Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sundown, The Tunnels and Pee Funnels

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. Posted by Picasa


The rest of the base stand around while Liz gets the knots on the flag undone. Posted by Picasa


Later in the evening we have the BBQ. This is officially the coldest barbie I have ever been to. It was freezing. Posted by Picasa

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. Posted by Picasa


Bob strokes the icicle. How on earth did such a clear phallic ice crystal form? Posted by Picasa

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. Posted by Picasa



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. Posted by Picasa

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. Posted by Picasa

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. Posted by Picasa
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. Posted by Picasa

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. Posted by Picasa

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.

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

Impressive camera skills Mr Rix. What equipment are you using? (No, that's not a reference to the pee funnel).

Anonymous said...

Hey! It was me. I asked to see it. What a curious contraption. Looks impossible to use. Lots of love from sunny London, E.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it was colder than the December BBQ on Cranmer Rd.

Anonymous said...

God, I've just realised that you have been out there for seven months.

Ancient Clown said...

AMAZING pictures...you would do me a great honour to visit and learn the Art of Wire Tree-making. If I can get a tree to Antactica I will have a tree on EVERY continent on the face of the Earth.
Do you have a mailing address that I could send you one as a gift?
Please visit and share this with everyone on site there...it's very ZEN.
your humble servant,
Ancient Clown

Anonymous said...

just found your blog! SO interesting!! Thanks for sharing!

Em said...

WOW.
Those are the best antarctic photos I've seen for a long time. GOD I hope I can go down there one day. What an awesome place, and what great photos.
(Please click on my Blog a coupla' times so I can see the Antarctic on my hitmaps!! I'll be putting up some interesting photos myself, by the way.)

Meg said...

This is a really cool blog! I must admit I just skimmed over it but I will mark it and come back to read it more thoroughly!

Klatuu o embu├žado said...

Must be nice!

BionicBuddha said...

It looks kinda cold, but that toilet which burns everything is interesting...I'm glad they don't use these in moving vehicles.



www.bionicbuddha.com

R2K said...

: )

I love this page.


I would love to go there some day.

anonymous jones said...

Oh what Pom could resist the enrapturing charm of a rocket bog -and so much so that they had to post a picture of it!?! Well done, you live up to Britain's grand tradition and heritage of toilet humour!
I won't make any 'cool' jokes.

ayong said...

it looks so cold but so exciting. even reading the blog looks makes me cold..
have fun

Rosie said...

I don't know how I stumbled upon your blog, but I've found it very, very interesting. Are you cold all the time? Do you have 'beach' themes sometimes? or is thatjust wishful thinking? I love the penguins, I simply adore them.

bellxone said...

Hello !!!
I come from FRANCE !
i am 23 yo and i live in the south West of FRANCE in a city called Bordeaux
i just want to say i really like your web which is really interesting :)
i really like to come here to look your page !

Maybe you will come to visit me :)
i do digital art design ! X X X
anyway i am looking for lots of Blogspectators from all around the world :)

have a look !!!!!!!!

http://bellxone.skynetblogs.be
made in Bordeaux

take care

bellxone, Bordeaux, FRANCE, EUROPE, HUMANITY
http://bellxone.skynetblogs.be
bellxone@hotmail.com

celeritas said...

Hi Julius,

Coolest blog I've seen so far (no pun intended).

Don't mind a visit from Antartica:

Over the Rainbow

Internet Street Philosopher said...

Cool equipment, and hope you enjoyed the BBQ!

In Training said...

Its a sunny 79 degrees here in California, but I'm feeling the chill looking at your pics. Incredible. How did sign up for this adventure?

Jeniece said...

Awesome blog. You made me feel like I was in Antarctica while I was reading, which explains why I suddenly feel like I need to wrap myself in 10 blankets and drink a gallon of hot chocolate. :)

Frosty the snowman said...

Pretty amazing stuff.

Cat said...

G'day mate.
This is the most amazing blog I've seen yet. I thought I had an interesting job (exploration and drilling for hydrocarbons in the Australian Desert).
Keep sane little buddy.
Cat.

Alison said...

Wow, I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said but thank you for sharing your journey down there with all of us here. It really is incredible. :)

Nyx said...

I just started reading. It looks like you're in the northern part of Alaska or Canada. I'm going to keep reading.

Keep warm, man!

Anonymous said...

Have we reached some kind of tipping point here, or is it just me?

Setanta said...

Jules, Excelent Blog and really fantastic images. Just came across it as it was recomended on the Blogger front page.

Good haircuts BTW.

R2K said...

Lets see more!

WW said...

Cool blog!!! Great photos!!

chloesart said...

Hi Julius - your pics are awesome!
I can't imagine living as you guys do - respect!
Can I add you as a blog friend to my blogs??

www.chloesart@blog.co.uk and www.chloesart@blogspot.com

Have a great week!
Good vibes
Chloe

g.knotee said...

hey, pretty cool blog! don't tell me you're blogging in antarctica?unbelievable! i'm reminded by the march of the penguins dvd.such beautiful glaciers. hang in there!

Anonymous said...

so not even a clue as to the type of camera you're using then? ok.
spoil sport. all this attention gone to your head?

Marisa said...

Nice toilets!!! But seriously, interesting blog! Makes my year in France (this year) feel slightly less exotic ;)

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog! I would compare this to better than National Geographic. Keep up the good work I am hooked. Just another farmer in the mid west here. However, I dont think I'd want to trade you jobs, Best of Luck!

Joe Evans said...

nice blog its got some good pics on it why not look at my blog

cruelite said...

antartica... definitely better than where i am

Kelley said...

AMAZING SITE! Glad I found you through blogs of note!

ChaRlie ChaNge said...

Wow. Antarctica that is absolutely crazy! Those are some amazing pictures and interesting pictures, I must say.

mud_pie said...

Just adding to the previous comment I left, in case it didn't go thru: Wow!

Dawg of Doom said...

That's just amazing what you can find at the bottom of the planet.

Steve said...

Haha, pee funnel. For those of you unaware, check out a disposable model at www.magic-cone.com, it's hilarious.

Chris said...

Wow! Great pictures. Good lighting. I'm impressed.

Chris (My Blog)

The Testosterone Pundit said...

I kind of just pee wherever. It might be nice to direct it with the funnel. Where can I get them?

Pundit (The Blog)

EalingTragedy said...

Jules, you realise you're on Blogger's 'Blogs of Note' page? Well done old chap, you deserve it.
Adam

-CELTIC- said...

hey nice blog, remember to visit my blog at netfera

Gold member said...

Brilliant read
Ripley top marks
I will come again to read new postings on this Blog and look at pictures.
Will you posting more out side distance shots ?

Gold member said...

interesting Thanks for sharing!

God Of Devils ! said...

Hey mate....i think you are one lucky guy..travelling is great ...and travelling to such places is greatest...hope u enjoy more travels like this...and of course ...thanks for sharing it :D

Bye !

BareAss Prophet said...

Looks like your having fun out there. Cool pics.
Also, I always wondered what a pee funnel looked like, lol.

OceanWayz said...

Should I mention I am viewing your blog from sunny & hot FloriDUH, USA? Where the only thing bluer than the ocean is the hair??

This is a wonderful blog, so very interesting! After your 10 month adventure do you think you will ever return?

tab bashers said...

Hello
Your blog has suddenly become very famous! nice photos tho- when are you going to put some more up (or is there not enough light to take any?)
Can you bring us back a penguin please?
Emma and Moo (in Oxford for weekend)

Consumer said...

Great blog! Thanks for sharing.

Romit said...

Scintillating photographs! A lot of information can be retrieved from your blog! Its simply GREAT!

Anonymous said...

I think your head will soon be about to explode due to inflating ego created by your adoring fans!

Paddy said...

Great blog mate! Just stumbled across it, havent read it properly yet though, will definitely do so later.

Rgds,
Paddy

carolCandy said...

Wow! What a life you lead! It makes me wonder what I'm doing with mine. Maybe I should start planning my own adventure ....

Will you be selling your photos? They're just amazing!

Holly said...

Hi Jules darling, Can't get enough of your blog - it's fabulous. I would kill for a pee funnel - imagine what fun you could have with that on a London bus! We're having a housewarming party on Friday if you fancy popping over for the weekend. Hope all's well love Hols x

Neal said...

I like that you have a machine that turns your waste into ash & gas....I thought that was what waste was. At pole we just put everything in a hole.

woman wandering said...

Perhaps if I read of your winter during my summer in Belgium (writes the Kiwi) then this Belgian summer might seem kind of okay by comparison to your sunless season ...

Nice blog :)

Lisa said...

Amazing blog! Thanks for such good details and descriptions. This is unlike anywhere I've ever been.

Like someone else asked here, I'm curious: What motivated you to do this? And what was the process for being selected/hired?

Anonymous said...

geez louise

Anonymous said...

Och - Let's push it up to sixty. Something just plain satisfying about a nice round number like that... dontcha think?