As usual the blogging process for me is long. I think I posted these photos three weeks ago and I have only just got around to writing about it. In the last entry I described my trip to Windy caboose and I mentioned that the sun was leaving us, well the weekend after the trip to windy the base officially celebrated sundown. Sundown is the day that the sun officially sets and does not rise again until sun-up (sometime in August). You can't predict exactly when sundown or sun-up will be although you can calculate it pretty well. The problem is that atmospheric conditions lead to mirages and then you can sometimes see the sun when it has already set. The mirages are pretty cool and once or twice I have been skiing and the sun is setting and then it seems to rise again (because of the miraging) and then it sets again. There was a small debate as to when sundown actually was, its more complicated when you realise that we are on a moving ice-shelf (moving farther north all the time). In the end we found a definition here and we used a programme that used to generate sunset and sunrise times for one of the optical experiments to calculate the exact day (we actually used decided to say the sun was set when it was 1 degree below the horizon and got an accurate GPS reading of our current position). Having calculated the exact day when the sun was likely to have set for the last time it was decided that we would have the flag lowering on the closest sunday.
Liz the chippy lowers the flag at the sundown ceremony. Liz is oldest person on base and traditionally is the person who lowers the flag. The youngest person (Kirsty) gets to put the new flag back up in August. Our names were put into a hat to see who gets to keep the flag and it turned out to be Simon the GA who got it.
The rest of the base stand around while Liz gets the knots on the flag undone.
Later in the evening we have the BBQ. This is officially the coldest barbie I have ever been to. It was freezing.
It was a pretty chilly day that day. I remember because I went kite-skiing just before the flag lowering ceremony and had to wear bear paw mittens. I've also just had a quick look at the temperature data for that day and we were enjoying the BBQ in about -36 degrees C. Its a bit mad to have a BBQ in those temperatures but surprisingly the food was well cooked and tasted lovely.
Its a bit odd now that we never see the sun, its not that we have total darkness and everyday around midday it gets light in the north. On really cloudy days you can hardly see anything but on clear days you get a lovely red glow that grows slightly stronger, peaking around 1:30pm before it slowly gets darker again. The moonlight is pretty impressive as well when it is full and is more than enough to go skiing with.
On the work front, everything seems to be calming down and I have started to get to grips with all the bits and bobs of my job. One of the great things about this job is the varied jobs that you have to do. One of which was to help the genny mech Bob down in the tunnels again. We have two sets of tunnels here at Halley. One set, the Laws tunnels, joins the main Laws platform to the Simpson platform, the other, the Piggott tunnels just feed cables out from underneath the Piggott. In the Laws tunnels there is the Melt tank (this is just a big tank of warm water that we shovel snow into in order to make more water). The melt tank is actually heated using a heat exchanger and the exhaust gasses from the generators on the Laws platform. The tunnels aslo contain the flubbers (big rubber bags) which hold all the avtur (the same as Jet A1 which doesn't freeze at low temperature) that the generators run on. Around and under the flubbers are bunds, big tarpaulin pools which are meant to catch any spills that might happen. We were just securing the bunds a bit better. Whenever I go down there its just amazing how crazy it can be, you get amazing ice crystals. The best one I think is on a side tunnel between the melt tank and the main tunnels just under one of the lights, and must form because of the warmth of the melt tank and the light.
My face distorted through the best icicle in the laws tunnels.
Bob strokes the icicle. How on earth did such a clear phallic ice crystal form?
For information about the Halley building see hereThe force of the ice is also pretty amazing and in some of the older sections of tunnel the armco tunnels are getting crushed. In some places the steel is being ripped apart. Of course we monitor the deformations and temperatures all the time to make sure they don't get dangerous. You might also notice that we are wearing safety harnesses. On some of the access shafts you could potentially fall over 25m down so we clip onto runners that run a steel cable. There is also an emergency winch on the surface that can be used to winch people up, but it is manual and it wouldn't be nice to do if it was particularly cold.
The force of the ice is impressive. Here it has crushed a massive wooden beam as though it was a match stick.
The tunnel between the laws and the simpson is really long (about 290m) long. The heating pipes for the simpson run to and from the laws and apparently are really efficient only losing about 8 degrees on the journey.
So thats what has been happening. In fact since I posted these photos we've had a few more parties and we are really leading up to mid-winter which is on the 21st of June. Its not long now and then the days will get lighter and lighter and before we know it it will be summer again. At mid-winter there is a big celebration on par with christmas back at home. One of the main things to do before then is build our mid winter presents. I can tell you now that I haven't made much progress so I better get down to building.
One of the things I was going to mention was the antarctic treaty this was a treaty signed by all the countries that had interests in the antarctic, it basically sets the antarctic aside as a place for scientific studys that can't be exploited by mining etc... It also says stuff like, no persons in a military capacity allowed, no foreign (to antarctica) animals allowed (this is why there are no Dogs anymore) and finally it tell you what you are allowed to leave behind. Basically you are not allowed to leave anything behind, so if you build something down here you have to remove it that is unless it is buried. All waste has to be removed except human waste. On the main platform our waste gets flushed and dumped into the ice and forms a big onion under the building. On the other platforms they found that the loos blocked up too much because they weren't used enough. So they found a solution.
The Piggott toilet. Note the chimney, this is a rocket bog, tradename "Incinolet", and it turns all your waste into ash and gas. We also have the urinal which is just discharged into an "onion" under the ice.
Anyway I just thought you might be interested. Another thing I have been doing slowly when I have time is to build my sno-blizzard. Hopefully I will have it running around outside soon and will have some photos of it.
Running in the Sno Blizzard. How cool is this radio controlled vehicle with its 11cc engine. It needs 10 tanks of fuel to run in and I'm on tank number 8 now.
Someone requested a picture of a pee funnel, these are used by the ladies on base on winter trips or trips to cabooses since its too cold outside to expose yourself for too long. Anyway here it is.
Errgh!! As requested a picture of a pee funnel. This seriously grossed me out when I took it. I think the Doc also thinks I am a bit wierd for asking to take a photo of one.
Our health is pretty good. I mean we were all given thorough medicals before we came down and then inoculated against every known disease because we might pick up on the way down. We also have a doctor, Vicki, to look after 16 of us I think that is a pretty good ratio. Most of the time she has little to do since we don't injure ourselves much. She also looks after the waste management with help from the winter BC. She is also carrying out a study into the use of light boxes. We have these light boxes (see picture half way down this entry) which are supposed to help us synchronise our circadian rythms and combat SAD.
The actiwatch. This measures our activity and the light that we are exposed to.
She uses these actiwatches, pee samples every month, sleep diaries and questionnaires she is trying to work out whether white or blue light bulbs are better for us. In the next entry I will hopefully have some more details about this.
I have also noticed that my blog has become a blog of note on the blogger front page which is cool. There seem to be a lot of questions about stuff and hopefully I will answer them in the next entry. Hoepfully that will be soon.