Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Z or Dead - Antartica's loudest band?

A few photos of Z or Dead, rocking the Laws Lounge on Friday night. What we lacked in tallent and equipment, we made up for with enthusiasm and volume! With the nearest neighbours 300km away, we could have been the loudest band in Halley, Rothera or even the whole Antarctic!

From left to right: Me (rhythm guitar, backing vocals); Dean (drums); Mark (lead guitar/vocals); Alex (Bass)

And this goes out to...

Alex sings a version of his own. Very funny

Cheers to Tom for risking his ears to get the photos

Monday, June 25, 2007

Photo Competition Win

Alex organised a photography competition with four categories: People; Wildlife; Environment; Whatever. Over the week people printed out their best efforts and stuck them on the corridor wall. Voting was by secret ballot, with everyone nominating first, second and third in each category, plus their overall favorite.

There were 14 entries per class. I won the people category with this:

"The Feeling of Relief" - Tom and Rob catching a snoozing during shifting 1500 drums of fuel.

And better still, got the overall win with one of my personal favorites:

"Hot-Choc O'Clock" - Alex and Tamsin heading in after a wicked night's kiting

Without wittering on and sounding like an artistic prat, I'm pleased these got the vote as they were both taken on the spur of the moment and for me, reflect the feeling of the place as well as the look.

For more horizons, click the photo below...

Mid Winter's Day

The week's highlight dawned with breakfast in bed for most, but I was already up and about having drawn the short straw of launching the weather balloon. Weather work done, we settled into the lounge for champagne and a selection of four canapes.

Appetizers in the bar

The main meal, served in the dining room, was exquisite. Ant had spent the last three days putting it all together, although he modestly described the next six courses as "quite an easy menu, really".

How does this sound?
  • Honey roasted butternut squash with panfried porcini mushrooms;
  • Duo of trout & monkfish fillets with bearnaise emulsion and an asparagus , green bean & shallot salad;
  • Marinated barbecue noisettes of lamb, canon of beef on a bed of onion puree served with griddled vegetables, fondant potatoes and a raspberry balsamic port jus;

Good? I wont even start on the deserts!

The Main Meal. Note photographs of all teams since 1961 on the walls.

Sufficiently fed, we retired to the lounge to open presents and await the BBC World Service's Mid Winter Broadcast. Presents are the highlight of the Antarctic winter, a tradition starting with the early twentieth century expeditions of Scott et. al.

In Halley, names were drawn from a hat at our first meal together after the ship left, so we've had about three months to get to know the recipient's likes and make something to suit. A a great deal of effort went into the crafting of the gifts, with most reflecting the maker's or receiver's trade.

The presents are opened

I drew Andy, the generator mechanic's name from the hat. This posed a bit of a difficulty as it was going to be hard to use the metal-workshop without my doings being overseen. I somehow managed to slip in unnoticed to manufacture a cheese board and knife set, handy for when he moves to France on returning.

All the presents

The overall standard was incredibly high, with sculptures, puzzles, paintings and even a working steam engine among the collection. I was well pleased with my gift from Pete - a CD rack shaped like a wooden field box, which also contained two infuriatingly difficult puzzles!

The itinerary concluded with the final tradition of the BBC's Mid Winter Broadcast, a programme with messages to all the BAS Antarctic Bases from the BAS Director and, most importantly, loved ones back home.

These messages are broadcast from Britain using the High Frequency band and a transmitter of many kilowatts, probably the size of a small house. As the signal can reach right round the world it's a good chance to demonstrate our musical taste, as all messages are read over each base's choice of soundtrack. The BBC kindly described this year's choices as 'eclectic'. We chose upbeat 80's classic, Echo Beach, which K.E.P. trumped with The Muppet Song (de dah da dah...) and Bird Island with Y.M.C.A (why...?). Only Rothera let the side down, going for for something contemporary but boring by Muse.

It was great to hear familiar voices from home, words of thanks and encouragement from Cambridge and a special message by... I'm not saying. You'll have to click the link to find out.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Merry Mid Winter!

Mid Winter week's nearly over, and it's been a good time. In keeping with Antarctic traditions, we've had sporting challenges, games, beautiful hand-made presents and delicious food. I'll talk you through the week.

The last ever Halley V science team

The Simpson office party started things off well, with pretty much everyone popping in for a time. Saturday morning was spent tidying up and packing presents before getting ready for the first sporting event of the week - the Halley Biathlon.

10 eager competitors lined up on skis or on foot outside the Laws. The course set by Richard started with a 1km circuit round the memorial (lit by a flashing bike light!). The skier then entered the 'shooting gallery' where they attempted to knock down cans with snowballs. Depending on their success, a number of smaller penalty laps were added before a final circuit of the memorial brought them to the finish line.

On skis, I romped away from the start and settled into a comfortable third. For about 200m, until my left ski fell off. Putting it back on, I saw the binding had failed, so it unclipped at least 10 times in the first lap, dropping me to the back of the field. At the cans, I threw the useless skis as well as my snowballs, knocking more cans and gaining a couple of places as I continued on foot. It was still a good laugh with Sune showing his Scandinavian roots with a convincing win on skis, and Ant first on foot.

Dean outlines "competition rules"

Sunday brought weather work and a table tennis tournament, this time won by Jules. Pool league games were going well too. Most people spent Monday and Tuesday either relaxing with films, or panicking over last minute present details. Encourage by Chris' good reports on the wind, I took the kite out after lunch and got a perfect hour's boarding under an inky red glow on the horizon. Cruising along under the stars in a windchill of -50C felt pretty special - I was determined to keep active throughout the winter, but getting out bang in the middle was much more than I expected!

The sporting theme continued on Wednesday, this time running a 3km 'marathon' around a section of the perimeter. Surprisingly, UK summer running shoes are more than good enough for Polar use. Although the going varied enormously with the snow density, the four of us crossed the line within the same minute.

Crazy Golf!

The final sporting event was the Halley Cup Crazy Golf open. Each competitor built a "hole", giving a varied and challenging course. We also built out own un-orthodox "clubs", ranging for engineer Andy's machined aluminum and mahogany putter, to my table-tennis bat taped to a cricket stump. The crude club worked well, winning me the event and a pack of ration biscuits as the coveted prize!

For more photos, click here.

Coming up next - Mid Winter's day and Rock Night....

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mid Winter Starts Here!

Wow. It's the last Friday at work before we take a week's break to celebrate the Antarctic equivilent of Christmas, Mid-Winter. The Solstice is the major celebration down here for two reasons: 1, Christmas propper falls right at the start of relief operations, when most people are working 12h shifts leaving little time or inclination to party. 2. In keeping with the early Pagan festivals borrowed by the Christian Church, it also marks the end of dark period and a gradual return of the sun. After almost two weeks without kiting, this will be a good thing!

Midday sun light

After a week of total cloud cover and pitch black, I was surprised to see a solid orange glow in the sky at lunchtime. There was enough contrast to kite by, but saddly there was to little wind and it was a bit cold (-39C). But from this time next week, it can only bet brighter!

DJ Pingu takes the stage

Right now we're finishing off the week's work and preparing the Simpson platform for guests to arrive to kick off the holidays with an office party. Ant's provided excellent nibbles as an outside caterer, the girls have put up the decorations, Tom's made a Christmas tree and I'm hiding the photocopier out of harm's way.

Roll on the holiday!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sunshine, my only sunshine...

I'm getting a bit stuck for photos now the sun's completely vanished and outdoor work has drawn to a close for the Mid Winter Festive Season. But, after sending some work photos back to Cambridge, I found this on my memory card...

The morning dose of Light

These are Dr Richard's light boxes, as used in the sleep pattern study. Every morning for a fortnight, we were asked to sit in front of the lights for an hour. Whether or not this syncronises our body clocks, only time will tell. But it does syncronise demand for tea and toast, so an early arrival for breakfast is recommended.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Want my job?

If anyone reading fancies a shot at The Antarctic Experince (TM), BAS are advertising for my replacement for next season. Click here for details.

Monday, June 04, 2007

ZZ Top - Good for health

It was only meant to be a quick gym session, but then I found ZZ-Top's Greatest Hits video. Spinning guitars, leggy girls and flying hotrods. I've never laughed so much in my life. Managed a whole 30 mins on the running machine, which is a lot for me.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Oh! The painful irony...

Let me set the scene. It's Saturday evening. We've had a good week and have got a lot done. T'Pau booms from the kitchen as Ant puts the finishing touches to this week's piece d' resistance. In the lounge, Richard is mixing gin and tonic apperitifs. I offer to fill the ice bucket. And...

...We're out of ice!

Standing atop nearly 70% of the World's fresh water supply and surounded by snow, we are out of ice. This is the kind of hardship the 21st century Antarctic Hero (tm) has to face.