First day at Rothera

November 2nd, 2005

Well, after months of telling people that I might be in the Falklands for weeks on end, our plane flew on time – the Dash-7 took off from Stanley airport yesterday (Tuesday 1st) at around 10am and we arrived at Rothera in time for afternoon tea at 1500 – very civilised! I got to sit in the little jump-seat in the cockpit for approach and landing, so it was a very spectacular ride: the ice-covered mountains of Adelaide Island rising up out of the low cloud and then we descended and flew over the sea ice and down to a textbook landing on the runway at Rothera. The base itself is in a very scenic location – it’s on a little promontary (Rothera Point) surrounded by sea on three sides, with mountains beyond. Inside, it was very much like going back to university again: the main building (Bransfield House) was built in the 70s and is being refurbished, but the old bits (particularly the dining room and corridors) look a lot like Goodricke College at York. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and Jo the Doctor gave us a tour round. Our rooms are in the much newer Admirals House, which is very warm and comfortable. As we’re into the summer season, I’m sharing a room with Mark Laidlaw, but as he’s a Field General Assistant (or GA for short) he’ll be moving out to live in a tent for most of the season.
Food here is excellent, and the newly refurbished bar serves a selection of bottled beverages. Today we’ve been doing Base Training, learning about recycling our rubbish and driving skidoos and all-terrain vehicles. Anyway, must dash – I’ve got a safety talk to be at…

2 Responses to “First day at Rothera”

  1. Dino Jacobs Says:

    Hello my name is Dino, I am 7 years old (my mum is helping me with the typing) and I am a pupil at your mum’s school. We have been talking about you and she suggested I looked on your website to find out more about your adventures. Well I have looked at your wsite and it is very fantastic. I liked the Emperor Penguin it was funny and it was cute. Do they bite how big are they? The machines you use for your work look exciting,how fast can they go? I have to go now but I look forward to seeing more pictures – Keep up the good work – From Dino

  2. Michael P-J Says:

    Hello Dino!

    Thank you for your kind words about my website – I’m glad that you’re enjoying it!

    To answer your questions: the Emperor penguin was about 1.2 metres tall, although I didn’t get close enough to measure him! We’re very careful not to get too close to the wildlife here – they’re not scared of humans but we don’t want to disturb or frighten them. All penguins are very curious, and they often like to come and look at buildings, vehicles and people. Yes, they can bite (they have a long beak for eating fish), but we keep well clear of them!

    We have lots of machines around the base – in this picture you can see some of them. The big orange vehicle is called a Sno-Cat, and it has four large tracks to give it grip and stop it sinking into the snow. Inside it’s a bit like being in a car or a Land Rover – there are two seats in the front for driver and passenger, and then two bench seats in the back for passengers or goods. The Sno-Cats can climb very steep slippery slopes, but they travel quite slowly – not more than about 20 miles per hour. This year we’re getting a new Sno-Cat which has rubber tracks (our old one has metal ones) and can go much faster on flat ground. We use our Sno-Cat for taking groups of people up into the mountains to go walking and skiing, and for pulling a big freight sledge when we need to move a lot of equipment on the snow.

    The smaller vehicles in front of the Sno-Cat are called skidoos (some people call them snowmobiles) and they’re like motorbikes on skis. They’re designed for one person to ride – you sit or kneel on the seat and hold the handlebars. Skidoos are very exciting to drive – they can go much faster than the Sno-Cat and you have to lean out to go around corners. Sometimes we carry a second person on a skidoo – they sit on the back facing backwards. We can also tow a skier behind a skidoo – they hold onto a towrope and get pulled along, which is great if you need a lift uphill!

    We’ve got lots of other vehicles around the base – in the panoramic photo you can see tractors and trailers and a Gator in the vehicle yard. Gators are six-wheeled buggies which we use during the summer months when the snow melts around the base and we can’t use the skidoos. They’re quite slow but much easier to drive than a skidoo, and they can carry more cargo, too.

    We also have big mechanical diggers, a crane and a telehandler (which is like a fork-lift truck) as well as four aeroplanes. I’ll take some pictures of vehicles around the base for you soon.

    Please feel free to write back with more questions!

    Best wishes,


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