31/3/2013: Happy Easter. Yet again I'd completely
forgotten about Easter. I couldn't work out why I couldn't get hold
of anyone in Christchurch on Friday. All I got was answerphones and
Email out-of-office replies. When they announced at the weekly base
meeting on Saturday that we were having an Easter egg hunt, the penny
finally dropped. The pleasures of six day working weeks and no public
Anyway, we did the Easter egg hunt thing this morning (Easter Sunday)
where we were all given three chocolate eggs to hide somewhere in
Scott Base and had to write clues of where to find them. Found mine
in the drinks fridge in the bar, the engineering work clothing
washing/drying room and in the reading room chess board.
On realising I'd not taken any interesting photos all week, time to run
around with the camera in some half-arsed attempt. Here's the wooden deck
out the front of the administration building. Gosh, it's snowing again.
Haven't seen that for at least.... 20 minutes.
Our power/fuels engineer, Dave, has inherited the job of looking after
the bar and shop. Part of this includes stock and finance control. As
it's the end of the financial year, he has to count everything. He
didn't look overjoyed about having to spend all Sunday doing that.
We had ambient temperatures of below -30C during the week, but now it's
warmed up to -20C or so, a few seals have appeared again on the sea ice
by the wet lab.
I've finally completed the last of the engineering plant alarm project
that has been on-going for about three years. Technically speaking, it
was anything but complicated, but when you're working with different
groups of people who all have different ideas around how things should
be done, it seems to take forever at times to reach a final decision on
Here's Stefanie, our Irish conservator working for the Antarctic
Heritage Trust who are preserving many of the artefacts from Captain
Scott and Shackleton's expeditions. Some of the artefacts are
quite mysterious, such as this man shaped piece of sheet steel with
a leg that retracted about 10mm. No one is sure what it was used for.
Stefanie made a replica from cardboard (left) to try and understand
the purpose of the slightly retracting leg. Or maybe she just made
the white version in the name of cultural diversity.
Stefanie inspecting the contents of one of Captain Shackleton's food
bags prior to preserving it. Yeah, I'm sure the Captain's 100 year old
cheese will be good to go.
A pair of woollen pants from Shackleton's party which are being conserved.
They even plucked all of the pubes out, hence the tweezers and glass jar.
One of hundreds of 100+ year old wooden food boxes also being conserved by
the Heritage Trust. This one held Coleman's brand flour. Some of them
still contain food in various states of disgustingness. The dry flour was
in surprisingly good condition; it still looked and smelled like flour.
Which is more that can be said for the 100 year old lard they defrosted
24/3/2013: We've had our first decent storm of
the year. Around three days of gale winds, lots of snow and near
zero visibility. About time, all of the nice weather we'd been having
was getting a bit boring. It's also started getting properly cold at
last, it's been below -25C several times over the past few days.
We have also just passed the point of equal 12 hour daylight, 12 hour
darkness. Of course it continues to get darker every day, well on
the road into winter now. It won't be completely dark until May, so
we have another 5-6 weeks of light yet.
Things are all going fairly smoothly and everyone seems to be getting
along just fine. We decided to watch the movie
last night. It's a 1980 psychological horror that was recommended as
must-see viewing for people doing a winter over. I can see why now,
the remoteness, isolation, winter weather and cabin fever portrayed
in the movie has many striking resemblances to Scott Base.
Molly decided to take a quick walk outside to experience the full force
of the storm. You can't really tell from the photo, but there was about
45 knots (83km/hr) of wind.
Plenty of snow seen everywhere after the wild weather died down.
Plus of course many decent snow drifts and lots of shovelling to be done
around the outside doors.
St Patrick's Day last Sunday turned out to be a lot of fun. The
traditional Irish food cooked by the Irish member of our crew was truly
delicious, consisting of crackling pork belly, Irish style roast potatoes
and cabbage. We did a photo on the outside deck for the Irish Consulate
of NZ who'd sent us a letter to commemorate St Patrick's Day.
A few people took half of Saturday off work to take the new Hagglund out
to see the Constellation wreck at Pegasus airfield, see below.
The Constellation wreck is the remains of an aircraft from a crash landing
in 1970. For some bizarre reason, they just left all of this crap sitting
in the middle of the ice shelf. What the hell?! The place used to be
clean and untouched by mankind. So they crash an aircraft into it and make
no effort whatsoever to clean it up. It's not as though it's hard to get
to or anything, just a short drive over the ice shelf. Plenty of interesting
websites on the history of the crash
One of the projects I'm working on at present is some automation of our
telephone system. During winter, everyone takes turns at one day per week
on telephone duty - which involves answering all of the many incoming calls
then trying to find the person that the caller is looking for. It's
actually a huge pain in the arse and very distracting when you're trying
to achieve anything. So this unit will answer all of the incoming calls,
asks the caller who they want to talk to, then makes a PA system announcement
throughout Scott Base who the incoming call is for. It'll do a bit more
than that, but that's the basic principle of it. The photo above is the
analogue telephone line interface I designed and finished building yesterday.
17/3/2013: Happy St Patrick's Day. We're even
fortunate enough to have an Irish person on station. Stefanie, one
of the five Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators we have for the
winter, is preparing some kind of elaborate seven-course Irish dinner
for this evening. I've also put some Irish music on our FM radio
station for the day.
By the looks of the bar the morning, there were many drunk people last
night attempting to decorate it. Though it has ended up looking more
like the aftermath of some form of militant-hippie's Irish themed gay
car bomb gone bad. There are badly cut-out clovers and weird green
coloured crap stuck everywhere. Tonight's dinner should be fun however,
I'm hoping it's not too much or I'll be the size of a house by the end
of the night. It would be pretty rude not to eat anything when Stefanie
has spent all night every day of the week preparing it all.
Other than that, it's been winter work as normal. Chopping through the
winter work list at a fairly rapid rate at present, ticked off several
jobs that have been outstanding for the last year or two.
We also started Friday night darts with the Americans this week which is
always good fun. I can't stand playing darts myself, but quite enjoy
being the bartender on the night. We usually have 5-10 regulars from
McMurdo Station come over for a few hours every Friday for darts over
winter. Sometimes we include the South Pole research station 1500km
away via HF radio. But they're always suspected of cheating and it's
rumoured that they don't even have a dart board there!
Here's what the bar looks like this morning, someone was up late last
night. Going to be fun tidying all of that up...
Despite the McMurdo weather forecaster predicting gale force winds, snow
and low visibility for the past eight days, we've had some superb weather
with mild temperatures ranging from -6C to -15C. Here's a shot of Mt
Erebus that I took out the back door.
Some spectacular sunsets this week, this one taken on Wednesday at 9:40PM.
Mt Discovery in the background, Black Island seen behind the flagpole.
I just found this photo on the network, which was a failed attempt at
getting a winter crew photo during February, featuring Mt Erebus in the
background. Despite my protests, we were forced to sit in a Hagglund
for two hours to drive to "Room with a view" which is just a small
vacant hill on the lower slopes near Mt Erebus; there's no building
there. For the shot, we were positioned on top of the two Hagglunds;
then the photographer complained that everyone's face was shaded due
the angle of the sun. I pointed out that there are two ways to fix
this; either move Mt Erebus, or move the sun. Might pay to think it
through next time.
I'm the shady looking one. Click on the photo above to see the full
panorama, which surprisingly isn't too bad.
10/3/2013: At last, we're finally on our own
for winter. The final flight of summer departed yesterday at 3PM;
as a celebration we had some beer and wine outside at the flagpole.
The final flight was not without its problems. The aircraft was
one of the NZ Air Force's Boeing 757 which was reported to have some
kind of mechanical issue that needed to be repaired before it
departed Christchurch, which included several days waiting for parts.
The 60 or so Americans who were due to depart at the beginning of the
week were beginning to get grumpy as they'd missed a number of their
connecting flights from Christchurch.
The aircraft was finally ready on Friday, but the McMurdo weather
forecaster had reported a large storm was due to hit on Friday
afternoon, so the flight was further postponed. However, the weather
all day Friday was one of the best days in some time, with clear skies,
nice temperatures and little wind. Needless to say, there were some
very angry Americans saying some very unpleasant things about the said
None of this affected us however; the last of the Scott Base summer
people left a couple of weeks ago.
The 15 of us had beer and wine to celebrate as we watched the last
flight depart at 3PM yesterday. We've finally been left in peace
until August or October.
They were nice enough to pass over Scott Base for the final flight.
Not that you could really see much against the cloud.
This is what the NZ Air Force 757 looked like if you had a telescope
On the day that the southerly storm was predicted, causing the
final flight to be delayed yet again, the weather was so nice all
day that it was time for a cable route inspection to our satellite
station. There were a couple of Antarctic skuas on the way who didn't
seem bothered by me walking by.
A warning sign saying not to drive off the road as there are ground
laid cables. It was replaced a few years back, but it doesn't take
long for the blowing snow and grit to etch off most of the paint.
Walking back to Scott Base via the McMurdo outside storage yard.
Back at Scott Base the small hydroponics unit has just been set up
to grow a few vegetables for winter. Plus the dining tables have
been transformed into some kind of Zen garden, complete with ducks
The hours of daylight are quickly diminishing, sunrise at 6:30AM
and sunset at 9:30PM; losing around 16 minutes per day at present.
We do have some lovely sunsets at times however. Thanks to Becky for
this photo from the top of Crater Hill. The Long Duration Balloon
facility, closed for winter, is visible on the ice shelf as is the
ice road to Pegasus Airfield.
I've had many people Email to say they enjoyed the panoramic photo
taken from Crater Hill last week. Here's another panoramic taken
by Becky, click on the photo above to see the full shot of the
3/3/2013: Now that everyone from the summer
has left and all of the fun things such as container ships have left,
things have plunged into an abrupt silence. Not that it's all bad;
the 15 of us here for winter have been looking forward to this peace
and quiet for some time.
Although it's not quite all over yet. There's one last flight early
next week which will bring the last mail bag until August or October.
The flight will also return 90 or so people from McMurdo Station back
to Christchurch; the last of their summer staff and people from the
cargo ship offload.
And we have yet another cruise ship visit next week with 50 people or
more wanting to tour Scott Base. That'll push our limited resources
a little further and create some bustling last minute activity before
winter really sets in. Must also update my job description to include
Look, it's our shiny new Merlo telehandler. The old one was returned
to NZ on the container ship where it will be sold.
Uh-oh, but what's this? Someone has already managed to wreck the
new machine which is barely a few days old. The same person also
managed to accidentally drive the brand new Toyota Landcruiser
into one of the Hagglunds, breaking one of the headlights.
I'm hesitant to say that Mike is careless or perhaps just accident
prone, but it's certain that he and vehicles don't really belong
Either due to the lack of interesting things to take photos of this
week, or my general lack of enthusiasm for taking photos, here's
a totally unrelated photo taken by Ray, our summer electrician, from
the top of one of the wind turbines last November.
Our winter leader, Becky, took this panoramic photo from the top
of Crater Hill yesterday. Click on the photo above to see the entire
panorama with Scott Base bottom left, Observation Hill in the centre
and McMurdo Station right of that. She was trying to take a photo of
large section of floating ice that had broken off the
Erebus ice tongue
a few days ago as reported in the news.
It's a regularly occurring event, even if it does only happen every
20-50 years. Nothing to get too worked up about.