Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Last day at Halley

Tuesday 26 February 2008
-14.5 deg C
Wind: 142 deg S at 2.7 knts

Today is my last full day at Halley and I have been running around trying to tie up all my loose ends of work and see as much of the remaining areas at Halley as I could before departing. I have also been keeping a running action list of tasks I have to complete for work during my stay, and was on a mission to close as many as I could. Unfortunately, there is a thing called ‘the Halley condition’ here which means that you just have to take your time and chip away at your tasks bit by bit. The cold affects every one and every thing. Electrical equipment slows down, batteries to cameras and laptops have a shorter life span and humans become forgetful. Combined with the fact that the landscape creeps up on you and covers everything with snow, which needs constant sorting out, every thing at Halley takes longer than it would elsewhere. (This is my official excuse for use in the office).

One of the things I wanted to do was to get a photographic record of the Laws building – the living and working centre of Halley V. After going through the plant rooms, kitchen, stores, dining room, etc, I asked if I could see a pit room. This was the highlight for me as it was the most personal human space within Halley and an area where we had invested much time and consideration designing for Halley VI. I asked Nicola (Halley admin assistant) and I was glad to find this was not a problem; there was an empty room I could see as one BAS member was on a field trip and had left her room tidy and ready either for her return or for anyone else to use in the meantime. At the room Nicola checked first that there was no one sleeping, and that it was tidy and respectable enough to be photographed. I think my preconceptions led my eyes when I first walked in. It was a small room, a bit Hostel / student - like, but looked comfortable and homely with pictures on the walls of Halley, penguins and Antarctica. On the desk were books on Edwardian adventures in Antarctica, a coffee cup and note book. It looked perfect, just as we had imagined it in the office during the design stage for Halley VI, and I started taking lots of pictures. It must have been another case of the cold making me slow, but by the time I got to the skirting detail, I realised that I’d taken about 20 shots of dirty clothes, knickers and bras. When I looked over the camera I saw they were everywhere – on the bed, on the floor, on the desk, on the chair, hanging out of the wardrobe – in every single shot. I sometimes think that Architectural design involves at least 30% human psychology, but we certainly didn’t include for this in our visualisations for Halley VI and I’m glad I wasn’t taken to see an untidy room. I feel a degree of professional confidentiality is owed to the occupant of the room so I’m afraid I can not post her name or any pictures of her knickers. Instead, here is a nice picture of penguins.

(Courtesy of Google images)

I was also glad for once that my camera has a habit of taking out of focus shots.

Every meal time in the Laws building I look at the pictures on the dining room walls of the past winter and summer Halley teams. It’s a great feeling to be part of an exclusive club and a member of a close knit community like this. Soon the BAS team photo for the summer 2008 team including me and my serial killer friend will be up there as well. The history of Halley is not just on the walls, but also living in the station. Many of this year's summer team have been to Halley several times before and appear on the photos of past years. Brian Newham, for example, pictured here in the dining room is also in previous winter and summer team photos going way back, like something from ‘The Shining’, although he’s not easy to spot as he had hair then.

(Brian and the past winter team photos)

(Summer team wall with Brian hiding in the photos)

After dinner, I paid a visit to the bar and lounge (something I don’t normally do as I am always working so hard - honest) and sat with the other guys discussing our experiences and adventures. The conversation turned to the deeper subject of what we had learnt about ourselves during our stay at Halley. Phil Moneypenny’s realisation was that there was nothing he liked better than a bacon butty. Mine was that I’ll never get to the pole man-hauling. It was definitely beyond me. Andy’s was that he gets a good night’s sleep if he is not in the same pit room as me. Profound!

While I have been here, in little under three weeks including a four-day storm, the Halley VI site has gone through great transformations. The two ‘energy modules’ which were covered have been rapidly growing internally with the installation of plant and services systems. Four modules have been tented and service fit-out has proceeded at a pace, and the remaining module at the south end of the site has been fully clad. The work rate has been incredible and everyone is proud of what has been accomplished. Everyone is also looking forward to going home now. It's been a long season for the build team, but you can tell there will be as much eagerness to return for the second season’s build in about eight months time. Its the draw of Antarctica and Halley!

(Final cladding panel being installed)

(The completely clad module on site)

I have to clear up my remaining work items, and prepare for the flight back to Cape Town. The flight leaves at 5am tomorrow morning and we have to check in to the Laws at 3.45am. I hope I don't sleep in.

(Last sunset - a tear jerker)

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