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 issues.

The new Halley VIa site is predicted to extend by 2.2m/km per annum which may translate to around 45mm for the bridge length. If we are fortunate any settlement of the E module legs may negate the extension on the site and the combined movement may be limited. It is an unknown status and therefore will require monitoring over the next year to ensure that the bridge maintains a safe bearing length, which has been discussed with the BAS staff and will need to investigate further.
Today I also inspected the members and connections on the A‐frames, towing members and ski spacers – leaving just the lifting frames to be done tomorrow.

Saturday 3rd December – First day in Halley

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 afternoon breaks would be a welcome chance to warm up.

Our briefing continued first thing this morning with the summer BAS station leader running through arrangements and safety. After Smoko which is the name used for the mid‐morning beak we jumped on a sledge pulled by a skidoo for a site orientation tour. We also had a communications talk for use of radios, laptops and communication back home in terms of limits of band‐width. We are introduced to a tag system which requires us to place our name tag on a hook that locates where we are on the site, and when not in a building but within the perimeter, which is added to a signing in/out book. Consequently we spend a fair amount of time visiting the tag board in the mess room to update our movements or advising station communications by radio.  However this is essential if a rescue had to be put into place due to an accident or poor weather conditions. Much of the planning is about working safely in the Antarctic environment.
Following lunch we were then free for the rest of the day. I took the opportunity of the sunny afternoon to get some snaps of the site. The established workforce were also given the afternoon off and were whizzing around the site on the skidoos, sometimes towing skiers, whilst others did some cross country skiing and others jogged around the site perimeter on a prepared track.

The bedrooms are pretty tight with four of us in bunkbeds sharing a room. Downstairs we have washing machines and dryers, boot room, social space including a kitchen and telephone booth. There is a melt tank that provides all the water, which needs us to shovel in snow each day to maintain this system.

Thursday 1st December – Building an igloo

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 Cape Town to Antarctica.
The guys were happy to show us their camp, work spaces and then taking us into their main winter accommodation.  There were a lot of friendly people who were interested in our work at Halley given it will be construction work and not their more familiar research.
We were all invited to stay for lunch which we accepted, after we notified the Russian base and our BAS group leader via their communications room, where I had to earth myself on a silver foil strip to avoid static on the equipment. We enjoyed a cup of tea and also a nice curry lunch in good company.
On return to our cabin my face was stinging and red from the wind. However we joined some of the others sledging down the hill and then joined in the construction of an Igloo.  Much harder than it seemed when Ray Mears made one with an Eskimo on TV.   The wind had picked up and after a while it started to become bitterly cold and not helped through handling the ice blocks.  It took a while but eventually we got it done and sat inside for photos and sheltering from the wind.