Archive for May, 2011


Christmas in May…

May 18, 2011   

Overnight the snow melted from the track leaving some large icy patches – I slipped on one on my morning run. The mail ship came in today so everyone on base hoped for packages.

I got some exciting packages and am now wearing my new waterproof down Macpac jacket which is a lovely shade of blue. The waterproof trousers were a bit large on me so I have sold them on to Rob. Some parts came in for my mid winter present and a few postcards from friends. A great magazine and Kindle cover and a package I sent out in November was returned due to the wrong address!

I spent the day continuing with indent and we had early dinner as Sue left on one of the fishing vessels as an observer. The observer who was aboard came off and will spend two weeks on station before heading back to Stanley. As we had freshies come in I made avacado, shrimp, mango, cliantro wraps (lettuce leaves), followed by lemon chicken with rice, peppers, courgettes and carrot ribbons and fruit salad and lemon tarts for dessert.

We had some night boating as the fishing vessel arrived in the cove at 7:45pm. We had to break out of the berth through thick ice to get to the vessel. While Kieron did the customs paperwork we sat alongside and I ended up talking to a group of Kiwi fisherman one of whom gave me a book to read about a family living in a remote area of NZ. Very nice group of guys I think Sue will have a good 7 weeks aboard. I am on earlies tomorrow so must get in my bunk as I need to be up in 6.5 hours!


May 17, 2011   

Customization of my kit continues as I practice with my equipment and how to load my rucksack for my trip after KEP in January in Argentina. Bungee on my gloves so when I take them off I can just let them drop and not lose them – reminiscent of being a child! Leather covers on my ice axe tips held on again with bungee and a leash so I don’t lose the axe if I let go!

Picture by Sam showing the track which I skied around at lunch with beautiful blue skies!

I did my normal run to the hydro this morning and at lunch time as the snow continued to stay pretty firm on the track I decided to pull out my brand new skis and go for a skin to Grytviken and back. I love my boots which for the first time in my life were actually molded to my feet so are much more comfortable than my off the shelf down hill boots. They still need a little bit of breaking in but life is pretty good!

The skis are brand new and my first time out on them are a lot fatter than I am use to but that is because I plan on carrying heavy loads and man hauling with them so need that surface area.

Busy Monday and the winners

May 16, 2011   

Today was busy I started at 7:15am as the tide was dropping and the jet boat needed to be in the water so as it was still dark the JCB lights were on. As Sam was in the gym on the treadmill I was able to get her to help me with pulling the jet boat out of the boatshed into a position where I could power wash it. The ice on the slipway hindered the boat from smoothly rolling down to the water so I had to power wash the build up of ice off the slipway! At 8:30 Matt arrived to help me finish putting Prion in the water and was able to experience his first time driving through sea ice. The ice on the cove was thick this morning as we have had -7C and no wind for the last 5 days so it is now about 3 inches thick.

Once the Prion was alongside it was time to help Matt Mech with refuelling station. We have a fuel store and a day (week) tank system which every monday gets filled from the store and it requires somoeone to sit and make sure nothing leaks! Tad boring and cold!

After refuelling it was time to get the RIBs warmed up for a trip to the Greene. They had had to sit outside overnight as the jetboat was in the shed so I warmed up the telltale tubes with a heat gun and we had to pour warm water over the instruments to even turn them on! The ice in the mic on the VHF didn’t thaw for quite a while. We started the engines on land using the muffs before launching them to get them good and warm.

It was almost a three hour trip out to the Morraine Fjord through sea ice, grease ice, pancake ice and brash ice. We saw two lepaord seals hauled out on the ice they were looking very fat and happy. This was the first experience for Alastair, Sam and Tommy to properly drive through ice – many pictures were taken and there were lots of smiles. We picked up the depoted equipment and the dead skua that we found while on holiday and they wanted to have a look at back in the lab.

After putting the boats away it was time for lunch and then replying to the many work emails since I had been on holiday since last thursday.

Sunset at 4:30pm today was stunning.

Tommy and I sorted out the camping equipment drying out of the tents, thermarests and washing our down jackets etc.

Time for a relax and bed!

Oh the big news is that we stormed passed the 6000km finish line doing a total of 6702km with Les (my boss) doing 1200km bike ride in the last two weeks. The second place team is still on the course having gone 4448km. So Race Antarctica is finished… now what will we all do on station!

Campsite and life

May 13, 2011   

It is too hard to figure out how to write my holidays blog so I am just dividing it into topics! Starting with our beautiful campsite near to the Harker and Hamberg Glaciers on the shore of the Morraine Fjord (west side of the Greene Peninsula an inlet 3.5 miles long). The reef at the entrance is a terminal moraine.

Greene Peninsula is a mountainous cove between Moraine Fjord and Cumberland East Bay. It was named in 1979 after Stanley Wilson Greene, British bryologist working in South Georgia from 1960; with British Antarctic Survey (BAS), 1969-74, and the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Penicuik, from 1974.

We were dropped off with all our equipment including some dry wood to burn for our first nights campfire, Tommy’s snowboard (he is ever hopeful) and two tents. We were dropped off on Sudan beach which is a small shingle beach 0.3 nautical miles (0.6 km) south of Dartmouth Point, on the east side of Moraine Fjord, South Georgia. It was named in 1951 after the chemical stain used in the preparation of histological specimans collected by FIDS.

Tommy wanted to bivy so Rob and I each had a tent (luxury). After a first night being chilly Tommy made a mattress out of tussock grass in am attempt to make a flat surface and insulate himself from the snow!

We collected firewood from the beach that had come from the wrecks at enterance of the fjord. Much needed warmth as it was -7C at night.

We dried our gloves, boots, socks etc by the fire unfortunately a few things got a bit close and were worse for wear afterwards!

Maybe I should have taken my winter boots as my leather ones were well and truly frozen when I went to put them on in the morning. Thanks to heat pads life was a little more comfortable once I got them on!

As humans create about 1 litre of condensation whilst sleeping the inside of the tent was covered in ice crystals which had to be carefully avoided when trying to get out of the tent otherwise a wet sleeping bag was the result!

The view from my tent as the sun rose of the Harker and Hamberg Glacier was stunning.

This was a great exercise for me learning how everything fits in my rucksack – snow shoes, crampons, ski poles, avalanche probe and shovel, ice axe, expedition down bag etc. My winter kit weighs 30kg (66lbs) in total which is what I need to be able to carry at high altitude come January everyday so this is all good practice.

We cook on an optimus primus parrafin stove which on chilly mornings takes a lot of meths to get going. The water was from a stream that was freezing over and within 5 minutes the nalgene bottles lids were frozen on. There were ice crystals forming in the bottle indeed even a stopper of ice so the water couldn’t be poured out if left in for a while. I taught Tommy about using Nalgene bottles as hot water bottles which also means you have water that is not frozen for that first morning drink. Also about using snow to clean the pans out as it is abrasive. The water in the pot was taking 3 minutes to form a 2mm complete crust on top while it was in the queue to be boiled and leaving the pot handle on the lid was necessary to stop it from freezing shut.

Lots of ice features…


Hoar frost around tussock grass

Icicles forming from water seeping out of the moss and tussock.

Lake Jeremy frozen over we didn’t walk down to the lake but next holiday hopefully we will get some skiing on the slopes around the lake.

Tommy, Rob and myself on Sudan beach near to our campsite with the Hamberg Glacier behind.
The glacier flows in an east-northeast direction from the northeast side of Mount Sugartop to the west side of the head of Moraine Fjord.

The glacier up close at the ice front. Originally charted by the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1901-04, under Nordenskjold, who named it for Axel Hamberg, Swedish geographer, mineralogist and Arctic explorer.

School, jet drives, walks and packing

May 11, 2011   

Today was busy with Boat School, Doc School, jet drive servicing and another extended lunch break with a long walk to Deadmans in the snow in my plastic to see how they would wear in. Oh and also 15km on the bike while watching the Burma section of a World at War and packing my bag for tomorrow holidays!

When I went into work at 7:30am it was dark and snowing lightly

Servicing the jet units – buckets are off and removing the tailpipe to have a look at the impellors.

The dam where our drinking water supply comes from at the base of Bore Valley.

The mountains reflected in Maiviken Lake it was a beautiful view from Deadmans.

Not many people get to go on a walk like this on their lunch break! I rushed on home just in time for boat school where we did position fixes. The guys did a great job despite my very bad lecturing technique. After boat school was Doc school where Sam did a much better job of lecturing than me and went through the contents of our grab bags.

Fully packed with crampons, ice axe, snow shoes, snow shovel, avalanche probe, avalanche transciever, tent poles, tent pegs, stove, kerosene, ski poles, expedition sleeping bag, down jacket, thermarest the list goes on and on!

Four days of food packed by day. Lots of goodies I brought in my p-box from the US for camping like crystal light and nestles hot chocolate.

Have a great rest of the week and weekend I will be back on Sunday night or monday morning.

Jet boat slip and boat school notes

May 10, 2011   

This morning Matt and I pulled out Prion the jet boat. Due to our slick operation the water needed to come up another 6 inches before there was enough to fully get her out. We hastened the procedure by backing up the trailer a little further. It is always a little nerve racking as the slipway stops abruptly and if you back the trailer too far it is a large issue getting the trailer back out of the water. Apparently the last boatman had the experience of having to use the jet boat to hoist the back end of the trailer back onto it when it was backed in to far. Matt and I don’t wish to have that experience!

The job list isn’t too large and as we have now changed to a 2 monthly haul out from a 3 monthly one and the water is not as warm as in the height of summer there was not too much growth on the bottom. Anchor locker checks, heater repair, jet unit checks, full clean of the interior of the cab and engine bilges and painting of the handrail to stop the ice light from reflecting into your eyes. One or two small things that are nice to do not need to do and she will go back in the water on Monday when I come back from holiday.

I spent mid morning writing up notes for tomorrows boat school about position fixes, transits and depth. Calling it a day when I got to running fixes so tomorrow morning I will need to finish that up. I took an extended lunch break as it was good weather and instead worked till 5:30. During my lunch break I hiked up to Deadmans in the snow. I took my snowshoes but it wasn’t deep enough for that. Ali and Katie had come back from Maiviken only 2 hours before me and in many places there tracks were already obliterated. There was enough of a breeze that the flanks of Hodges had a halo where the sun was glinting on blowing snow. The snow snaked its way across the surface as I walked up Bore Valley. When I got to the top of Lewis Pass there was quite a lot of blue sky and it was very pretty indeed.

Tomorrow more jet boat work, boat school and packing my bag with winter trip requirements before off on holidays on Thursday.

Boat repair

May 9, 2011   

This morning the cove was covered in slush ice or shuga. There is a large amount of fresh water on the surface of the cove as it comes down Bore Valley and from Gull Lake as snow melt and pours into the Cove. The formation of sea ice starts with a thin skin oce ice crystals over the water called frazil which is easily disrupted by wind etc. Sometimes the snow falling floats on these crystals. If left undisturbed frazil coagulates to form nilas, a continuous sheet of ice that will gradually increase in depth. However, this morning with the small amount of wind nilas was not formed instead the frazil acted as seed crystals, ice growing around them to form a floating slushy mass that was a foot thick. In some place this slush had further congeal into a spongey mass called shuga. These get banged together as they harden and look like plates with edges raised all the way around – known as pancake ice (there were a few of these but with an increase in wind were quickly dispersed).

Being monday there was the normal weekly checks of all the boats. I spent the first part of the morning writing up lecture notes for boat school and a few exercises. All a bit overkill but there are a few people wanting to do RYA Day Skipper/Coastal Skipper so I am following those syllabus and teaching to that level.

With the outboard engines trimmed properly there is a large gap between the top of the transom and the engine brackets. The thumb screws are very close to the edge of the transom so

I milled some greenheart timber to make as a spacer which I will screw on the top and also glass over. It will take quite a while to finish this project but I do have a few months this winter!

HMS Dotty’s oar lock has been broken for a year or so. Today I took an M10 stainless bolt modified the head and drilled a 4mm hole through it. Then I threaded the plastic that is attached to Dotty and voila she now has a repaired oarlock – a little agricultural I know but I think it should work just fine for the small number of times she is out on the water!

I haven’t had a winter in 6 and half years so it is a bit of a shock to see the moon rising next to Duse at 5pm… still over a month to midwinter. It will be getting dark around 4pm next month.

Work and sewing

May 8, 2011   

As sunday morning dawned I looked out of my pitroom window to see the sun glinting off the snowy peaks and a full covering of snow on the beach. The last fishing boat of the season was motoring into the cove to be inspected and for Andy Black to go aboard as observer. Andy will be on for 3 to 4 months while they fish for toothfish and then head back to Stanley.

After dropping off the Government Officers aboard for inspection Tommy and I put the RIB in the water ready to pick up Matt and Sue at Sorling as they wanted to come home a day early. I then serviced one of the camping stoves that was acting up and milled some timber for my next woodwork project.

It was wood that was found on the beach and floating behind the jet boats.

We picked up the happy campers and headed on home by the time the boats were put away new fuel brought over from the fuel bund it was 1:45pm!

I spent the afternoon doing lots of little projects including making some insulated covers for my Nalgene water bottle to stop my water freezing on my Aconcaqua trip. Unfortunately there was no close celled foam to use for insulation so I had to use some small bits of old thermarest which will paobably not fully do the trick. Also I haven’t been able to find any zipper to use to attach the top so until I do the lid will not be attached!

Being Sunday it was movie night and Tommy was on lates so we watched Ironman 2.

Finally some blue sky

May 7, 2011   

Today I hiked over to Maiviken Hut as I wanted to tighten the cables that hold down the hut. I felt like a vandal when I left large footprints in the ice over the moss beds on the way there and back.

While the spray was soaking into the rusty turnbuckles I sat on the bench (I made back in January) and had lunch. As you can see behind me the windows of the hut are covered with about 3 inches of icy and snow. The wires I went to tighten are the ones leading up to the roof. Unfortunately one of the turnbuckles was so rusted I would have sheared it so I will have to go back with a new one and a hacksaw. The other one is now nice and tight so it can wait till I get back there next week.

The snow caught in the short grass looked like cotton blowing around a field.

On the way along the track I noticed a large piece of wood probably from the jetty at Grytviken and decided to carry it back to base to use for a project I am getting ready to do in the chippy shop. It was quite heavy being 12 foot long and 6 x 3 and a little wet. Thanks to Tommy’s help holding onto the other end it is already milled and drying in the boatshed. There was a great handmade nail sticking out of it which I have saved and will try to use in some way. I won’t start the project until after mid winter when everyone is finished with their MWPs and the chippy shop is a little less busy.

Hopefully tomorrow will be another relatively nice day – it has started to snow is small flurries so there will probably be a blanket tomorrow. I am off on holidays with Tommy and Rob next week from Thursday through Sunday on the Greene and am looking forward to it.