Supplies, supplies

March 30th, 2006

Since the Ernest Shackleton arrives it’s been all hands on deck to unload the cargo – there’s food and supplies for the winter, building materials for the second season’s construction work on the new building and lots and lots of fuel – for the base itself and for the air operations next season.
We’ve also unloaded the bond – the stocks of alcohol – for the next eight months…

Watching the Shackleton arrive

Watching the Shackleton arrive at dusk

Whilst the ship is in, all the winterers have been to see the dentist, who comes in to each base at last call. My teeth are healthy, although I’ve been reminded about the importance of flossing!
This was a slightly surreal experience, as the light swell at the wharf allows the ship to demonstrate its legendary vomit-inducing roll, even whilst tied up. Having your teeth scaled whilst the chair, surgery and dentist all roll gently from side to side is a bit bizaare, but you get used to it. What’s worse is walking back to the gangway having got used to the ship’s motion and seeing the land heaving up and down. Wierd!

Wildlife on One

March 29th, 2006

Here’s another video postcard, this time of wildlife on Rothera Point. I don’t think David Attenborough will be looking to his laurels, though!


The Shack is here!

March 29th, 2006

The Ernest Shackleton arrived last night at about 7:30, so we’re now into the busy period of cargo handling. I’ll post some pictures soon, but in the mean time I’d like to say thankyou to all the people who sent me letters and parcels which arrived on the ship.

More soon!

Ready for winter?

March 18th, 2006

Now, after the planes left I thought that I’d have more time to update this blog, but I was wrong, wasn’t I? Actually, a lot has happened since I last wrote – we’ve said farewell to the Air Unit, leaving 56 people on base to wait for the RRS Ernest Shackleton and the coming winter.

A quick rewind over the last three weeks: we had Folk Night, which features no folk music, but is a kind of revue/variety show put on by various people. Much silliness ensued. I was mostly behind the sound desk, but I did take part in a unique performance by Rothera’s very own band of Morris Men! This was very well received, and the cause of much hilarity. Here’s a video of the Morris Men in action. Anyway…

After the Dash-7 departed, taking the last of the Air Unit, the base breathed a general sigh of relief. However, there was relatively little peace for the wicked, as those of us wintering have had to add further strings to our bows – we’ve all had training on what to do in case of an oil spill, how to do a nightwatch round, how to use breathing apparatus to search a building in case of a fire and a meeting with Tim, the winter Base Commander, to discuss winter trips, gash, cook duties and other matters relating to the coming winter.

Rothera from the air
Rothera from the air – the base is now snow-covered again

Our winter training trips will begin shortly after the ship leaves – we all get six days off-base in the company of a field assistant to go and travel, climb mountains and generally learn about fieldcraft and have a good time. I’m going with Mark Laidlaw, who I shared a room with until recently, and the plan is to head out to Carvajal (pronounced Car-ver-harl), which is a largely abandoned base about 80km from Rothera. Carvajal began life as a British base (Adelaide, or “Base T”) but was transferred to the Chileans when Rothera was built to replace it in 1976. The Chileans have now largely abandoned it, mostly because the aircraft ski-way has become badly crevassed and it’s too dangerous to land there.

Carvajal from the air
Carvajal from the air

Before the aircraft left, all the winterers went for a “familiarisation flight” on the Dash-7 to see the sights of Adelaide Island and the surrounding area. We have a second round of winter trips in August-September, and on the off-chance that there might be good sea-ice this winter, the plane also showed us Horseshoe Island and Stonington Island (abandoned British bases) and San Martin (our Argentinian neighbours) although the chances of being able to visit any of these is extremely remote. Here are some photos from the flight.

Mountains on Adelaide Island
Mountains on Adelaide Island

The weather’s also become much more wintry – the temperature is now staying below zero, and we’ve had about five days of continuous snow, so the yards and buildings at Rothera are now snow-covered again, as they were in November when I first arrived. The fresh snow has been met with delight by the skiiers and snowboarders on base (most of us!) and I spent most of last weekend “up the hill” enjoying the snow. In fact, on Sunday night, Andy, Rob and Riet organised a barbeque at the caboose, so most of the base were up skiing and eating and enjoying the fine weather, fresh snow and distinctly surreal atmosphere!

The Ernest Shackleton should be with us on the 27th, and you can follow her progress on the tracking map.