Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back in the Uk now - Updates to resume and fill in the missing pieces

Well, that's it I'm back in the real world having travelled back up through Africa and slowly made my way back to the Uk.

My next task is to find myself a job. I also have to unpack my stuff and sort out my life. In the mean time there should be more time to do other things.

I realise that there are a lot of missing holes in the blog and will make an effort to fill them in as soon as I can.

Watch this space.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sorry - Busy - The Past - The Shack Arrives - The Future

Once again I have to say sorry for not updating the blog. I don't have any great excuses except to say that I have been very very busy. So busy that the only time that I have time to write an entry happens to be relief which is theoretically the busiest time down here at Halley. So here is a text entry of the past the present and the future. Hopefully I will get around to filling this in a bit more.

So in short what has been happening? Well since my last entry I have been on my final winter trip and got some amazing photos (soon to be added). New people arrived on base and we had our first plane. I finally got down to see the penguins at Windy bay. Apart from that its been packing packing and more packing as we shut down the science here to make space for the building of the new base. The science team has packed over 5 tonnes already and I will be packing another tonne and a half before the end of relief. All this will be sent back to Cambridge or in the case of the AIS (which I looked after) Norway. Oh yeah my leg is fine, thanks for all the support. I have even been kiting again. More people arrived on base until it felt like a summer crew even before the ship arrived.

The ship arrived yesterday and we got to have a lovely sauna and some fresh food. Relief started properly today but I am only helping in the background as I still have final packing of science equipment to do and field equipment to get ready for deployment later.

Soon I will be out on fieldwork and being smelly in a tent.

Planning to leave Halley around the end of Feb and then will travel back through Africa.
Hoping to be back in the Uk around May but you never know.

Anyway Merry Christmas and have A Happy New Year

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Zen -Big Blows - First Post Winter Trip - Doc's Birthday - Leg Update - Neil's Birthday

In my last entry, I had been testing some zen stoves. These are tiny alcohol (meths) stoves that you can make out of coke cans. To make them smaller you can use tonic cans. One of the ones that I made earlier was a mini top vent one. The disadvantage of this, compared to the side vent also show in the last entry is that you have to have a pot stand. I have now made one using a tin that held kodak film chemicals. I cut holes to allow flames and air in and it works very very well.

The mini top vent with pot stand.

We tested it properly and it required about 20 ml of alcohol to bring 0.5 litres of water to the boil (boiled for 60 seconds) in about 8 mins. I think it is actually a bit faster than the side vent but you do have to carry the extra 30 grams of pot stand. The extra advantage of this is that the stove fits in the pot stand and is protected when travelling. I expect this one to last a lot longer that the purely aluminium ones.

We have got more and more light and with this returning light we have had more and more blows. We sort of define a blow when the wind reached about 20 knots (we measure this about 10m above the surface), at this point working outside becomes nearly impossible. You can easily walk between buildings but actually working outside is not nice. At 30 knots you start to lose sight of the other buildings and for someone on crutches its not great. Above 40 knots its best not to linger too long outside. One thing that has happened is that this year's weather haven nearly blew away. The wind was above 40 knots and somehow it worked open a bit of the tent. The weather haven is a very very large tent that is used to store the blimp. The blimp is filled with helium and the Simpson people use it to measure low level ozone by attaching special instruments to the bottom. Anyway the wind was so high the weather haven nearly blew away. The blimp inside was damaged so much that after we had fixed everything we were able to crawl into it through the gapping holes in the side.

So we decided to have a wake for the blimp inside the blimp.

It was a good celebration and very kind words were said about the blimp because it has been one of the most successful blimp seasons ever. This is all down to the good work of the Simpson met babes.

With the returning light, it has also been time for the first post winter winter trips to go out. Luckily for them the wind died just before they were due to leave. They got out and spent a 8 days sleeping in tents with mixed weather.

Tom warms up all the skidoos by sitting on them.

As usual we have been trying to have as many parties as we can. This time it was Richard the doctors party and he decided that he would have London Underground party.

As you can see we made our usual effort. I am sure that you can guess the stations.

Finally after weeks and weeks (well only 6 and a bit) I have my plaster removed. This was a bit of a traumatic experience. One of the problems with plaster of paris in the antarctic is that due to the cold it takes a long time to harden fully consequently people find it easy to damage. Richard decided that he would try to reinforce it and added more and more plaster over the weeks. His last reinforcement was when he added the rocker.

The cast just before being removed. As you can see I have worn one edge of the rocker. All the white stuff is extra thick plaster.

Richard fairly whipped through the unreinforced pink plaster in about 20 seconds then came the pain of trying to get though what felt like 50 layers of plaster. Richard is using some plaster shears.

In fact I had to help him. I think he got a bit tired. What you can see me using is a set of pryers, we made a cut with the shears then pryed the cut open with this things.

Richard strains to break through the last bit.

Success! After 20 mins of hacking we got rid of the smelly pile of plaster.

The leg after a quick shower. There wasn't too much smelly skin and my leg wasn't too shrunken.

We took some more x-rays and I saw how they are developed. Its exactly the same process (and chemicals) as black and white printing but with a large film like x-ray.

Looking at this x-ray we can see where the crack was but it doesn't seem to bad. In fact it looks like it might have filled in a bit. From the other angle its not so good.

From this angle you can see the crack is still very visible. This is not good and indicates that I still have a bit of a way to got before I don't have to worry about it. If I better healing I should have a larger callus, a bone growth around the break.

Comparing these with my original x-rays, you can see that I have much more movement of the ankle which is great. Richard had a good feel of the bone and clinically it is all good, there is little pain and this apparently is more important, but because the x-rays don't show ideal bone growth its better to take it safe. I will still be hobbling around on crutchs and I can't get off base. I am however doing physio and already my ankle is becoming quite flexible.

For some reason September is the month for birthdays, maybe its to do with the cold northern hemisphere winters and next on the list was Neil's toga or greek God party.

Zeus plays pool with Spartan Ant.

A roman centurian trys to attach Hermes who had a bad landing and hurt his leg, hense the crutches.

The birthday boy himself showing off his body as usual. He is of course Atlas.

Kirsty as Artemis, Godess of Hunting.

The next day I had my first wander around outside without my cast and enjoyed the new sensations on my leg.

Chris made me very jealous by kiting all around.

My leg situation is due to be reassessed in 2 weeks and soon I hope to be kiting.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Precious Bay - Zen Stove Testing - Leg Update 2

Sorry again for not writing anything for a while, I've been a tiny bit busy with organising and sending out Tom and Neil to put up a remote instrument site about 20km away on the Precious Bay coast. This is west of Halley and is interesting because there is a polyna (weak bit of ice caused by currents) which opens up regularly. In spring there are low level ozone depletion events caused by chemicals produced when forming new sea ice reacting with sunlight and the ozone. The instrument put down there was an ozone detector and a spectrometer. The ozone levels are measured and the spectrometer works out what chemicals are in the air. Of course you need a power source for this and that is what I was supposed to be putting in. Then I broke my leg.

Since I broke my leg I have had to do a load of modifications. Make sure everything is going to work, then write a method of how everything goes together so that Tom can put it all together.

Photo courtesy of Tom.
The site at precious bay. The caboose and in front he wind turbines. The box on the right has a solar panel facing north and the tent at the far right is the loo tent. Neil's instrument will sit on the stand on the left. As you can see Tom has done a great job and everything went together as planned.

Another thing I haven't been able to do since I have broken my leg is make much. Moving heavy stuff and standing for much more that 15 mins has been difficult. I have however been experimenting with zen stoves. These are little alcohol stoves that are made as lightweight as possible. The classic one is made from coke cans. There is great website called zen stoves with instuctions how to make these. They are pretty amazing. I have also been testing them to see how fast they boil water.
Photo courtesy of Kirsty.
This is the mini-zen which is a hybrid side vent burner. It has holes in the side and I made mine out of schwepps tonic water cans. Holes drilled in the side and a double wall mean that as the alcohol (meths in this case) heats up it pressurises and comes out the side. It weights 8 grams and the pot just sits on top of it. It boils a cup of water in 3 mins from lighting which is fantastic.

Pete the WBC and me watch as the coke can top burner burns. Sune the GA is behind me. Photo courtesy of Kirsty.

Another shot of the coke can top burner (24 grams). In the foreground you can see the tonic can top burner (8 grams) and mini zen side vent burner (8 grams).
I can now hobble around and put weight on my leg. I need to do this now since it will trigger the bone to get stronger. Of course I need to be careful so that I don't rebreak the bone. I have to be very careful, even so I can now put all my weight on the broken leg.

Me showing off my cast with the rocker on the bottom. I also have had a hair cut and apparently look 6 months younger, yay! Photo courtesy of Kirsty.

The rocker.
The rocker is essentially a roll of plaster that is then plastered onto bottom of the cast. The cast is then stengthened. This was done by the Doc last weekend. I can now walk with only one crutch and have been hobbling to the Piggott on my own twice a day with no help. Thats about 2km on crutches a day which makes my wrists hurt. Oh well no pain no gain.
I should be out of plaster in a week and a half.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leg Update

So here are the latest x-rays straight from the lab. Well the first couple are actually from last week when I had the proper cast put on. This x-ray is taken immediately after the full cast is put on to make sure that the bones haven't moved too much in the process of putting the cast on. Of course now that you have a cast on made of plaster of paris the x-rays are not as clear. In fact the x-ray machine settings have to be tweaked to increase the power to get good pictures.

Anyway on the x-rays. Apparently there was a bit of concern that the bones might have moved a little and that the gap was getting bigger. The alignment was great however. We have great backup from a hospital in Plymouth and the verdict was that it looks good.

Front view from the 9th of Aug.

Lateral view from the 9th of Aug.

A week later to check on progress I had another couple of x-rays. Once again through the plaster.

Front view 16th of Aug.

Lateral view 16th of Aug

As you can see there is hardly any difference between the position of the bones from one week to next. This is good news and doesn't change the prognosis. If everything goes to plan I should be walking on the leg partially weight bearing on by the end of the month. I will then have the cast on for 3 more weeks. The cast will be modified to have lump on the bottom so that there is a rounded bottom that I can walk on.

This is what should happen if everything goes to plan. If I don't stumble on my crutches and do more damage. I did stumble today actually but luckily didn't damage myself, I just have to look after myself. I am looking forward to walking again, in the mean time I will enjoy being pulled about by the rest of the base.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sun Up, getting plastered, Action Film Party

Having said that I would have more time on my hands (this is technically true as I spend no time on my feet) and that I would update the blog, it appears that I have roughly the same amount of time free to do things. I now spend half my time at the Piggott platform (my work is there) and half the time on the laws (where I live). Every morning a couple of people get man-hauling harnesses on. I hop down the stairs and get dragged to work in a pulk sledge. There is a lot to do. I was supposed to be going out to setup an instrument about 15km away at Precious Bay but now I am not going. So I have to prepare everything and instructions how to do this for my replacement, Chris. Its all going well but its still a rush.

Before I was allowed to leave the platform I had to first get my first 'backslab' replaced by a proper cast. The backslap cast allows the limb to swell up which it does over the first few days. After this a proper cast is better as it will support the leg better.

Richard the Doc cuts off the backslap cast with the assistance of Nurse Dave.

Richard measures out a thin tubigrip sleave which is all the padding needed in a full cast. The backslab has loads of cotton wool padding.

Removing the backslab and supporting the leg. This is actually very tiring as the leg is surprisingly heavy.

The swollen ankle.

Nurse Dave points to the place where the bone is broken, whilst Richard gives my leg the last wash it is likely to have for 6 weeks.

Arrgh! The Pain. It wasn't painful at all just cold and wet.

We had this great idea to try to get the cast to be a bright orange (for those who know it we wanted the ventile orange of our windies and overalls). The plan was to mix in some yellow and red food colouring into the water used for the plaster of paris. Unfortunately the plaster didn't take to the colouring as well as Richards hands. Also when it dried it turned into a pink cast which was the one thing I was trying to avoid.

A job well done, what a lovely pink cast. Richards butcher hands tell their own tell.

Having plastered the leg fully there was a period of cleaning before the taking some more x-rays to check whether the bones were in the correct position. A load of these photos were taken by Dean the comms manager.

Setting the x-ray machine. I think Richard is becoming quite an x-pert.

Left alone while the x-ray is being taken.

Richard finishing off developing the x-rays.
The x-rays were a success and I will put them up as soon as possible. I have had another set since then and I will put them up as well to show my progress.
One of the other big things that has happened is that the sun reappeared. This was predicted to happen on or around the 11th of August. Last year it was seen 3 days early due to miraging during an early penguin trip. This year it arrived on the 10th at lunch time. In our sweepstake Tamsin guessed the correct time.

A contingent of sun worshipers went to prostrate themselves and offer thanks that the great eye in the sky has returned. I took these from the north window of the laws where I was waiting for my cast to dry.

The sun's disk pokes up above the northern horizon.
About half an hour later we all gathered for the sun-up ceremony where the youngest member of the base raises a new flag.

This year the youngest member is Jim the Chippie. In a typically Jim show he first pulled the flag up up-side-down and then the flag nearly blew away.

Jim fights the new flag.
The Flag the right way up finally and in the right position. Its not going to last long and in a few months will have been tattered by the wind.

Jim and his flag.
We had a nice cocktail night to celebrate the sun returning (we had this the day before the sun returned). We then had a BBQ on sun-up day which was nice. I only spent a few minutes outside as I hadn't worked out how to keep myself warm outside with a broken leg.
On the saturday we had Kirsty's birthday party. She decided that the theme would be action film characters. So everyone dressed up mainly as action heros.
Mark the electrician as Col. Jack O'Neill stargate command.

Alex as the Dread Pirate Roberts (not Zorro) and me as the Ugly one in The good the bad and the Ugly.

Dean an Richard decided to show me sympathy for breaking my leg and got plastered as well. Dean was 'Jules' Bond, an injured bond, and Richard was an injured stunt man.

The whole crew.

We also played some games including the cardboard box game. You have to pick up a cardboard box with your teeth and only your feet on the ground. The height of the box becomes less and less. Richard above showed an interesting by flawed method.

Pete the RAF man claps as Neil (Jack Sparrow) shows how flexible he is.

Ant the monkey man was very very flexible and used a number of methods.

Andy the generator mech was also great at this.

Tamsin (the Power Ranger) watches as Dean looks serious.

Kirsty the Birthday girl demonstrates how to be a tomb raider.
The party was great. This weekend we have a pub crawl where I will be dragged around which should be fun. I will hopefully have an x-ray update soon as well.