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 is essentially a rocky path with icy patches in the low areas. What’s immediately apparent is the amount of wildlife compared to Halley where the odd penguin or bird was an event.  Around the point we saw Elephant, Crab Eater and Weddell seals, Blue Eyed Cormorant, gulls and an Adelie penguin.

There is a group of Elephant seals that permanently block the bridge over a creek on the site. They are truly big animals and pretty smelly at times.

The Station Leader passed me some induction sessions for Monday. Not sure what will be doing during my time in Rothera but I’m sure there will be some subtle differences in standard operating procedures from Halley.

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 site VI was great because the night had been down to -22 C and the snow sparkled as the morning sun reflected off the crystals as we sped past.  We soon passed the Snowcats trundling slowly along the relief road on their 3-4 hour journey to Creek 6.

I arrived at the temporary camp at site VI and met the pilot and the co-pilot. Around 9:30am we got the okay at the Three Ronnie’s site and decided we would pack whilst we waited for the weather update from Rothera, which operates on Chilean time three hours behind Halley and therefore was too early at that point.  Whilst my time at Halley was really enjoyable, the re-location project had very little left to do.  I was therefore looking forward to getting home and the journey there.  The pilot got the okay around 10.30am and shortly afterwards we took off from the well-groomed runway.

The flight to the Three Ronnie’s base was good with views of the Brunt Ice Shelf and then the bay with lots of ice bergs in different states of break up and melt. They became less evident as we neared the end of our 3.5hr flight.

As we neared our destination the sea ice became denser with less cracks and spaces in between. The Three Ronnie’s base will be where the RSS Shackleton will go with the 40 people from Halley to off load the fuel barrels.  The sea ice had few open channels and the ice shelf cliffs were reasonably high.  One of the experienced managers was left at the base with the local team to inspect the ice shelf and sea ice, and to discuss both feasibility and ramp construction for the relief operation.

I took the opportunity to co-pilot for the next stage of the journey to Fossil Bluff. The first hour or so was pretty dull due to cloud cover obscuring the scenery below. Eventually the clouds cleared to reveal changes in the landscape, with the flat ice shelves now punctured with the occasional black rock outcrop, which grew into mountain ranges.  As we neared Fossil Bluff the pilot explained that the black mountains heat up under the long sunlight hours and melt the ice, and within the valleys these join up to form watery pools and  streams.  After a while as I looked out the cockpit window I could see these deep turquoise areas of melted snow starkly contrasting against the white in the low lying areas at the base of the rock faces.

We then flew on to Rothera where the range of mountains grew taller and denser. As we neared our destination the ice shelf and dark mountain ranges rapidly changed to a still grey sea punctuated with white and occasional blue ice bergs.  It was really stunning seeing these three landscapes coming together.   On the far side of the sea we skimmed across to a narrow low lying shingle runway where we landed for once on wheels rather than skis.  The runway is surrounded by snow covered black rock mountains and the bays of water with frequent icebergs.

It definitely feels strange to be back on terra firma. The scenery is totally different, more interesting with the contrasts of snow and rock, but also ice-bergs, wildlife and density of buildings. I was met by the friendly BAS Station Leader.

We were given an initial briefing, which will continue on Monday and then made way to our shared rooms and got rid of our bags. I then had a wander around the main buildings to both orientate myself as well as find things like the computer and telephone rooms.

We had a drink or two in the bar and then called to the dining room for the evening meal, which was celebrating Burn’s Night.

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 today with the intention to start taking away cargo and people. This is done so that the temporary camps can be deconstructed, and the only way to do this work is to reduce numbers occupying these camps.  We’re also advised that my flight is on the way and due to arrive around 6.30pm.

In the afternoon a few of the team finished off the stairs to the communications caboose.

The BAS chief engineer and I had a drink or two and got the relocation project t-shirt and badge.

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 certainly feeling like the end of the summer season weather wise. I intended to raise the snow berms to H1 and H2 but lifting frame is too low, so until the vehicles have raised the general  snow levels we will need to delay this final snow packing.

Nevertheless, we did manage to lower the E2 berms to legs 3 and 4, it was hard work but we got the leg pins in place. The skis require very little bearing area in the short-term so any peaks held the ski high despite our efforts.  However through a few cycles of lifting the legs we were able to knock these peaks away and achieve the leg extensions to engage the pins.

We were told at today’s situation report that the Twin Otter aircraft is coming tomorrow and that I will be on it with five others. So I had to crack on and pack in preparation. Speaking to the team, the trip across to Rothera is via two bases called the Three Ronnie’s and Fossil Bluff and is great although there is a risk of getting stuck at these remote bases if the weather quickly changes.

We had few drinks in the temporary camp and at around 10pm went to take what could have been my last photos and video of the modules. When I arrived in module A, the team had been looking for me as they were having a bit of a party. It feels now like the end has come about very quickly – but I understand that this is quite usual towards the end of a season.  More of ‘Hurry up and wait’ and lots of flexibility required as you are advised of fast moving changes.

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 pretty good internal levelling across the module thresholds and the Trelleborg generally reflect a good profile. I followed up with a level survey of the soffits and skis to the Southern Gateway and all pretty good and only three legs outside the leg extension range. We should be able to get all the pins in and play with a couple of the longer legs extensions to improve on it slightly, but we’re now talking 25mm max change.

The work is now almost done with the North end complete and some minor snow packing to the South.

The carpenters and steelwork teams are busy blocking vents, droppers and making storage and transport boxes for the some of the science instruments.

I re-ran the spreadsheet and can do these minor leg adjustments. I also looked at the soffit levels of the E2 to H2 modules and these have less than 10mm change from melt and compression from yesterday so it looks good for the final level adjustments.  Hopefully we can do this tomorrow.

Saturday is karaoke night and Sunday is the organised trip under your own power from site VI to VIa. Some are skiing, cycling, walking, running.  However more recently there is an option to test drive some of the vehicles used out here – this sounds more fun as an experience so probably will get involved in this.

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 rather than the powdered Nido and water mix, fresh fruit and salad, and of course my own choice of what to eat and when. During the week there is also very little time to get some exercise in unless you cut out meals and do so at lunchtime or late on into the evening.

Monday 23rd January

I undertook a new survey this morning to understand the settlement in the snow packed foundations and re-check how much we need to adjust to get to our target level. I inputted the data into a spreadsheet, translated it to the Southern Gateway site datum, and added some graphics so all would be clear and understandable.

I was surprised that this suggested that even skis in place for a fortnight had settled 70mm in four days, and the latest module moved just about a week ago has settled by 100mm. This is massive and makes you understand that as long and everything remains relative that this sort of movement is not that important. However given we have brought modules in over a few weeks everything is moving at a slightly different speed and we need to anticipate this to avoid this impacting on the pin engagement when finishing the module levels. Unlike the simple annual raising of the modules on well compacted ice sub-base, we are on fresh ground with unknown compaction and all complicated at surface level by direct sunshine radiation and air temperatures. Hopefully my spreadsheet can help with keeping us on track to get the right leg extensions to engage the pins and still achieve good consistency in levels.

The plan is to organise some plant to allow us to adjust B2 to E1, and then re-read the levels on E2 to H2 tomorrow.

I established the Morph global positioning system locations on the module roofs following a chat with James – so if time, I can have a think about how this system can help our understanding of building movements through the seasons and tie in with the other measured surveys.

The situation report covered progress, end of season arrangements for travel and timing of decisions for anyone deciding to make their own way home. Lots to do with booking box numbers and getting your possessions back home – they need to pass through customs and therefore a proper audit route is vital.

The team extended one of the towers at the North end of the site.

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 dozer driver provides snow to pack beneath the ski it is much harder, has a poor size distribution and is difficult to handle.  We ended up with the skis being slightly too high, which will prevent us from achieving our leg extensions, but BAS’s experienced engineer decides to leave it for a few days to see how the skis settle in. I will check the levels to the site Southern Gateway datum first thing Monday so we can see what adjustment will be required.

It is fairly easy to fill snow to raise a ski but reducing levels is really hard because under the metal ski pressure the snow turns to ice, and this takes a crowbar to break up. To get better predictability, it is  worth scraping the top 400mm of snow from the surface to get to more consistent snow properties below (not affected by a warm days sun) and use this for filling.

I need to relate module soffit and ski edge to the HMI hydraulic system leg extensions. We need to get the leg extensions above the 1275mm target minimum to get the pins in, but also need a fairly level module which is checked initially via the soffit, and also the ski level to reflect the snow level.  It is unlikely that leg extensions in one module to another will give the same height of the module above the snow.  Therefore I will need to link these aspects together to achieve the best level alignment.

In terms of priority we need to achieve the leg extension range to get the pins safely in, the floor needs to be reasonably level and the loads on the legs should ideally be fairly equally balanced.

Another team cracked on and attached the second dropper to the bridge.

Some of the team played footy this afternoon. I was tired so took it a little easy and may sketch out an article for a local Wimborne magazine and Old Canfordian school magazine.

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 alignment and then the sides packed by hand using the timber board. However whilst the morning snow was powdery enough for this method, by the afternoon it had become slushy and therefore was more difficult to handle and compacted as the ski load was applied. Consequently the operation was difficult to get right first time, and to get the tolerance we need for the pin engagement range the snow berms need really to be with 25mm of the target level. We made adjustments in the height and raised the legs to allow for the compaction. We have the benefit of leaving the skis to settle and melt in over the next day or so, we’ll see if we want to do a final round of packing after this.

This evening we also raised modules H2, H1 leg extensions to get up to similar level as E2 based on floor link plates and review of Trelleborg shape. As the Trelleborg is made up of folds of flexible material it exhibits changes which reflect the geometry across the module interface. So when all the folds exhibit a full height consistent width, without any ripples, the modules are usually in the correct proximity, level and square-ness to each other.

It was clear that the warm sun today has allowed modules A to B2 to melt in some more.

The winching of the southern modules together across a cross slope and the snow berm packing have, and will continue, to take time to get right.

Spoke to Luci this evening, it was good to catch up as she will be away at the weekend when I would normally try to call.

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

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 just about up and ready for the 8am start. The over-night moves, six day weeks, eleven hour days and communal living do play a toll on your energy levels – however others seem to be suffering more than me.

First thing this morning I did the full level survey of all the module legs, soffits and skis. Standing in front of the dumpy level doing very precise movements to sight the instrument and record the information meant my fingers were freezing within 30 minutes.  Halfway through I stopped to get my circulation moving and found this was initially more painful than the cold.

I logged the information and waited for information on the leg extensions from the HMI hydraulic control units which required the power and communication links to be established. After getting the required information after lunch I worked to ensure we achieved the leg extensions within the 1275mm to 1375mm range and minimised the number of legs between modules B2 to E1 that we needed to adjust. I came up with a strategy of stepping some of the modules soffits by 25mm within their length.

I also looked at an upper bound scenario where up to 60mm melt settlement affects some of the newly re-located modules but not others where the skis have already melted fully in. So this may mean that if there are a few sunny days that the levels we achieve in the next day or two will need the legs extending further to maintain a level soffit.  Having assessed this I am happy we could do minor adjustments in the module levels and still maintain the leg extensions within the set range.

Jan the glaciologist presented information about the Brunt Ice Shelf formation, features and growth. This included the recent growth of Chasm 1 which had been dormant for some years, but particularly the Halloween crack as it was named since its discovery in October 2016. The glacial models can show a range of scenarios, however there is considerable unpredictability at this point.

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 dressing up box stored in the module, and waved goodbye to site VI from the rear fire escape.

We brought along some snacks and played music and chatted the entire 4 or so hours.

When we arrived at the other end there was lots of whooping, as the chief engineer counted in the last module. We all made it down the fire escape ladder and wandered over to the temporary camp to continue celebrating the re-location success.  The team were in high spirits, we eventually turned in around 4am.

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 lunch as we planned to move the B1 module tonight.  After smoko I carried out survey work so that we knew how much to raise the legs on the snow berms to modules E2, H1 and H2.

After lunch at the situation report we were told that BAS management had made the decision that Halley VI would not be occupied for the next winter season. The reason behind this is that the new crack in the ice shelf that is still moving inland. The new crack presents a complex glaciological picture that means that BAS scientists are unable to predict with certainty what will happen to the ice shelf during the forthcoming Antarctic winter.

We took the sledge with Dave driving the Skidoo over to site VI to collect the B2 module, the route across was particularly icy.

The B1 module move went ahead smoothly as ever. Having completed our standard checks and given this was an accommodation module both of us travelled inside and found a bed to read or sleep on. I set my alarm for 02:15 as this would wake me if I dozed before we arrived at site VIa.  The stop was bang on the money, stopping with only 25mm to go.  As I said to him, he could only have got it better if he had got the Trelleborg connector straight on to the fixings.

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 final rear leg alignment before de-rigging, using the lifting frame to lift the legs and remove the slippery pads. The team is working really well together and we are all in the swing of the work.

I then did a final survey that shows that the alignment is good.

Normal Saturday evening, and celebrated my birthday and the end of the week with a few drinks.

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 dozer was also used for a minor adjustment in the E/W direction on the other legs once the Trelleborg was connected. This method was quick and with the right control, driver care and experience was very straight forward.

Once the module was positioned the legs were lifted, the slippery pads removed and skis replaced on the snow. The weather was very windy and picking up snow from elsewhere. This is a real issue with the slippery sheets which are hard to keep a grip on, even without fighting against the wind.

My level survey was generally used to place the keel line and allowed for 50mm melt of the snow in contact with the ski to get us where we needed to achieve our required leg extensions.

We are waiting for the okay to Skidoo to site VI and bring back the C module tonight – so will depend on the weather forecast. Despite the weather being pretty atrocious we get the okay and the journey across is fun with the wind blowing horizontally across the icy road, masking the peaks and troughs that lead to the Skidoo bouncing around. Generally manage around 50km/h and get there in around 30 minutes.

We join site VI for our evening meal, then finish off the towing steelwork and steering chains. We get the module powered up and lowered to its transport height, transfer the HMI (hydraulic system human interface), and pull up the ladder for our journey. The wind constantly whistles through the taped up end doors.

The drivers struggled a bit with keeping the line given the difficult conditions, and could feel the impact of the wind on the vehicle progress.

As we neared module A at the end of the move the chief engineer did really well, stopping the module 200mm short and 200mm to the West. Make’s the re-alignment work easier tomorrow.

Busy day so not really a moment to think about celebrating my birthday.

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 module A tonight.

Thursday 12th January

Today we jacked module A up to height, removed the towing frames so that we could bring in the lifting frame, raise the legs off the ground and add the slippery pads, allowing us to move into position in both the E/W and N/S axes.

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 working at that time.
The levelling of the buildings approach has been, to set modules E1 / bridge / E2, and then followed by all the other modules either side. As we discovered during my initial work at site VI, to engage the locking pins successfully a minimum leg extension is needed.  However the maximum leg extension is around 1460mm (+/-50mm), so we are aiming to have all the modules leg extensions in the range 1275 to 1375mm, and not extend any leg more than 1410mm as a maximum. This means that we will need to get the levels in the snow pretty accurate given the tolerances required for differential snow melt and compaction. This will be particularly difficult on the lower part of the site where we will need to introduce 700mm high berms to level the modules through.
Consequently I undertook lots of levelling work on module E1 as it sits at the top of the slope and will be the unit with the lowest leg extensions, and so, critical to inserting the pins. So we will need to set the minimum leg extension here, and then replicate the snow levels elsewhere to work within the leg extension range that we have set ourselves.

As we do not have time to level the modules down the slope on the snow berms I have to work out how we can use the module tolerances in the Trelleborg to set up from the bottom of the slope and get the E2 module reasonably close to the E1 module to allow the bridge to be re-connected. This requires me to slope the modules between the legs, create up to 100mmm steps at the Trelleborg junctions, and this allowed me to get the E2 module to within 200mm of the set E1 module height. The 18m long bridge was easily capable of managing this step change although the bearings needed keeping an eye upon.
I also checked the bridge length to make sure that when we finished pulling the E2 module onto the H1 module that we had adequate tolerance to drop the bridge in. The bridge lift went ahead this evening, the pins connection to the E2 module went back in easily and we winched the E1 module letterbox onto the bridge projecting beams that form the sliding connection.

My son Daniel left for his travels today so in the evening I spoke to Luci to make sure she was ok.

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 it was always about further qualifications to start a career. However I am proud that he has the confidence and independence to do his own thing. So I sent my love and asked him to stay in touch so we know he is ok. This might seem obvious, however most lads do not see the need to communicate at all unless they need something or it’s gone horribly wrong!  In between these times it would be nice to know where he is in the world and what he’s exploring! I followed up our chat with some photos from down South.  He said that he had set up the digital photo frame that I gave my wife Luci at Christmas, to pick up photos uploaded to the web from wherever he is during his travels.  This sounds easier for him and more likely than a call!

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 the WASP (winter accommodation building for the science team) building to pick some climbing boots and then jumped into the Snowcat for the trip.  The Snowcat is a really cool and quirky looking vehicle – almost like a Land Rover on high suspension and triangular tracks.

The Snowcat carried nine of us and the other four rode in the sledge dragged behind.  Just before we arrived at the creek we got a radio call from the people in the sledge saying the rope had broken free.  We looked out the back window to see them deserted and at a standstill 100m behind.  Our field guide turned round to pick them back up and found that a small burr on the shackle had over the distance of travel cut through the rope.
The other field guides had gone on ahead on skidoos to set up climbing ropes over an ice cliff and to check out the safety of the sea ice shelf.

When we arrived we popped on crampons and harness in preparation for the climb.  We were shown how to use ice picks and crampons and then let loose on the various climb routes under the watch of the field guides.
We then walked onto the sea ice carefully stepping over the crack with the ice shelf.  Wildlife was limited to a single Adelie penguin and a Weddell seal.

We arrived back to site VIa pretty exhausted and just in time for the Sunday 6.30pm meal.

In the evening I went out with the total station retrieved from site VI to check our alignment. It took a little while to established the line to set out the N/S axis and agreed that our line was around 0.9 degrees off the original. However, it was in the right direction, given the ice shelf rotation each year of 0.4 degrees.  The chief engineer was pleased that the original assessment was spot on and that my initial ‘on the spot’ advice on offset was also correct.  Now called the ‘Calc’ – I am starting to realise just how much as an engineer I take numerical fluency and manipulation for granted, and that it just forms an integral part of our language and communication.  So I now hear across the radio – ‘Calc’s happy with it’ and just left to get on with the numbers that inform our plan for the module positioning.

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 flag line and the offset at the end of the modules that I raised yesterday so this was then clear for everyone.

We also set up the lattice towers that form the Southern Gateway burying the foundations some three metres below ground level.  This will allow the connection of the modules with external infrastructure as well as being the datum point for future level surveys.
At the end of the day the BAS Project Manager, Station Leaders and I discussed the new alignment.  I suggested we could go back to the original setting out points and simply re-create the original bearing and compare with this new line. The setting out is only relevant to lengths of infrastructure connections and most importantly the snow wind tails which impact on the snow management around the building. The accuracy of the original snow tail measurements on this empty site in 2016 is unknown and further complicated as the Brunt Ice Shelf rotates by around 0.4 degrees each year so the accuracy will change with time.

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.  I was asked to set up a line to advise how much the H1, E2 units need to be moved laterally. Given the combined length of the modules was approximately 200m this 1 degree of variation would equate to a 3-4 metre offset from the current flag line. So it was important to reset the flag line so that we could minimise the amount that future modules arriving on site would have to be moved into alignment.

I haven’t carried out survey work for over 20 years, so this took me back to my early engineering days. The only instrument on site at this time was a dumpy level which is fine for levelling but pretty useless for any bearings etc. So first thing we got some timber pegs cut and hammered these into the snow so that I could form a stable base for the tripod legs that was not going to settle into the snow during the days use.

I used the dumpy level as a simple sight line across the three modules. I was able to record offset readings on the H2 module legs and therefore establish a leg line relative to my sightline. Using horizontal lengths between the module legs I was able to determine the offset to the other module legs to extend the H2 alignment. In the afternoon we were visited by a six Adelie penguins, quite remarkable given that we must be 30-40Km from the coast.

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 couple of hours.
Returning at 9pm from VIa, the BAS technical team planned to move E1 module and at 12.30am the initial pull got underway. I did this trip with a generator mechanic, who is over-wintering at Halley and taking care of the power generation side of the engineering. We arrived at VIa around 4:30am and got to bed in the Dewry at 5:30am exhausted. I was glad not to be riding back across to site VI for bed tonight.

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 this tricky part of the operation, we had the normal Piston Bully and two dozers at the front of the E2 module, and a dozer behind pre-loading the rear skis to help gently move it away.  We also had the bridge suspended from two cranes and all the bridge connections free.
As the E2 module was gently moved away the bridge moved with it for approximately half a metre so a stop was called. The cranes lifted the bearing a little higher and this allowed the E2 unit to be pulled clear. The bridge was then lifted down onto the temporary support frames and the vehicle team added some strops to reduce the stress on the frame whist transporting it to VIa. After some adjustments we got the bolts into various towing frame components for module E2, I then checked all was good for the night’s move. This time, a couple of people from the MEP team over-nighted with the module which was great as I got a full night’s sleep.

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 hydraulic rams already at an angle to the connection plates (which was something I noticed on the H2 module during towing).

The final check ahead of this evenings move was a check on the A-frame connection and load shackles. We leave to quite a crowd at site VI and arrive to a small group at VIa.  Again another cold sledge ride back and a very late night.