December 27th, 2006

As some of you might have gathered from the fact that I haven’t done any blog updates for six weeks, I have been more than a little busy! In fact I’d go as far as to say that I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I have these last six weeks – starting early, finishing late and fielding constant questions and issues from people during every meal break!

Rather than try and give a full history of what has actually happened, here are the main developments in a few specific areas:

Firstly, the planes. There’s been a lot of problems with the aircraft even after they arrived. We had regulatory issues with the Twin Otters and a huge saga with the propellors on the Dash. In the latter case the Dash and its crew were stranded in Stanley for about a fortnight after turning back in mid-flight with oil pouring from two of the propellors. Eventually parts were obtained and the props were repaired, but it took a long time. Various people who had been given seats on Dash flighs were instead put on the James Clark Ross for a slow cruise down the Peninsula!
Finally in mid-December the BAS board lost patience with the new aircraft maintenance company and revoked their contract, awarding a new contract to the Canadian firm who had maintained the aircraft for the last five years.

Ships: Just before Christmas the James Clark Ross made an appearance, festooned with huge amounts of deck cargo and tied up against the wharf to get rid of it all before heading off round Ryder Bay on a science cruise. When they returned they unloaded everything else and so the base is now a sea of boxes, containers and vast amounts of packaging. There’s always a delicate balance to strike between overpackaging and having stuff damaged in transit, so we end up shipping a lot of packaging material back to the UK for reuse each year.

People: We’re now up to 95 on base, with a large contingent from Morrison Construction who are building the first phase of the new base. More importantly for me we’re now up to full strength in the Comms team. Tristan (my replacement) and Crispin (one of the summer radio operators – he’s an FGA who fancied a change of scene) arrived on the second Dash flight and it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire as we went quickly into a very complex operation to put a team of four onto Pine Island Glacier which is out on the far western edge of our normal operating area. Because of the trouble with the Dash, our two Royal Navy staff arrived on the JCR. Simon and Jamie are trainee helicopter pilots and will be dividing their time between doing comms work and helping out the Air Unit with refuelling, loading and maintaining the aircraft.

Christmas: Everyone always asks about Christmas down here. It’s a lot more low-key than in the UK because it’s right at our busiest time of year. There’s no pre-Christmas build-up and the general consensus is that we don’t think about it until the JCR leaves (usually around the 22nd). But we do now have decorations up, we had our Christmas dinner (turkey, of course, but no bones – bone-in meat is forbidden under the treaty) and people received gifts from home. But today (Boxing Day) all the BAS staff are back at work. I worked on Christmas afternoon – as the pilots wanted to continue flying as we had good weather – but it wasn’t too much hardship!

One Response to “Super-hectic”

  1. LornaJane Says:

    It sounds hectic, I did think you were being rather quiet! I’m glad to hear that things are going well, even if it has been rather fraught. Hope you enjoyed your Christmas anyway, its kind of still Christmas here as I don’t go back to work until the 2nd. Happy New Year as well :)

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