Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Tuesday 26 February 2008

Here I am again in the Morrison team photo. This time I looked behind me to check that there were no serial killers or psychopaths. I was glad to see Andy Cheatle and one fully clad Antarctic module.

I’d totally forgotten about the Morrison team photo (its the cold that does it) and was lucky that Simon Gill found me digging around on the container line. When we turned up at the site we were greeted by the calls of ‘Architect’s late as usual’. It’s good to make an entrance. Every one was happy though (you can see them smiling in the photo), and I think that’s partially because we are on programme and every one is starting to look forward to going home, and partially because of where we are and what we are working on.

I fly out with 17 others (five Morrison and 13 BAS) tomorrow at 5am. So along with checking in all my bags and belongings, I have to ensure that all my work here is complete. I have to get cracking today because I have a lot to do.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sun dog

If I'd thought fast enough I would have had a shot of the sun shining out my arse. D'oh!

Saturday 23 February 2008
-5.3 deg C
Wind: 19.7 knt at 87 deg E

Directly after the team photo we had a 'sun dog'. The skies were clear and the sun dropped onto the horizon creating lots of opportunities for atmospheric photos. This one of the B2 module taken from the Laws building makes it look look it's on some kind of lunar terrain.

This was the rest of the site. I was trying to capture the effect of the snow being blown over the surface of the ground. The whole ground plane was moving.

Everyone with a camera was taking photographs. You can't go anywhere at Halley without a camera. There is a photogenic scene every time you go outside.

Another shot of the sun over a fluid terrain.

Andy Cheatle and the Halley sign post.

Kirk (Field GA and camera man for the Halley build), posing with the sun. It did seem like we were standing on an alien terrain.

The sun is mostly up above the horizon. Apart from an hour or so now, we have constant sunlight. But the movements of the sun still baffle me. In the evening it appears to be going in a different direction to the mornings, which I know can not happen.

I was thinking about this at breakfast and asked the question openly to the dining room 'which way does the sun track round the horizon?'

'The earth goes round the sun stupid' came the answer. That's the problem with scientists. They never clarify anything, only confuse.

Postcards from the edge...of the Brunt Ice Shelf II

Hi Bobby!

Missing you very much and looking forward to seeing you soon!

Lots and lots and lots of love



Saturday, February 23, 2008


Saturday 23 February 2008
-5.3 deg C
Wind: 19.7 knt at 87 deg E

This is the Halley summer team photo, taken yesterday afternoon at the foot of the Laws building steps. You can't miss me - I'm the one in the orange boiler suit.

All of us standing together for the first time in 'a huddle' before dinner.

But not before I got this shot of Richard setting up the camera to take the team photo. The ground looked fluid all day. Very atmospheric.

I think I need to make myself less conspicuous! I found out this lunch time that there was one more person on the photograph than there are people known on the base. What's doubly spooky is that he is standing behind me and next to Andy Cheatle. No one has been able to identify him behind the goggles and heavy clothing. One thing I know, I'll be baracading the pit room door tonight! I hope its not Michael Myers!!!!!

The day after yesterday

Saturday 23 February 2008
-5.3 deg C
Wind: 19.7 knt at 87 deg E

The last few days have been a bit blustery, but everyone sounds like they are having fun. For an example it's an adventure just to walk between the Laws and Piggott buildings.

Some people are really enjoying the adventure. Simon Gill here is really getting into the spirit of adventure. Actually Simon has been bouncing around like Tigger for the past few days. I think he is looking forward to going home, although he hasn't mentioned it - but he talks a lot about going to Cape Town!

The weather is clearing up now. The high winds are going and there is a wash of wind driven snow that is flowing across the surface of the ground. Its like standing in a shallow stream, where the water is snow and it covers the entire surface.

This gives some stunning pictures, the best of which you will be able to see on Andy Cheatle's blog site: http://andy-n-tantarctic.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile back on site, we had a lot of work to do. Austin's crane had to be dug out, there was a lot of snow management to be done around the modules to level the site again.

Here, Ian can be seen spring cleaning in the B2 module, brushing all the snow out the front door. The clad module seems to have performed very well against the build up of snow.On the subject of front doors, Martin Bell and his team were the most excited of all at the opportunity of clearing snow with their Caterpillar D7 Bulldozers. On Friday morning, clearing the snow from the annexes, they also managed to remove two pairs of skis and our doorway. Luckily I am sharing with Pete Willmott who put his crack team of joiners on the case. For a while I thought I'd be sleeping in the gym again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Has anyone seen our site?

Wednesday 20 February 2008
-5 deg C
wind: 35-40knts, with gusts up to 50knts
Very poor visibility

This was one of the last pictures I took of site (another on 'one blustery day'), taken at midnight local time on Monday night, 18 Feb. We have not seen site since. Wind speeds and poor visibility mean that we are contained between the site accommodation buildings, the Laws building (for food and recreation) and the Piggott building (for work). BAS require that anyone traveling between buildings radio in to the Comms room to confirm where they are and where they are going and then re-confirm when they get there. Preferably we are to travel in pairs or groups.

This is the Laws building in a good patch of weather. Most of the time visibility is so poor, you can't see your destination. If you get lost and lose your bearings you are in real trouble. Typically, I estimate there is around 50 - 70m before objects disappear into the blizzard of snow. Yesterday and today were declared non-site working days. The five day forecast predicts this weather continuing into Monday of next week. We have to wait and see when we can get back to work. Two days down and all of the guys I've spoken to are itching to get going again. Unfortunately all reports say it will get worse first. The Laws building where I am typing from is shaking around quite a bit and the sound of the wind whistling past is loud too.

Meanwhile, the Morrison management team have taken their meetings into the Laws lounge. There is still lots of discussion to be had about a great many issues, and lots of situations to be resolved.

The sense of urgency on this has also drawn in Mr Cheatle who has been patiently weighing up the developing situations and waiting for his turn to make a contribution to the debates.

Meanwhile, the wind driven snow has left a number of us homeless. With over 50 years of Antarctic experience and technical understanding of the particular mechanics at Halley, it didn't occur to some that a blow would block off all of the doors to the annex pit rooms. About a dozen of us are bunking into the Drewry and Laws buildings for the next few nights.

I'm not complaining. This is my room, the Halley Gym. I had it all to myself last night - the biggest bedroom on the station and just look at the toys I have to play with. I can quite happily see this storm through, but it is a bit strange to think that I'll have about two and a half weeks at Halley, and half of that time will be spent in a storm.

Some are not quite so lucky. Poor Danny Wood (Structural Engineer) ran over to the Laws building for breakfast on Tuesday morning in a T-shirt and trousers, and when he came back his front door was gone. He's been camped out in the Drewry wearing borrowed clothes (which can't be great because everything hums here). I think it all got a bit too much for him because this lunch time I caught him trying to dig his way back into his pit room. Either he can't see through his goggles or he's on a do-or-die mission because he's standing level with the top of the pit room roof and the wind is filling up snow in front of his door as fast as he can clear it. I believe he did get in to reclaim some vital posessions and sanity in the end. Apparently Phil Moneypenny had to haul him out of the doorway through an opening in the snow - I wish I'd caught that on camera!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Environment Strikes Back!

Tuesday 19 February 2008
-6.9 deg C
Wind: 37.4 knt at 92 deg E

We had almost completed constructing our fleet of inter-galactic space ships, at our rebel base on the ice planet of Halley. Even though we hid (almost) everything under covers, the evil empire -galaxy of Gallixion has spotted out outpost and decided to attack.

Allied satellite images posted on the dining room notice board show the galaxy moving in on us. The Base Commander has given the order to evacuate.

We are being bombarded with heavy winds and driven snow. The spin drift really does get everywhere and through everything. Y-fronts are not the thing to be wearing today. Above is a view of our deserted pit rooms. We all make a run to the command centre for a briefing and a cup of tea.

Luckily we can still just see the command centre through the alien onslaught. After a big bowl of Alpen and a cuppa we get into character to man the ships and retaliate

Ace pilot A. Cheatle and I follow the hand lines to the ships and prepare for battle. Its going to be a tough fight, especially since I'm down to my last three bars of chocolate - but we have to give it our best shot.....

Expedition to the Pole

Sunday 17 February 2008
-13 deg C
Wind speed about 8 knt

Here we are - Laurel and Hardy about to set off on our intrepid expedition walking around the Halley site, pretending we are going to the South Pole. We packed our sledges with eight pieces of Halley VI prime steel, which with supplies of chocolate and a little water, weighed in at around 140+ kg. We started at 10.30am and completed the first 5km lap by 12 noon.

Meanwhile, Simon Coggins (BAS scientist) was tearing up the track on a kite. I think he did about 14 or 15 laps that day. That's smart thinking - you wouldn't catch the ones with brains pulling heavy sledge loads on foot. Come to think of it, Andy and I were the only ones man-hauling that day. Other means of getting around included skiing, walking and running. The closest thing to what we were doing was the Morrison team pulling the happy sledge around. (They were running the opposite way round with refreshments for everyone - I was given a piece of short bread from Pete Willmott - a Kodak moment in itself!) That proves it really - the brains on the base were not being so stupid as to do hauling.

It soon became apparent that there has to be something better than man hauling to get to the South Pole. There is definately something insane about it. A lot of time and thought is put into making it easier: adjusting the harness so it is over the hips and not the back, rationalising supplies to reduce weight, reducing friction on the sledge, wearing the right clothes etc. But the fact remains it is still man hauling and the real thought should be given to eliminating the exercise altogether. Mad dogs and Englishmen!

The first lap, 5km around a groomed snow road was gruelling! For the second lap we each took out two steels to lighten the sledge to around 110kg. (I tried to put mine in Andy's sledge but he was watching). At first that was easier, but it soon became as difficult as the first lap and took the same time. It is incredible to think that people can push themselves to average 22km per day for months on end with more weight than this. Brian Newham said 'it's all in the head' - and he's right.

We called it a day to hauling after the second lap. By then it was 2pm. I was delighted I'd managed to do 10km with the loads that we had, and I think Andy felt a real sense of achievement too - between all the swearing. It did strike me in the last kilometre, that although man hauling must be one of the most insane activities, it was not nearly as stupid as pulling Faber Maunsell's steelwork around like a set of mortal chains.

I really wanted to get a sense of a day's travel to the pole and did another two laps walking which was great - but still hard. Andy did another skiing. I went to bed at 8:30 and when Andy came back to the pit room I was already snoring. (I do try to remedy this but can't really feel too guilty - because he farts in the office).

The end!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


After training

Friday 15 February 2008
-18.6 deg C
wind 5.2 kn at 94 deg E

This week I have been in training for the man-hauling on Sunday’s charity event. This has largely involved increasing my chocolate and pudding consumption and trying not to exert myself too much. But last night I decided to pull some weights to help prepare me both physically and mentally for what was to come.

In all the best Antarctic adventuring books there is always lots to read about how the cold, snow and the physical human condition conspired to create situations that were unexpected. I’m glad to note that in my own little way, I experienced some of those.

I dragged the sledge over to the site and loaded on 12 steel angle sections, attached the sledge to the harness, attached the harness to myself and started to pull. Immediately I started to sweat badly and found it a great effort. The sweat soaked into my hat which froze like stiff cardboard to my head. The inside of my boiler suit was saturated. I thought it would be good to listen to my i-pod at the time, but the wires to the earphones literally turned to stiff wire. The ear pieces sprang out of my ears and hovered about a centimetre away. I could still hear the music. The work was back breaking and I had to take a bent-over stance to try to gain enough forward momentum to move. My anti-fog glasses were useless with all the condensation that built up inside them.

Eventually after about 20 minutes I finally got the sledge to move. That night I think I covered a total distance of 500m. Not a good start for a target of 4x5km! I did find out later that 12 steel angles comes to approximately 200kg, and that to achieve a load of 150kg I should have taken nine angles. Andy suggested eight plus the supplies we will need. He is doing the hauling with me on Sunday. That sounds good to me – 134 kg steel and 16kg chocolate. I can see the sledge getting lighter in the first hundred yards. Training has its advantages.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Meanwhile, back on site....

Module C prior to tenting
Tenting the module
All wrapped up for the winter
Cladding module B2
Roof panel placed in preparation for fixing

Thursday 14 February
-18.6 deg C
wind 5.4 Kts at 94 deg E

On site at Halley there is lots of activity. There are seven Antarctic modules and there is a great urgency to complete the work required for the end of the season, especially while the weather is favourable. This week Morrison has been tenting the modules, partly in preparation for the winter, and partly to enable the continued installation of the services away from the snow, wind and cold. The task of tenting the modules is not small. The covers are made into single piece enclosures which require lifting in one go. Its like flying an enormous kite. The procedure requires one team on the ground holding guide ropes, with another team inside the module easing the covers on with long poles. I was on the ground holding on to the tent with a rope. For once I felt that all the food I had eaten on the Shackleton came in useful as I did my best to try and keep my feet on the ground.

When we got here, modules E1 and E2 (the energy modules) were already covered. This was to give maximum time for the installation of the main plant. Since then it has all hands to the science modules, command module and sleeping module. Each morning a new cover goes on.

Now the tents are on, most of the on site activities are inside. I can hear sawing and thumping and drilling and cursing, only muffled by the tune of the particular CD player in each module. I have been listening to Irish Folk music in module E1, where I was looking at floor cassettes, to Blondie in module C (the command module), looking at pods. I spent this morning in module H1 - I haven't heard Guns n' Roses in ages. Truly an international project.

The cladding of module B2 (the sleeping module) is progressing at a pace as well. The belly, sides and roof are now on and the aim is to get the module ends on and completed by the weekend. It's really taking shape and looking quite impressive. After the cladding is complete there will be an exercise to move it to an adjacent site to set it up for the winter. Hopefully I will still be here for that, as it will be an incredible sight to see an (almost) complete module move! I

Note the yellow 'modular lifting beam' used to install tents and cladding. Its probably one of the most useful and well used pieces of kit on the site, next to Gavin Simmons' ski-doo

I will keep you posted


For 100 days the sun has been above the horizon. Today marked the last day of constant sunlight, and for many signals the end of the summer. At about 10:30 last night the sun dipped below the horizon before coming back up. Many BAS people were out to see it, with a film shoot on the platform of the Laws building.

This was the view, with the Piggott building in the background. Sunset,

and sunrise.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Delusions of grandeur

Wednesday 13 February 2008
-15.4 deg C
Wind: 5.7 kn, at 68 deg E

This Sunday BAS are holding a sponsored ski to the South pole. This will be 320 laps around the perimeter drum line and the event is being held to raise money for the RNLI. You can see more information at:


I've decided to do it man hauling and to treat it as a typical day on a real expedition to the pole. The first task was to find out how real I need to make it, so I contacted Dave Mitchell, our expert on these matters and all time hero (sorry Dave, but its true), to find out what weight and distance I should be looking at. He replied:

Now then, your walk to the pole! I'm assuming you are a purist and wish to complete the journey unsupported and without re-supply? If your not assuming any wind assistance from kites and your distance is 1600km you would hope to average over your journey 22km per day, which is equal to 72 days of travel. The distance per day would be higher but you will struggle to achieve this when the sledge is heavy at the start of the journey and you have uphill terrain. On average you will need 1kg of food per man per day so there's 72kg (assuming you have no need for emergency rations in case you don't make the 22km/day) - the rest of your equipment would probably be in the region of 85kg - sledge/tent/fuel etc and this assumes that you have a travelling companion to share the communal items, otherwise you would be approx 100kg of equipment and fuel. So the lightest your likely to be is 157kg including you sledge/skis/trace/harness etc. Giving yourself a margin for error in case you get stuck I'd load your sledge with 150kg of weight and set off.

Yikes! This means I am looking at a minimum of 4 laps with a minimum 150kg sledge!

I tried pulling a sledge tonight. I was given the sledge and harness by the GA, Kirk, and I filled it up with snow. Towing it around felt OK but it wasn't anything like 150kg. This was demonstrated in some locations there the sledge out-paced me. I bumped into Danny Wood (Structural Engineer) who reckoned it was about 40-50kg. He said it could do with some steelwork but I'm not sure if that was for weight or structural stability. I didn't ask. From experience it's always best to stop these conversations before the cross bracing gets added.

I've got two days to get into shape before the big day - Thursday and Friday, rest day Saturday and then the long haul. Like the best Antarctic adventures I'm completely unprepared and the wrong shape, but with this blog I'm committing myself.

What's the worst that can happen?
If I fall over in the snow, they are bound to find me by the size of the wind tail I'll create.
It could be the smallest Antarctic exploration disaster documented.

At least its going to be an adventure!

In all seriousness, I don't think I'll get 150kg on the sledge. I might get 100kg. And I'll never get four laps round the base. If I can do one lap I'll be delirious. Two would be an absolute miracle. I don't dream of going beyond that, but I'll do my best!

So, to round up, please could you take a look at this web site and consider some sponsorship? Anything would be appreciated. Thanks - I'll let you know how I get on.


Home & work

Just a quick tour of home and work at Halley. This is our accommodation. The Drewry building is the red unit behind. Its normally used as a Summer accommodation building for Halley, but is currently full of builders. The white huts in front are more pit rooms, showers and toilets. I'm in one of the white huts

This is our front door. As you can see it's very homely. I'm sure I was standing upright when I took this shot. I hope this is not a testament to Morrison's building abilities. I'm sharing with Andy, Pete and Brian. We all snore except Andy who stays awake listening to us.

This is our office, the Piggott building. It used to be the Space Science Building. Now it's full of the Halley VI build management team - not quite so high-brow.

This is me trying to get back to the Piggott from site, looking a bit lost. I think I was waiting to hitch a lift at this point, but had to walk in the end.

Just in time for the 5 O' clock progress meeting