Tuesday, December 27, 2005

N9 relief - Day 4 driving the shelf

As I mentioned earlier my job during christmas has been to drive a Sno-cat for 12 hours a day, sometimes longer depending if we are running late or not. Normally wake up around 10 to seven and have a quick breakfast. Then get changed and head onto the sea-ice. Normally the happy sledge (a 6 seat sledge pulled by a skidoo) is waiting. If there is a driver then they drive us from the ship onto the shelf-ice where the Sno-cats are being serviced at the Mechanics caboose.

The Shackleton moored up on the sea-ice. Posted by Picasa

The sea-ice is about 2 m thick and the shelf-ice can be hundreds of meters thick. You have to remember that 90 percent of the ice is below the water if it is floating. Bulldozers have been used to create a ramp from the sea ice to the shelf ice.

Ice-scape. View of the shelf-ice from the sea-ice. Posted by Picasa

We then heat up the Sno-cats, hitch up some sledges and head to the halfway caboose at a steady 8mph trying to have as smooth a ride a possible. The ice on the shelf is unbelieveable bumpy especially after you have dragged a few 10 tonne sledges across it. So getting a smooth ride is very difficult. The Sno-cats cope amazingly well. They all have large turbo charged diesel engine. One, K17, has an 8.2 litre Detroit V8 in the front and I think has the most character. Our one K21 is more comfortable but is less interesting. Some of the long days have been caused by mechanical problems. First of all someone on the night shift (nickname Fish) drove K20 into the back of K21. So now K20 has no bonnet and K21 has no back door. In the 2000 sq miles of the Brunt Ice shelf there are about 10 Sno-cats and we crashed them. K20 also had a sticking throttle and had to be nursed back to the Mechanics caboose.

We get the halfway caboose, and normally have a brew.

The halfway caboose with a new grooming Sno-cat in the background. Posted by Picasa

BAS also has some planes with skis and Halley has one which is helping in the relief. It is ferrying booze, food and other essentially between the ship and the base. One of the exciting things for the shelf-ice drivers is to be buzzed by the plane.

The Twin Otter from the drivers seat of K21. Posted by Picasa

The plane has now buzzed us about 10 times.

The twin otter buzzing K21 at the halfway caboose. Posted by Picasa

After a long day's work it is nice to see some wildlife.

Adelie penguins greeted us back from a long day on the shelf. You can just see that they are standing in Sno-cat tracks. Posted by Picasa

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jules
Merry belated Christmas and a very happy New Year. Love the blog gives me something interesting to do at work.