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 to ski or walk to reach it to avoid fumes from vehicles impacting on the monitoring. The air is so clear in Antarctica and the landscape so flat that you can easily see the building from the modules.  However when you come to walk to the lab without other reference points on the way it just seems to get no closer and take forever. The snow is un-compacted so the walk is hard work.  Walking partly in the deep footsteps of the front person seems to make this easier as some compaction has already happened but also leaves space in front of your boot toes to help with rotation into the next step.
The Caslab platform is around 4m above surrounding snow levels and as the snow accumulates each season this necessitates that every other year it is raised up the embedded legs to maintain its position above the snow.  This also means that the stairs to the platform become buried and need to be dug out and sections removed.  The stairs and handrails have been designed in lengths to allow this to be done and set aside for when the platform is raised next year.  The shortened stairs are re-supported on a 1.5m high snow platform that we shovel and compact into place and timber bearers to pick up the steelwork stringers.