A special summer season

The start of the summer season at Halley is defined by the arrival of the first plane or first BAS plane. This year in Oct already we had the ALCI flight crews come through on their way to around the Caird Coast to assist stations all along the route with cargo and personnel movements (PAX). Due to bad weather at Novo, Neumayer and Rothera we had another week between planes before the first BAS arrivals got here at the end of Oct. Luckily for us we were experiencing perfect weather (dingle) for several weeks. The crowds hit us during the second week of Nov when 3 rotations of planes carrying up to 16 passengers each arrived and the station became busy hub.

With the hordes came the illnesses and half of the wintering crew fell ill with various incarnations of colds and flus at some point in the following 3 weeks. I fell ill after 10 days of working closely with the two people who had the worst colds and suffered through it to make sure my replacement was up to speed at least on the daily work activities before I became bedbound after 2 weeks and finally had 4 days of actual sick leave.

This year the station is being moved to a new site (6A) about 30 km east of its current location. This involves shutting the station down and moving the modules individually across with dozers and pistenbullies.

During these first few weeks the temporary camp and winter science camps were being constructed at either end of the station in preparation of moving everyday activities out of the modules. For the first week we ate in the mess tent of the temporary camp while we could still use the facilities and sleep in the modules. People were started to be moved into the temporary accommodation including emergency cabooses and tents as they only had 12 spaces in the temporary camp for the 95 people on site. I was assigned a tent, but after 2 nights I had had a total of 5 hours sleep and started to guerrilla snooze in different places. After a few nights I found some mattresses laid out in the WASP (the Workshop And Storage Platform where the tech team and the field assistants work) and moved into there. A windowless shipping container with a mattress on the floor and no facilities nearby has never been so appealing.

At this point the science equipment had already been moved out (when I was on sick leave I helped the guys out by identifying what had to go where), so by now our new office was a shipping container, aka the tree house or hutch, to the south end of the camp. We had some initial problems with the power from the new generators causing surges and damaging equipment, but at the time of writing we seem to be online and working again.

While we were sorting out a new routine, the ship had arrived and relief operations had started to move cargo to the new site. Once that finished the rest of the personnel who came in on the ship arrived and after some staggered days off the modules started to get moved to the new site as well. I say staggered, as most of the work here has to be covered by someone all the time, so there is a lot of shift work. I had Xmas day off (thankfully falling on a Sun), as well as 2 days later that week and New Year’s Day (another Sun) off.

All through Dec we’d been having cloudy and depressing weather, but those few days I was free were dingle. I had the best afternoon kiteskiing on Xmas day. The wind was just right, the ground had soft, fresh snow with some small wind tails to jump over, there was good contrast and no one was about. In general we either haven’t had much time for recreation this summer or the weather hasn’t been good, so this was perfect. We even started a running trail around the perimeter, which was more or less solid snow when it had been groomed.

After all the festivities we started to move the modules one by one to the new site. Every time crowds gathered to watch the over 100 ton segments get pulled off into the distance. We took the occasion of the first module move being the iconic science module H2 to take our annual science team photo, which will be on the wall together with the photos of all the science teams at Halley. The next day when my little science garden on the roof of module H1 left I jumped on a skidoo to follow it along the road for a while and act as a spotter for the drone which was getting some lovely aerial footage. Thankfully everything went smoothly, even the 250 ton red module, and the last modules was dragged across in mid Jan. What should have been a momentous occasion to celebrate the finish of the station move in record time without incident felt more like a funeral due to the reasons given in the news https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/halley-research-station-antarctica-to-close-for-winter/.

Now all that is left is to winterise the station so that it can continue again in the near future and hope for the best.


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