowe

Saturday December 31st – prepping H1 and annual summer BBQ


Today we were getting the plastic membrane under the legs of the H1 module ready for the next move, scheduled for Sunday evening. We winched the module forward to get separation from the E2 module. This took around 26 tonnes (and a round a quarter of the module weight) to break the static friction (stiction)

2016/12/30 By Ben Rowe

Friday December 30th – first Halley module – H2 is moved.


It’s a sunny but very cold windy day. Six more Adelie penguins walk through site at the Southern end. We waited for the STMO power generator necessary for the hydraulics system and the vehicles to do preparation works to separate the H1 module. We successfully unhooked the H1 module stairs so that we could lower it when

2016/12/29 By Ben Rowe

Thursday December 29th – Foxing day


Today is Foxing Day and most are up late morning after the night before. I joined some of the others watching films from 0900 until brunch at 1230. I went skidooing with a couple of the team and afterwards played footy in the sunshine, which given the variable snow surface was far more exhausting than on

2016/12/28 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday December 28th – Fakemas day


Today is our Fakemas day and very much like a normal Sunday day off with late brunch at midday. In the afternoon we organised ourselves into teams and judges for the ‘Halley Winter Olympics’ which included tug of war, sledging, flag pole throwing, with the winning team getting the timber cup made by one of

2016/12/27 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday December 27th – H2 science module lowered to travelling height ahead of its move


We checked the towing frame installation that restrains the module legs and maintains the relative dimensional position, and this then allowed the H2 science module to be lowered to its travelling height in preparation for its move. We offloaded the heavy duty plastic slippers (crane mats) that are around 10m by 2.5m, which we can use

2016/12/26 By Ben Rowe

Monday December 26th – schedule for moving the modules


Still feeling a little unwell, and due to on-going cargo operations we can really only do preparation works that can be undertaken by hand. A team opened the bridge up in readiness for the eventual lift. This involved removal of the end GRP units that the deck panels drop into, the edge GRP beam and

2016/12/25 By Ben Rowe

Sunday 25th December – visit to creek 6 and meeting the captain of the relief vessel


Although it’s Christmas day, due to the relief operation still being underway and the ship being unloaded, the celebrations are postponed until the 28th. This will ensure that everyone can relax and enjoy Christmas together. I was asked as part of the management team to get involved this morning in digging out barrels and loading

2016/12/24 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 24th December – Jan explains brunt ice shelf formation

Image: British Antarctic Survey

Some great feedback from Jan on understanding the reason behind the aerial settlement. He explained what is different about the Brunt Ice Shelf formation.  My understanding was that the ice is created on the land mass and gets pushed out to sea where the hydrostatic pressure of the water supports it, and then it eventually

2016/12/23 By Ben Rowe

Friday 23rd December – ground penetrating radar scan and supporting Jan the BAS glaciologist


Arranged today to go with Jan the BAS glaciologist to do a ground penetrating radar scan on the superDARN aerial array to understand the settlement problems experienced to-date.  I organised with the aerial controller for the array to be switched off for safety which worked out well as the steel team could also do some

2016/12/22 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd December – disconnection of the trelleborg module connections


Today we were joined by new room-mates – so we have a full room of four. The finished draft condition report was passed to the re-location project manager. Thursday 22nd December Today I looked at the bridge Palfinger crane, which is used to load or off-load heavy goods and waste.  I inspected it on site

2016/12/20 By Ben Rowe

Monday 19th and Sunday 20th December – waist height in snow


Still feeling unwell, and the weather is bitterly cold this morning. Big snow tails complicate the walk to the temporary camp with snow drifts up to waist height. This morning I mucked in helping preparation works for the move, which meant emptying and taping closed cupboards. After this I went into the sub floor and started

2016/12/18 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th December – next tasks


I spent the morning writing an initial pass of the discussion and recommendations sections of the module condition report.  I also planned the next list of tasks, which include; • an assessment of the north end fire escape damage • measuring leg extension to gauge height that the leg’s pins could be engaged • checking leg hydraulic system

2016/12/16 By Ben Rowe

Friday 16th December – a hard walk to the caslab to adjust the access stairs


After spending the morning working on the report I joined the steelwork team to adjust the access stairs to the Caslab which stands for Clean Air Sector Laboratory. This building has some very sensitive equipment for monitoring air constituents which is why it is located approximately 1.5 kilometres away from the rest of Halley.  You have

2016/12/15 By Ben Rowe

Thursday 15th December – more bridge work today


It’s another snowy and windy day.  Lots of snow tails complicating movement between modules and other buildings. We tested straps for the bridge lift and checked these could be fed through the gap between the steelwork and the cladding. We also checked the steelwork to check the bridge will fit onto the fabricated temporary steelwork

2016/12/14 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 14th December – preparing Halley’s bridge for the move


Today I worked with a chippy and rigger to lift the timber panels on the bridge and tightening the cladding fixings and record the condition. I created a document on the bridge loads so we could plan the lifting operations.  I also looked at the bridge plan bracing and tried to anticipate whether this would

2016/12/13 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday 13th December – more preparation while the poor weather continues


The awful weather continues today, so spent the day writing up the condition report.  The move of the first module will not happen today for sure.  I spent some time looking at stability scenarios if the hydraulics in a leg failed and the rapid shortening created a loss of support. The risk of a sudden

2016/12/12 By Ben Rowe

Monday 12th December – Horizontal snow

Image: British Antarctic Survey

Today I feel like I have arrived in Antarctica.  Snow is being blown horizontally on the back of the 30mph wind.  Over-night this has changed the fairly flat site around the temporary camp and associated buildings to ridges and troughs everywhere.  When there is a deposit of fresh snow the contrast can become so uniform

2016/12/11 By Ben Rowe

Sunday 11th December – 14,255km from London


This sign post outside the front of the modules is a stark reminder of just how far I am from the UK, 14255 kilometres to London. Each day we get in the habit of checking the weather.  Primarily to see the impact of wind chill and sunshine to get a feel of the temperature, influencing

2016/12/10 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 10th December – Starting the Halley modules separation


This morning got the final legs connections checked with no issues. In the afternoon the team including technical engineering staff and steelworkers went through the process of lifting each leg to break the contact with the ice and installing the polythene sheets and drilling fluid to improve the break out friction and reduce the amount

2016/12/09 By Ben Rowe

Friday 9th December – Checking Halley’s critical leg connections


Started this morning with testing the H2 module leg hydraulics. There was some previous evidence of a minor leak however the source could not be found – so prepared to deal with it if it becomes evident during the relocation. With a couple of the BAS team we checked the tightness and completeness of all

2016/12/08 By Ben Rowe

Thursday 8th December – A bitterly cold day checking the lifting frame


Today I started off on this bitterly cold morning with inspection of the lifting frame which was designed to provide temporary support to one end of a module during leg lifting operations. As I inspected the lifting frame I took off my gloves to take a photo record and within a couple of minutes my

2016/12/07 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 7th December – Inspection of towing equipment


Today I found some working space with good in‐direct and overhead light in the A module TV room to start capturing my survey work. I ran through the various structural related report and method statements, marking up questions and key aspects and took the opportunity to have a detailed look at areas that have had

2016/12/06 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday 6th December – Sunburn and static shock


Although I have been regularly applying sun‐cream, the reflection of the sun off the ice can quickly cause some sun‐burn.  The air here is dry and although I have not, a lot of people have developed a persistent dry cough. It is also easy to become dehydrated from the dryness and sun – not what

2016/12/05 By Ben Rowe

Monday 5th December – Update with BAS team on the key engineering aspects of the move


Starting to get into a routine with both room‐mates and overall summer camp. At 0800 we had our Field Module 1 training session which included use of a Tilley lamp and stove, use of iridium phone and communication protocol, tent and food provisions.  Kind of stuff I last did best part of forty years ago

2016/12/03 By Ben Rowe

Saturday 3rd December – First day in Halley

Ben in front of Halley. Image British Antarctic Survey

The working day is organised around the meals timings. The working day starts at 0800, there’s a mid‐ morning break for 30 minutes, an hour for lunch at 1300, mid‐afternoon 30 minute break and then dinner at 1900. I guess if the weather was really cold and the work very manual then these mid‐morning and

2016/12/02 By Ben Rowe

Friday 2nd December – Refuelling in Neumayer and departing for Halley


The flight was likely to stop at Neumayer German research station to refuel, before completing the remainder of the 700miles trip to Halley. On the morning of the flight we were ready at 0730 with our bags, and were at the runway base by 0800. Having off loaded our bags onto the icy ground we

2016/12/01 By Ben Rowe

Thursday 1st December – Building an igloo

Igloo DSCN0658compressed

This morning a few of us walked from Novo across the rocky landscape to the nearby Indian Station.  Here we met up with a couple of  our group who had arrived a little earlier and had met some of the Indian group who were on the plane with us a couple of days previously from

2016/11/30 By Ben Rowe

Wednesday 30th November – A walk to the frozen lake

Arrival at Novo runway

A group of us decided to take ourselves off for a walk down to the frozen lake then up to a couple of the summits. The surface is generally either ice or rocks varying from gravel size up to a small car. The rocks visual appearance is quite varied from fairly typical course granites from

2016/11/29 By Ben Rowe

Tuesday 29th November – Travelling with the BBC

Flight from Cape Town to Novo, Antarctica.

We got on one of the two buses for the Antarctic flight where there was a mixed group of Americans. Turned out that this group included 86 years old Buzz Aldrin, the second man to visit the moon after Neil Armstrong. The American group was on board as part of a BBC programme being made of his

2016/11/26 By Ben Rowe

Journey to Antarctica 26th November

Ramboll. British Antarctic Survey

Departing from Heathrow, the first leg of the journey was an 11 hour flight to Cape Town. We arrived on Saturday 26th November in a very comfortable 24 centigrade. Each stage of this journey is punctuated by the time to stow away our baggage (probably around 80 pieces between us) however it is clear that