Saturday, December 22, 2007

Time dilation and penguins in the workplace

My clock says 8am, but I've just finished work. Somewhere, 12 hours went missing. Probably during Friday, in which I managed about 2 asleep!

In the last few days I've been helping Chris pack up his Aurora Radar, carefully stripping, labeling and padding the electronics which are off to new homes across the globe.

We've been having fun guess-timating the value of the kit (a requirement for shipping), as most of it's custom made. Prices start with an engineer's salary, then we add the hardware. And were very, very careful not to drop it!

Things really started to fly on Friday. Just after breakfast we were informed the Shackleton would arrive at 16:00, so to get back to bed! After packing frantically, I grabbed a few hours sleep, then jumped on the Sledge heading to the coast.

Once on the ship, Christmas came early. Long showers, fresh fruit and veg and delicious food more than made up for working straight through the night. And best of all, the main gift under the fireplace, was a quiet cabin and 10 hours glorious, sacred, snore-free sleep. Never before has nightshift made me such a happy man!

This is now I'll be spending Christmas. Driving cargo from shipside, over frozen sea-ice to the top of the cliffs behind. Sounds a little dangerous, you might think. But, the ice is 3m thick, plus I'm wearing a life jacket and am always followed by outrider on skidoo, armed with a throw-line to fish me out.

After the crap weather and bad mood, I'm so glad the WOW factor is back.

But, like most jobs, not everything goes exactly to plan...

Here's a new melt tank coming off the ship...

This is as far as I my SnowCat could move it...

But the Big-Boys-Toys finished the job!

There's a good bunch of us on the shift. Tom is the only other winterer from last season, the others are: 2x new winter mechanics; 2x RAF mast fitters; 2xSummer staff.

Although the day lasts 12 hours, there are dedicated tea breaks, known even by non-smokers as "Smoko". As a former German tram driver, Tom is taking a while to adapt to this most British "schedule"!

So, after we've dragged three sledges up the bank, we link them up at a depot on top of the shelf where a Challenger tractor can speed them away on a groomed road, getting back to base on only 30 minutes. The ice has been kind this year and the journey is loads easier the 5 hour round trips that last year required.

As I've said before, Antarctica is like anywhere else in the world...

...Even my neighbours stick their noses in!

So it's going well. I'm off to try and work out how to get a real-ale from the bar, then another 10 hours sleep is on the cards.


Anonymous Dean said...

Jammy git,

I've been sat in this office the whole time watching the vehicles go by...

Well I've spent most of it sat on the steps to the office, drinking tea and working on my tan.

Do me a favour Dave, and ask Tom if he received the RAM from Martin (I'm hoping he dropped it off). It wouldn't fit in Mat's laptop, and he was next on the list. if it doesn't fit in his (it has to fit perfectly, even if its out by 0.5mm it wont work) then try it in yours.

Say hi to the shipside-slackers for me

10:11 pm GMT  

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