Relief finally came and went. We celebrated New Year in muted style and rose early as the year began to drive vehicles to the ship to prepare for the coming madness. I drove a ricketty old Snocat for six hours, the sun beating down on the cab and a gentle rain of ice falling through the sunhatch to cool me down as the cabin shook and rattled me on my way.
The ship was, for the most part, unchanged, and although the second of its crews were down this year there were a couple of familliar faces from last time to chat to. The canteen had oranges and fresh coffee, so I had a little binge session and said hello to some of the new crowd while we waited to head back to Halley.
I drove back in a shiny new Snocat, K24, which came into my hands with only five miles on the clock. Top technology, including a full sound system and cruise control, along with some sort of suspension, made the trip back a little more pleasant than the drive out. The main problem was trying not to fall asleep as I trundled slowly along the unchanging ice sheet.
Relief then kicked in the next day. Trains of sledges were pulled by Snocats and some new, larger, vehicles. These appeared at the station and were unloaded onto a 350m line before being sent back empty. I was working as the tally person and cargo team leader, so made sure everything ended up where it was meant to go, and kept people busy moving boxes, steel, food and barrels around the station. The barrels were the worst of it. We had 1214 coming in arriving every two or three hours packed on trains of three sledges. These now sit neatly on dumps of 198 barrels apiece, ready to fuel the base and the airplane for the next year. We also sent out all our waste, and around 1800 empty drums, which had to be dug out from their burried dumps using a bulldozer and the trusty Halley shovel.
The weather for the eight days was, on the whole, awful. The average windspeed was around 18 knots, so much of the work was done with snow blowing in our faces and no way to see what was going on at other parts of the station. On one especially bad day I got through four pairs of gloves and socks as each became waterlogged.
In eight days we received 15,000 cubic meters of cargo, 1214 drums of avtur, six large vehicles, four containers and 150,000 litres of bulk avtur. In the end it was hard work, but everyone put in a massive effort and enjoyed themselves as much as possible. I'm certainly glad it's all over, and we can get on with some real work again.
As cargo operations wound down I was able to discharge another of my duties, this time delivering the sack of mail from Halley to the ship. This time I was able to make the trip there and back using the Twin Otter, so had a good view of the ice shelf and the Rumples on the way. We flew low over the area I visited during my last trip, and could pick out one or two features we walked towards or nearly fallen into. Even in two months the geography has shifted somewhat, and a number of small icebergs have calved away and broken up the sea ice enough to let one or two seals out of the ocean for a spot of sunbathing.
In this view of Halley from above you can see the cargo line to the right of the main buildings and the new drum dumps on the bottom right.
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