Ravenstonedale Kirkby Stephen Cumbria

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Martin from Antarctica. Winter 2002-2003

Martin went out to the Antarctic again in September 2002 for another six month spell. Here is his own account of his experiences.

Communication is enabled by satellite links that enable Martin to transmit emails, with pictures, direct from the ship or from the BAS base.


16th December 2002

It has been several weeks since I left the UK. The journey to the Antarctic this year took me on a slightly different route. We set off from Heathrow and flew to Madrid and had a very brief stop to change planes. The next stage of the flight took us (group of 12 ) to Santiago in Chile. It's amazing to be able to fly in a plane for some 12 hours without refuelling! The flight was comfortable but long and we happily few across the Atlantic with a with range of videos and alcoholic beverages to keep us stimulated.

Halley from the air

On arrival at Santiago we found that some of our bags had been broken into and items removed. It's worrying that that expensive items can be nicked from our bags, presumably from Heathrow. What's stopping it happening the other way eg. bombs put in!! Anyway once we got out of the airport the agent took us to our hotel. We had a day and night at Santiago and took in some of the sights. It not a very attractive city and common to most developing countries. Pollution and poverty is to been seen everywhere but it's quite a safe spot to stay, apparently!

The Journey next took to Punta Arenas and then finally to the Falklands. This can be a very scenic flight as you fly over the Andes but this year it was covered with cloud. On arrival in the Falklands we where met by usual faces and taken to Port Stanley. Our group was split into 2 and we were placed in a house to await our next stage of the journey to the Antarctic on the Surveys Dash 7 plane. Unfortunately the plane had fractured an oil pipe and we had to wait in the Falklands for 10 days until a new part was flown down from the UK. The time in the Falklands was spent walking around and checking out the new coffee houses and shops. Some of the team helped the locals with gardening and general maintenance to help pass the time of day. Most evenings were spent chatting in the several bars in town and catching up with friends, made over the years, that live in Stanley.

Our spare part finally arrived and we set of on the next leg of our journey. The flight from the Falklands to Rothera Research station took around 5 hours. Unfortunately the weather below us was poor and we did not see much of the Antarctic Peninsula. Arrival at Rothera was on time and we were soon settled in undertaking safety briefs and field training. I had some work to do at Rothera and spent most of my time checking the condition of the vehicle fleet and facilities. I now look after the vehicle operations at both Halley and Rothera and had a task list to complete. All was found to be OK at Rothera and once we completed our field training it was time to head off again and fly to Halley.

The flight to Halley takes several hours and we have to stop twice to take on fuel. Refuelling the plane is not like stopping at a petrol station. You have to get a shovel and dig up the fuel barrels that where deployed up to 2 years ago. The flight is a long one and quite cold but finally we made it to Halley. We were the first people Halley personnel had seen for 10 months and everyone was happy to see us.

The Base has had a good winter and everything was in order. After a few days to get settled in the work started and we have, over the last 2 weeks, been getting ready for the arrival of our re-supply ship, the Ernest Shackelton. This ship did not manage to make it to Halley last year despite repeated attempts. It is imperitive that it gets here this year. If it doesn't we might have to leave the base empty next winter.

The sea ice is looking good this year and hopefully the ship will be here next Sunday. Once the ship arrives the main summer work will get underway and the base will become a bit of a building site. My job is to keep the vehicle operations in order and make sure everything is done in a safe manner. Our fleet of vehicles here is quite extensive and its a full time job keeping all the tracks turning. Vehicles are essential for the relief of the base and to enable building projects. Operating these vehicles in these conditions is quite a feat but that's another story!

So there we have it. I'm sitting in our garage in the Antarctic on a floating ice shelf while we ride out a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures. I must be mad but I would not have it any other way. It's a great team this year and there is nothing like a good challenge to keep you going! It might be a while until the next email so Happy Xmas to everyone back home.

5th February 2003

Well its coming to the end of another summer season at Halley. We have about 2 weeks to go before we jump on board the RRS Ernest Shackleton and then after about 3 weeks on the Antarctic seas I should be about home again. Unlike the last one the weather has now turned and at the moment we are in the middle of a blizzard, this is hampering our work somewhat but hopefully it will pick up again in the next few days.

The RRS Shackleton is here at the moment carrying out some cargo work and personnel movements then going off to do a small science cruise. Hopefully it will then come back and pick us all up !! Everyone is getting on well and the summer team have been fantastic and worked very hard all season. Its not been all work though and we have had some good social events and even a game of football.

The vehicles have run very well this season and today we have sent 3 out to the ship for return to the UK for refurbishment. Some of the sea ice has broken away and as you will see in the picture we still have enough to work cargo.

Well that's a short one this time but everything is well at Halley Research Station and we have been able, once again ,to maintain the science facility here which produces some of the best science on the continent.
Until the next time
Martin Bell
Senior Vehicles Engineer
Halley Base