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 white through to grey, pink with white or black bands. Also lumps of white quartz and rocks with sparkling metallic flecks.
We climbed a couple of the rock summits keeping the station in clear sight and met up with another part of our group at the second summit and then walked together back to our hut.
Logistics and weather forecast between Novo and Halley indicates that we will have another full day here and then leave on Friday 2nd December. However we still need to be available to leave in an hour where necessary.
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 bucket list which included visits to both North and South Poles.
The flight to Novo was approximately six hours long and after around four hours we were advised on the screen that we had crossed the Antarctic Circle. Shortly afterwards we were given further screen information to change into Antarctic gear. It was a bit chaotic as kit bags were recovered and passed back down to the passengers. There was no room to change so half the people stood in the aisle or front area whilst seats were folded down and used to place our kit bags whilst we tried to get some seriously hot and bulky gear on. Try moving around a cramped aircraft with boots about 50% longer and wider than normal boots and with a padded boiler suit – felt and with the growing beard looked like Harry Potter’s Hagrid.
The camera in the front of plane showed our decent. However it was difficult to make out what was the icy ground and what was low level cloud. Eventually when we were close enough we were able to pick out the denser blue ice landing strip that was kept prepared. The landing was good and amazing that the aircraft reverse thrust could be applied without the aircraft going off line on the ice runway.
As we stepped off the plane we were hit by the cold freshness of the air, a gentle breeze and the blueness of the sky relative to the white ground spreading to the horizon in all directions. Quite some time was spent unloading the aircraft, sorting out the cargo to the different groups, and then loading sledges for onward passage to temporary accommodation
Our group was last to be moved and having loaded our baggage onto a Skidoo pulled sledge, we walked the kilometre to the runway base containers over the hill rather than waiting for the next pick up. We entered the adjacent container which was a canteen and had a welcomed bowl of hot soup followed by spaghetti and beef stew.
We were then transported to Novo on a trafficked route across the ice which the 4X4s coped with easily, given the extremely wide monster truck tyres taking us the Russian base, Novo, some 15km away. Our room in Novo is about 4m square with five beds and twice as many bags. Our main kit bags and hold bags have remained at the runway so we will continue to have no access to any other clothes or kit until we arrive in Halley.
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 everyone works as a team forming the typical BAS chain to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible – bodes well for the project.
When we arrived we met up with the Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI) guide, we had a short briefing, with the full briefing scheduled for Monday and onward flight to the Russian base Novo intended for Tuesday morning. At the ALCO briefing we needed to provide our kit bag, our main hold luggage the sleeping system bag and will not have access until we arrive in Novo and then not immediately. Hence we had to extract from the kitbag insulated boots, insulated boiler suit, jacket, socks, hat and neck cover, gloves, sunglasses and add these to a flight bag provided in the kitbag. This enables us during the flight to adjust our clothing suitable for the cold and windy conditions on the blue ice runway.