A note from the Antarctic

In my time I have met some fascinating people and learned some fascinating information and none more so than this next post which I have permission to share with you.

One of the Loganair Islander pilots left us some time ago to join the British Antarctic Survey Team and over the last few years has sent some fantastic images and notes.

I bumped into him last week as he was about to head off for a well deserved break with his wife, Petra .

What you are about to see proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gene Roddenberry was right when he created Star Trek in the 60’s.

The building is extremely high tech and could be used in any sci-fi movie.  I have just checked my em-mail client and there are many fascinating pictures which I will share with you.

Anyway over to Ian

Hi All

Now that I’m on my way home again (day off in Cozumel today), & have a fast internet link (Rothera has got very slow). I’m taking the chance to catch up on a few emails that I really meant to send days or weeks ago.

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On 10th of Feb I went over to Halley base on the Brunt Ice Shelf for my last visit of the season, & I had the privilege of overnighting on the new Halley VI station on the first night that it had residents. Especially privileged as there were only 6 of us on that first night, & the other 5 were all people who had been heavily involved in designing & building the base for several years. I think the Base Commander referred to us as the guinea pigs.

It still was n’t quite finished though. The building work continued around us during the day, & most other people were still staying in the temporary construction site accommodation (modified shipping containers). This work will be going on until the ship leaves at the end of February.

 

Going from left to right. The first 2 modules are bedrooms. Third is the Command Module, with Base Commanders office, comms centre, computer servers, & doctors surgery.

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The big red 4th (Robert Falcon Scott) module is a 2 storey structure. Downstairs is the dining room, kitchen, & bar. Upstairs is the gym, film watching area, & reading area.

5th along the line is the power module. As the name implies this has the generators. It also has hydraulic pumps for adjusting the legs of all the modules. Lastly it deals with water, drinking water, waste water & sewerage (all being kept separate of course).

The open bridge in the middle of the platform is of both aesthetic & practical benefit. Aesthetically it provides a gap between the living areas on the left & the working areas to the right. Practically it is a fire break, so that a fire occurring on the living modules would be unlikely to pass over to the work modules. The work modules are designed so that they could provide safe (albeit cramped) emergency shelter for all base members for up to 10 months.

The 6th module is another power module, which is a backup & near mirror image of 5th module.

Module 7 is the science offices. With emergency food & clothing store.

Module 8 is laboratories. There also other smaller laboratories & facilities such as the Clean Air Sector Lab beyond the area of this pictures.

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As well as getting to stay on Halley VI on it’s first night, I also claimed the first landing at the new skiway.

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New bedroom accommodation

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Various views from my bedroom window during night & day (Weather deteriorating).

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Dining room. Which had been in use for just over a week for all people on site. The upstairs was still work in progress at the time.

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Kitchen. Washing up view!

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No 8 Science module. This the upper floor Meteorological Observatory. The instrument at the back of the pic’ is the Dobson Spectrometer. Which was crucial to the discovery of the ozone hole in the 80s, & continues to monitor it now.

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I was also interested to see the building getting it’s annual jacking. The process which keeps it all above the snow. At Halley V this used to require the efforts just about every one on base, & all other work stopped for 2 days. Now at Halley VI most folk get on with their regular work. Whilst jacking requires only 7 people, plus some big machines, & a bit more technology.

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The tripod was pushed under the module by a dozer, so that the module did n’t tip as the legs were lifted. Then the internal hydraulics lifted each module leg/ski in turn, whilst a second dozer packed snow under the raised leg/ski.

Finally after all legs of all modules have been raised & under packed. The whole structure can be raised to it’s new height.

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This final bit of the raising process is achieved from a control panel within the modules. It was gratifying to see a few low-tech spirit levels amongst the technology. Some things just can’t be beaten.

Overall I was very impressed by the new base, even though I was n’t quite seeing the finished article. To me it has a space station feel (not that I’ve ever been on a space station of course), both outside & inside. It seemed quite surreal to stand by the big dining room windows watching a blizzard out side (wind chill -40) whilst comfortably dressed in a T-shirt.

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I trust you are all well.

Very best regards

Ian

I told you it was fascinating stuff.  Hope you have a great holiday, Ian and Petra and look forward to seeing you on your return.

All the best and thanks for reading

Neil Winking smile

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