Comings and goings

December 25th, 2005

A lot has happened since I last wrote – I’ve been very busy indeed and haven’t had a chance to sit down and write. I’d no sooner got the smell of Avtur (aviation fuel) out of my clothes than Andy and Owen, two of my colleagues on the Comms team, were sent down to Sky Blu to man the depot there. This left just three of us (myself plus Mark and Pete) to cover all the flying and field party scheds, so we’ve been working pretty hard.
We’ve had a lot of people come and go through the station in the last fortnight – we started with a team of four pilots from the German antarctic research programme, who arrived from Punta Arenas in their Dornier 228 aircraft. The Dornier is a bit bigger than our Twin Otters, and slightly faster, but it requires a much longer runway. In fact, it needed almost the entire runway before it was airborne, which is distinctly nervewracking! They stayed for one night and then flew on to Halley – from there they transfer to Neumayer, the German base in Dronning Maud Land.
We also had two of our Otters make the long flight to Halley – one went to stay for the duration of their season (until the end of February) and the other returned a few days later, via Berkner Island and Sky Blu, bringing back a few staff who needed to make a quick exit and a whole pile of parcels to be sent back to the UK.
After that, everyone’s mind was on the imminent arrival of the James Clark Ross, bringing food and cargo for the station. It got very close to Rothera but then became stuck in the ice near the southern end of Adelaide Island. I was lucky enough to go out on an Ice Observation flight in the Dash-7: this involved flying a number of low passes over the ship and surrounding sea to try and find breaks in the ice and was very exciting! However, all looked black the following day when it became clear that ship was not making any progress and eventually the captain decided to turn around and look for another route. 24 hours later, though, the ship had slunk through between the areas of hard ice and was steaming across Margerite Bay towards Rothera. Thus began the Relief of Rothera – the process of unloading all the cargo for the coming year. In fact, the JCR was supposed to go out and do a small science cruise in Ryder Bay, but the ice conditions prevented this from going ahead – so we had our full relief a little earlier than anticipated. It really was a case for everyone to muck in and shift the cargo and pack it away. Most days a party of up to 30 Rotherans would be called down to the food bays to stow away all the boxes and tins of food that the ship had brought – human chains of people shifting endless tins of mushrooms will be one of my memories of Rothera!
Around the same time as the ship arrived, the Dash-7 went north to Stanley with a few people whose work was already completed, and took more people out to meet HMS Endurance and prepare for fieldwork on the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. It returned in the middle of relief – the base suddenly seemed full of people and the queue for dinner stretched right across the dining room and onto the stairs. Then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, the JCR sailed off into the not-sunset leaving us piles of stuff to sort out. We’ve also welcomed the rest of the new winterers and a few more summer staff to the base – they’re all getting used to life on land again after up to three weeks at sea!

2 Responses to “Comings and goings”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Hi – just wanted to send you a quick Happy Christmas! Looking forward to hearing how Antarcticans celebrate Christmas :)

  2. SteveJ Says:

    Happy Boxing Day, dude.

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