Monday, October 30, 2006



A dull grey sky left little channels of water trickling from mountains of imported coal as we weived through containers and fuel terminals to find the RRS Ernest Shackelton’s birth. Apparently, even by the standards of industrial ports, Immingam is grim. The ship’s crew reflected the weather, with their hoods up and heads down, working fast to get everything on board before their last night on shore. We were running late and the pressure was on.

Things brightened up once inside. Dave the busar gave a friendly introduction, sorted the paperwork and found my cabin. Until I gain a room mate at Montevideo it will feel palacial, having en-suite facilities and being larger than many university halls I’ve seen. Mum and Dad stayed for dinner aboard – an excellent meal served with officers and crew eating together in the same mess. Mates from the summer’s training had by now arrived, and we sat in the bar chatting into the evening.

Saturday dawned a bit brighter, so we headed into Grimsby for last minute shopping and an excellent fish and chips lunch from a café that still buys fish straight off the docks. We returned to the ship with stuffed bellies for a safety talk and tour, then it was time to say good-bye. Even with webcams and satellite phones, it will be hard not seeing those I love for 18 months. How crews coped a century is beyond me.

Blinking furiously (damn those eye-drops!) as I waved the little Land Rover off, it occurred that I wont even see solid ground for the next 3 weeks. Time to find the running shoes… Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last night in Wales

Van sold. Bike sold. Bags (nearly) packed.

Best mates seen. Little cousins talked to. Aunts and uncles wined and dined.

I'm nearly ready: This is it. Part of me is thinking "oh god, what am I leaving behind?". But sitting in the Cardiff traffic thisafternoon, I remember what drove me to apply, and to want to go.

For better or worse, Antarctica here I come... Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

Penguin Party

One of the hardest parts of this job will be leaving my family and friends behind for 18 months, so I invited everyone down to Wales for a bit of a send-off party.

Initially, this was to be at home, but as more and more people said they'd come, I had to hire a bigger venue. The excellent Trericket Mill campsite, just down the road provided just enough space for the thirty-something campers.

People drifted in throughout Friday evening, with one having made two trips due to his car exploding en-route! Saturday brought another great day on the bikes, complete with a substantial soaking at the end, but the weather did little to dampen the party spirits. Showered and changed, we cranked up the space heater and stereo, feasted on curry and partied into the night.

Even by ex-Bangor standards, it was wild. Bunny girls pole-danced while blokes in Hugh-Heffner costume smoked cigars and drank whisky. I owe a massive thank-you to everyone for coming, especially Mum and Dad for somehow feeding everyone, Rowan and Rich for a superb effort on the decks, Lucy for the wine and to all the Heff's and Hunnies who really made the party. Cheers for all the cards and presents too. I love you lot and will miss you like crazy.

Click here for the full photos. (Not for weak-minded fools). Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


If mountains are my drug of choice, Cambridge has been my Methodone, designed to wean me off them slowly before the flat abstinence of Halley. But, like any junkie, I needed one last good hit.

Encouraged by a stunning weather forecast, Dr Ben and I drove through the night to the Scottish Highlands. We stopped in Dundee to take a look at the RRS Discovery (Capt. Scott's ship), which sits in the town centre and is a major tourist attraction. Despite having been hacked about to meet modern regulations (I don't think wheelchair access was an issue in 1903), she still retained a lot of original features and it was fascinating to see how the Antarctic pioneers lived.

Heading into the hills, we got three classic days' riding. (Click for photographs). The Cairngorm Plateau was stunningly beautiful, with cloud pouring down the valleys beneath us. The descent was worth the slog up too, as the track had an almost perfect blend of technicality and speed. If I don't get on the bike again before I leave, I'm a happy man. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


And so it ends, back where it all began, in Cornwall.

The final two days in Cambridge flew by. After Friday lunch, I jumped into the van and drove too fast with too few breaks to catch up with my ex-university gang for our anual surf get-together.

A big autumn storm had whipped up some decent surf, with some really good clean waves on Sunday. A couple of our number were trying new boards for the first time and we all hit the bars that evening to round off a great day. For more pictures click here.Posted by Picasa

Someone likes my photos!

Entered some photos into the Dirt Mag / Howies competition a while back. One of them has made the top 50! Dead chuffed as it's my first stab at a photo comp.

Here it is:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Last Week at Work

The rollercoaster pace of our training, and my life, is continuing right up to the end. The highlight of last week was Elevated Platform training, giving us a nationally recognised licence. These hydraulically controlled were mounted on the Snow Cats we’ll be using at Halley. Despite its towering presence and 8.2 V8 engine, it was very easy to drive.

Having worked a few weekends, I got away early on Friday and headed up to Richmond, Yorkshire, to catch up with an old schoolmate. Over a curry, we chatted about the similarities between my job and his days in the Army. Up to now, I’ve been strict in keeping business and pleasure separate. Sure, I enjoyed my previous job, but I have always thought it important to have escapes, so I’ve never tried to earn a living from my hobbies. In working for BAS, I knew I would cross this boundary, and that life and work would become one. It’s bloody lucky I’m enjoying it then, we decided!

Saturday brought a superb autumn day, and with it a cracking mountain bike ride in Swaledale. My daily commute of ten miles has kept my fitness up, despite piling on the pounds thanks to the fantastic food, and lack of the high-intensity riding I was doing in Wales. Anyway, to get the most out of Halley I’ve invested in a 10sqm traction kit, so every extra pound will be an advantage in keeping me on the ground!

Sunday, again, was given to BAS. I drove the 200 miles back down the A1 to have lunch, change bags and grab a train to Plymouth for three further days advanced life support at BAS’ Medical Unit. This was well worthwhile. Working in small groups, we learned skills to deal with small injuries should the doctor be away from base, and to assist him in a more difficult operation.
Airway support, IV fluid and drug delivery and stitching small wounds were covered, along with a good recap on the basics. I also spent a fascinating morning in A&E, watching the professionals in action, resuscitating a patient. Hopefully we’ll never need these skills, but it’s good to know it’s there. Posted by Picasa