Z or Dead
It's been eventful at Halley this month. Fresh people and fresh food arrived on the 1st of November. According to tradition the Enterprise Air Basler arrived in the early hours of the morning, so that tired passengers and pilots were met by tired but enthusiastic winterers. Unusually, the plane left some BAS people here, so we've entered a weird sort of half summer. It's good having a few more people around, although they made the mistake of arriving just as our chef was off on his winter trip, so spent their first few days at Halley being fed by volunteer cooks. All the eating was good, though, and every meal was improved by the addition of crunchy lettuce, wet slices of cucumber and crisp apples. We even had a fresh bottle of ketchup (we ran out a couple of months back) which was almost as popular as the produce.
A new month meant there were a whole new set of experiments to turn off and pack up. The magnetometers (very accurate electronic compasses) and rhiometers (noise antennas that listen to the background emisions of the galaxy and see how the changes in ionosphere absorb the signal) have been pulled up out of their tunnel, and the science alarm has finally been turned off and thrown into the recycling bin. A happy day for me, as it's woken me up more times than I care to remember. It's still an odd feeling emptying my offices and labs, and the place looks a little sad without its beeping and humming instruments.
As we approach December we start to think about relief, especially as we're hoping to have a ship at Halley half way through the month. Recently we've enjoyed some windy weather which, when it broke, revealed the happy sight of fluffy clouds on the northern horizon. These clouds are formed by strong convection of moist air, which down here means that there must be some open water lying around. The strong winds have probably pushed the sea ice away from the Stancombe-Wills ice tongue to our west and left the sea clear for a short while to heat the air and belch out steam from its surface. Last year the Shackleton was delayed by thick old ice around the edge of the Stamcombe-Wills, so this early breakout is a good sign for the summer season. The sea will freeze back over quickly, but not nearly as thickly as before.
Aside from packing, at which I am now very good indeed, I've been assisting with our programme of UAV flying. We've recently taken the tiny plane away from the base to the caboose at Windy Bay and have sent it on a number of flights over the shelf and sea ice. To get the maximum number of flights in we've been forced to spend a night or two out at the caboose, during which Tom has taught the UAV team a number of very odd German card games which involve a lot of counting and having cards in the wrong order. We've even been able to squeeze in a trip to the penguins and a GPR survey of the route down onto the sea ice, about which I shall write in a day or two. Expect cute chicks.
Yesterday we were called back from the caboose as the next lot of incoming people were due later that day. We've now got about four million people on the station, and the Laws building has pretty much everyone sharing rooms. Some of the fresh lot are here to start their winters, and it's been good fun getting to know them, and showing them around the place, then hiding from time to time when the crowds get a little too busy for me. I've also been put on Sunday cook for tomorrow, so somehow have to feed the army that has arrived. Let's hope they all like eating manfood!
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