Glossary of BASisms

It’s becoming clear that I’m using more jargon in my blog posts, so I thought I’d fill you in with some handy definitions.

  • avtur– aviation fuel, strictly “aviation turbine fuel”. A form of paraffin that’s suited for use in our Twin Otter aircraft. Avtur has a characteristic sweet smell that lingers on your clothes for days.
  • beaker – a scientist. The term isn’t (usually) derogatory – GAs often refer to “their beaker”, meaning the scientist that they’re working with during the season. Beakery is science or scientific equipment in general, as in “What’s that mast for? Oh, some kind of beakery or other.”
  • bog chisel – like a thick broom handle with a large blunt chisel on one end. Bog chisels are used for probing for crevasses, testing the thickness of ice, holding up radio antennas and chipping fuel drums out of ice amongst many other things. The name comes from the days when Halley had “long drop” type toilets into snow pits. Unfortunately, the waste froze into a sort of pyramid shape (usually called a turdicle or sometimes a stalacshite) and required periodic breaking up with the bog chisel, which was previously known just as a crevasse probe.
  • caboose – a hut or container mounted on skis. Originally cabooses were living units towed by muskegs, but now the term is used for any kind of building-on-skis.
  • doo – short for skidoo – like a motorbike on skis. Doomix is oil/petrol mix as used by the older doos, which have two-stroke engines.
  • GA – short for General Assistant. BAS employs two kinds of GAs. Field GAs are mountaineers, skiiers and outdoorsy types who are employed to look after beakers who are working in the field. Base GAs are employed as handymen to do waste management and general maintenance during the summer months. Mostly when people say GA, they mean a Field GA. Field GAs are also known as Field Assistants, and at one stage were called Polar Guides.
  • Field, the – away from base. Working “in the field” means living in a tent and eating manfood, unless you’re working at a big field camp. “Deep field” means living and working a long way from base.
  • gash – being “on gash” means that you’re excused normal work but have to assist with general cleaning and housekeeping duties of the day.
  • manfood – as distinct, originally, from dogfood. Manfood boxes are wooden boxes that contain 10 days’ supply of dried and tinned food for two people.
  • muskeg – old tracked vehicle, built in Canada by Bombardier. Muskegs replaced dogs for long overland expeditions. There’s one in the garage at Fossil Bluff.
  • Nido – dried full-cream milk powder, used on all bases and supplied in manfood boxes. It makes very respectable milk when made up correctly.
  • obs – short for observations – hourly observations of the weather.
  • rocket bog – an incinerating toilet. At field sites, most waste is disposed of in holes in the ground, but at Fossil Bluff and Sky Blu there are “rocket bogs”. Fossil Bluff’s one runs on propane gas and is burned every few days. The Sky Blu one runs on avtur and is a burn-after-use type.
  • smoko – teabreak. Rothera’s smoko times are 10:30-11:00 and 16:00-16:30 each day. Some people still smoke during their smoko, but they have to do it outside these days.
  • Spate pump – a fuel pump, used to refuel an aircraft from drums of avtur at Fossil Bluff and Sky Blu. It’s powered by a little petrol engine.